“Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependent upon popular opinion?” ~ William Lloyd Garrison

This is the ship my grandparents and mother came to Canada on,according to the immigration documents I’ve found on my mother and grandparents.

My maternal grandparents, were a huge part of my life growing up. My poppa, was my everything.Both immigrants who had overcome big challenges in their lives in Germany and Denmark, they came to Canada for a better life for their children… one of whom was my mother.

I’ll never forget when as a teen, already insatiably curious and never one to follow the rules of never asking too many questions, I asked my grandparents what it was like when they came to Canada.
“Ach!” my Nani said: ” We could not buy anyting dat did not haf  a picture of the food on it!”
There were no ESL lessons, no immigrant support services when my grandparents came to Canada, and it was hard for them. Very hard. They made their way to British Columbia and Prince George was where they settled.

My grandfather used his carpentry skills  to build northern BC, as did my father who worked on one of the Peace River dams where I spent a summer with my mom and brother living in a tent trailer in a campground in Hudson’s Hope.

Somewhere along the line, one or both met  Koazi Fujikawa, who I only knew growing up in the north as ‘Uncle Koazi’ 

Even when Koazi moved from PG back to Mission, friends used to ask me how I had a Japanese uncle when my family was all white!  The funny thing is, I never questioned his presence until someone else did.

Koazi came up several times a year to bring us smoked salmon,blackberries, and it was from him I learned the need and value of the ooligans. When the runs were good, he would harvest them with his friends in local First Nations, smoke them and bring them to us up north.

Looking back now, it may not seem like the most conventional childhood, but really, it was. Unless you are Inuit or First Nations, we all came from somewhere else. Some of our families were immigrants, some were refugees, some have fled wars of their own. And I am thankful every day for where and how I grew up, and the people who shaped my life then, and now.

Would I be here, if my mother and her parents had not come over from  Europe? Would I be the person I am if I had not been born and raised in the north,experiencing sustenance hunting, fishing? Learning at times from a Canadian born Japanese man who was always thought a foreigner because of the colour of his skin?  A man  I only ever knew as my uncle?

My point is this. Today I had a bit of a rant on twitter, and again on Facebook because I feel such a negative  and hypocritical push-back  on  social media when it comes to Syrian Refugees.

I now make my home in Surrey. I have been a long,vocal and at times,the only critic of civic policy because I could see where it was leading.For years, Surrey has banked on having the lowest taxes in Metro Vancouver as a selling point to negate the negative press.

That has come,sadly, with a huge cost.

Instead of having reasonable,marginal property tax and DCC increases, we now see the large increases, because apparently the cost of policing in such a huge area, is a surprise. ( It is not, unless you are a dolt)

And of course, we see again now because our budget crisis is happening at the same time as our incoming refugees are in the news, a flurry of racist crap. And yes, it is crap.

But should any of the failures of  our city government, of our provincial government, or our federal government…be the concerns of many fleeing a war we in Canada are helping to perpetuate?

No. No, this is not their fault, or their doing.

What I find so appalling… and you know who you are… is that many of the same people who are freaking out about accepting refugees because  we are overloaded in our schools,clinics, hospitals etc….  are the same people who voted our current city council in. They have been silent since the last election except for talking about how great everything is… and suddenly now they are bringing up these issues as a reason why we should not let refugees into Surrey.

Yousuddenly have an issue with overcrowding? Talk to your city council who approved it all. In the face of people calling for restraint…. for years. Where were you when we were talking about this?

You have an issue in Surrey with refugee’s who do not have support services? Talk to your local Liberal/NDP MLA and find out why there is no funding.  Did you ask about this before voting? No???

You think we should take care of our own? Great! I do too…but where were you when people were calling for support for a winter shelter?

Where were you when good women were feeding the homeless our city was trying to get rid of? When our Pop Up Soup Kitchen led by a woman who does not even live in Surrey… was being kicked out by our bylaws officers?

Have you been advocating and pushing for shelters, or trying to stop them? Have you been pushing for more funding to support our youth so they don’t head down the wrong path?

Where are you now, when good people leaving lives of pain and anguish, are wanting more for their children like our families wanted more for us? You get the idea.

I have been the one of the longest and loudest critics speaking out against the manner of development in our city.But I have always been on the side of what is right. And if you said nothing in the face of all the rampant development in Surrey when it was clear the province could not keep pace… you are part of the problem.

We all own this.

We are a village and yes it takes a village to raise a child. And it takes a village…. to raise a village. Not just a child, but a city.

Why the hate on for Syrian refugees in Surrey right now? Because I can assure you as local RCMP can, that they are not behind the 60+ shootings-many with restricted weapons- that have happened in our community this year. Nor has all this crime been committed by refugees, period.

I welcome  Syrian families and their children, despite the issues in our city,because they are fleeing war, bombs…..oh yes….war??!! The majority want to be at home. But their country is fast disappearing into a pile of rubble.

They are not responsible for overcrowding, parking ,crime in Surrey or anything else you might want to use them as an excuse for.

Blaming refugee’s is convenient, and it is easy. But they are not the cause of our problems.

Look to your elected officials for that. And if you must, look in the mirror.


“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important.

You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit.

But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

Mahatma Gandhi



50 shades of wrong: Why the BC Liberal government has lost all moral authority to govern #ChristyResign

I was watching Question Period earlier today as the opposition was asking hard questions of Amrik Virk – again. ‘How is it possible that in all the years of the health firings investigation, there were no documents created across two ministers and high-level staff?’ Dix wanted to know.

