Category Archives: HuffPostCA Articles

Is Labour Minister In Conflict Of Interest?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/mp-leitch_b_4124776.html

Will the Ethics Minister Investigate this MP’s Failure to Disclose Her Income?

Posted: 10/21/2013 1:30 pm

 

Surprising developments continue to challenge the Harper government and it doesn’t appear the recent cabinet shuffle was enough to contain the party’s troubles.  In July, the prime minister embarked on a public relations makeover to soften the blow from repeated allegations of criminal activity and impropriety against a growing number of Conservatives.

 

To quell chatter about Duffy and the senate spending scandal — followed by charges against Del Mastro, the Prime Minister appointed a fresh batch of faces to populate his inner circle. In this rejuvenation process, a faithful MP from Simcoe-Grey was promoted to Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women. It seemed a safe bet, as the member was not only a minority female but also a paediatric surgeon who proved her loyalty by supporting the export of asbestos. Surely her silence in the face of criticism from the health care industry could merit responsibility for two portfolios in a beleaguered government.

 

Doubly minted Minister Kellie Leitch keeps a low profile with the local public, but she’s been a staple in the Conservative party since the days of her youth. The doctor wasn’t familiar to residents of Simcoe-Grey until the 2011 federal election, because she normally hailed from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and the University of Western Ontario in London. Leitch’s life was centred many hours away and she survived this controversy with stellar endorsements from CPC stars like Jim Flaherty, Peter MacKay, Hugh Segal, Julian Fantino and Stephen Harper. The campaigning efforts of Pamela Wallin weren’t quite as glowing, since her visits have become a point of contention in the senate investigation (see April 26 and 29, expanded to include Jan. 17).

 

This prominent attention must have felt remarkable. In a rural region known for farming and rustic getaways, the area was transformed into a political Hollywood for the election. The only caveat is it required this much effort to help Leitch overcome the toxic atmosphere she was about to inherit. Her predecessor in Simcoe-Grey was also a Minister for the Status of Women, but Helena Guergis was in the process of being turfed as her replacement was parachuted by the Prime Minister. It was a timely campaign of false and tawdry allegations. Ms. Guergis saw her career destroyed to create a vacancy in the riding and much of the local executive quit to protest their loss of democracy.

 

Amid the many accusations against Kellie Leitch, it became apparent she would need to open up and endear herself to the locals. In a rare interview with the tiny Wasaga Beach newspaper, a limited number of constituents received a glimpse into the world of our prospective Labour Minister. This included a rare epiphany explaining just how far she traveled. In her own words, Kellie Leitch professes it wasn’t in her plans to become a doctor and she was keen to build on her father’s legacy as a founder of Fort McMurray.

 

The Alberta oil sands are more than a stone’s throw from the shores of central Ontario and according to Leitch, her family should be credited with bringing the oil rush to Canada because they’re the ones who built the infrastructure to make the harvest area inhabitable. This MP was proud of the environment she helped create, despite Neil Young’s comparison of Fort McMurray to Hiroshima. Of course the latter was banned from the former’s radio station, so perhaps Minister Leitch will never hear about the opposition.

 

This brings us to the ethical hurdles facing the Conservative party and whether Harper’s judgement would improve in time for the cabinet shuffle, meant to save the government’s reputation. These new ministers should be impervious to criticism, or rather investigation. Ideally they would lead the way by filing items properly and insulate the Canadian Parliament from any more questions of fraud or conflicts of interest. Or contempt. Or bribery. Or voter suppression. Or criminal charges. With such a turbulent track record, it only seems reasonable the Prime Minister would benefit from hindsight and wisdom in selecting his next executives.

 

It was previously reported that Minister Leitch was in good standing with the Ethics Commissioner and she did not declare any additional income in her report for the public registry. This is the information she provided to media in a congenial, receptive email. But that registry and the Canadian Securities Regulators at Sedar appear to have a different opinion.

 

The following is a public version of events, expressed in a timeline with commentary:

 

May 4, 2010 — Kellie Leitch causes a stir with Conservatives in Simcoe-Grey, when she attends private meetings as a star candidate who was parachuted from Toronto.

 

May 6, 2010 — Kellie Leitch becomes a paid trustee at Dundee REIT (see also May 10, 2010 – report of voting results). As part of a Declaration of Trust, she must agree to a non-competition clause with the company. She is not permitted to acquire an interest, even indirectly from commercial real estate, without first allowing Dundee the option of purchasing said investment (see page 37).

 

Dundee REIT is a subsidiary of Dundee Corporation and Ned Goodman is the owner, occupying a seat at the same table as MP Leitch. Mr. Goodman is better known as one of the richest people in Canada (see page 18). The REIT is better known for its main accounts, as landlord to the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Government of British Columbia, Government of Alberta, Government of Saskatchewan, Government of Quebec, Government of Northwest Territories, Enbridge Pipelines and SNC Lavalin. This is in addition to the Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Cities of Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta Health Services, CAE and Ministry of the Attorney General (see page 20).

 

In media it’s not mentioned that Dundee REIT is behind the Toronto Pan Am village, but annual filings detail the company’s $15 million investment, with an expected profit of $50 million when the properties are finally sold (see page 12).

