On Thursday morning, Françoise David officially announced her immediate resignation both as Gouin’s MNA and as Québec Solidaire’s spokesperson.

At a press conference in her home riding, she explained that she was exhausted from politics, but insisted that her optimism and confidence in her party remain unaltered. “I take this decision with regret, but also with serenity,” she assured.

Although she had implied in September that the next provincial election would probably be her last, her departure mid-mandate comes as a surprise. She will not seek the transition allocation provided to MNAs who cannot finish their mandate.

“Why not hold on until the 2018 general election? It’s simple: I don’t have the strength anymore,” she admitted at the start of her allocation. Although she would have wanted to finish the electoral cycle, she came to the conclusion that she had to quit to avoid a burn-out.

“I know many are disappointed today, but I dare to hope that people will accept this decision, which became unavoidable for me. I also ask them to have confidence in Québec Solidaire for the next steps,” she pleaded. She restated her certainty that others, young, enthusiastic and full of the energy she once had, were ready to pick up the torch.

As for her own future plans, for the time being, they amount to getting some rest, some family time, and reflecting on future actions. “There will most certainly be future actions,” she vowed “I want to continue being useful to society.”

David might be giving up politics, but she is not giving up her fight for a better society: “One thing is clear: I do not intend to keep quiet in the face of injustice, intolerance, sexism, racism and the destruction of the planet.”

The next step

“We won’t replace Françoise, because Françoise is irreplaceable,” declared the president of QS Andres Fontecilla. He conceded that the party will have many challenges to face in the wake of the departure of one of its pillars and co-founders, but also insisted that they were up to it.  “We have the confidence and the ambition to respond to Quebec’s thirst for change,” claimed Fontecilla. Both he and David underlined the successes of the party in recent years.

However, in a very practical sense, QS will have to replace Françoise David. Fellow MNA Manon Massé is currently assuming her role as spokesperson and will be until the party votes for a replacement at their annual congress. They will also have to prepare for the byelections in Gouin, for which the timetable and candidates should be announced shortly. This will be a vital for QS, as they risk losing one of their three seats in the National Assembly.

 

“I didn’t choose the boot, the boot chose me!” – Vermin Supreme

Vermin Supreme is an incredible character, a friendly fascist, a tyrant you can trust. He is an internet meme, a pop culture reference, an incredible performance artist and political symbol of hope.

He is my candidate! I agree with the platform that everyone must brush their teeth, the zombie apocalypse is near, and a pony would be so fun.

I have seen him in the news for years, always thinking who is this man? Running for office in New Hampshire and President of the good ol’ USA. I never in a million years would think I would get to hang out with him.

I knew the Victory Tour was coming to Mohawk Place in Buffalo on its way to Washington DC and figured I would check it out, but then a good friend of mine texted me, saying they needed couches to crash on. As incredible it would be to have THE VERMIN SUPREME on my couch, I hooked them up at the hostel where I work so they would be more comfortable.

I really did not know what to expect from the show. Local activist band The Blood Thirsty Vegans opened the show, then the adorable Rob Potylo sang some politically charged and just plain fun songs (my favorite being Hot Dogs and Apple Sauce) to lead into Vermin Supreme.

He started the show with the Star Spangled Banner done in an experimental noise style with a megaphone. There were a lot of sing-a-longs including a depressing ballad called Psycho Kitty, a song about crabs, and an introduction to Spud Head a baby doll with a matching booted head. He also read some pony erotica from his book I Pony.

I felt like a little girl again clapping along and laughing out loud. The show was a glorious escape from reality, it was art for art’s sake, it was FUN during a dark time. He made me laugh on the edge of the apocalypse.

That is who I want for president, not some asshole who doesn’t know how to smile and never made art in his poor excuse for a life. Fun and love reigns supreme, not hate and violence.

I wish that all politicians remembered how to be kids, remembered that if you run fast enough you can fly. He ran down the icy sidewalk screaming like a madman, I was inspired. Told me a story of him doing the same thing naked and stone sober at a Rainbow Gathering. Everyone thought he was just a spun out hippie, or a wiley homeless man, definitely some kind of uncharted crazy.

Then he puts on the boot and gets asked to take selfies in the hundreds. He was at ROTFL Con and met THE keyboard cat and Scumbag Steve (among others), Grumpy Cat was still a happy kitten then. Vermin has been a performance artist for years, this character just stuck, he became Vermin Supreme, even legally changing his name.

He says that it’s great to be him because he lives life inconspicuously and then puts on the boot for celebrity status. It is amazing that once you do something people notice you. It takes an act of ridiculousness to get people’s attention, then you can give them the 1-2 punch of ideology and compassion.

NYC performance artist Matthew Silver is the only other artist that I have met who has this effect on the art world and people at large, and he is going to be Vermin’s Vice President. I am excited to see them interact with each other. I remember coming across Matthew while in New York during the Occupy Wall Street movement and The Slut Walk, he stood there in his underwear spouting sonnets of love.

He made me smile. I remember watching him get harassed by the police, and he turned it right on, he has the right to do this! Then I knew he was a performance artist and not another lost soul. I was monumentally impressed. The spontaneity, wackiness, and love with these two combined will be off the charts.

I even enjoyed the merch they sold. His tour manager wore a shirt that said “I Love Butt Drugs” which is apparently a real drugstore somewhere in Indiana. They sold wind up penises, embellished ties, glitter tooth brushes, and other random goodies.

All and all I was completely amused and inspired. It was yet another reason for me to truck on to DC this weekend. I will wear my gold glittered Vermin Supreme the dye tie with pride.

All you have to do to be an artist is to make art! Live it! Breath it! Be insane about your art, put your heart and ideals on display and you will connect with the people. As a performance artist I must allow myself to break free. I must allow my naked self to baffle the buffoons, to sparkle in the face of absurdity and the obscene. Nobody can teach you how to be yourself, you are the only one who can brighten your individual light.

Vermin Supreme became an icon when he put the boot on his head because that’s when people listened (and maybe everyone secretly wants a pony). What is my boot?

I am so excited to go to Washington DC this weekend for the Inauguration Protest and The Million Woman March. This is a scary time and we must stand together to face this evil. A tyrant has been appointed by the redneck racists and the Russians, he is putting the 1% in charge and stripping the rights of everyone else in the name of god and profit.

I have been asking myself WHY AM I GOING? Why am I going to Washington DC to protest? Because I simply must! Yes, I wish I would have gone sooner, tried to stop this unstoppable evil, but the only time is right now.

I have never been to my nation’s capitol, and this is the time to go, front row seats to the end of the world. I don’t want the world to burn like at the end of Fight Club, I just want people to love! I want everyone to be safe and have healthcare, be allowed to love and live in peace, put an end to war and oppression, equality for all humans.

Black Lives Do Matter. Immigrants build this country so we must welcome them with open arms. We need safety for our Trans brothers and sisters, support for the mentally ill, homes for the homeless, rehabilitation for the addicted, happiness for the sad, food for everyone, clean air and water, a better environment, and an education system that will encourage and expand young minds.

A pony would be nice too, it would be more environmentally friendly than a car, give us all great companionship and a sense of responsibility and love for another life. Plus ponies are just so darn cute. I would eat carrots with mine all day long, brush her mane, and listen to punk music with her (cuz that’s what she likes). Maybe I will name her Warrior Princess Cherry Rainbow Buttercup Sinclair?

I am going to Washington because while I do recognize that it is important to rise up in your own communities, sometimes you must converge with your comrades and organize to resist! Direct action is the only way to disrupt evil. Reach out a hand and help! Clean something, feed someone, and respect the beautiful diversity of humanity.

Every person in every city needs to stand up and speak out! Even if you voted for Trump you must realize how dumb this is. He is based in pure hate and has no business being in the White House. All of his promises are bullshit.

President Obama received so much criticism, but will go down in history as an eloquent human who made a difference in our world. He is a great father, husband, and humanitarian that helped open the doors for social change.

I am going to Washington to help end racism, hate in all forms, oppression of women, and war. I have been reading about how the Million Women March has not been as inclusive as it should be to women of color, which unfortunately has been a problem with feminism since the first wave.

White female privilege is real. Just because I am a woman does not cancel out the fact that I am white. White women threw black women under the bus when it came to the vote, even making them march at the back of the line!

Similar things are happening with this march. Even the name was appropriated from a march organized by black women in 1997.

