Tears are nothing new under the Clark government.

You can’t help but shudder at the sinister nickname for British Columbia’s Provincial AutoRoute 16, known as “The Highway of Tears,” which is both a trucking passage and the winding graveyard of up to 42 aboriginal women—most of which assumed murdered by a series of active serial killers. In fact, the RCMP, Canada’s famous Mounties and the chief police force investigating the murders—believes there are active serial killers currently operating along the highway. The RCMP puts the official number of women who have been murdered along the highway at 18.

Running west to east through some of the most remote terrain in North America, passing by desolate First Nations reserves and logging towns, the highway has become synonymous with the endemic violence towards Native women in Canada: They’re five times more likely than any other ethnicity in the country to be raped or murdered. It really wasn’t until a white tree planter was murdered and discovered on the highway in 2002, that the RCMP finally launched a full-scale investigation. The taskforce, called EPANA, has had its funding cut several times in the last few years and no one is sure what they are doing now.

Ray Michalko, a former RCMP detective who quit the force, is now one of the only men on the job as a private investigator. He works directly with the families of missing or murdered indigenous women on his own dime. He takes VICE on a tour of, basically, Canada’s Valley of Death and connects us with the families who have turned to him after sometimes decades of stalled police investigations.

When I saw this video posted yesterday by the Tyee online, I sat down with a cup of coffee to watch it. It’s been a while since I heard the name Ray Michalko and it’s very much worth the time it takes to watch this. In the wake of the launch of former VPD detective Lori Shenhers book  on the Pickton case, it was timely. In both the Pickton case and the murdered and missing women of the Highway of Tears, law enforcement has come under fire. Though separate cases, they are inextricably intertwined by sorrow,grief and a heavy feeling that results from a lack of closure on both.

Government has come under fire as well, for saying first this section of highway was safer than ever, and then quashing the idea of a shuttle bus along the highway last year.

But it wasn’t until May of this year when Tim Duncan  blew the whistle on all of this -after stating he was forced to delete emails following an FOI request for the Highway of Tears– that an investigation was launched. The final report of that investigation was revealed today, and with it, the news that an executive assistant to Minster of Transportation Todd Stone lied under oath. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/highway-of-tears-email-deletion-referred-to-rcmp-by-b-c-privacy-watchdog-1.3284029

My reaction was swift this morning, and without exaggeration.  And it makes me sick.Why?

Because those in the highest levels of this government, the ministers, their closest assistants and the premier herself, seem to have lost all perspective of how their actions have a trickle down effect that impacts many lives. These are not numbers, or stats…these are all people we are talking about here.

Rod MacIsaac committed suicide because he was fired and said to be under RCMP investigation. Only… he wasn’t. And his family can’t get him back. Apologies ring hollow. Lies and more lies. What page is that in the government manual?

Paige is gone. But the government response to the scathing report on her death- one of many in ministry care, or recently released from ministry care- was released on October 19th, the day Canadians voted in the most contentious election most of us will remember.  No disrespect or attempt to squeeze that out under cover there. No, not in the most open and transparent government in Canada!

And yet…. there are more. And no amount of tears will get those loved ones back.

Tonight, I do still feel angry. But more so,I feel disappointed. Clark campaigned on bringing people back into government,on accountability and transparency. Yet… where did all those promises get us? Amrik Virk, a former RCMP member, fumbling through question period today when confronted with the opposition that thankfully chose to oppose.

The families of all of these victims- some of whom may still be here with us had government taken its job seriously and ensured due process was happening – have gone through enough. There is no closure. There will be no healing for many.  But due process is not something this government allows to happen. Accountability is just a word that looks good in a promise, and even the most partisan Liberal supporter in BC needs to ask why that is.

When people are dying because of government action… or inaction, it isn’t an issue of left or right… it is an issue of doing the right thing. And if doing the right thing means admitting that you screwed up, you admit that you screwed up and take your consequences. 
As a person of integrity, you do it…willingly. You do not pass the buck. You do not let a staffer take the fall. You do the right thing and take responsibility as a leader and let it rest on your shoulders. 

But under the ‘open’ Clark government? Not so much.

Not so much accountability. Not so much effort to change anything. Photo-ops and happy smiles all while declaring innocence of knowledge of any of it. Which is really hard to believe considering staffers wouldn’t be doing any of this if they didn’t think it was perfectly acceptable.
Not even under Gordon Campbell did I see anything like this. It’s a culture of deceit and deflection that makes the West Wing reference look like pre-school, and House of Cards  the playbook. There is a demonstrated lack of respect for the law, but more so, the spirit of the law.

And you were worried about Stephen Harper in BC??



Integrity BC is a must follow on facebook https://www.facebook.com/IntegrityBritishColumbia   and twitter https://twitter.com/INTEGRITYBC .