 

In the same report Mr. Goodman shares his executive insight with underlings like Minister Leitch. He says,

 

“Inflation is a certainty because without any other reasons, and there are many, it is a political and financial tool that allows for de-leveraging of debt and payment of deficits. In addition, politicians very seldom get elected by causing deflation. Almost everyone likes inflation. If you are a government and inflate prices, then you keep people struggling and working hard to keep pace with inflation. The poorer the people are, the more likely they can be kept under control. In addition, inflation for rich people is taxable and deflation is less so. No government ever has an incentive to deflate, but has incentive in fact to inflate. Voters prefer inflation to deflation.” (seepage 19)

 

He would have said this while also acting as the Chancellor of Brock University.

 

May 10, 2010 — The appointment of Dr. Leitch to Dundee REIT is confirmed by Sedar.com (see May 10, 2010, report of voting results).

 

May 2010 — Kellie Leitch is slated to receive 4,607 deferred REIT units for her services as a trustee in the first year (see April 18, 2011, management information circular – within report, view page 6). Her access to sensitive information about the company and advice from owners like Mr. Goodman is granted (view page 9). The compensation structure is outlined and as a trustee, Dr. Leitch will play a role in determining these amounts, including the amount of payment due to Mr. Goodman and approval of deferred units like she received (view pages 12-13). In addition to receiving property investments and a personal stake in government tenants, Leitch receives $21,000 in cash for meeting fees (see page 18). It’s important to understand this compensation was negotiated at the onset, but actual payment would be received into the next year. The deferred units go through a 5 year vesting period, with parts maturing at each anniversary. This would provide Dr. Leitch with steady income for a minimum of 5 years (view page 16).

 

May 2010 — Dundee REIT confirms it will invest $20 million to construct a building for the Government of Canada in Yellowknife, fully leased to the government for 10 years (see May 6, 2010, interim financial statements – within report, view page 21).

 

December 31, 2010 — Kellie Leitch is confirmed to receive $21,000 in cash, for her services at Dundee REIT (see page 18).

 

March 21, 2011 — Much of the Conservative riding executive quits in Simcoe-Grey, due to the ouster of Helena Guergis and the parachuting of Kellie Leitch.

 

March 31, 2011 — As Defence Minister, Peter MacKay visits the riding of Simcoe-Grey to campaign on behalf of Dr. Leitch. On the same day, Dundee REIT releases a business update to Sedar.com that includes important information about its trustees. Leitch is legally reported to live in the municipality of Toronto (see March 31, 2011 – annual information form – within report, view pages 30, 31). This supports the accusation that she was parachuted to another riding.

 

April 12, 2011 — Leitch’s business partner and Dundee Corporation owner, Ned Goodman,purchases considerable interest in resource extraction from the Ring of Fire – a point of deep contention for Northern Ontario Native communities.

 

April 19, 2011 — Peter Cosgrove donates $1,000 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 29). If this was a misspelling, a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT also goes by the name of Peter Cossgrove.

 

April 27, 2011 — Robert Goodall donates $500 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 51). He is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

April 29, 2011 — Joanne Ferstman donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 48). She is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

April 29, 2011 — Robert Tweedy donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 123). He is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

May 2, 2011 – Don Charter donates $500 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (seeentry 19). He is a fellow trustee at Dundee REIT.

 

May 2, 2011 — Michael Knowlton donates $250 to the election campaign of Kellie Leitch (see entry 69). He was the president, COO, executive vice president and CFO at Dundee REIT. He made this contribution two weeks before retiring from the president’s position.

 

Most donations were recorded at the last minute. Forty per cent arrived on Election Day and this indicates Leitch was in contact with her business partners from Toronto, while the riding of Simcoe-Grey was busy voting. No trustees at Dundee REIT are residents of this riding, according to available financial records. In addition to these individuals, the majority of political donors hail from the Toronto area and their contributions were accepted on May 2, 2011.

 

The return submitted to Elections Canada includes donor names such as Lara Zink (136),Dori Segal (106), David R. Wingfield (133), Kevin Warn-Schindel (128), Linda Rorabeck(100), Lori Turik (122), Kim Shannon (107), Michael S. Ras (95), Partick Meneley (83),Frank Magliocco (77), Onorio Lucchese (75), Blair Levinsky (73), William E. Lardner (71),Landon French (49), Victor Dodig (40), Bradley Cutsey (34), William J. Corcoran (28) andRita Ciccolini. It is this calibre of GTA powerhouses that funded an election campaign in rural Ontario.

 

(To view a candidate’s return within the Elections Canada database, a fresh search must be performed. Once the information for Leitch, Kellie, in the riding of Simcoe–Grey is displayed, select Form 2A to browse donations. Screen captures of this information are also provided below. Please be advised there is nothing improper about the donations, but they did arise from out of town, predominantly on the day of election.)

 

May 2, 2011 — Kellie Leitch is elected Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, defeating Helena Guergis as a new face for the Conservatives.

 

May 12, 2011 — Ten days after the election, MP Leitch accepts paid re-appointment to the Board of Trustees at Dundee REIT (see May 16, 2011 — report of voting results). This happened at a specially scheduled event, in the Toronto Board of Trade, East Ballroom. It would have been clear to everyone that Kellie Leitch was celebrating her election, when she accepted their overtures to oversee a business that relied heavily on the favour of federal government (see pages 1, 6).