We cannot segregate our feminism! That is as demeaning and shitty as T-bag grabbing pussies. ALL PUSSIES ARE EQUAL and deserve respect and a voice! All women need to hold hands and fight back, we are stronger united.

I am getting into a van with a variety of women, some of which I do not know very well, but have been activists their whole lives. Others, like me, are going to their first large scale protest. We all care, we all want change, we are all scared, we are all willing to speak up and be strong for each other.

Of course it is scary. I do not trust the police, I do not trust the military, or the terror of Trumpocalypse, and what he and his scumfuck cronies are going to do with our precious world.

I know that I will have my water bottle half filled with water and the other half filled with milk of magnesia, just in case they pepper spray me. I will have impermeable layers and protective face masks in case of tear gas.

I am not going to Washington to set fires or cause physical destruction. I am going to burn down the evil with my words and artistic presence. I am going to create a better world for the future for the children who already exist (and those yet to come).

I am speaking up while I still can, before all of my rights are stripped, before I am too old or sick to stand tall. I am going now because I must be there. You cannot cower in the face of adversity, you must look it in the eye and smile. You must hand it a flower and give it a hug, you must show evil that there is another way.

Vermin Supreme inspires me because he is out there doing it! He is living proof that the revolution is real and we are allowed to have fun even though the ship is currently sinking.

Laughter saves lives, activism opens eyes, and everyone has an artistic voice. Find your boot, your power source, put it on, and change the fucking world!

In February of 1990, Barack Obama was the first black person elected to head the Harvard Law Review. The presidency of the Review is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

It’s therefore fitting that in his final days as the first black person to hold the highest office in the United States, Barack Obama has gone back to his roots by publishing a piece in the Harvard Law Review. His essay is called The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform and was published on January 5, 2017.

The article is many things. It’s well written and it’s footnoted so you never have any doubts as to where Obama is getting his facts from or whether he’s making them up. It puts faith in you as a reader because there’s never a word wasted. On the other hand it also requires you to do some visual acrobatics because his sources are cited within the text, requiring you to skip over the citations to read the rest of what he’s saying.

His piece is also a little self-aggrandizing, but unlike the incoming president, all the things Obama says are substantiated by facts. He highlights his tackling of racial profiling as a legislator in Illinois and all sources indicate that he did just that.

In 1999 he proposed a bill against racial profiling after hearing that police were pulling over drivers simply for being black. When the bill failed, he revised and reintroduced it over and over again until it passed in 2003, making a point of publicly saying that “race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity.”

He also mentioned pushing for the videotaping of police interrogations as a requirement for interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. A measure he helped to pass in Illinois.

Chart from the Harvard Law Review essay

As President, he used his power of clemency to pardon or reduce the sentences of 231 people, many of whom had been punished for minor, non-violent drug crimes under tough anti-drug laws. The impact of this gesture is huge, for unlike other pardons, presidential ones wipe away the legal consequences of previous criminal convictions.

Obama hints at his frustrations battling a Republican Congress determined to undermine him during his presidency. Though he successfully passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack cocaine thus reducing excessive punishments imposed on people of colour, he had no such luck with the Smarter Sentencing Act.

The Smarter Sentencing Act was a bipartisan – meaning supported by both Democrats and Republicans – bill that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses from twenty years to ten, and given judges greater discretion regarding whether or not to impose said sentences.

Despite support across party lines, many Republicans were skeptical of the bill and it never made it to the floor of Congress. The same happened with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a law that would have reduced more mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and offered credits to prisoners who participate in rehabilitation programs. The Republicans tabled that one to death in November 2015.

Despite Obama’s frustrations with Congress in his attempts to pass progressive criminal justice reform, he constantly highlights his respect and faith in the American people and the rule of law.

In a none-too-subtle warning to the incoming president, Obama writes that the President “does not and should not decide who or what to investigate or prosecute.” He praises red states like Georgia, Texas and Alabama for reducing sentences and investing the money saved on incarceration in other public safety programs that help those affected by mental illness and substance abuse, many of whom had previously ended up in jail.

At the same time Obama highlights all the problems with the American Justice System: the systemic racism, overly harsh penalties for non-violent offenses, the excessive use of solitary confinement, and the economic problems caused by the US’ excessive use of incarceration. He points out that the US incarcerates 25% of its population and that the cost of maintaining so many prisons and the people within it is both “unnecessary and unsustainable.”

Though Democrats are widely accused of being fiscally irresponsible, it’s Republicans that always seem to be pushing for harsher penalties that increase the American prison population, thus straining state and national budgets regardless of whether or not it makes people safer. Obama quotes Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who pointed out in November 2016 that every dollar spent on excessive sentences is “a dollar we don’t have for investigating emerging threats, from hackers to home grown terrorists,” a point that is especially relevant amidst widespread acknowledgement that the Russian government hacked the election to get an orange bigot into office.

Obama’s article reflects his awareness of the higher standard he was constantly being held to. In America people still seem to expect women and visible and sexual minorities and younger people to perform worse than middle aged white men at the same jobs, no matter how despicable and lazy individuals of the latter are.

Though the United States has less unemployment, a decreased federal prison population, and more people with health care due to Obama’s efforts, entitled rich white men are still questioning whether or not he was a good president. Obama clearly knows that he had to be beyond reproach during his time in office and while he did not achieve all he had promised – Guantanamo Bay has yet to be closed, for example – as a president he came pretty close despite all obstacles.

Regardless of what Barack Obama did or did not achieve, the one thing to take from his article is a warning that all the good that he did in his attempt to do right by the American people is in danger of being undone when a racist misogynist Russian puppet takes office on January 20, 2017.

The US-led operation that killed 33 civilians and wounded 27 in Boz Village (Northern Afghanistan) last November was an act of self-defense, says a report published by US Forces-Afghanistan on Thursday.

The report describes the events like this: On November 2nd and 3rd, US and Afghan forces were conducting a joint operation in Boz to capture Taliban leaders when they found themselves under fire coming from civilian houses. US Forces came to their assistance with aerial strikes on those Taliban-occupied houses, killing 33 civilians and “approximately 26 Taliban, including three leaders.” Two American soldiers and three Afghan soldiers also died in the operation.

“The investigation concluded that US forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” states the report. “It has been determined that no further action will be taken.”

“Regardless of the circumstances, I deeply regret the loss of innocent lives,” assured the Commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, in a press release.

Charles H Cleveland, a spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, while also deploring civilian casualties, said this to Al-Jazeera: “[Boz] is not a normal village. There are a lot of Taliban fighters there. However, the only real solution to prevent civilian casualties is for the Taliban to not hide behind civilians.”

According to the same Al-Jazeera article, residents of Boz have expressed doubts about the number of Taliban fighters present. “We don’t even know if the Taliban were actually killed in this attack. All we saw were dead bodies of the innocent people,” said one.

The operation in Boz happened a little over a year after American airstrikes destroyed a Doctors Without Borders Hospital in the nearby city of Kunduz, killing 42 patients and staff members. The Kunduz bombing was one of the only instances where US military forces publicly admitted they had made a mistake. President Obama issued a rare formal apology for it on October 7th 2015.

The bombing of a hospital, if established as deliberate, is considered a war crime by international laws. The results of the UN investigation on the matter are awaited in the next month.

* Featured image via Sputnik News

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been in the news a lot recently. This past December, they outraged Canadians by backtracking on a promise to reveal to a Senate Committee how many journalists they’ve spied on in the past, citing “operational security”.

Whenever the issue of terrorism or Bill C-51 comes up, CSIS is always mentioned. With all the talk about the organization, it’s time Canadians knew what they’re all about.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is informally known as Canada’s spy agency. Created in 1984 with the passing of the CSIS Act in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum, its official role is to investigate threats to Canadian security.

As per the CSIS Act, the following are considered threats to Canadian security:

  • Espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage.
  • Foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.
  • Activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state.
  • Activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

Lawful protests, advocacy, and dissent are not considered threats to Canadian security as per the Act unless they are accompanied by the acts listed above.

CSIS is headed by a Director who is named by the Governor in Council – the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, for a five year renewable term. As per the CSIS Act, no director can serve for more than ten years, a measure undoubtedly put in place to prevent corruption.