Virks responses at first consisted of the usual non-answers Liberals give in QP. virksmirk-foremailBut on the last question, he waits a moment, and smirks… before giving another sidestep. Thanks to a reader watching, you can see it for yourself. Considering the seriousness of the issue, it seemed inappropriate.

He doesn’t mention that the 8 wrongly fired health workers objected strongly to an Ombudsman review, or that the Ombudsman himself had grave concerns over his office’s ability to conduct one.  Or that the Liberals pushed ahead with it in the face of these valid objections – in a committee meeting,the Liberals outvoted the NDP 5-4 – despite the calls for a full fledged public inquiry.

Chalke previously raised red flags about his office’s suitability to probe the firings of eight health researchers nearly three years ago, noting that the issue has become a partisan matter.

We cannot, must not forget those 8 government health ministry workers wrongly fired for an alleged breach of confidential public health data during this email scandal. It’s related. One of those workers, Rod MacIsaac, a Phd candidate,took his own life mere months later. 

“He was a kind, giving man,” MacIsaac’s sister Linda Kayfish said Tuesday. “He was a concise, straightforward, straight-answer guy.”

After two years in which no wrongdoing by MacIsaac has been uncovered and other members of the team have been exonerated, Kayfish is calling on the provincial government to issue a formal apology for her brother’s dismissal.

“I figured that when somebody makes a mistake and ruins people’s lives like this, they had to know there would be repercussions,” she said. “And when you do that, you have to recognize an error: stand up, and recognize that error. Apologize.”

And an apology was made, of sorts, at least in the public realm. But neither apologies,nor settlements,nor ombudsmans reviews will bring Rod MacIssac back.

None of this should have happened in the first place.

When it was revealed in June of this year, that the government had intentionally misled not only the public, but the RCMP, it further called into question the ability of this government to continue with authority to govern:

Despite claims from MacDiarmid’s ministry that its had “provided the RCMP with interim results of an internal investigation,” RCMP emails show the ministry simply gave “high level explanations of the allegations,” and that “the province’s investigation had not reached any conclusions that could support a criminal investigation.”

RCMP investigators tried five times over almost two years to get more information, but received none of the reports the Health Ministry had promised into what it had publicly billed as one of the biggest privacy breaches in B.C. history.

The Mounties closed the file on July 16, 2014, and informed the province. But it wasn’t until seven months later that the government publicly admitted it no longer expected police to pursue the matter.

The records, obtained by The Vancouver Sun through the federal Access to Information Act, show that the B.C. government repeatedly pointed to an RCMP investigation over several years, while at the same time doing virtually nothing to inform police about the case and failing to provide any evidence of a crime.

“Despite inferences in the media that the RCMP has undertaken an investigation or received information from the Province, this has not been the case,” wrote Const. Dean Miller from the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime section, in a late 2014 report. “No tangible evidence or reports related to the allegations have been handed over. As such, no investigation has been initiated.”

NDP critic Adrian Dix said the documents “show a government that not just misled the public but misled the police. And it’s a very serious thing.”

The government “smeared” the reputation of the researchers by repeatedly lying about a police probe it knew did not exist, said Dix.

One of the researchers, co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide after he was fired and it was suggested he was under police investigation.

Think about that. The government deliberately misled the public, the 8 wrongly fired workers- one of whom is no longer with us – and the RCMP.  

Who lies about an RCMP investigation that never happened? And then goes… whoops! Sorry about that! Sorry just doesn’t cut it. It is government malfeasance. A clear attempt to mitigate their own culpability in the entire issue.

And now, two scandals have merged as it was revealed that there are no records… none… after two years of requests into the terribly wrong health firings of those 8 workers. None.

It’s just not remotely plausible.Not to me, not to the opposition and certainly not, the public.

Making it even more appalling, Clarks trying to swing this one by saying only the person who originated the email has to keep a copy. But she fails to get the point that when no records are being handed over in an FOI by anyone,it indicates even the original email sent, is gone. She’s playing semantics. Does this government really think the public is that stupid? Apparently so.

But I digress. We cannot forget that so many of the admissions of willful deleting of emails, or no records happened in the case of the health ministry firings and the Highway of Tears FOI. They involved peoples lives, and their deaths.

These weren’t deleted emails on a coffee meeting about a new ad plan, these were records directly relating to two very sensitive issues, one of which involved horrific abuse of government power and malfeasance.

That’s why when I read this new article on how over the last 23 years, it’s always been the same issues in government, instead of thinking what a good perspective it was,I felt disappointed and honestly, a bit sad.

I very much respect the author- he has produced some excellent work but to me, it seems to minimize the seriousness of what this current government has done, as business as usual. Only, it isn’t.

The examples he’s brought up are egregious by any standard,  but do not come close to the current governments handling and what now looks like a cover-up, into the health ministry firings and the Highway of tears meetings. These events are so reprehensible that it still amazes me the Liberals allowed Clark to remain in power.

His article also doesn’t mention one startling fact that still remains largely unreported or discussed in media: that the Clark government removed the offence act, the penalties for improper destruction of records, two days before Tim Duncan blew the whistles on the emails George Gretes allegedly deleted to avoid the Highway of Tears FOI. 

I’ve written about this removal twice, back in May when it happened. Doug Routley tried to amend the Bill but he was overruled and the bill passed on division. 


The NDP put out this release a few days later:

duty to document

So while prior governments have indeed tried similar tactics to avoid scandal, this government has taken it completely above the law. Completely. No penalties,no deterrents and because Clark and now Virk have completely ignored Commissioner Denhams 3 separate recommendations over three years to legislate Duty to Document, everyone is getting away with it. 