 

May 16, 2011 — Kellie Leitch is recorded in the Canada Gazette as being elected to Parliament. According to the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, she has 60 days from this moment to file her private interests with the Ethics Commissioner for inspection. Since Dr. Leitch was immediately appointed to parliamentary secretary, her ability to engage in private employment would not have been appropriate (seeitem 7). She would not have been able to engage in contracts with the government for which she received benefit, without the Commissioner’s permission and only if the arrangement wouldn’t affect her parliamentary obligations (see items 16, 17, 18). MP Leitch was also required to disclose any income greater than $1,000, including its source, for the 12 months preceding election (see item 21).

 

May 19, 2011 — Dundee REIT acquires the Realex portfolio (see page 84). It includes parts of the University of Waterloo.

 

May 25, 2011 — MP Leitch is appointed to parliamentary secretary by the Prime Minister.

 

July 16, 2011 — MP Leitch was due to submit her disclosure of private income and conflicts of interest to the Ethics Commissioner, in keeping with the 60 day mandate. She failed to do this within the required time and remained engaged with Dundee REIT as a parliamentary secretary.

 

August 15, 2011 — Dundee REIT acquires the Blackstone portfolio for $703 million (seepage 23). It was the largest portfolio ever purchased by a REIT in Canada and this transaction contained significant addresses in the heart of Toronto’s financial district (Bay Street).

 

2011 — Dundee REIT becomes landlord to the National Energy Board, numerous oil and resource companies, WSIB and Government Services for the Department of National Defence (see pages 20-26). Due to the nature of their tenants, Dundee’s liability for environmental protection and the cost of remediating contaminated sites is considered (seepage 27).

 

September 22, 2011 — Parliamentary Secretary Leitch resigns from her position at Dundee REIT. The company attributes this departure to her successful election nearly five months earlier. They note she attended four of five regularly scheduled meetings, meaning it’s probable that some of them occurred while she was a Member of Parliament — unless all the company’s business was conducted prior to May 2nd and the federal election. Leitch accepted remuneration for her service in 2011, in the form of $6,000 cash, 35,000 REIT units and 110,000 deferred REIT units, for a reported value of $151,600 (see April 11, 2012 –management information circular – within report, view page 20 – or see alternate source atpage 20, here).

 

September 26, 2011 — MP Leitch discloses her private interests to the Ethics Commissioner on the public registry. She reports a blind trust and income from the University of Toronto, University of Western and the Ministry of Health. She does not report the $21,000 plus $6,000 received in cash, for her previous twelve months at Dundee REIT, or the current term. She does not report her significant interest in the company’s contracts with government tenants or the oil and resource industries. In fact, there is no mention of Dundee REIT, even though this report is filed four days after resigning the private position and two months after the parliamentary due date.

 

September 29, 2011 — Three days later, MP Leitch makes a correction to her Ethics disclosure. This time she adds ownership of the Khristinn Kellie Leitch Medicine Professional Corporation, but still there is no mention of Dundee REIT.

 

2010 – 2011 — During the first year of Dr. Leitch’s tenure at Dundee REIT in 2010, the Government of Canada leased 333,187 square feet from the company (see page 21). Although she was elected to Parliament in May 2011, MP Leitch didn’t resign the position with Dundee until the end of September. During this period of dual representation, the Government of Canada became the company’s largest tenant, increasing their lease to 1,209,973 square feet in 2011 (see page 19). That’s an unprecedented increase in the company’s history of 263 percent, around the same time this parliamentary secretary was working for both entities. Since her departure from Dundee REIT, the federal government expanded their account to 1,658,129 square feet.

 

2012 — Dundee REIT releases an annual report that cites considerable political influence on their business ventures (see page 44).

 

As the current Minister of Labour, Kellie Leitch could impact the employment concerns of Dundee REIT. She will continue to receive income until her payment cycle completes in 2016, with incentive to meet their needs. There is no concern from government to abstain from voting in parliament, on matters that affect the company or any of the tenants. There is no mention of the environmental pressures to keep many of these clients profitable. The REIT units owned by the minister are more than security investments and there is nothing to indicate the Ethics Commissioner identifies these holdings as remuneration. Minister Leitch could choose between cash and securities, opting for the latter as a lion’s share of compensation. This relationship is further complicated by Dundee’s political interest in the outcome of government decisions from a number of different perspectives.

 

January 17, 2012 — Dundee completes their acquisition of the Whiterock portfolio, becoming a landlord to the Government of New Brunswick, Government of Nova Scotia, Quebec public health, Air Canada, provincial hydro organizations, the US Bank, TD Canada Trust, Royal Bank, Molson, PEI Liquor Control Commission, Nova Scotia Liquor Corp and the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (see last pages, B-1 to B-4).

 

February 14, 2013 — MP Leitch makes the last update to her ethics disclosure file. This time she adds publicly traded securities and an extra blind trust to the assets column. It’s likely these securities arise from her payment at Dundee REIT; but still there is no cash declared, no mention of remuneration and no mention of the company or its interests.