The current director of CSIS is Michel Coulombe, a former intelligence agent who was appointed by the Harper Government in 2013. He controls and manages and CSIS and all matters connected with it and he and his proxy are in charge of hiring CSIS employees.

Considering a Career?

While the RCMP has a long list of base qualifications such as health and psychological standards, visual and auditory acuity, and official language proficiency. CSIS’ requirements for employment seem much shorter and simpler.

In order to be considered for a position with CSIS, you need to be a Canadian Citizen eligible for Top Secret Security Clearance, have ten years’ worth of viable information – something that undoubtedly refers to employment, health, social services and financial records so you can be properly traced and vetted and have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license for some posts. Detailed descriptions of various positions on CSIS’ careers’ website give greater insight into what’s needed to work for them.

Intelligence Officers are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree, three years of relevant experience, and be knowledgeable in the Service’s mandate and Canadian security threats as well as current events. They need to be good communicators verbally and in writing, analytical, adaptable, and sensitive to Canadian cultural mores – whatever those are, the website does not specify.

They also need to be willing to relocate anywhere in Canada or abroad depending on CSIS’ needs, be willing to travel and work irregular hours, and be without a criminal record. Though the CSIS doesn’t require bilingualism, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.

Duties, Functions and Limits

The specific duties and functions of CSIS are set out primarily in the CSIS Act. Their primary role is intelligence collection and analysis, security screenings, and reducing threats to Canadian Security. Though the organization is widely perceived to be without limits, the law has many safeguards to keep it from overstepping its bounds.

Any measures taken by CSIS to reduce threats have to be proportional and reasonable to the nature of the threat as per the “reasonable availability of other means” to reduce it. They cannot take said measures if they will contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. There is an exception to this rule, but it requires a warrant from a Federal Court.

CSIS is not allowed to cause death or bodily harm either intentionally or by criminal negligence. They are not allowed to obstruct, pervert, or otherwise impede the course of justice, and they cannot violate the sexual integrity of a person.

While CSIS can provide security assessments to the government, they cannot do so willy nilly. They are only permitted to provide security assessments with the permission of the Federal Public Security Minister, and if they want to provide provinces with assessments, that is only with the consent of the provincial governments.

Whenever CSIS gets in trouble they always claim there’s nothing wrong with what they do or refuse to do because of all the safeguards in place to prevent abuses. The problem is that because the organization slips beneath the radar of the average citizen, no one ever bothers to check how strictly CSIS’ safeguards are enforced.

With our neighbors to the south slowly slipping into the depths of hell, it’s time Canada checked itself and our agents to ensure our continued place as the world’s sober voice of liberal democracy and freedom.

* Featured image of CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa from dailytech.com

When you look back on 2016, you may think of all the greats we lost like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and, most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. You may also remember it as the year the UK decided to leave the EU or the year the US decided to leave its senses politically.

No matter how you saw it, though, you have to admit that quite a bit happened. With that in mind, we take a look back at 2016 in the News.

As this post had two authors, parenthetical initials indicate if the section was written by Jason C. McLean (JCM) or Mirna Djukic (MD).

Canadian Politics

2016 was the first year of the post-Harper era and it was an agitated one in federal politics.

Justin Trudeau’s popularity soared for a while, still largely carried by the expectations built during his campaign and his undisputable quality of not being Stephen Harper. To his credit, he did score some significant points in his first months in office by immediately opening the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and rebuilding relationships with our neighbours (which gave us both the most hilarious handshake attempt of all time and the TrudObama Bromance).

One of the first flies in the ointment was the infamous #elbowgate incident in the House of Commons.  Last May, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to escort Conservative Whip Gordon Brown through a cluster of opposition MPs in order to move the procedures along and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. This was perhaps a fairly embarrassing show of temper for the PM, but it degenerated into something out of a Shakespearian comedy in the following days, with Trudeau issuing apology after apology and the opposition throwing words like “molested” around.

Inopportune elbows aside, the Liberals took quite a few steps during the year that caused the public to question how different they really are from their predecessors. Not only did they go through with the $15 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but they also quietly changed the country’s policies about export controls to ensure that they could continue to trade arms with shady regimes with a lot less obstacles.

As the year went on, the government kept up the progressive discourse that got them elected, but too often failed to follow it up with actions. The Prime Minister even blatantly went back on his promise of electoral reform, driving the last nail in the coffin for a good portion of increasingly disgruntled voters.

This year was not any less turbulent for smaller parties.

The NDP was licking its wounds and doing some soul-searching after their grueling 2015 loss. Fortunately, many members signed an open letter recognizing how disastrous their electoral strategy of aiming for the middle ground was and declaring their desire to go back to the unashamedly leftist positions they used to hold

As for the Greens, they started the year as the underdogs who were doing unexpectedly well. The increased attention, though, revealed a world of messy internal struggles. These started when the party voted in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Leader Elizabeth May disliked this so much that she considered resigning. (MD)

Canadian Pipelines

Indeed, discrepancies between the government’s discourse and their actions accumulated throughout the year. None was more flagrant than their attitude toward pipelines.

The Liberals campaigned on promises to restore the trust of Canadians in the Environmental Assessment Process, “modernize” the National Energy Board and make Canada a leader in the worldwide climate change fight. Trudeau was the first to admit that the current environmental assessment protocols were immensely flawed and he mandated a committee to review them.

While still waiting for their conclusions, though, he had no problem with major projects still being approved by that flawed process. He had no comments when it was revealed that the NEB board members in charge of reviewing Energy East had secretly met with TransCanada lobbyists nor when indigenous resistance against various projects started rising.

If he thought that the population was on his side, or that they would remain passive about it, he was sorely mistaken. In August, the NEB consultations about Energy East were shut down by protesters. Anger and mistrust towards the NEB only grew after that, with environmental groups calling for a complete overhaul.

None of this stopped the government from approving two contentious pipelines in late November. Both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Line 3 were officially accepted. Fortunately, they did reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which was set to go through the Great Bear Rain Forest. (MD)

Standing Rock

2016 was the year that saw the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe emerge victorious (for the moment) over big energy and the North Dakota Government.

In July, Energy Transfer Partners got approval for the $3.78 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe’s only source of drinking water. The plan also saw DAPL cut across sacred burial grounds.

The Standing Rock Sioux challenged this both in court and with water protectors on the front lines. They invited others to stand in solidarity with them and assembled the largest gathering of Native American tribes in decades.

Things came to a head on Labour Day Weekend early September when DAPL sent private corporate security to attack the water protectors with pepper spray and dogs. Democracy Now’s shocking footage of the incident got picked up by major networks and there finally was major media attention, for a while.

As more people joined the camp and solidarity actions, including Facebook Check-Ins from around the world, increased, corporate media interest waned. Meanwhile the Governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which brought law enforcement from ten different states to Standing Rock.

With most media focused on the elections, police used tear gas and water cannons on water protectors in freezing temperatures. The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice demanding the camp be cleared by December 5th and roadblocks went up.

The Sioux Tribe’s infrastructure survived, however, and once 4000 veterans showed up in solidarity, the official stance changed. President Obama’s administration got the Army Corps to change its tune and deny the easement over Lake Oahe, meaning the DAPL will not go through Standing Rock, at least not until the Trump Administration takes office.

While their fight may not be over, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did flip the script in 2016 and was even named FTB’s Person of the Year. (JCM)

Indigenous Issues in Canada

Meanwhile in Canada, indigenous issues did make their way a bit more to the forefront in 2016. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women finally got underway September 1st.

While long overdue, the Inquiry will be independent of the Federal Government and has a budget of $53.86 million to be spent over two years. While overall optimistic, some in Canada’s First Nations communities are concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too broad, making it easy to not investigate police forces and specific cases.

Quebec is considering its own inquiry. It’s needed, especially when you consider that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) treated accusations that its officers were assaulting native women in Val d’Or by going after Radio-Canada and its journalists for reporting on the story and no one else.

Meanwhile, conditions in many First Nations communities continued to deteriorate. An indigenous police force in Ontario even recommended its own disbanding for lack of proper funding. (JCM)

Quebec Politics

Couillard struggling during a TV interview

The provincial government keeps slowly but steadily dropping in the polls. According to a Léger-Le Devoir poll conducted in November, the Liberals hit their lowest approval rating since the 2012 crisis. With only 31% of the intended vote, they are now barely 1% ahead of the PQ.