Except poor George Gretes of course, whose case has been handed over to the RCMP for investigation for allegedly lying under oath. And rest assured, someone else will get tossed under the bus before this is over.

But take a look now at this. Denham wrote this letter to Amrik Virk in February of this year reminded him again of the need  for a legislated Duty to Document key government actions and decisions, before Bill 5 was passed.

I know a lot of people in law enforcement and one thing they all hate is a loophole. So one would think  that Virk, a former RCMP officer, would want to ensure every loophole would be removed, right? But no, Bill 5 passed without a Duty to Document. Which leaves this government free to do what they want with little documentation.

Photo credit: The Canadian Press
Photo credit: The Canadian Press

During the federal election I wrote how we seemed to have lost all honour, integrity and common sense in politics. Clarks government has now ensured we have no legislated requirement Duty to Document key government decisions and actions (Aka Boosenkool human resources investigation),  and removed the penalties if you get caught. And for all intents and purposes, I see not one bit of remorse. I’m disappointed her caucus hasn’t publicly distanced themselves from this.

Glen Clark resigned as premier over a patio deck/casino license deal. Despite Ethnic-gate, the Boesenkool affair, the Health firings scandal that resulted in a suicide, destroyed emails relating to the Highway of Tears and more… yet Premier Clark still stands.

AmrikVirk still stands.

Other ministers involved in these scandals still stand…and none of them deserve to. They were elected to represent their constituents yet I highly doubt this is what they had in mind. It is an unforgivable breach of the public trust.

There are far more things in life that matter more than power. People. Personal integrity. Your character. Honour. Accountability.

The only recourse left is for Clark, Virk and others to resign.

Because this isn’t her government. It’s yours.

** Two great posts I have to direct you t on the email scandal are here: http://www.bcveritas.com/index.php/2015/10/28/a-level-of-bullshit-never-seen/ and here: http://blog.cleverelephant.ca/2015/10/government-email-deleting-intent-matters.html

**Here is the link to the BC Liberal MLA’s. If you have a Liberal MLA, please contact them and ask why the penalties for improper document destruction were removed from Bill 5, and ask them why they have refused to legislate Duty to Document rules after 3 years of recommendations. I also urge you to join the call for a resignation of Premier Christy Clark. #ResignChristy



Look what happens when Canadians unite for a single purpose. Remember this.

I’m feeling a little giddy this morning and I’ll be honest, I feel a bit guilty about that.

So many of my friends who are NDP party members are devastated today, and understandably so. The federal party was decimated last night in the Liberal sweep across Canada and in that unstoppable tide, several great NDP mp’s were lost at sea. For that, I am disappointed.

And as happened after the provincial NDP loss in the last election, the federal party will now have to do some serious reflection about who they are, and why their vision did not resonate with Canadians if they ever intend to be anything but an opposition party.   I would love to see what the NDP could accomplish as the ruling party, but I would say to some, please, try to step out of the partisan box and really listen to why people voted red instead of orange -not all votes were strategic.

Nevertheless I felt a tremendous weight lift off my shoulders with every Conservative MP who lost a seat. By the time media pundits called the election a Liberal victory and Justin Trudeau as our next Prime Minister, I was elated- the Harper era, was over. It is amazing what happens when Canadians rise to the occasion!

Today, I have renewed faith and hope for this country, and that might surprise some of you because I have been very critical of Justin Trudeau over the years,with good reason.

He has made some really interesting comments- one in particular that raised eyebrows was his admiration for the kind of dictatorship China had. He is young, and lacks the experience in many areas I think are critical to a position like Prime Minister and the gravitas. And the federal Liberal party money men and backroom players behind the scenes rarely change – I’ve written much about the connections between the Desmarais family, Power Corporation, the PMO’s office and privy council, through several Prime Ministers. This cannot and should not be discounted. Nor should the fact that Liberal MP’s are still whipped so if push comes to shove, they too have to tow the party line.

But even with these concerns, yesterday I used my vote strategically and with my conscience, to help defeat the Conservative candidate in my riding. I voted Liberal for the first time in my life  for  John Aldag, who I strongly feel will represent our riding well. Our Conservative candidate was so out of touch with the reality of so many young families here, or the issues in our neighbourhood, it was alarming. And despite the NDP running a very qualified and brilliant candidate in Rebecca Smith, it was clear early on she was not connecting in a manner that would give her a win. For me, it was more important to do what I could to help remove Stephen Harper, and it worked.

The rampant fear mongering and racial tactics used in this election by the CPC, were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The CPC candidates tried to divide entire communities with distractions. ISIS in your bedrooms, niqabs bringing down Canada, the hypocrisy of the human rights and feminist advocacy stance Harper and his crew took was gag-worthy. 

All honour and common decency, was lost. 

But when it counted, Canadians rose to the occasion and said NO! to fear and hate and said  yes to change and  hope. Trudeau did run a very positive campaign and in the midst of so much hate and fear ,it was like rain from the sky after a drought. Canadians lapped it up, and for that, I am thankful.

Now is the time for all of us to decompress for a bit, take it all in and see what this new Canada will look like.

There is so much work to be done, and an entirely new government to keep accountable- that much won’t change. And I suspect we won’t know the full extent of the damage for some time as the new government comes in.  But first we need to rebuild relationships with each other within our communities. We need to reach out to each other and keep the conversations going, keep that spirit of hope and change alive and remember what and why we love this country, and each other.