They’ve been sharing some more examples of how ministers, ministerial staff and other have been circumventing FOI and document handling laws, and here is just one of a few posted:


It’s also worth a trip back down memory lane to when government removed the penalties associated with document handling… and I was questioning why a bigger fuss wasn’t made over it when it immediately came to the attention of the opposition.

This matters right now. Greatly. And it didn’t get a lot of press when it happened.

Read this first:  http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/29/the-more-that-government-becomes-secret-the-less-it-becomes-free-james-russell-wiggins/

Then this: http://lailayuile.com/2015/05/31/if-you-kept-the-small-rules-you-could-break-the-big-ones-%E2%80%95-george-orwell/

And tell me there wasn’t a bigger agenda here than making it easier to destroy old,unnecessary documents.

This was about protecting those who do the dirty work. And that is all it was about.

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.

Be thankful for the divisiveness of this election.It gives us a new chance to define our nation.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but happened upon a show on CBC a while back that really touched me.

‘Still Standing’  is a series each of you should make time to check out, so accurately does it portray the eclectic melting pot of strengths and values that make up the country we call Canada. All the small towns comedian Jonny Harris visits are on the ropes but still holding on. While Jonny visits, he unravels the history of the town and the people who still make their homes there, along with their triumphs and struggles.

Towns like Buxton, Ontario – a small town with a rich history of being the final destination for many black slaves who fled slavery in the United States and gained freedom here in Canada. When a new family of former slaves arrived in town, someone would ring the ‘Liberty’ bell by the church and everyone in town would come, build this new family a home and help them get settled.

From Manitou, Manitoba to Lytton BC, the stories of these small towns and the diversity of the people struggling to keep them alive are so compelling. Many of these towns were the backbone of their area until progress brought a new highway that bypassed them, or the railway moved or a bigger city with bigger box stores drove small local businesses under. Those that remain impart wisdom and courage in keeping their history alive and it’s these collective stories that make Canada what it is today. And we can all learn from that right now.

Throughout this election,my heart has felt much sadness as wedge issues revealed the prejudices of many on a much larger scale, that moved far beyond whether or not a woman should wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony or the Syrian refugee crisis.

At one point,I received an email from a long time friend who I had considered progressive, with a link to a story about Syrian refugee’s in Europe: ” We can’t take all these Muslims!” he said.

That line bothered me. He didn’t say we can’t take all these refugee’s. He said we can’t take all these Muslims. I’ve seen a side of some people I know I can’t go back and un-see and that pains me. But as hard as it was to move past his statement,I knew that un-friending him or blocking him would only serve to enable and perpetuate his feelings.

We are better than this. Some of us have forgotten who we are as a nation and we need to build bridges within our communities, not barriers. We need to sit together and have difficult conversations in person,not sparring debates on social media where you can easily avoid the personal connection. So much is lost in translation online that can only be built in person.

There is so much to be thankful for in this great country, yet so many have been sucked into a divide that will take time,education and hard conversations to heal. Take a lesson from these struggling small towns I first mentioned in this post and remember your heritage. Most of us,myself included,come from a family who immigrated here with few if any possessions save the dreams for a better life.

I am so thankful for the diversity of my friends,readers and followers this Thanksgiving. Even when we don’t agree, we always feel free to share our opinions and that matters. Because lasting change only comes from understanding, and understanding comes from education. Don’t hide your head in fear or ignorance.Reach out a hand in tolerance and make an effort to understand a perspective,culture,community you are unfamiliar with.

Today, I have chosen to be thankful for this heart wrenching political divisiveness because it gives us the opportunity as a nation to decide what kind of country we want to be. The only positive in this is that we now have the chance to define ourselves as Canadians. And I trust we will rise above it all and show the world who we really are.

This Thanksgiving, I know you’ll all appreciate the blessings of your family and your table, but take a moment to look beyond your hearth as well. Thank the people in your community making a difference-the change-makers, the artists, the people working quietly day in and out to make it a better place to live. We don’t need leaders to bring us together,we can do it ourselves. All it takes is the will to do better.

And thank you, each of you, for contributing to the conversation. I wish you the very best this Thanksgiving!


Advance voting this Thanksgiving weekend! Information you need to know.

It’s time to get your vote on and what better way to show thanks this weekend, than voting? Hey, it might just be the perfect way to start or end your Thanksgiving dinner- load up the friends and family and vote together. :D

Advance voting opened today at noon, and carries through the entire weekend, including Monday. 

There are four advance voting days. Polls are open from noon to 8:00 p.m.
  • Friday, October 9
  • Saturday, October 10
  • Sunday, October 11
  • Monday, October 12

Your voter information card tells you the address of your advance polling place. You can also find it in the Voter Information Service.

Elections Canada is also sharing this information online and I urge each of you to take this number with you, or enter it into your cell phone. Share it with your neighbours,friends and family to ensure we all have the resources we need to get those votes counted.