This is undoubtedly linked to the fact that the real impact of the budget cuts in public services started becoming more apparent. In a memorable interactive interview with Radio-Canada last June, Premier Philippe Couillard was confronted with an onslaught of people suffering from his austerity measures. Some had lost their jobs and others were overwhelmed healthcare workers and angry parents.

The fact that they did reach a budgetary surplus as a result doesn’t seem to have calmed the popular discontent. The shadow of past corruption scandals also remains.

Couillard assured the public that none of the scandals happened under his watch and that his administration is fully committed to fighting corruption. This commitment was, however, brought into question by a recent report which accuses the government of lagging behind on the Charbonneau recommendations.

If the PQ is now breathing down their necks in the polls, it is hardly due to their own accomplishments this year. In fact, the Parti Québécois spent most of 2016 trying to find a new leader after the freshly elected Pierre-Karl Péladeau resigned, citing family reasons. His excuse, standard as it might be, is not very hard to believe, considering he was later found to be stalking his ex-wife and is now in a grim legal battle against his late girlfriend’s ex.

In any case, the party was left in turmoil. It wasn’t long before another of its prominent figures left. Bernard Drainville, champion of the infamous Charte des valeurs, but also a major architect of the party’s policies and democratic reforms, decided it was time to call it quits. In a slightly surreal move, he announced that he was retiring from politics to co-animate Éric Duhaime’s notoriously salacious radio show.

Those who had hoped that his departure would help the PQ move toward a better relationship with minorities and immigrants were disillusioned by the conclusion of the leadership race. Veteran Jean-François Lisée and his divisive views on immigration won by a landslide, while the favorite, Alexandre Cloutier was left in the dust with Martine Ouellet and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon.

However, let’s not forget that Quebec’s political scene is not limited to the two major parties. In fact, a new player is preparing to enter it before the next election. FTB learned that a provincial NDP is in the works, hoping to provide the voters with a progressive option that doesn’t aim for Quebec’s independence. (MD)

Rape Culture

Rape culture neither started nor ended in 2016, but it did seem to find its way to our newsfeed frighteningly often.

First came the disappointing conclusion of the Gomeshi trial in May. The fact that a celebrity with so much airtime on the CBC and elsewhere had been sexually harassing his colleague for years and committing multiple sexual assaults while his entourage and superiors turned a blind eye was outraging enough on its own. The fact that four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking pretty much ended with a slap on the wrist from the court was worse. It made it very hard to keep pretending that our institutions and our society were not rigged to protect aggressors and silence victims.

Barely a month later, as if to demonstrate the scale of the problem, there was the Brock Turner case. Turner, a 20 year old student athlete at Stanford and a perfect mix of white, male and class privilege, was standing trial for raping a young woman on campus. Caught in the act by other students, he was found guilty. This could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, but he got six months in a county jail (he only served three).

A horrible event brought the discussion about rape culture a lot closer to home for many Quebecers in the fall. Multiple attackers entered the dorms of Université Laval and assaulted several students during one night in October. This sparked a wave of compassion and awareness with province-wide protests.

During a solidarity vigil in Quebec city, a young student named Alice Paquet revealed that she was raped by Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos back in 2012. Despite an onslaught of victim blaming and skepticism, Paquet decided to finally press charges, and her lawsuit is now in front of the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales. The latter will decide if the case goes to court. (MD)

US Presidential Election

Painting by Samantha Gold, buy the original on eBay

For most of the year, politicos everywhere, including here in Canada, were glued to what was transpiring in the US Presidential Election. And for good reason, it was an interesting one, to say the least.

First there was the hope of some real and unexpected change in the form of the political revolution Bernie Sanders was promising. The upstart Vermont senator managed to go from basically nothing to winning 23 states in the Primaries and even got to meet with the Pope, but that wasn’t enough to beat the largest political machine out there  and the Democratic Party establishment’s chosen candidate Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, another upstart candidate, though one of the secretly pro-corporate and openly far-right variety, easily clinched the Republican nomination. With the exception of a bit of plagiarism on opening night and the whole Ted Cruz non-endorsement incident, the GOP Convention was quite unified behind Trump.

The Democratic National Convention was a completely different story. Sanders delegates booed speakers endorsing Clinton and connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even left the room in protest when Clinton officially won the nomination.

The ensuing General Election campaign went back and forth for a few months with each candidate having their ups and downs. Clinton’s health rumours and Wikileaks revelations and Trump’s…well, his being Donald Trump.

Then it looked like it was finally over for the Donald with the release of the Access Hollywood tape. That was the last straw for several prominent members of the Republican establishment. Was the GOP going to implode?

Well, on Election Day, the unthinkable happened. The ideal “pied piper candidate” the Democrats had sought to elevate, because he would be so easy to beat, ended up beating their “inevitable” future President.

The bogeyman came out from under the bed and was elected to office. The joke went from funny to scary. Failed casino owner and third-rate reality star Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President Elect of the United States.

As Trump started building his brand new bubble filled with climate change deniers, corporate execs and white supremacists, the fight against him in the streets started and shows no signs of stopping in 2017. The real question is now: will the Democrats change gear and become a progressive alternative or stay the establishment course that led them to defeat at the hands of an orange carnival barker? (JCM)

Montreal Politics

At least Montreal didn’t spend 2016 electing a frequently cartoonish populist who doesn’t listen to experts. We had already done that back in 2013.

This was the year, though, that our Mayor, Denis Coderre, really started to shine. And by shine I mean make Montreal nationally and even globally famous for some really bad decisions and ideas.

2015 ended with the Mayor dumping untreated sewage right into the river. With that out of the way, 2016 was going to be the year where we planned for our big 375th Anniversary in 2017.

By June there were already approved proposals for really ugly granite fake tree stumps for Mount-Royal and a national anthem for the borough of Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles. How was the city going to pay for all of this? In August a task force gave the Mayor one option: taxes on water consumption and trash collection.

Coderre’s focus was squarely somewhere else in the last half of the year, though. After a 55-year-old woman was killed by a dog in June, Coderre tabled rather extreme Breed-Specific Legislation aimed at pit bulls, despite no initial proof that a pit bull was the culprit (and the later revelation that it absolutely wasn’t).

There were protests and even international condemnation, including that of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper. Coderre would hear none of it, though, even ordering the mic cut on an citizen during a City Council meeting.

When the so-called Pit Bull Ban, officially the Montreal Animal Control Bylaw, became law in September, the proverbial other shoe dropped. People started picking up on some of the other aspects of it, in particular the fines and fees and the fact that it covered other breeds of dog and cats, too.

The SPCA got a temporary injunction on the “dangerous breeds” aspects of the law in early October which was overturned on appeal in December. The bylaw comes into full effect March 31, 2017, at which point the SPCA will no longer deal with stray dogs or accept owner surrenders.

In September, another project met with a legal obstacle. Turns out fines Société de transport de Montréal (STM) security officers were handing out constituted a human rights violation.

While the STM will be appealing the Montreal Municipal Court decision, for now at least, they’re not supposed to be sending out squads of transit cops acting as glorified revenue generators. In practice, though, we’ve heard reports they’re still doing it.

The Montreal Police (SPVM) were also in trouble this year. They were caught spying on at least four journalists in November. Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden even mentioned this story ahead of his livestream talk at McGill University.

What was really surprising was that the SPVM got warrants for this surveillance. What was not surprising at all is how high this probably went. Police Chief Philippe Pichet must have known, and he was handpicked by Mayor Coderre a few years prior.

The Mayor said he stands by his police chief before cancelling an investigation into the matter.

Coderre probably wants Montrealers to forget good chunks of his 2016 and focus instead on 375th celebrations, then vote him back in near the end of the year. The opposition has another idea, though.

Official Opposition party Projet Montreal held its first ever leadership race in fall 2016 culminating in the election of Valérie Plante early December. (JCM)

Black Lives Matter/Police Killings

2016 continued the sad tradition of police murdering innocent people of colour for no good reason and getting away with it (for the most part). The Black Lives Matter movement also continued to speak out against these killings.

There were two such murders in early July very close together, to the point where it was possible to confuse notification of one with the other. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died at the hands of police in different cities in different states within 24 hours of each other.

This prompted solidarity protests across the US. There was also an impromptu BLM sit-in during the Toronto Pride Parade and a couple of Montreal marches which highlighted that racist police violence was not just an American problem.

