RIP Father Raymond Gravel, Progressive Catholic Priest

Father Raymond Gravel

Sad news via CBC News:

“Father Raymond Gravel, a well-known Catholic priest, an advocate for Quebec sovereignty and a social activist, has died.

[...]

“He served one term as the Bloc Québécois MP for Repentigny, before he was ordered by church authorities to choose between his priesthood or politics and returned to the pulpit.

“He was a progressive force in the Catholic Church and an outspoken supporter of gay and women’s rights.

“At one point Gravel called the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriages “discriminatory, hurtful and offensive.”

“Gravel challenged the Catholic Church to adopt a more compassionate tone and get in touch with the beliefs of its adherents.

“”The Church must evolve beyond the language of interdiction and condemnations,” he wrote in an open letter dated April 23, 1999. “Such language only proves, once again, to the entire world just how disconnected the Church is from reality.”

[...]

“Gravel personally opposed abortion except in cases of rape, but he said he also opposed rules and regulations that “infantilized” women.”

Listen to an interview with one of Father Gravel’s parishoners, Gregory Baum, a retired professor of religious studies at McGill University, after the fold: Continue reading

What Was Justin Trudeau Smoking When He Decided To Embrace Marijuana Legaliza — Oh, Never Mind.

justin trudeau 2006

Without getting into the merits (or the politics) of Justin Trudeau’s call for the legalization of marijuana (of which I think there are many — one of the numerous reasons why I support the NDP), it does represent a rather brazen 180 degree pivot from his previously-stated position in support of the status quo. As recently noted by budding Western Gazette  journo Bradley Metlin, “[I]n a 2010 issue of Maclean’s magazine, Trudeau said that decriminalization was a step in the wrong direction, cautioning that smoking pot was unsafe today because marijuana is much stronger than it used to be a generation ago.”

Let’s take a look back, shall we:

The Liberal party’s position has been for decriminalization for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But Liberal MP Justin Trudeau is not in favour of decriminalization at all and feels that would be a step in the wrong direction. “It’s not your mother’s pot,” notes Trudeau of the stronger marijuana grown today, in contrast to the weed from hippie days. “I lived in Whistler for years and have seen the effects. We need all our brain cells to deal with our problems.

Now, this is not to say that the current Canadian policy of prohibition is at all sustainable or desirable, nor that Trudeau’s somewhat self-serving (ahem) proposal is misguided. But it does make one wonder why Jay-Tee suddenly turned on a dime and so demonstratively embraced his inner (and outer) pothead. As Metlin put it: “It seems the reefer of 2013 suddenly has become less dangerous than it was three years ago.”

Word to your mother.

Stay Classy, Sun Media

h/t Justin Stayshyn

Down and Out in Harperconia

Saving Canada from devilish deals since 2008

Sweet tit-humping Christ I’m tired.

Tired of the chronic lack of accountability in Ottawa. Of a parliamentary press corps that been for far too long too prissy and timid to rightly ferret and call out endless examples Conservative corruption with tenacious vigour (see also: libel chill).

Tired of national apathy and cynicism understandably bred by a seemingly never ending barrage of brazen disregard for the collective values that have defined Canada for the past 40 plus years on the part of the Harpercons.

Tired of our national transition from innovator to regressive resource-based economy. Tired of corporatist Lysenkoism, capitalist force-projection masquerading as international development, and –especially — acts of self-interested international climate treaty sabotage to keep the tar sands safe.

And boy am I goddamn fucking exhausted at the prospect of having to subsidize this bright new CO2-saturated Tory blue future by having to slave the rest of my life in low-wage purgatory (Freedom 75, baby!) because the (quote) “entitlements” that allowed prior generations to achieve wealth and a general level of security are now somehow simultaneously unsustainable and morally suspect (because communism or something).

Ideologues who piss on the very concept of data-driven policy making and demonize those who commit sociology have no business redefining Canada to suit their self-destructive political nihilism. The next two years are (and no this isn’t hyperbole and it’s goddamn time Canadians stopped perpetually stifling ourselves for fear of seeming unhinged because the Tories already blew all the doors off this motherfucker ages ago) without a doubt pivotal to what Canada will look like for the next 20+ years. So much damage has been done that we are going to not only have to prepare for electoral change, but also for a long-term struggle to reshape an amorphous future.

But, most immediately, every vote counts, more than ever.

So keep watching this space; as they say, change begins at home.

The War Comes Home (Redux)

Harper EI house calls

ICYMI: Regarding the previously open question, “what does the Harper government’s door-to-door EI Stasi unit want to know?”

Not too too much, just, y’know, everything:

Investigators with the Integrity Services Branch were provided with a 23-page manual, dated October 2012, outlining investigative techniques intended to be used in a pilot project starting in November and winding up at the end of March.

The document makes it clear the Service Canada employees are to leave no stone unturned in their inquiries, even in the absence of evidence that selected EI recipients had done anything wrong. The document suggests investigators check addresses, bank accounts, medical documents and even the physical appearance of claimants.

[...]

Investigators are told to seek out the claimants’ former employer, and to select a sample of five prospective employers the EI recipient says he or she sought out for work opportunities. A check is to be made that the claimant really did make a job request, and employers are to be asked whether the claimant said the job was not suitable and if so, what reasons were given.

One section says the address a former employer lists for the EI recipient is to be verified, and if there is “indication of (a) manipulated residential address, the integrity investigator may … obtain from the financial institution a record of all deposits, locations and withdrawals.”

[...]