Remember this feeling and carry it with you as carefully as a flame against the darkness.Because this feeling, is the spark that can ignite change on a level rarely seen. We, as Canadians, redefined our nation. 

And Mr. Trudeau, if you happen to read this? Never forget how and why you are about to become the Prime Minister. A leader is only as good as his last decision. Lead with authenticity, with humility in your heart, a vision in your mind and the people at your side.

There are a lot of  little Canadians growing up out there, counting on you.


” The year old-fashioned honour in politics went missing ” ~ CBC headline, 2013.

After many long, arduous weeks reading the election headlines day in and day out, it was a statement by a CTV reporter online today that pushed me over the edge:

Classy.  Must have been a buddy of  Earl Cowan, the man who freaked out on a reporter at a Conservative rally and become the unwanted poster child for Stephen Harper all throughout this campaign. Even spoken tongue in cheek, it’s not the kind of statement any political party would want a supporter to say to the press.

I thought to myself, ‘ What happened to honour and integrity in politics?’  And then I laughed because really honour and integrity doesn’t even seem to be a factor anymore. We assume the worst and are happily surprised when a politician or candidate does the right thing when a hint of scandal or wrong-doing arises. A persons name,reputation and character used to mean more than anything-deals made on a handshake counted on it- but now? I wonder how some politicians sleep at night.

I wondered if anyone had written about honour and politics and a quick Google search showed – not surprisingly – very little other than the CBC headline posted above. Used in a story covering how neither three Conservative senators facing allegations of spending scandals, Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his crack smoking, or the mayor of London Ontario would step down even in the face of very dishonourable allegations, the point was clear.

There seems to be no honour left in politics, but more an arrogance of being entitled to the position they were elected to. Honour disappeared a lot earlier than 2013, although it was a notable year for Conservative scandal. It used to be the honourable thing to do to step down in the face of scandal, to show you have the integrity left to at least not taint your office, party or the voters who respected you enough to elect you.

Now? One would need to get a winch around the ankle of said politician facing scandal to get them out of office, and pry their fingers off the desk leg in order to pull them out.

The lack of honour in politics now seems to be an inherent part of the culture, so used to scandal and lies that we now take it for granted it’s going to happen at some point. But what does that say about us and who we are as a society? We keep electing the same politicians over and over again until they finally outrage us so much that change does happen. In other words, we are enabling the same behavior we find so reprehensible.

While it is accurate to say every political party has tricks up its sleeves when it comes to campaigns, the actions of the Tories in this election have been particularly distasteful and frankly, lowbrow. Fear has always been a powerful campaign motivator used since the beginning of politics,yet the Tories drove that point home using graphic mailouts depicting the threat of ISIS in the bedrooms in Surrey, which didn’t go over well with many residents more concerned with the more than 40 dial a dope drug turf shootings this year – some of which have pierced homes and schools.

The niqab issue completely engulfed Canadians and divided them- and we let them do it.  Ironically while the Tories all claimed the niqab issue was about womens equality among other justification, there has been zero mention of the Harper governments own internal report that states Canada is falling behind the developed world in womens equality.

According to the report, this country is in the bottom ranks in terms of the pay gap between men and women; support for child care and parental leave is well below average; the country registers 57th for gender equality in Parliament’s elected members; and it lacks a national strategy to halt violence against women.

“Canada has no comprehensive national strategy to address violence against women, lagging behind several comparable countries, including the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand,” says the draft document marked “secret.”

The internal report says Canada lacks a national strategy on violence against women.

The candid assessment, never intended for public release, is dated Feb. 10 this year and was ordered by the Privy Council Office to alert deputy ministers across many departments about issues facing women and girls in Canada.

A copy of the 35-page presentation — with five pages of “policy implications” blacked out entirely as “advice” — was obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

You can read that report here: statusofwomen Seems odd that a government so concerned with women’s equality and freedom wouldn’t talk about their own record on it. And why the focus is on the niqab when many single senior women are living in poverty.

There has been very little real focus on the issues impacting people here in BC. There was no chat about the closure of Coast guard offices,  a huge issue for those of us living along the BC coast, nor was there chat about the closure of nine veterans offices or the other cuts  and challenges our veterans have faced.  There is a staunch refusal to address the legalization of marijuana, when clearly what we are currently doing isn’t working,particularly in BC.

Candidates have been failing to show up for all candidates meetings all over the provinces, showing a complete lack of respect for the voters in their ridings. No questions, no answers leaves voters guessing. And this weeks post-Thanksgiving weeks distractions include appearances by none other than Rob and Doug Ford at a Harper event in Etobicoke – which is nearly as funny as Conrad Black, convicted felon, endorsing Trudeau.

Meanwhile here in BC the Conservatives were caught running ads in ethnic media claiming a Trudeau government would mean your kids would all have easy access to pot and we’ll have brothels in every neighbourhood… yeehaw! Seriously, if this doesn’t take the cake, I don’t know what does… but it’s definately the year good old honour and decency went missing

The only question now is, what are you going to do about it? Research your candidates,ask questions,check their voting records and see how accessible they are. Are they honourable people with good character and integrity?

The future of this country is in your hands…use your vote wisely.