BLM sit-in during Pride Toronto, photo Hector Vasquez (BlogTO, Creative Commons Licence)

In Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper, not part of the peaceful protest, decided to murder nine police officers, which, of course, became a national tragedy and an excuse for the right wing to incorrectly attack BLM.

In September, following the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted. There were days of protest and the governor declared a state of emergency on the second night.

There is sadly no sign that any of this will change in 2017, especially given the positions of the incoming administration on race and police. (JCM)

Syria

Sadly, this year was marked by the continuing conflict in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has again been accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The carnage in Aleppo reached new heights as the regime’s forces renewed their assault, driving residents to send their goodbyes over social media.

The Anti-ISIS coalition lead by the US is also responsible for a lot of civilian casualties. Amnesty International and the official opposition of al-Assad even called for a suspension of their airstrikes after they were reported to have killed between 100 and 200 civilians in the region of Manbij over two months.  This number is now confirmed to have surpassed 300, although the US still refuses to acknowledge it.

Local groups have been fighting the rising terrorist factions in Syria, namely the now famous Kurd “women’s protection unit”, also known as YPJ. However, despite their important role, their status with the international community is on shaky ground. One YPJ fighter is currently detained in Denmark under terrorism charges. (MD)


So that’s our look back at 2016 in the news. Here’s hoping for overall more uplifting stories in 2017!

Panelists Katie Nelson, Cem Ertekin and Jerry Gabriel join host Jason C. McLean for a look at the big worldwide, national and local stories of 2016. Plus 2017 Predictions!

Panelists:

Katie Nelson: “Paid professional social justice warrior”

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor and contributor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagah (video)

Report by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Sunday, December 11, 2016 in Montreal

WATCH:

LISTEN:

 

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Carl Paladino is human garbage.

Carl Paladino’s ACTUAL answers: (see the rest of the article)

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?
“Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.”

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?
“Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

My city is making INTERNATIONAL NEWS because of a deadbeat politician spewing racially charged hate and transphobic bullshit. First Carl told people if they didn’t like what he said then they can suck it, again getting racist about one of the editors of The Buffalo News when they attempted an interview. He then retracted all of his statements, saying someone else sent that email, or wait, maybe he sent it but it was supposed to go to friends, not Artvoice. Yea, ok bud

He said that people just didn’t get his sense of humor. Oh we got it, you are racist and horrible. This isn’t the first time he has made remarks like this about the Obama family either.

Paladino has been doing dirty business in Buffalo for years. The fact that he was voted in to any kind of position ever is a discredit to our citizens.

He is an open ally of Donald Trump, going on his political tour with him and all. I remember seeing his monstrous glare at the Trump rally (I was at the protest across the street but could see the big screen).

Maybe it is also a sign that the now former coach of the Buffalo Bills Rex Ryan was also fired this week. He was the person who announced Trump. Anyone who supports Donald Trump and the racist mysogynist hate filled America he represents is dead to me.

He used to come to a local lesbian bar, Roxys, where I performed burlesque with The Stripteasers. One night he was in with a bunch of his goon friends and one of the men attempted to insert a bottle into one of the dancers while she was performing. He then complained to the owner for being kicked out! This man is a testament to what kind of person Carl is. I was disgusted but not surprised when I saw his comments in Artvoice.

I want to thank Artvoice for exposing him, but still think that what they do is no longer worth reading. Often having images of president elect hate monger Trump on the cover.

I remember once upon a time when Artvoice was a credible publication, that’s until it was purchased by the uber republican Niagara Gazette and a there was a complete shift is staff. It was once an awesome art publication that is now on the decline, posting any kind of garbage that will get clicks and has nothing to do with art.

Back in the day, when he was running for governor in 2010, a group of my friends and I dressed like ninjas and destroyed Paladino signs. This man is a waste of space and a perfect example of the impending apocalypse according to a Trump regime. He has been the herpes of our local politics.

He is also very anti gay, saying that it is not the way god created us. Paladino had stakes in several former gay clubs in Buffalo, including Cobalt and Buddies II. Patrick Paledino, his youngest son, was a homosexual, and tragically passed away after a car accident in 2009.

How could he talk so much hate about his own family? This is the kind of man who should not have power.

It makes sense to me that Carl Paladino grew up in East Lovejoy, on the edge of the East Side of Buffalo. That is also where I grew up, and honestly, people there are DISGUSTING!

There is so much blatant racism and hate spewing from a neighborhood called LOVE and JOY. This is a place where they openly destroyed property and threatened any black family trying to move into the neighborhood.

He is a vulgar loser, he is INSANE, an ego tripping monster, and he spews lies and hate. He says the middle class wants to take back the government.

Buffalonians are done with Carl. He does not represent us and cannot have a say in our children’s education. He is a bully and must be suspended.

I remember seeing all of the Trump signs, and being so sad knowing that this meant racists and hate mongers lived in my city. It hurt even worse when members of my own family openly supported him. Then Carl Paladino was elected to the school board and the antichrist won the presidency. I wanted Austin Harig, he was an 18 year old high school senior running for real change, not Carl, not ever! Whats next?

On Thursday December 29th residents protested in Niagara Square and later at a special city hall board meeting. The resolution stated that if Carl Paladino does not resign within 24 hours they would petition to the NY Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia to remove him. She has not commented. The disrespectful and inexcusable comments reflect negatively on the Buffalo Board of Education.

Two board members – Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn are Paladino supporters and only want him to apologize. Pierce went a step further and made this brilliant comment thinking he deserves forgiveness: “take a page our of the horrific massacre that happened in Charleston, SC, where nine innocent people in a house of worship were slain by a hateful, hate-filled man.”

Everyone gasped except for one woman who left shouting that is was offensive to use murdered African American church goers in this moment. Who would say these things? How can you use an unspeakable tragedy to excuse this bag of shit?

Quinn also stood up for him, saying that other member of the school board feel similar. WRONG, dude, the majority if the school board is black. Patti and Larry ALSO need to be taken off the school board, we cannot stand for this!

School board members need to set the standard for good behavior and be a positive example for children. We have to get him out as soon as possible, all of the slime is rising now that Trump is elected. It must end!

These assholes think they are safe hating out in the open. They are not ashamed of their hate and think its just a big joke. This is real life Carl, and we are mad as hell.

He says he won’t step down, I say “Bye Felicia!” Thousands have signed petitions to boot him as well as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. If he does not willingly resign this could be a painfully slow process.

We all need to take this as a reminder to get involved in politics. Apathy allows this to pass as acceptable. We need to be motivated to make change in our own community and stop the hate.

2016 is ending and we can collectively agree it’s been a shitty year. Cops are spying on journalists, our Prime Minister has turned his back on the young people who elected him, comedians are being punished for their jokes, and icons from Prince to Bowie to Muhammad Ali to Carrie Fisher have left us. In the legal world it’s been an ongoing ugly parade and with the year FINALLY coming to an end, it’s time for a recap of some of the major legal issues affecting us this past year.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The ongoing crisis in Aleppo has led to tons of refugees fleeing Syria. Unlike the US where debates regarding the refugee crisis were fraught with concerns about terrorism and an emphasis on keeping victims of Aleppo out, the Trudeau government took the moral high ground and pledged to welcome twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees. The Canadian government ended up going above and beyond this pledge and have thus far taken in thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and thirteen Syrian refugees.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

On February 3, 2016, Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Canada’s behalf. Canada’s participation in the treaty was negotiated by the Harper government before its colossal defeat by the Liberals in 2015. Whether Parliament ratifies the agreement thus legally binding Canada remains to be seen.

Uber Crisis

Montreal taxi protest (photo Chris Zacchia)

Quebec cities were rife with cab drivers protesting Uber, a car service that is not bound by the ridiculous and expensive rules that must be obeyed by taxi drivers and company owners that specify everything from pricing and car specs to what the driver wears. In September 2016 Uber made a deal with the Quebec government which included Uber acquiring 300 taxi permits and obliging drivers to get a class 4C license and insurance. With the cab industry in Montreal already flooded, it remains to be seen whether this tentative deal will create peace between taxi companies and Uber.

Panama Papers

In April 2016 the decryption of the Panama Papers revealed the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to have helped many of the world’s wealthiest people hide their assets from governments. Those named included terrorists, CEOs, politicians, and athletes. Canadian tycoon and political wannabe Kevin O’Leary is dismissive of the papers, possibly because he too is hiding wealth from Canadian taxpayers for his own benefit.