 

July 15, 2013 — MP Leitch is appointed to Minister of Labour and Minister of the Status of Women.

 

Minister Leitch has been contacted for comment, but none has been forthcoming. The only question that remains is if the commissioner will evaluate these potential conflicts of interest, the primary address of MP Leitch on Election Day and the apparent failure to disclose earned income.

 

***February 13, 2014 UPDATE:  It is now known that MP Leitch donated to the Rob Ford election campaign.  In his financial documents, it lists her home address in the City of Toronto.  FreeThePressCanada will not disclose the exact location, but the election documents are a matter of public record, stored online.

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Was Rob Ford Talking Drugs On The Danforth?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/mayor-rob-ford-danforth-disaster_b_3737576.html

 

Was Rob Ford Talking About Drugs on the Danforth?

Posted: 08/11/2013 9:18

 

This weekend marks a staple celebration in Toronto, and the mayor of Canada’s largest city was there. Rob Ford attended Taste of the Danforth; not as a proper ambassador, but rather as a patron intent to enjoy the festivities intoxicated.

 

YouTube users have been flooding the site with video evidence of their concerns, prolonging the mayor’s woes with media inquiries into his suspected struggles with substance abuse. The Toronto Star as well as the Globe and Mail have addressed the recent spectacle, but what seems to be overlooked is a poignant entry that may indicate a reference to cocaine.

 

As Ford poses for pictures with festival goers on the street, he comes across a fellow who he repeatedly refers to as “brother”. Amid the intoxicated slurs, the mayor appears to ask if someone in the group is looking for “blow” and confirms that he has some (although what he claims to possess is unproven).  See this clip at 0:17 (UPDATE: The Toronto Star enhanced this audio and found Rob Ford said “cologne” not “blow”)

 

(Video now removed from source, a copy can be found at the Toronto Star)

 

Blow is a nickname for cocaine, raising new suspicions about the infamous crack video first covered by Gawker. The fallout has claimed numerous members of the Ford political entourage, as they departed from City Hall and the world at large encouraged the mayor to seek help for drug addiction.

 

The newest “drug video” has been viewed nearly 18,000 times on some sites, as listeners attempt to discern a controversial quote attributed to Rob Ford,

 

“You want some blow? I’ll get you some blow. I have it, seriously!”

 

These words do appear to be uttered by Toronto’s mayor and whether Ford raised the issue of drugs with constituents or one of them inquired about his troubles, it should be noted that he didn’t condemn the conversation. Instead it was a jovial and carefree moment that substances can induce, when a user isn’t sober enough to realize the consequence of their words and actions.

 

Toronto is a world class city that deserves to be represented in kind and regardless of any smack talk about illicit drugs, there is still the issue of alcohol to contend with. Sarah Thomson previously accused the mayor of inappropriate behaviour while under the influence and despite his denials, the Danforth reinforces similar concerns.

 

Another resident posted video citing worries the mayor was drunk and had driven to the festival. In fairness to Ford he does say that he isn’t driving when pressed on the issue, but others reported him by the vehicle later in the evening.

 

 

Ford used his party time to seek the spotlight while posing for countless pictures. He knew all eyes were on him because he was smiling for the attention. He knows the cloud of suspicion that surrounds him is darkening the city’s reputation and causing dysfunction within city council. He didn’t use this opportunity to speak about responsible drinking or provide a good example, nor did he address the economic and cultural benefits that come from hosting events like Taste of the Danforth.

 

That was too much to ask from a man who is tasked with managing the concerns of millions and the only business Rob Ford wishes to discuss is where to find the next venue with mind-altering substances. In lieu of drumming up support for business and community, the mayor was concerned with partying. He promoted public intoxication over public safety and couldn’t see beyond enjoyment of self in what some would call a slurring stupor.

 

So the question begs to be asked, is this the face constituents want to represent their interests while attracting committed business to the metropolis? Is this how the mayor behaves when negotiating deals with corporate friends? Are these the actions of a leader or truly Conservatives ideals? Is Ford’s judgement sound or is it really shaded by addiction?

 

Let us not forget the mayor is a fishing buddy to our Prime Minister and a previous party to celebrate their pursuit of a Tory trifecta was attended by the most powerful CPC personalities.


 

They say we’re judged by the company we keep and to date the mayor is alleged to be friendly with convicted, stabbed and/or dead drug dealers.  Stephen Harper considers Ford to be part of his inner circle and our country’s leader was surrounded by Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, Patrick Brazeau, and Mike Sona as well.  All individuals are innocent until proven guilty, but can we name another Prime Minister who was dogged by so many illicit allegations in his entourage, or intoxicated partners who repeatedly star in questionable videos?

David Suzuki Empowers 8,000 Youth To Wake Up Canada

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/david-suzuki-wake-up-canada_b_3212833.html

 

David Suzuki Empowers 8,000 Youth to Wake Up Canada!

Posted: 05/05/2013 10:16 pm

The saying goes, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? According to 8,000 Ontario youths it surely does. You just wouldn’t know from media outside this Windsor community despite their resounding hollers and applause.

 

On April 25, 2013, renowned scientist Dr. David Suzuki attended the WFCU Centre to empower the crowd with his Wake Up Canada call. It’s a campaign organized by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC) to support a day of action, encouraging kids to advocate for their environmental future through the very media that overlooked them this time around.