“This is not ‘their’ election…it is ours. ‘They’ do not get to choose what this election is about,WE do!” ~ Rick Mercer

I haven’t blogged much about the federal election because quite frankly, unless you are a political nut like so many of us are, the reality is that not many people pay attention until right before they vote… and far more Canadians do not pay attention at all… as evidenced by the number of registered voters who did not even bother to vote…. http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/11/the-only-way-to-change-it-is-to-vote-people-are-responsible-paul-wellstone/

Imagine that! Not even knowing an election is about to happen? Or knowing who is running our country? Think it isn’t possible? Well watch this!! https://www.facebook.com/everythingmtl/videos/1061443130541460/?pnref=story

Wow. I know that might be a reality check for a lot of you, but this IS the reality of many Canadians very absorbed in making ends meet, going to school, picking kids up from daycare, trying to get by on pensions, etc. etc.

But this election has been hijacked by some power-hungry strategists and brokers who have a lot on the line. And you know what? Their issues- while contentious-really have no bearing on the everyday lives of the majority of Canadians. Seriously.
And Rick Mercer gets that. In less time than it takes me to think about a blog post headline, he reminds Canadians what this election is all about.

Over the next week, culminating in an inspiring post on Friday, I’ll have a number of posts on the issues of Election 2015 for you, along with a look at some red herrings and a trip down memory lane of our current governments record.

Please, share your thoughts, criticisms and wisdom as Canadians.

Your amuse-bouche for the day. A prime example of why you should never,ever pay any attention to campaign promises.


This is the pre-election campaign sign used by Surrey First and Hepner during the municipal election campaign in November 2014. Note, it states LRT will be complete in 201,not started by 2018. This promise shocked many Surrey residents familiar with the reality of major transportation projects,because the planning stage alone can take years. But the promise persisted even after the election that at minimum, the first ten kilometres would be running by 2018. 

Fast forward 10 months and yet another campaign promise for the upcoming federal election, and this is the new reality:

Hepner, who promised to build the first leg of the light rail line by 2018, now says that’s unreasonable, blaming the failed plebiscite. The city hopes to have the first leg under construction by then instead.

She said her city continues to investigate funding options, which could include partnerships similar to those used to build the Canada Line or private financing.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Tories+promise+million+Surrey+light+rail/11395609/story.html#ixzz3n9Fk4VOP

Ahhhh yes. It’s the plebiscites fault that the mayor concocted a completely unrealistic campaign promise.

The business plan is still not complete,and the city still has no method of paying for their portion of this highly questionable legacy project. Keep in mind that the current council faced significant outrage when shortly after being elected, they raised property taxes and a variety of fees and levies significantly -it worked out to be the equivalent of a 10% tax increase- yet there had been no mention of this during their campaign. In fact, finance chair Tom Gill claimed it was because there were cost pressures that came as a’surprise’to them…

It’s a lesson voters should heed with the promises flying left,right and centre during the campaign leading up to the federal election next month – often,it’s what they don’t tell you that matters most once the election is over.

“Campaign promises are like helium balloons. They’re big, full of gas and once the party is over, absolutely useless.” ~ Susan Gale

When actions speak louder than words: Harper’s disconnect on human rights.

If one were to pen a book on the federal election campaign so far, a good title might be: “What the hell happened to Canada?”
From peeing in a cup, to saying it’s fine to smoke pot while pregnant, it’s been like one long episode of the Colbert Report.

Sadly, there’s no off button for us until October 19th and lost amid the salacious stories and never-ending partisan gaffes, have been issues that deserve a bit more examination.

Issues like where Stephen Harper stands on human rights. Or more succinctly, where he doesn’t stand up for them. Because depending on which country is the offender, he might simply overlook an appalling human rights record, or as happened in 2013,he might go as far as boycotting a meeting.

It was October 2013 when I took Harper to task for his hypocritical announcement that he was boycotting a gathering in Sri Lanka, because of “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war.”  http://lailayuile.com/2013/10/08/he-wears-a-mask-and-his-face-grows-to-fit-it-george-orwell

‘Because I know that the Privy Council office reads here frequently, I would like to point out that it’s really hard to take Harper’s momentary bouts of concern over human rights in other countries seriously, because of his abrupt flip-flop on his new BFF, the Chinese government .

In many ways, China’s record on human rights is getting worse, not better.  Increasingly, targets are not only religious minorities such as the Falun Gong, but of political activists and their families.’

In fact the stance he took on Sri Lanka was one to be admired and very much in keeping with Canada’s  past reputation as a peacekeeping country with wide arms when it comes to humanitarian aid. Which makes his failure to show that same concern about other countries, all that more appalling.

Take for instance, Saudi Arabia, a country with an appalling human rights track record. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/saudi-arabia

In the news today as the UN and Human Rights groups call on Saudi Arabia to halt the beheading and crucifixion of man found guilty of a variety of crimes. http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/23/middleeast/saudi-arabia-ali-al-nimr-execution/  And this is not the first crucifixion to take place by far, nor is it likely to be the last.

But that is not the only cruel and unusual punishment those who break laws in Saudi Arabia face. Ask the wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi:


“It’s a life of waiting,” said Ensaf Haidar, whose husband, Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for almost four years.

Haidar, who lives in exile in Canada with their three young children, is in Washington this week, meeting with members of Congress and officials at the State Department trying to persuade the U.S. government to put more effort into seeking her husband’s release.

Badawi, 31, was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, along with a fine of more than $250,000, for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious and political leaders on his Saudi Liberal Network Web site.

“He is just a blogger,” said Haidar, 36, a tiny woman whose speech is careful and contained, and without any trace of anger. “He has been away from his kids and his family for four years, and there is no valid reason for that. He’s just a very peaceful writer.”

Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes in January in a public square outside a mosque in the port city of Jiddah. A video posted on YouTube showed him standing silently as a police officer struck his back and legs with a wooden cane and onlookers cheered “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” Saudi officials said the lashings would continue, 50 every Friday for the following 19 weeks.

The world erupted in fury and remaining floggings were postponed, although Badawi remains imprisoned for expressing his views and criticism of Saudi leaders.

Considering all of this, one would think Harper would be as eager to flex our Canadian influence and take a leadership role in Saudi Arabia, as he did in boycotting the meeting in Sri Lanka over their human rights record. But no. Instead, we did business with them.

And not just any kind of business – a $15 billion arms deal that is shrouded in secrecy and flew right under the radar of most Canadians. To this day there are more questions than answers and as we head into an election, Canadians need to think about Canada’s role in international affairs as a supplier.

From May 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/head-of-crown-agency-calls-middle-east-strategic-region-for-arms-sales/article24656185/

“The head of the Canadian government agency that brokered a controversial deal to supply $15-billion worth of armoured fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia sees the Middle East as “a strategic region” for Canadian arms sales.

Martin Zablocki, the president and chief executive of Canadian Commercial Corp., recently told an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper that he considers the union of Arab states in the Persian Gulf one of the hottest markets in which to sell military wares.”

From August 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/foreign-affairs-found-no-red-flags-for-israel-in-saudi-arms-sale/article26121923/

“…federal rules oblige Ottawa to examine whether arms shipments to countries with poor human-rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, would endanger the local population.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances that “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”

Ottawa, however, has stunned rights advocates by refusing to divulge how it will justify this massive sale under its strict export-control regime. It has said it will not release its analysis of how the sale complies with the regime.

As an example of how light-armoured vehicles might enable human-rights abuses, activists allege it was Canadian-made fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia sent into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising. The Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened. It only says it doesn’t believe the vehicles were used to beat back protests.”

Also from August 2015http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-assured-details-of-saudi-arms-deal-would-stay-under-wraps/article26105853/

Ottawa is contractually obliged to keep secret the details of a controversial $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia – a transaction that Stephen Harper personally assured the country’s monarch will be guaranteed by the Canadian government, documents say.

Foreign Affairs e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail under access-to-information law indicate the Saudis have made excess publicity about the sale of armoured fighting vehicles a deal-breaker.

Officials were scrambling behind the scenes in January, after media coverage of the arms deal, to determine the consequences of publicly releasing the terms of the Saudi contract.

Aliya Mawani, a Canadian diplomat based in Riyadh, the capital, told Foreign Affairs colleagues on Jan. 21 that “we [the government] would be breaking the terms of the contract” with Saudi Arabia if details were made public.

“The contract is under a Canadian government guarantee in terms of fulfilment,” Ms. Mawani wrote in a Jan. 21 exchange with colleagues on why Ottawa couldn’t make the terms public.

“This was confirmed in writing by our Prime Minister in his letters to the King,” she said, speaking of Mr. Harper and the late Saudi King Abdullah.

A cloak of secrecy surrounds this agreement, first announced in 2014, with Ottawa refusing to divulge any substantial information on the vehicles Canada is selling to the Saudi regime – or how it justifies the sale to a nation known for human-rights abuses.

And I am not the first to question this. Derrick O’Keefe raised the alarm on Harpers hypocrisy  in February 2014 when the deal was first announced: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/massive-canadian-saudi-export-deal-exposes-conservative-hypocrisy

Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country under question that Canada has done deals with. Justin Ling did an excellent piece in Vice back in January 2015 based on the Canadian governments own data.  And the list of http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/data-shows-canada-upping-arms-sales-to-human-rights-abusers-786

” Ottawa may have been none too happy with now-ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, but the Canadian government didn’t have much of a problem increasing weapons shipments to his government by 182,819 percent.

It’s all part of how Canada’s military exports have re-oriented in recent years, as more and more Canada-made weaponry heads into shaky territory. When those less-than-stable regimes eventually crumble, like Morsi’s did, figuring out where those Canadian-made armaments end up is a real crapshoot.

These figures, which cover 2012 and 2013, show that Canada is hiking weapons shipments to its NATO allies—England, Italy, Germany—but also to less stable nations with questionable moral records.”

~ snip~

“Also: the government only publishes this data every two years without any stated reason. So you’ll have to stay tuned until 2016 to see just how much Canadian military exports are ramping up—given that Ottawa is trying to knock down barriers to ship arms to a half dozen other nations, expect the numbers to be pretty high.”

There is a national discussion to be had here and it is long overdue.

Are Canadians comfortable with the sale of arms and military goods to countries with questionable stability that offer no assurance where those goods will end up?

Are Canadians comfortable with the sale of arms and military goods to countries with appalling human rights,and women’s rights records?

And most of all, are Canadians comfortable with a government that can so easily pick and choose which human rights violations we should stand up against, and which ones we as a country, will overlook?

They say money talks and by the looks of Harper’s human rights hypocrisy, I would say that’s accurate.

“Good morning Laila, My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.” or ” How left and right politics are fabricated.”

As a writer, I get a lot of interesting emails. In fact, I sometimes imagine putting together a book one day of the  amusing and sometimes, downright odd ones that people send me. Don’t get me wrong – 98% are great tips and comments and I love getting them-it’s the 2% that raise my eyebrows!)

So, when I first checked my emails today,I quickly scanned one that said:

"Good morning Laila, 

My name is Derek and I’m a very rare man.
I’m utilizing my uniqueness to raise an equally uncommon message...."