Anti-Vaxxers and Naturopathic Remedies

David and Collet Stephan were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for failing to get their son medical attention for bacterial meningitis. As the Stephans are anti-vaxxers distrustful of modern medicine, their 19-month old boy Ezekiel was instead treated with echinacea, garlic, onions, hot peppers and horseradish. By the time he was brought to a hospital it was too late and the boy died. David Stephan has since been sentenced to 4 months in prison while Collet to 3 months of house arrest. They have been ordered to bring their kids to a medical doctor once a year and a nurse every 3 months.

OQLF

Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David announced modifications to Quebec language laws that would force businesses with trademarked non-French names to add French to their signs. Though the proposal is clearly in retaliation for the government’s legal defeat against Best Buy in 2014, it remains to be seen whether the changes will go through in a province exhausted and fed up with language and cultural debates.

Ghomeshi Verdict

In May 2016 former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi signed a peace bond to settle a sexual assault trial. Though for many this is a slap on the wrist, his former victim Kathryn Borel celebrated the bond as a public acknowledgment of Ghomeshi’s guilt. The 12 month long bond guarantees Ghomeshi will go to prison should he violate its terms and does not limit the prosecution from going after him for other sexual assaults.

Mike Ward

Mike Ward (photo Cem Ertekin)

In July 2016 Montreal Comedian Mike Ward was ordered to pay $42 000 to a disabled kid and his mother for making fun of him in one of his jokes. The verdict, which Ward has sworn to appeal, has turned the Quebec Human Rights Commission from a means of social justice to one of censorship. No one has questioned why the kid went after Ward and not the bullies who used his joke to hurt him, but it’s likely due to Ward’s celebrity status and wealth.

Pitbull Ban

Following the death of a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman after she was mauled by a dog, the City of Montreal has adopted a ban on dangerous breeds. The ban is hugely unpopular and has resulted in protests, the latest being the SPCA’s refusal to take in dogs following the Quebec Court of Appeal’s reinstatement of the ban after the Superior Court overturned it.

STM Fines

On September 7, 2016 the Municipal Court of Montreal ruled that fines given by STM rent-a-cops to people unable to produce their transfer is unconstitutional. The STM has vowed to appeal the decision.

Judge Robin Camp

In November 2016, Judge Robin Camp was recommended for removal from the bench by the Canadian Judicial Council following an inquiry into his conduct during a rape trial. Though the judge promised to reform, his behavior demonstrated such contempt for victims of sexual assault the Council ruled no amount of sensitivity training would repair his damage to the judiciary’s reputation.

Seafood and Civil Liability

In May 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel ingested salmon at a bistro in Sherbrooke sending him into anaphylactic shock. He is now suing the restaurant and waiters for $415,000 though his negligence regarding his food allergy and rumours that he has tried to scam restaurants in the past make it unlikely he will get the full amount.

This past year has been full of legal debates that are as fascinating as they are numerous and outrageous. For every dispute brought before courts and councils we come closer to what we all strive for: a just society.

In 2017, let’s aim for just that.

A few weeks ago, there were reports that US President-Elect Donald Trump had been refusing daily intelligence briefings. His response was basically that he is a smart guy already:

“I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”

Forget, for a moment, that he completely missed the point of daily intelligence briefings and weirdly took the story personally and got defensive about it. Let us assume that he is “like, a smart person” who knows what he’s doing.

Now consider a presumably unrelated story about how the incoming administration is handling its Environmental Protection Agency transition and the full picture becomes much clearer.

Trump isn’t building a wall, he’s building a bubble.

This isn’t the famous Washington Bubble, the one that led all the insiders to believe that another Clinton was the right choice for the Democratic nomination and a surefire winner in the race to the White House, especially if she wasn’t running against a Bush. The same bubble that said a candidate with a big enough scandal couldn’t survive in a House or Senate race, let alone be elected President.

No, he burst that bubble. And while many establishment types on both sides of the aisle are trying desperately to rebuild it, the President Elect is busy building a completely different bubble.

No Daily Intelligence Briefings

Trump isn’t the first incoming President to reject daily intelligence briefings. George W. Bush did that, too. The neocons he surrounded himself with were’t thrilled with the constant talk of Al Queda when they “knew” the real threat was from Iraq (How did that work out?) .

Maybe Trump doesn’t want to hear any intelligence briefings that would contradict his belief and much argued campaign talking point that the biggest threats to America are Muslim immigrants and undocumented Mexicans. He doesn’t need some stuffy CIA operatives telling him that the real threat is elsewhere, maybe even with someone he is doing business with.

Instead, he’ll listen to Alex Jones and his incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn is someone who very well may listen to Jones himself. A noted Islamophobe, he once claimed that he personally saw signs in Arabic along the US/Mexico Border, which, of course, do not exist.

Trump wants the information he gets to mirror the half-truths and complete falsehoods he campaigned on. The only way for that to happen is if he gets his info in a bubble, a bubble he is helping to build.

When the Science Doesn’t Fit, Change the Scientists

Trump appointed Climate Change denier and man who sued the EPA twelve times, Scott Pruitt, as the agency’s new head. Then he put the man who couldn’t remember the name of the Energy Department but still wanted to dismantle it, Rick Perry, in charge of it.

Those antagonistic picks are in keeping with most of Trump’s cabinet choices so far. They’re really just the tip of the iceberg, though (assuming there still are icebergs in a few years).

A couple of weeks ago, Trump’s transition team asked for the names of Energy Department employees and contractors who “have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.” Fortunately, the Energy Department did deny the request, but it looks like a purge is what Team Trump is going for.

If a purge is imminent, it will signal not only that Trump really does believe, as he once tweeted, that climate change is a scam invented by China, but that he doesn’t want to hear any expert opinion that contradicts that talking point.

It’s not just threats to the country that can’t enter the bubble, it’s threats to the planet, too, apparently.

What Happens When the Bubble Bursts?

Ask any economist and they will tell you that bubbles burst. Come to think of it, anyone who has tried, as a kid or youthful adult, to catch a bubble and keep it whole can tell you the same thing. Trump’s bubble is no different.

Just because Trump doesn’t want to hear about Climate Change doesn’t mean the climate will stop changing. Just because he doesn’t get to hear someone telling him every day that his plan to fight terror will only cause more of it, doesn’t mean it won’t.

At some point, the Trump bubble will burst. The question is will he realize it and change his ways or at least his policies and the people he has around him, or will he stay the course and instruct his acolytes to rebuild the bubble at all costs?

George W. Bush’s bubble burst twice. The first time was on 9/11. At first, it seemed, he started listening to outside voices. But soon enough, Bin Laden was a job for the next guy and he was going to war with Iraq.

The bubble was rebuilt, even Katrina couldn’t puncture it. The financial crisis of 2008 did burst it again, but by that point, he didn’t care. It was a problem for the next guy to deal with.

While all indications are that Trump will behave in a similar fashion, we can all (and I mean the whole world) only hope that when the bubble he is building does burst, he will surprise us all again (the way he did when he won) and do the right thing.

Unlikely, sure. But the alternative (think nukes) could be catastrophic.

On May 29, 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro in Sherbrooke, Quebec with his partner and ordered beef tartare. He told the waiter, Julien Vézina, that he had a seafood allergy and not to bring him any fish.

Canuel was brought a dish that allegedly looked like beef in the restaurant’s poor lighting and began to eat it. The dish he ate was actually salmon, and Canuel went into anaphylactic shock. He was brought to the hospital where he fell into a two day coma after suffering a heart attack as a result of his allergic reaction.

In the aftermath of the event, Canuel’s waiter was arrested for criminal negligence. Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions opted not to press charges, having decided that the evidence indicated it was not criminal negligence on the part of the waiter. On December 16, 2016 the CBC reported that Simon-Pierre Canuel intends to sue the waiters and owners of Tapageur Bistro for $415 000 for the physical and psychological damage he suffered as a result of the incident.

According to his lawyer, the incident made Canuel’s heart so weak he couldn’t exercise until July. He claims that he suffers from anxiety and sleeping problems and has developed a food phobia. The damages Canuel is claiming consists of $390 000 for himself and $25 000 for his partner who was present when the incident occurred.

In order to understand how this lawsuit will play out, we need to talk a little about how civil liability and lawsuits work in Quebec.