 

The event was broadcast province-wide with the help of TVCogeco, but still there was little response from adults or acknowledgement of this priceless opportunity for students across Ontario. Guest speakers came all the way from British Columbia to help unite Canadians and foster our understanding that we’re all in this together — that the legacy we leave our children really does matter, especially to them.

 

This jam-packed hockey stadium hosted fellow speakers in the Wake Up Canada entourage. They included a First Nations activist with Greenpeace, Melina Laboucan Massimo. She explained the damage of Alberta bitumen harvesting practices and oppression that caused her to leave the reserve she always knew as home.

 

Pictures of tailings ponds shocked the crowd on the overhead screen. Although most of the kids were high school students, some of them were a bit younger. Explaining the threat of chemical leachates contaminating drinking water wasn’t lost on any of them though.

 

Next was Sam Harrison, from Kids for Climate Action. His message was politically focused and it packed a memorable punch. He’s only a young fellow and talking politics to children might have seemed out of place, until he riled his peers with tremendous enthusiasm for what he came this far to say.

 

Six-million children will turn 18 in time to vote in the next federal election. If they all participate, these newly minted adults could be the difference between a minority or majority government of their own doing. He proudly sported a button saying “Future Climate Voter” and the idea of kids having a say in their destiny penetrated deeper than society gives them credit.

 

Some may see our children as playing in parks without a care in the world; but the truth is we uprooted the trees, paved over the grass and polluted the air so badly that they can’t breathe during summer. We replaced their time at parks with a reliance on air conditioning and slathering their bodies in sunscreen to avoid skin cancer. It’s not so much that kids are maturing faster in modern times, as we’re responsible for forcing them to grow up and solve the issues they’ve inherited.

 

Mr. Harrison’s message dovetailed with Dr. Suzuki’s description of the environmental challenges we’ve bestowed upon our children. He candidly offered,

 

“You see, my generation and those that followed, we partied like there was no tomorrow and forgot that there were consequences. We now see the results of living so extravagantly in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. My generation left a legacy that you will have to deal with.”

 

He also mentioned that he was speaking with students as a concerned grandfather, after political bullying forced him to abdicate his own board of directors at the David Suzuki Foundation. He wasn’t shy to explain his challenges and this example of muzzling Canada’s scientists brought a rare moment of silence to the arena. Suzuki was genuine and heartfelt in his delivery. The effect was disarming and somehow more real than hearing these issues discussed by concerned pundits on television.

 

But the guests of honour wouldn’t let this gathering end on a sore note. The sobering moments were perhaps so powerful because the rest of the time was filled with laughter, hope, a ton of cheering and a positive plan for the future. On May 30, 2013, kids will share their Wake Up Canada messages to let us know how much they care and that we can all do something about it! It’s a national event, there’s enough time for schools to get involved and the only thing they need from us is a moment to truly listen.

 

Following the grand production a smaller group broke away to meet with Dr. Suzuki and the cast of traveling speakers, barely five minutes away in Tecumseh, Ontario. At the local museum they were joined by Cameron Fenton from the CYCC and Kevin Millsip from Next Up, known for youth leadership training.

 

The purpose of this detour was meant to inaugurate a very special project that was co-founded by the CAW’s Ken Lewenza Jr. (Full disclosure: Lewenza Jr. organized the larger event in Windsor and both were planned together. I’m connected to the latter through social justice initiatives.)

 

The Canvas Campus is a “street tank” of sorts, akin to a think tank but for ordinary people. Young, old, experts and beginners are welcomed to sign on. Its purpose is to offer free education and the Dean of Canvas Campus is the respected Len Wallace, a professor from the University of Windsor.

 

With blessings from David Suzuki and a collective pledge of $50,000 from the labour community, things were off to a good start. The Ontario Federation of Labour‘s Antoni Shelton stopped by for the celebration as well.

 

The Canvas Campus is situated in an Aboriginal Tipi adjacent to the museum and it was launched through consultations with First Nations elders. They cautiously lent Indigenous support and friends of the project attended for the inspiring grand opening. Native art adorns the interior of this culturally respected structure and teaching is shared in the spirit of Tecumseh. (See pictures below)

 

The Tipi is cherished by locals in the Windsor-Essex area, but the initiative isn’t limited by its physical location. Equipped with audio, video, Internet and Skype; the Canvas Campus began its first class by reaching out long distance.

 

Fifty-five students were present with Dr. Suzuki and the many guests who came to share their knowledge. A classroom from Peel Region joined them on a screen set in the centre and this is where the real magic happened, as youths were able to interact and ask questions.

 

Here’s one of the more poignant answers regarding the corporate agenda, the politics of environment and the power of children in this equation:

 


In case anyone thought our kids didn’t care about corporate responsibility, here’s another glimpse of the business minds and curiosity that propelled their teach-in forward:

 

(A full list of video clips can be found on the Canvas Campus website here and photos from the inauguration with links to all speakers is located here.)