I’ll be honest. At that point my eyes were rolling back in my head so far my chair nearly fell backwards and I had a bit of fun with this opener on Facebook.

But after meeting the deadline for this weeks column, I went back to read it again and found something that actually really mattered.

I’ve written a lot about why I think partisanship –  in particular blind and extreme partisanship – turns people off politics. and as a result, voting.

You can find those posts HERE..http://lailayuile.com/2015/03/19/left-right-and-the-space-in-between-conquering-the-great-divide-in-politics/

…and over HERE: http://lailayuile.com/2013/04/21/how-partisan-politics-is-killing-democracy/

…and even right HERE: http://lailayuile.com/2015/08/11/the-only-way-to-change-it-is-to-vote-people-are-responsible-paul-wellstone/

For me, it’s always been about trying to engage people and bring them back into the process. I’ve tried to make that direct connection between what happens in and around their personal lives, to the need to pay attention and get involved at some level of engagement. On many issues, it’s no longer enough to just sit and watch the news and go ” That’s terrible!” Or ” That shouldn’t happen!

So when I watched Derek’s video, I saw something that resonated deeply with what I have written in the past and what I intend to keep trying to do in the future: Get people engaged and get them to vote.

And yes some of my deeply partisan friends will once again sigh deeply as they silently curse my efforts, but oh well. It won’t be the first time and certainly not the last, I promise.

So Derek, good snag in that email. You caught my attention, hook, line and sinker. Health and humour, Laila :)

“The only way to change it, is to vote. People are responsible.” ~ Paul Wellstone


Settled deep into the halcyon days of summer, mid-August triggers a sense of urgency for many Canadians regardless of where you live. Every day is a tick of the clock counting down the coveted days of  a northern summer that for many, is all too short.

And while most of us will use every free second of this month to simply relax with friends and family,others are already preparing for winter – cutting and stacking wood,harvesting gardens to freeze,pickle and can everything they can. Even a look into my deep freezer would show you bags of IQF local berries and fruits, and the blackberry harvest is ongoing. When you plan for 6 months of fall and winter, it takes a significant amount of your time and energy.

But in offices and certain homes all across Canada, there is a different sense of urgency developing as political parties move into high gear in the wake of  Prime Minister Harper’s early election call on August 2nd. And while most of my followers will already know this, I also know that there are thousands more Canadians who truly are not aware yet that an election is even happening this year,sad as it is.

This will be one of the longest and most expensive election campaigns in the history of Canadian politics,and every political party would be wise to pace themselves to avoid over-bombarding Canadians, which is likely to increase voter apathy. Indeed voter apathy is perhaps an even bigger threat to the future of this country than Harper when you look at the turnout in recent federal elections.

In 2011, the population of Canada was 31,612,897 million people. Only 24,257,592 were registered to vote and on the electors list.

And of those electors, only 14,823,408 people actually took the time to vote- it works out to 61.1%. A look back at the chart from Elections Canada shows the low voter turnout still is a really big issue.


Now don’t get me wrong – I am firmly in the ‘Harper needs to go’ camp – from the treatment of veterans to silencing of scientists, from his turnabout on the Chinese government to ‘quiet’ meetings with propaganda ministers and now Bill C51 -there is ample reason for pragmatic if not partisan objection to his governments actions and policies.

But when only 60% of people who are registered to vote actually do, it brings a perspective to the campaigns I think is often overlooked in the quest to win. Let me tell you why I feel that way.

I recently posted a link to http://www.votetogether.ca/ to my Facebook page and asked: “If the goal of this election is to defeat the Harper government, would you vote for the candidate in your riding that is most likely to defeat a Conservative, if that candidate was not of the party you are a member of, or support? ”

Surprisingly, for the very few willing to even answer that question, even fewer were honest enough to admit that they would not. So is this about getting rid of Harper, or is this about power?

The premise of the VoteTogether initiative is to vote strategically to oust the Conservatives, and they promote voting for whichever candidate has the best chance of doing so in your riding,regardless of the party they represent.

Now, if all the rhetoric we have heard about Stop Harper were true and meaningful, one would think the federal Liberals and NDP must come to some sort of an agreement to ensure that happens. But no, that’s not happening.

Why? Because while both parties will ultimately resort to some kind of gobbledygook about not being able to support the policies of the other and how they alone are the only viable option to undo the mess the Conservatives have created, it’s really about power.  The intense yearning for power not only at the top but in the backrooms behind the top. Trudeau has nixed an alliance outright while Mulcair says while they are aiming to replace the Conservatives,when the votes go down he will not support a Tory minority.

But why not unite now, to get the job done before the election?

This is something touched on in a column by none other than Martyn Brown, who was lauded and elevated to near celebrity status by those on the left recently,for his columns bashing Christy Clark and her LNG dreams.

But today- not surprisingly -those same people are silent as his recent post heralding Green Party Elizabeth Mays performance in the Macleans debate, strikes a nerve for some and appeals to others.

For me, this is where he gets to the heart of the matter, because I too found May’s debate performance compelling:

May has also proved that her participation stands to change the entire tenor and content of any debate that might take place—and decidedly for the better.

Set aside that, as the only woman in the field, she alone stands to temper her competitors’ macho tussle of ideas and insults with some much-needed gender balance and a unique perspective.

Why the Globe is prepared to discount that imperative is as mystifying as it is glaringly inexcusable.

The larger benefit of May’s involvement is the option for change and democratic representation that her party stands to offer Canadians. It is an option that will be aided by her participation in the debates and that will be unconscionably suppressed if she is excluded.