Simon-Pierre Canuel (image: CBC)

Civil liability is covered under the Quebec Civil Code. As per the Code, every person has to abide by the rules and practices of conduct so as not to cause injury to another person. Where the person fails to do so and causes injury to another by such a fault, they are bound to make reparations for the injury, be it physical, moral (psychological) or material.

In order to successfully sue someone, the plaintiff in a civil case has to prove a direct link between the damages they suffered and the fault, if any, of the person(s) they are suing. The burden of proof is not as severe in civil suits as it is in criminal cases.

In criminal cases, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, liability must be proven based on a balance of probabilities, meaning the court does not have to believe liability beyond a reasonable doubt, only that liability is more likely than not.

In order to get out of liability, the defendant has a few options. First, if the incident was a case of “force majeure”, meaning an unforeseeable inevitable or irresistible event like a lightning strike, the person is not liable. The defendant can also evade liability by proving they are not at fault or proving the plaintiff did not suffer any damages or greatly exaggerated the damages they did suffer.

The way the court decides on the defendant’s arguments is via the reasonable person test. The test is the asking of what precautions an average, reasonable person would have done in the same situation to avoid the damages.

Public opinion about Simon-Pierre Canuel’s case is divided and it’s easy to understand why.

The day Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro with his partner he, by his own admission, left his EpiPen – the first line of defense against a potentially fatal allergic reaction – in his car. Food Allergy Canada, an organization that educates, supports and advocates for the needs of people with potentially fatal food allergies said in an op ed piece in August 2016 that mistakes can happen and that leaving his EpiPen in the car was one such mistake. They push the classic guilt trip helicopter parent argument:

“What if it was you or your child?”

This argument does not work because Simon-Pierre Canuel is NOT a child. He is a 34 year old adult who has presumably lived with a potentially fatal food allergy for many years. A reasonable person would suspect any food he did not prepare or supervise the preparation of. A reasonable person with a potentially fatal food allergy would have kept their EpiPen on them at all times.

Canuel claims he could not tell the dish he was served was fish due to the restaurant’s poor lighting. Being unable to see a food item does not necessarily mean you cannot tell it’s something you’re allergic to.

Salmon and beef have very different textures and very different smells. All it would take to tell one from the other is to move the food around with a fork and/or smell it. A reasonable person would not have blindly tasted his food, and could have had his dinner guest taste it for him just to make sure it was safe.

Simon-Pierre Canuel by all accounts did none of those things and a reasonable adult would know that restaurants screw up orders all the time. The only thing Tapageur Bistro is guilty of is screwing up his order.

If the restaurant is indeed at fault for serving Canuel a dish that almost killed him, Canuel is equally responsible for not taking the reasonable precautions an individual with severe food allergies would have taken when dining out. Fortunately, civil liability law in Quebec allows liability to be shared with several people including the victim.

The fact that prosecutors chose not to go after the waiter suggests that there was no liability here, just another restaurant employee that accidentally messed up an order. If someone with severe allergies is allowed to make a mistake of this magnitude, restaurants should be given some leeway too.

Does Canuel have a chance of winning his lawsuit? Maybe, but he’s unlikely to get all the money he asked for.

That’s just unreasonable.

* Featured image: estrieplus.com

The Forget the Box Person of the Year for 2016 is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In what will hopefully become an annual tradition, we put up a poll briefly asked our readers to vote for the person or group of people who had the biggest and most significant cultural impact.

We also asked that voters treat mainstream corporate media coverage as one factor among many, not the predominant one. When you only look through the mainstream lens, as Time Magazine does every year, you end up being forced to pick people like Donald Trump, as Time did this year.

Despite being almost completely shut out of mainstream press coverage, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe managed mobilize the largest gathering of Native American tribes in recent memory and bring in allies and supplies by the busload. They also created an infrastructure that was built to last through harsh weather, attacks by private security dogs as well as water cannon and pepper spray assaults by militarized police.

They’re not protesters, they are water protectors. That is a very important distinction, and not just because it’s true. Yes, it changes the narrative, but it also changes the very concept of what resistance actions are.

It’s not just about being against something, in this case the construction of the environmentally hazardous Dakota Access Pipeline over sacred burial grounds and the tribe’s only source of clean water. It’s also about being for something, in this case, protecting everyone’s water.

It’s about building an alternative. By all accounts I heard, the camp was akin to a small city, not only in size but in infrastructure. It was a real community with community services.

Independent media like Democracy Now helped spread what was happening and DN’s compelling footage of the dog attacks even pierced the mainstream media bubble for a bit. It was, though, social media and word of mouth that really let the public know what was going on in Standing Rock.

The tribe also won…for the moment. After threats of expulsion and a firm deadline from the Governor of North Dakota, the Obama Administration relented.

The US Army Corps of Engineers announced that the Dakota Access Pipeline would not cross the Missouri River at Standing Rock. Permit denied. Again, only for now.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, has pledged to keep building, pay the fines and wait for the incoming Trump Administration to overturn the Army Corp’s decision. Given Trump’s love of big business, disdain for the environment and indigenous rights and the President Elect’s previous business ties to Energy Transfer Partners, it looks like the fight will pick up again in 2017.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will be ready. They have created an infrastructure that is built to last and have already shown the world a sustainable way to fight for social justice. For that, they deserve to be Person of the Year.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders placed second in our poll just as he did in the Democratic Primaries. If he had been the candidate and beat Trump in the General Election, he would most definitely have been the political upset story of the year and probably Time’s Person of the Year, too.

As things played out, though, he did have a huge, or rather yuuuge, impact on the American political system, proving that someone who proudly claims to be a Democratic Socialist can be a major contender for the Presidency. He also gave people upset with the political establishment’s close contact with Wall Street a unified political voice.

When he first entered the Presidential race, he was largely unknown outside of Vermont (and among Montrealers who watched Vermont network affiliates). He ended up winning over 20 states, beating out the largest political machine within the Democratic Party.

Now he is a borderline folkloric household name and someone who may very well shape the Democratic Party’s post-Clinton future.

Gord Downie

Gord Downie on stage during The Tragically Hip’s farewell show (image: CBC)

Canadian rock icon Gord Downie placed third in our poll. The Tragically Hip frontman showed everyone in Canada and the world both how to go out rocking and how to use your celebrity privilege the right way.

After being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Downie led the band on a month-long farewell tour, culminating in a final concert over three hours long broadcast and streamed live from Hamilton. It was emotional, raw and incredibly powerful. A real thank-you to their fans.

During the show, Downie had a chance to address our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly (he was in the crowd, wearing a Hip t-shirt no less). Downie used that opportunity to urge the PM, in front of basically the whole country, to do something about the situation in First Nations communities up north. He did it in the most polite way imaginable, too, by implying that Trudeau was already going to do something.

Since the show, Downie has released The Secret Path, a ten-song album telling the story of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who escaped from an Indian Residential School and died on the 400 mile journey home. His hope is to shine much needed light on the horrors of the Residential School system.

The man who is considered by many to be as emblematic of Canada as Tim Hortons and hockey said he is doing this project because “Canada is not Canada. We are not the country we think we are” and it will take another hundred years to hopefully fix things.

Downie was honoured by the Assembly of First Nations in December and given the Lakota spirit name Man who walks among the stars.

Honourable Mentions

There were fourteen choices in total in our poll, some of which were added at the suggestion of our readers. In this case, the nominations themselves count as a vote. The public-nominated choices were: Amy Goodman, Nigel Farage and Yoshua Bengio.

The other honourable mentions that got some votes were (in no particular order): Anarchopanda (who finally won, at least partially, his court case against Montreal bylaw P-6), Black Lives Matter (always relevant and extremely important), Donald Trump (yes, even by our criteria, he had an impact) and Barack Obama (one last shot, I guess).

Thanks to everyone who voted. We should do this next year, too!

 

 

 

 

As airstrikes target the Syrian city of Aleppo, there are reports, far too many reports to simply say there are reports. Sometimes it’s clear what is happening. Assad regime forces are going house to house and murdering civilians inside.

Since early in the morning (late last night for us in North America), residents of the city under siege and even journalists reporting from there have been taking to social media not just to report on what is happening but to say what they fear might be a final farewell. People are being murdered indiscriminately. Many more will die.

Apparently, rain is a good thing today, because it means the bombings stop for a while and people have a chance to regroup, hide or possibly escape.