 

In the end these grand ideas and global challenges circled back to our own communities. As Dr. Suzuki explained in his experience, it’s been too overwhelming for individuals to contemplate climate change on an international scale. Trying to solve the problems of entire industries or continents can become daunting in a hurry, but it doesn’t need to be that way if we focus on issues in our neighbourhoods.

 

The overarching theme that tied everything together is we can each do our small part and combined it makes a difference. Training ourselves to pick up a piece of garbage each day can equate to 33-million plastic water bottles or cardboard sandwich containers being recycled, also in a single day (Canada alone).

 

The Canvas Campus will continue to provide free learning opportunities and it hopes to grow through membership. Upcoming guests include quantum physicist Bill Baylis and while this educational street-tank began with scientific issues, experts from social justice fields will be added to the roster shortly.

 

If you wish to share your expertise or request a class in the physical and/or Skype audience, you’re invited to contact the Canvas Campus. Topic proposals will be accepted and they’ll do their best to provide an appropriate instructor to meet your needs.

 

This project is dedicated to uniting knowledge from all across the country, as well as fostering a sense of unity and strength at the local community level. Eventually there may be satellites and those interested in expansion should direct their inquiries to Ken Lewenza Jr. Finally, here’s a photo album to demonstrate what all the hype is about.

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Part 1/2 – Your CPP Is Funding War Crimes

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/cpp-war-crimes_b_2487424.html

Your CPP Is Funding War Crimes

Posted: 01/17/2013 12:09 pm

How would you feel if someone told you that every one of your paycheques was being used to support war crimes and keep the companies accused of these atrocities rolling in lucrative business? And how would you feel if you lived off the avails of torture and bloodshed through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), upon your long-awaited retirement after paying into it? This appears to be our dirty little secret, that Canadians enjoy prosperity at the unethical demise of others.

 

In a recent interview with Harry Fear we touched on CPP investments and how they contribute to the Israel-Palestine conflict; through complicity in drone warfare, an illegal wall, the death of children and suppression of human rights.

 

While this was enough to make anyone angry, it wasn’t until I received mortified responses from baby boomers that I investigated further. The messages from this demographic were compelling and show that we’re ready to take action to restore our reputation and the shame of these transgressions will not be tolerated.

 

It’s claimed the amounts we contribute to CPP are not enough to cover the population’s living expenses and as a result, the plan turns to the stock market in an effort to generate a sustainable future. We’ve done well enough that organizations are pushing for expansion, to allow Canadian retirees a degree of pride that sustains them above the poverty line. With the amount of privatization, downloading and user fees they will surely need it; but the Harper government says we can’t afford to treat our own a little better.

 

It may indeed be a matter of priorities, but not as we are led to believe from a lack of funding. Instead it’s the difference between humanitarian care for Canadians, versus the pursuit of power in a vicious, military-industrial complex. At the end of the day CPP relief is not available to seniors because the government wants a greater share to invest in pet projects of warfare.

 

Our domestic (PDF) and foreign portfolios (PDF) are available on the CPP Investment Board website. Scanning through the foreign list we come across L-3 Communications Holdings, where we invested $10 million in solidarity with a company held responsible for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

 

Everyone remembers the horrifically iconic photographs that circulated media from the darkest corners of Iraq. What Canadians may not have realized is that our holding, L-3 Communications, was the first private contractor to settle with victims for $5.8 million to account for their role in the torture and inhumanity.

 

Reprieve is a UK charity focused on the human rights of prisoners. They cite L-3 Communications as not just a violator in the Abu Ghraib case, but also as a”key drone component manufacturer” for the American-made predator. This is the weaponized, remote control aircraft responsible for increasing attacks on civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.

 

According to international law it’s illegal to use armed drones in non-war zones, but no one from the company will acknowledge these concerns. In the meantime, as many as 885 innocents were killed, accounting for 176 children in Pakistan alone. That means every working person in Canada paid about $5 in CPP contributions to make it happen and we continue to perpetuate violence in this corner of the world.

 

But our unethical investments don’t end there. We support Elbit Systems Ltd., on the forefront of miniature drone cars that also kill by remote control. They can take action of their own accord, without the need for human intervention to shoot whatever these Guardium models deem a threat in their computerized judgement. Automatic killing machines pose a challenge to human rights and yet the Canada Pension Plan is behind pushing them to market.

 

Canadians hold another $16 million in CAE, as a partner to Elbit for the purpose of developing Integrated Soldier Systems. Most information has been removed from public view by the Department of National Defence since the project was approved for a tendering process by the Canadian government. Earlier research (PDF) indicates the creation of veritable robo-cops like what we’ve seen in the movies, complimented by eyepieces with pop-up TV screens to feed intel to the troops. This is the military meets Xbox and CPP facilitates this development too.

 

With the presence of hacktivist groups like Anonymous watching over the battlefield and increased warnings from CSIS regarding digital espionage as the biggest threat to our security, a new industry of war games is birthed against conventional wisdom that places profit front of mind with little regard for human beings.

 

In fact, Chinese-based servers are responsible for hacking into Canada’s defence research, treasury and finance departments in an unprecedented breach of our most classified information. Ironically, the Integrated Soldier System was housed in a compromised department and it may still come to pass that the government looks to Anonymous for protection at the rate we’re going.