Whatever the practical challenges may be in translating the Green party’s ideas into action and its often-lofty positions into workable policies, May’s views are important for another less obvious reason.

They remind us all that idealism still matters in politics.

Her positions are grounded in unyielding beliefs and values of what is right and what is wrong. They are often anything but “political” in the typical partisan sense, insofar as they tend to marginalize her own voter support base, as they also transcend party lines and their associated ideologies.

The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.

Ideals get thrown out the window when push comes to shove in the battle to play it safe with positions that always have the polls as their main object of focus.

The last place you want to be, if you want to be the last person left standing, is out on a ledge like May, defending your ideals with an uncompromising commitment to stand fast for right over wrong, come what may.

The parties and their leaders all tend to speak in code to their prospective supporters by saying enough to win them over and by saying nothing that is not open to constructive interpretation in wooing any target audience.

This is the real value of May’s involvement. She is inclined to say exactly what she means, as if it really matters.

And some of what she says speaks directly to voters like me, who long to hear politicians stake their claim in ideals that are more concerned with right and wrong than with the narrow confines of their orthodox ideologies….”

“The power game becomes the only thing that matters…” 

And sadly, this is what I see in the comments of some friends and acquaintances who speak to me now as if I too were the ‘enemy’ simply because I believe Canadians not only have a right to choose who to vote for, but that they deserve to hear what May has to say.

And I voice that. I’m not naïve, but nor am I a party member. I’m a concerned Canadian with no political affiliation,just like hundreds of thousands of other voters. So this matters to me.

I’ve been told that because the Green candidates aren’t ‘whipped’, they have to represent their constituents views regardless of what that is( like that’s a bad thing?)  – from a Liberal supporter.

That Green’s are actually Conservatives and vote Right – from an NDP supporter.

And all the while, the NDP and the Liberals keep telling people why they shouldn’t vote for the other parties, instead of telling people what they can do differently. And supporters of both are mocking the decisions and opinions of those who are undecided but maybe leaning towards their Green candidate?

Gee, do you think that after 3 months of this going on, we have the potential to see more voter apathy than ever? That the undecided, non-party member voters who don’t spend every moment following politics or even the news for that matter, will just say: “Forget it!” yet again and lead us to another Harper government? Perhaps – only time will tell.

Call me crazy, but telling someone their vote is wrong, that their opinion is stupid or doesn’t matter, might not be the best way to get people to vote. Something for those ‘influencers’ out there on social media to think about, if not the party brass.

I very much enjoy the diversity of opinions and thoughts of all my partisan friends whether I agree or not, but partisanship alone isn’t the problem. It’s the inability or the unwillingness to look beyond the confines of that partisan view to a bigger picture.  Please, when engaging potential voters, think about what your goal is for Canada- and not just your party. An increase in voter turnout is good for all of us.

Indeed,apathy is the biggest threat to democracy  and the Conservatives know this well…Don’t unwittingly feed the beast that allows them to get re-elected, in your zeal to unseat them.

“The job facing voters… in the days and years to come is to determine which hearts, minds and souls command those qualities best suited to unify a country rather than further divide it, to heal the wounds of a nation as opposed to aggravate its injuries, and to secure for the next generation a legacy of choices based on informed awareness rather than one of reactions based on unknowing fear.” ~ Abherjhani


The Mount Polley tailings pond disaster. What a difference a year makes…

August 12th,2014


“B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett says the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse is not an environmental disaster, equating it to the “thousands” of avalanches that happen annually in B.C. Bennett, pointing to initial positive water readings, asserted his contention will be proven in the next several weeks.”

“Bennett acknowledged the dam collapse may be a mining industry, a geotechnical and a political disaster.

But he said that has to be separated from the environmental effects.

“Get up in a helicopter and go and look at the avalanches that happen in this province — there are probably 10,000 or 15,000 avalanches that happen every single year. Get up in a helicopter and go and look at what happened last spring with the events in the Rockies with water coming down and doing exactly what happened in Hazeltine Creek. The difference is that snow melts, (but) you are left with exactly the same (result) — it looks exactly the same as what happened in Hazeltine Creek,” said Bennett.

“It’s a mess. It’s a total mess, there’s no question about that … What’s going to happen here, is we are going to be left with this opportunity to learn from this huge, profound mistake that’s been made here,” he said.

August 4th, 2015


“British Columbia’s mines minister says the mining industry remains horrified a year after a tailings pond collapsed at the Mount Polley mine northeast of Williams Lake.

Bill Bennett said no one thought a crisis on such a scale was possible but that even now he can’t guarantee that another breach of a tailings pond won’t happen because only some of the risk factors can be eliminated.

“We didn’t eliminate enough of the risk and we have to figure out, and we are figuring out, how to eliminate the rest of that risk,” he said of the Aug. 4, 2014 accident.

About 24 millions cubic metres of waste spilled into area waterways, causing an environmental disaster.”

“The provincial government has spent $6 million on the cleanup, and Imperial Metals was granted conditional approval to reopen last month, although it still needs further permits before it can operate fully.

Bennett said water and sediment testing will have to continue for decades.”

Yes… you read that right… decades. And why? Because maybe profit was more important than safety,than heeding the warnings,than doing the right thing?

What a difference a year makes to the comments of those with the power to make change. But where will Bill Bennett,Christy Clark and Mary Polak  be decades from now,when all this testing is still going on?

Will they even remember Mount Polley?

Now watch this. One year later. Mount Polley. Because this matters to all of us.