Another section suggests a claimant’s photo should be verified, or their name checked on utility bills or lease agreements that presumably must be handed over. An employer can be asked to describe the “physical characteristics” of the person who worked for them to see whether the description matches the EI claimant.

In some cases, the investigative techniques seem to delve into the far corners EI claimants’ lives.

For claimants who are collecting maternity benefits that are part of the EI system, investigators are told to verify:

  • The child’s identity and parentage.
  • In some cases, “the maternal relationship to the claimant.”
  • Proof of the child’s birth, a date that can be compared to the “maternity window.”

[...]

NDP Opposition House Leader Nathan Cullen said Friday, “It seems somewhat hypocritical that they treat people who’ve lost their jobs as criminals, yet people in the Senate who may be committing fraud, they take a pinkie-swear and say that’s good enough. That they’re going door to door in a witch hunt manner after people on employment insurance, who sign a declaration every week and have to report every week what they’re doing — meanwhile, senators are milking Canadians for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

What, no drawing blood — no stool samples? Pssh. Silly Opposition Cassandras — way to blow an “opportunity to know that this system is intact” WAY out of proportion..

Related: I’m old I remember when CBC (sorry — I mean, OUR STATE BROADCASTER!!1) used to investigate entirely unsupported claims like $334M “suspected” fraud cases, instead of blithely repeating them without question in a superficial, he-said-she-said play-by-play. Because everyone knows Tories would never, ever lie with brazen disregard about entitlement [sic] fraud running rampant [sic] in order to reap the political benefits of targeting (what they consider to be) a marginal class.

Never.

The War Comes Home

Harper EI house calls

900ftJesus has some important questions for the Privacy Commissioner re: the new Harpercon plan to randomly audit EI clients for *gasp* fraud, via taxpayer-subsidized bureaucratic fishing expeditions (House calls? REALLY?):

What information are federal employees told to gather through house visits?

How is this information gathered? (silent observation, questions, questioning and/or observing people other than the client at the home?

What information is included on any reports given to HRDC?

What is the format of this information?

To what use is this information put? How is the information applied?

What privacy rating is assigned to this information?

Who has access to this information?

Where, how, and for how long is this information stored?

What training have employees who gather the information, and employees who have access to it received in privacy issues and security issues?

What information is given to the clients prior to a visit and during a visit concerning information that will be gathered?

What privacy considerations are specifically given to non-EI claimants sharing the home being visited?

Make no mistake: the Harper government is trying to do to EI recipients what its ideological predecessors, the Harris Reformatories, did to welfare recipients in Ontario in the 90s: demonize based on demonstrative appeals to self-aggrandizing Ford Nation assumptions about freeloaders (who, btw, were not, in fact, committing fraud willy-nilly back in the day, unless one contorts meaning into Gordian knots). Of course, EI != welfare. As 900ftJesus notes, “EI recipients are clients [emph. mine]. They have paid their insurance premiums and are clients, making insurance claims.”

Which is of course the overall point of the egregious Harpercon house call exercise: to dramatically shift Canadian perceptions on how we frame and view EI, until the lines between client and recipient (ie, leech) have been sufficiently blurred.

I’m Not Sayin’ (I’m Just Sayin’)

Julian Fantino CIDA Crossroads Christian Communications Uganda Kill The Gays Law

The following nugget was buried at the bottom of a follow-up CP report on how CIDA helped fund the Ugandan aid work of the virulently anti-gay Crossroads Christian Communications (in full PR damage control mode now that its homobigoted Evangelical slip is showing) to the tune of half a million dollars last year:

Francois Audet, director of the Montreal-based Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid, said he believes Crossroads is far from the only group with controversial opinions that receives CIDA money.

“There is, for sure, other hidden treasures, other organizations who do ideological propaganda with public funding from Canadian aid — and what is worrying is that CIDA does not check this,” Audet said in an interview.

Audet said that his own research on how CIDA allocates its funds shows that between 2005 and 2010, funding for religious non-government organizations increased 42 per cent, while secular groups saw an increase of just five per cent.

“I have the clear impression — and I am not the only one in the scientific community — that behind this, there is a deliberate strategy to finance the groups ideologically close to the actual Conservative government,” he said.

Hey, careful now — publicly musing about hidden Harpercon agendas is almost guaranteed to give the Queensway set the serious vapours. The last thing we need on a Tuesday (or any other day for that matter) is an especially vapourous Canadian punditocracy. Their regular pinheaded emissions are gaseous enough as it is.

I highly doubt Ottawa’s atmosphere can handle any more pollution.

Related: To be fair, not all Jesus-friendly NGOs are on board the CIDA gravy train:

In the past few years [KAIROS],  the Mennonite Central Committee and the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace have all seen CIDA funding cut:

CIDA’s shift away from working with long-time and often church-based development partners to financing private sector projects such as those of the mining companies has been in the works for several years.

In November 2009, CIDA cut off funding to the ecumenical social justice group KAIROS, which had been a long-time partner in development. Neither CIDA nor its minister Bev Oda would provide any explanation beyond saying that CIDA’s priorities had changed and KAIROS did not meet them.

Then in February 2012, CIDA turned down a proposal by the well-respected Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for $2.9 million for each of three years to provide food, water and income generation assistance for people in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Haiti, Bolivia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

In March 2012, it became apparent that CIDA had also cut off the Catholic organization Development and Peace (D&P). CIDA, which had provided the organization with $44.6 million in the years 2006-11, chopped that amount by two-thirds, to a total of $14.5 million over the next five years.