If you are on twitter, you can follow Elections Canada at @Elections_CanE  or https://twitter.com/ElectionsCan_E

Not sure where you can vote? You can find that information at the following link: http://www.elections.ca/Scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&QID=-1&PAGEID=20

And last but not least, if you are not registered to vote yet, you can actually register right at the polling station! Just make sure you bring the proper identification from the following list: http://www.elections.ca/content2.aspx?section=id&document=index&lang=e


“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.

Site C to be debated in BC Legislature today (Sept.30th),rally against the project to be held outside.

When it comes to Site C, I’ve written about it off and on for five years on this blog and have covered several columns on it while debating Brent Stafford in my Duel column for 24Hours Vancouver.

It’s a project that definitely has an emotional angle because it involves the loss of homes, of livelihoods, of generation of history and fertile grounds used for hunting,fishing and agriculture.

It’s also a project that has very questionable financial and political angles, because unlike other projects, the current BC government exempted Site C from the usual regulatory review by the BC Utilities Commission under the Clean Energy Act. Nor has it undergone a review by the ALR Commssion.

People have often asked what the BC Utilities Commission is  and why this matters, so I’ll share this from their site: http://www.bcuc.com/CorpProfile.aspx

Our Mission:

The Commission’s mission is to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and nondiscriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.


The Commission also reviews energy-related matters referred to it by Cabinet. These inquiries usually involve public hearings, followed by a report and recommendations to Cabinet.

In the case of Site C, British Columbians who pay dearly already on their hydro bills, will not have that assurance that the project is appropriate or how it will impact ratepayers in the province. Long story short, we could all potentially see our hydro rates go up,a fertile lush valley flooded and one of BC’s heritage rivers changed even more than it has already by the other dams.

The Union of BC Municipalities, ( UBCM) recently passed a resolution at their annual meeting,calling on the province and BC Hydro to stand down on the construction work already underway on Site C, to allow a review by the BC Utilities Commission and the ALR Commission.

BC Hydro has claimed any delay will cost taxpayers $500 million dollars.But I said, and still say, that not building it at all, will save us more than $8 billion dollars. 

Why won’t the premier, who speaks often of fiscal restraint, of the need to be careful with taxpayers money (cough cough), give British Columbians the chance to see if the BC Utilities Commission would approve a project they have already turned down once?

Minister of Energy and Mines ‘Kootenay’ Bill Bennett summed it best perhaps in a news report once: 


Yes that pesky little thing called regulation. So of course this project was exempted.

If you haven’t been to the Peace River region, let me put a face to it for you.

Meet some of the landowners and residents whose lives and lands will be affected by Site C. Some of them, will see their homes destroyed. Look at their photos, read their stories and ask why they too, will not see due process.


These people are preparing for winter right now, in an area that is rich in agriculture and able to grow even watermelons!

Site C crews have now already cleared an island in the river. Work camps are being planned. This isn’t getting the coverage it should and it matters because it is not only the provincial government that can expropriate your land and livelihood,it happens down here on the coast too. 

The issue of Site C will be debated in the Legislature tomorrow and a rally will be held outside – if you can attend, you might consider giving your support. I would be there if I could. The BC government and BC Hydro need to call an immediate halt,regardless of the short term cost. When it comes to a project like this,government needs to ensure they aren’t making a big mistake-right now, we really don’t know to be honest. But why would anyone want to take that chance?

Let the BCUC and the ALC do their jobs and review this project.

Details at the following link:


**This is also, very much an issue for Election 2015. Why did the federal government ministers invoke cabinet privilege,to keep the reasons for supporting Site C, secret? An alarming read from late August,when few were paying attention.


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.

Sea to Sky highway retaining walls safety inspection reports released, raise more questions on quality of build and maintenance.

One of the advantages to blogging is the ability to follow up on stories as many times as one needs to get to the bottom of it. And as is becoming more common with stories involving the BC provincial government, it’s a matter of digging deeper,looking beyond the ministry media handler statements and sometimes going back and comparing them to new ones.

Such is the story of everything to do with the Sea to Sky highway, that lovely scenic drive and engineering marvel that takes one out to Squamish and Whistler. Not only scenic, its construction,cost and maintenance has been a source of many stories that give British Columbians a glimpse into how major projects are built and paid for.

Stories like the reason there why will never be a toll on that highway – at least until the current contractual obligations are paid out. The hidden shadow toll is based on vehicle usage counts and distance, and is included as a part of the total payment to the concessionaire ( the private partners the government must pay back every month for footing the bill of the construction) If you are a newer reader, you can find all those stories on my Best Of page, just over half way down : http://lailayuile.com/best-of/

Another story that has been just as compelling for me because of the potential implications of the research, revolves around the more than 200 retaining walls built along the Sea to Sky highway.