 

By no means are these the only examples of our financial stake in conflict, but they do represent some of the most heinous crimes and self-inflicted danger that our savings are used to promote. With every paycheque we’re breaking human rights around the world. CPP has been manipulated to terrorize Palestinian children by the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds more are killed across the Middle East and a majority of countries where drones are hovering equipped with missiles. The ones that aren’t weaponized perform surveillance to challenge North American civil liberties and we’re so heavily invested in warfare that if peace occurred, our retirement fund would become bankrupt.

 

It’s important to understand that CPP is not a tax and therefore doesn’t qualify as government revenue (PDF) to do with as it pleases. Despite this, the investment board is a crown corporation that is directly responsible to the federal government and immediately after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected in 2006, they updated their policies to encourage aggressive tactics.

 

Dramatic changes followed quickly. In 2007, new legislation altered CPP practices through measures contained in Bill C-36. By April 2007, all CCP assets were transferred to control of the investment board (PDF, see pg. 18, New Investment Policy) and in 2012 they changed from passive management to active management techniques. Aggressive trading requires a team of involved experts and staff at the CPP ballooned from 70 to 811 in the same short period. They’ve opened offices in Hong Kong and London, took on riskier markets, decreased Canadian equities in favour of foreign projects, hedged currency and shifted public holdings to private interests. Our hard-working dollars used to find their place in safer government bonds, but the lion’s share was migrated to a war-centric market.

 

The investment board explains they’re unique from other retirement funds and they’re padded to take on the risk. They’re only expected to share 25 per cent of profits to provide for CPP benefits and the working class pays the rest. With $170 billion in assets now and 18 million people to cover, the plan can already sustain itself for another 75 years. (PDF, see pgs. 1-21, CCPIB Annual Report 2012).

 

Since Conservative rule and the CPP makeover, we’ve borne the brunt of losses great as 18.6 per cent. We must divest from the war machine and put our money where it doesn’t kill, if not for humanitarian grounds then because financially it doesn’t make sense. As international diplomats have said, “Canada is not the good guys anymore — we all have a bit of blood on our hands.”

Part 2/2 – Where Your CPP Money Really Goes

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/cpp-money_b_2487663.html

 

Part II: Where Your CPP Money Really Goes

Posted: 01/22/2013 12:30 pm

In part one of this two-part series, we examined the Canada Pension Plan’s (CPP) investment in drones, computerized soldiers, land occupation and an infamous prison scandal. Part two is dedicated to the many potential conflicts of interest — yours, mine, the executives’ and the PMO’s. Some might be moral. Some might be something more.

 

If you look at the CPP Investment Board of Directors, you will find that all but one executive was appointed since the determined change in strategy under the Harper government. These board members are skilled leaders from different industries, but no matter their background, most of them share something in common.

 

Robert Astley was the President of Sun Life. CPP purchased $109 million worth of stock in Sun Life. (See CPP domestic portfolio and foreign portfolio, PDF)

 

Ian Bourne is Chief Executive Officer of SNC-Lavalin.  CPP invested $21 million in SNC-Lavalin in spite of the company being plagued by ties to the Gadhafi regime and fraud charges that are still winding through the courts.

 

Bourne is also the Director of Canadian Oil Sands Limited, which has a large stake in the Syncrude project — the project at the heart of a lawsuit involving Greenpeace and the death of wildlife.  Syncrude was convicted and fined more than half a million dollars. Our CPP investments in this company total $80 million.

 

David Suzuki continues to educate about the misnomers of “ethical oil” and points to other companies in business with the Alberta oil sands. Exxon Mobil has a history of major oil spills. CPP gave them $553 million. Exxon funded a lobby against the Kyoto Protocol, and Canada eventually cancelled our commitment to the international community.

 

BP is responsible for the tragic Gulf Coast oil spill that may cost more than $7 billion in legal settlements to cover the damage.  And if we look in our CPP foreign column, we’ll find $347 million invested in BP.

 

Nexen is another curious entry with $62 million in CPP investments.  It’s unclear what will happen to this particular investment, since Harper made waves by allowing the company to be purchased by China.  The deal was embroiled in controversy regarding national security.  CSIS raised concerns about compromising Canadian intelligence, while the United States rebuked the purchaser’s energy partnership with Iran.  Still, it went unreported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had to freeze assets to investigate cases of Nexen insider trading that resulted from our sell-off.

 

CPP also has $218 million invested in TransCanada Corp. They’re the ones fighting for the Keystone XL pipeline that was met with public backlash across the continent. We have another $201 million socked away in Enbridge, which has challenged Native land rights in preparation for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

 

Moving along in our Board of Directors, we arrive at Pierre Choquette was the CEO of Methanex.  Douglas W. Mahaffy is the current director of Methanex.  This company is the world’s largest producer of methanol for petrochemical use.  It received $38 million from CPP.  Choquette further served as a director at TELUS, which received $116 million from CPP.  TELUS employs two former consultants linked to the E-Health scandal that rocked Ontario.

 

Heather Monroe-Blum sits on the Board of Directors for the Royal Bank of Canada.  RBC received $707 million from CPP and is the Plan’s largest domestic holding. That’s putting a lot of our eggs in one basket, which seems unwise, especially when that one company has been implicated in the LIBOR scandal .