Hospitals are a target in Aleppo, to a degree previously unseen. There is a report today of an entire hospital staff being murdered.

This isn’t going to be a long post. This isn’t the time or the place for intellectual analysis. People are dying. I’m not sure what people living halfway across the world can do about it aside from spreading awareness and contacting government officials over here and try and force them to do something, to put a stop to what seems unstoppable.

As of the time this is being published, Russia is claiming that their military action over East Aleppo has stopped and “the Syrian Government is in control.” Considering they’re referring to the same regime forces that are doing the killing on the ground, speaking up is still essential.

Meanwhile, the United Nations convened an Emergency Security Council Meeting which lasted just over 20 minutes. If all they’re willing to spend on this catastrophe is 20 minutes, then we really need to let them know it’s not enough.

Under the Jasmine has a list of some Canadian politicians to contact and an international campaign as well. That’s a start. So is forcing media to cover the story and report what’s really happening.

Not sure if it will help, but at the very least we need to try…today, because tomorrow may be too late.

 

Joanna Palani, a 23 year old fighter of the YPJ, the famous Kurd “Women’s protection unit”, is currently detained in Denmark, presumably for terrorism. The YPJ is an all-female brigade of the Syrian Kurdish forces, engaged in the fight against ISIS.

In a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Palani says she is currently in prison in Denmark. She says she doesn’t know for how long, but “it could be two years.”

“I need your help to spread the news that the YPJ is not a terrorist organization,” she pleads.

The YPJ is part of the YPG (also known as the People’s protection unit), which is the armed force of the Kurdish Region of Rojava in Western Syria. They have been widely recognized as instrumental in the fight against ISIS in Ìraq and Syria. They most notably played an important role in taking back Kobane from terrorist control in 2015.

Palani is a Danish student, born in a refugee camp in Iraq. She comes from an Iranian Kurd family of Peshmerga fighters (the armed force of Iraq Kurds). Last year, she abandoned her studies in Copenhagen to fight with the Peshmergas and with the YPJ.

Both organizations are significantly backed by the US and generally acknowledged as legitimate military units. However, when Palani returned to Denmark while on permission after fighting for a year, she was forbidden to leave the country and her passport was confiscated.

Danish police told the Russian channel RT that Palani was suspected of wanting to leave the country to participate in activities that could threaten Denmark’s national security. She hasn’t been able to return to the YPJ since. The only information about her arrest to date is the short video she filmed herself.

The confiscation of her passport, and, presumably, her subsequent detention, are supported by legislation intended to stop Danish citizens from joining jihadist groups abroad. Some argue that Denmark is courting Turkey’s help to keep refugees out of the EU and, therefore, included the YPJ, a group Turkey doesn’t like, as a group to watch out for.

David Romano, a political science professor at Missouri State University, formerly of REMO, the réseau du Moyen-Orient du CERIUM (Université de Montréal), told Forget the Box that he can’t speak to Danish motivations as it would simply be “speculating about behind-closed-doors Turkish pressure” but did have this to say about YPJ/YPG:

“In the court of public opinion, they are certainly pretty legitimate — empowering women, protecting minorities, fighting ISIS, etc… The U.S. does back them, so that is an indirect indicator as well. High level U.S. officials meet publicly with YPG leaders, and U.S. special forces are embedded with them (along with many Western volunteers). Russia calls for them (via their political parent, the PYD) to be included in peace talks on Syria, and only Turkish objections prevent this.”

So you may have seen that Time Magazine named Donald Trump its 2016 Person of the Year. This announcement was greeted with vocal condemnation and almost equally as vocal reminders that this isn’t an endorsement but rather an acknowledgement of the cultural and political impact Trump had in the US and around the world.

Given the fact that Time was going primarily on mainstream media narrative, Trump winning makes perfect sense. He did dominate the news coverage in 2016. If you have a problem with the result, then you should have a problem with the way the corporate media filter operates.

Instead of complaining, though, let’s simply take away that filter and see what we get. Forget the Box is going to name its own Person of the Year for 2016!

Like Time, we’re looking for the individual or group of connected individuals that had the biggest impact on our culture in the past year. Unlike Time, we’re not limiting our view of cultural impact to what is represented in the mainstream press. Social and indie media play just as big a role in our decision.

We’re giving everyone a chance to vote and are starting with some likely choices. As we’re based in Montreal, some are local and Canadian. We’ve also included Trump as a choice to be fair. If your choice is not on the list, simply state it in the comments below and we’ll add it to the options.

We do reserve the right to reject suggestions. We also reserve the right to make an editorial decision and give Person of the Year to someone other than the top vote getter, while still acknowledging who got the most votes. We probably won’t do that, but we will if the winner is Harambe (I mean, seriously, internet).

Anyways, here’s the poll, you have a week to vote. Then we’ll proudly announce FTB’s 2016 Person of the Year:

Who should be FTB's Person of the Year?

  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (42%, 13 Votes)
  • Bernie Sanders (26%, 8 Votes)
  • Gord Downie (10%, 3 Votes)
  • Donald Trump (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Anarchopanda (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Black Lives Matter (6%, 2 Votes)
  • Amy Goodman (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Nigel Farage (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Barack Obama (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Yoshua Bengio (3%, 1 Votes)
  • Hillary Clinton (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jeremy Corbyn (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Denis Coderre (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Justin Trudeau (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 31

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Neda Topaloski, one of the FEMEN activists who disturbed the 2015 Montreal Grand Prix, had her second and final day in court today. As per FEMEN’s usual tactics, Topalski protested bare-chested during the high profile event, and in a national first, she is now facing criminal charges for it.

“We’re in Canada and there’s no precedent for such cases. Our bodies are our banners for our values and ideas. It’s the first time there is an attempt to criminalize them,” explained Topaloski in a phone interview with FTB on Thursday morning. According to her, it’s the state of democracy and freedom in Canada that is at stake in this trial.

Topaloski was arrested on June 4th 2015, after she appeared topless in front of one of the showcased cars on Crescent Street and yelled “Montreal is not a brothel!”

She was referring to the sexual tourism that doubles or triples every time the high profile Grand Prix is organised in Montreal. She was initially charged on four counts, but the charges of indecency and exhibitionism were dropped last week. The crown is thus going forward with charges of mischief and disturbing the peace.

Topaloski claims FEMEN’s actions are a non-violent form of political expression and should not be criminalized. “Seeing activism as disturbance of peace is absolutely perverse, because expression doesn’t trouble peace, violence troubles peace,” she argued.

She was also accused of mischief. The crown alleges she dented the hood of the car she was leaning on during the stunt. The activist says that this is “absolutely impossible.” She notes that the Grand Prix is always full of pictures of women sitting on cars for publicity purposes and that none of them faced such accusations.

The Grand Prix: “A powerful lobby”

This is the first time a FEMEN protest has resulted in criminal charges in Canada, despite several public actions of the same sort. Topaloski believes that she is only being prosecuted this time because She managed to “sully the image of the Grand Prix.”

“It bothers this powerful lobby and it is because of their pressure that we are charged this time, but not the time that we were in the Canadian parliament, nor the time we were at the National Assembly in Quebec.”

In April 2015, Neda Topaloski interrupted a press conference about Law 20 at the National Assembly. She irrupted topless on stage to protest against the new law’s failure to prioritize free and accessible abortion.  She had done a similar act on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest C-51 just a few weeks earlier.

Allegations of excessive use of force

On Wednesday, Topaloski’s lawyer immediately moved to have all the charges thrown on the grounds that the arrest was unlawful. She argued that the Grand Prix’s private security made an excessive use of force.

“It was more than an arrest; I was dragged on the floor, still topless, they pulled my hair out…” recalls Topaloski. She highlights that their behaviour was wildly different from what she has seen from police officers in similar situations.

“[The security guards] were trying to prove that they were the guys in control of the situation and of the value of women. They used that situation to abuse, physically and violently.”

A video of the arrest was submitted to the court as proof. Although she is not sure of this move’s potential success, Topaloski explained that it is important for her to “shed light on those who perpetuate violence rather than those who protest for equality and are repressed and targeted by violence because of it.”

The court will probably not reach a verdict today, but Topaloski says she trusts that “common sense” and “constitutional rights” will prevail: “I have the law and the constitution on my side. Therefore, I hope that the judge will be able to recognize this.”