On April 30th, 2014 I broke the story that the Ministry of Transportation was investigating the condition of a series of retaining walls after photos were taken that showed gaps between blocks, seepage outside of drains, blocked drains, and walls that were wavy and in some cases bulging. http://lailayuile.com/2014/04/30/troubling-photos-spark-ministry-of-transportation-inspections-of-sea-to-sky-retaining-walls-creating-new-concerns-over-kiewit-construction/

The ministry responded on  May 1st,2014, that they had done their own investigation and that the issues were all merely cosmetic in nature. http://www.news1130.com/2014/05/01/questions-raised-about-sea-to-sky-highway-structural-integrity/

In November of 2014, it was discovered that Kiewit had inspected their own work as per a Ministry of Transportation Operation managers emails, who advised the ministry was reviewing what Kiewit had discovered.  http://lailayuile.com/2014/11/27/sea-to-sky-retaining-wall-questions-continue-as-internal-emails-indicate-kiewit-inspected-their-own-work/

It was then revealed – not by government but by a resident in the area of the repair – in April,2015 that two other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway that showed little to no visible defects, were undergoing extensive repair work. http://lailayuile.com/2015/04/21/extensive-repair-work-planned-for-sea-to-sky-retaining-wall-one-year-after-problems-on-3-others-first-reported-here/

Transportation minister Todd Stone was on the hot seat in the legislature looking nervous that week, but instead of answering any meaningful questions he tried to deny,deflect and discredit the opposition who were finally doing their job well. http://lailayuile.com/2015/04/23/denial-deflect-discredit/

Just days later it was revealed by yet another Ministry of Transportation manager that Kiewit, the builder of the highway, had used substandard materials. http://lailayuile.com/2015/04/25/the-contractor-who-built-the-wall-peter-kiewit-and-sons-used-parts-in-the-retaining-wall-that-do-not-meet-ministry-standards/

Repairs have been ongoing this summer at the Pasco Road rebuild and at the CN rail overpass near Brandywine falls past Squamish, and in both cases the repairs are extensive in scope.  But why such extensive rebuilds?

An FOI  requested and released to someone in the media in August of this year, gives some insight into what went wrong on these two walls in particular. And the results are damning.

A letter dated June 17th,2014 from Hatch Mott McDonald to Sea to Sky highway builder Kiewit,  states that Kiewit flagged those two walls for internal review and testing, after an internal Kiewit audit showed the possibility that deformed wire was used in the walls instead of the contract standard wire. ( pg 98-106 below)

The safety inspection reports also show that despite the Ministries earlier claim in May 2014 that a full investigation had already been undertaken of the walls, the safety inspections were not conducted until October 2014, a full 5 months after I first broke the story.

The FOI package includes  just 12 inspection reports from 2013. In all, most walls were rated well, with several in the fair to poor range for particular components. All the issues identified by the photos posted here previously are noted, including erosion, drainage issues, water seeping between blocks, misaligned blocks, walls built of out line resulting in a wavy formation, bulges of compacted fill walls, a result of over compaction during construction.

Motion sensors also tracked movement on the walls reported here earlier for a period of time and no significant motion was detected.

However, questions remain as to how and why substandard material was used in the construction of the CN wall and the Pasco Road wall, and why it took until this point in time to address it.

Questions also remain as to why walls clearly built out of line and with defects were approved as acceptable for completion, considering the cost of building this highway. This is something I have never been able to get an answer on from the ministry of Transportation but is concerning to me for a couple of reasons.

  1. The highway is only  6 years old in some areas. To have so many issues that need maintenance and repair -some that are extensive- at such a young age indicates issues during construction that someone still signed off on. If things are popping up so quickly, and in at least a couple of cases are still not being addressed, what can we expect for the longevity of this highway?
  2. Kiewit is on half of the partnership with Flatiron that built the Port Mann Bridge, which also had very tight contractual deadlines, and also experienced significant issues during construction. The continual decline and eventual replacement of a brand new retaining wall on Lougheed Highway and the gantry collapse are just two. Kiewit has had a long history of issues in the US and elsewhere in Canada, which are detailed here. http://lailayuile.com/2014/12/19/kiewit-general-comitted-willful-and-serious-safety-violations-in-washington-state-accident-fined-150000/

With industry sources indicating there have already been incidents of spalling under the  new Port Mann ( falling concrete bits and pieces) and geotechnical issues with settlement.soft earth at both the north and south ends, one wonders if  BC’s great transportion projects will suffer the same crumbling fate as those in Montreal. 

Calls to the Ministry of Transportation made this morning, were not returned as of the time of this posting. I’m not surprised – I would have hard time explaining how an $800 million plus highway ended up like this too. ( and that doesn’t include the 25 years of PS payments either…)

Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.
Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.

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