 

Karen Sheriff heads Bell Aliant as the CEO and president. CPP invested $21 million with that company.  Joe Mark Zurel is listed as the Director of Major Drilling Group, which also received $12 million from CPP.  Nancy Hopkins is the Director of Cameco Corporation. CPP invested $43 million there.  Robert Brooks was the Vice Chair of Scotiabank.  CPP invested $537 million in the company.  Brooks also headed Dundee Wealth and CPP invested $20 million with Dundee’s parent company.

 

In addition to these revelations, the CPP is a substantial partner of Onex. The Onex Corporation purchased Raytheon’s air division in 2006. Raytheon is a defence contractor. It’s the world’s largest producer of guided missiles and nuclear warheads. These weapons are involved in conflicts from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Libya to Syria and everywhere the U.S. military sets foot. The acquisition of Raytheon’s flight technology created the Hawker Beechcraft company, putting Onex in the business of peddling combat planes to governments.

 

The managing director of Onex was Nigel Wright. He took leave from the position to become our Prime Minister’s chief of staff, exactly two months after CPP entered a multi-billion dollar partnership with his company. While the Conservatives called this “great news for Canada’s economic policy,” the NDP’s Charlie Angus cautioned Wright to “follow the rules” regarding conflict interest.

 

Wright was recently cleared in an ethics probe about the same issue with Barrick Gold (in which CPP holds a $330 million stake). The founding family of Barrick sat on the Onex board of directors and there were questions about personal lobbying that could have led to the PMO.

 

Despite the investigation’s positive outcome for Wright, MP Angus took issue with the commissioner’s process. When additional conflict issues were raised by OMERS, they were dismissed as mistakes in a hasty response from the Prime Minister on Wright’s behalf.

 

As we’ve seen, Harper’s chief of staff is also connected to Lockheed Martin (incidentally CPP holds $78 million in that company as well).  Nigel Wright’s duties as director of Onex included oversight of Hawker Beechcraft, the partner to Lockheed Martin, which produced the fighter jets at the centre of F-35 debacle. This places the CPP in a bizarre love triangle with Onex and Lockheed, well beyond anything we purchased in stock.

 

Hawker Beechcraft’s Onex deals with Lockheed include supplying the US Air Force and Homeland Security with cannon equipped fighter jets. They produce a handful of warplanes with rocket capability and their accounts include the Canadian, American, Greek, Israeli, Iraqi, Moroccan and Mexican military. One of the shared executives (PDF) managed the Lockheed F-35 file before coming to head government relations at Onex’s Hawker Beechcraft.

 

So that introduces our business partner.

 

In July 2010, CPP and Onex purchased Tomkins PLC together, for $4.5 billion (£2.9 billion) with our retirement dollars. We are equally listed owners and our acquisition provides hydraulics to the oil, gas and mining industries.  Tomkins was also the previous owner of Smith and Wesson guns before we bought them out.

 

In November 2012 CPP deepened its relationship with Onex to acquire Tomkins Air Distribution for an additional $1.1 billion (PDF); meaning when Nigel Wright leaves his position with the Prime Minister’s Office, he’ll presumably return to managing our CPP partnership from the private industry end.

 

With the 2012 expansion, Onex and the CPP came to own all subsidiaries under the parent heading. One of those spinoffs is Titus, a company that provides data security to the military in Canada, the U.S., Australia, Belgium and Denmark. Titus provides services to the whole of government, aerospace, police and financial industries.

 

The moral of the story is we’ve got to come clean about the unethical use of our retirement funds. There isn’t enough money to expand CPP because the surplus was earmarked to boost the military-industrial complex. When our hard-earned money isn’t being used to cause bloodshed, it’s going to companies affiliated with the CPP’s own CEOs and the Alberta oil sands.

Unedited: An Intimate Interview With Harry Fear About Palestine & Israel

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/harry-fear-israel-palestine_b_2433043.html

Harry Fear Has a Message for Canadians

Posted: 01/08/2013 1:28 pm

 

He graced our television sets with live reports from the most recent conflict between Palestine and Israel. Now that a ceasefire has been reached, British filmmaker and human rights advocate, Harry Fear, has embarked on a world talking tour to share his knowledge about the social, political and economic ramifications from a firsthand perspective.

 

He arrived in Toronto Monday, amid much ado from Canada Customs the moment he stepped off the plane. That curious greeting will leave a lasting impression; complete with grilling about his political perspective, examination of his website, a list of domestic associates and questions regarding which side he supported. It used to be that a British passport could get you into Canada, but now not so much. Now it depends on where you stand and if your freedom of speech is acceptable to the Harper government.

 

Thankfully Fear passed the interview and wasn’t turned away like British diplomats before him, due to peaceful and sympathetic views that include the Palestinian people (see MP George Galloway). Sometimes we’re luckier than we know to receive communication from the outside world and in this rare glimpse; Harry provides extensive interview to help us understand what our handlers already had the benefit of gleaning from his experience.

 

Fear’s lectures, Aggression in Gaza – A Talking Tour, are scheduled for numerous venues across the country. Tonight, he speaks at University of Toronto, followed by engagements at respective universities in Hamilton, London, Windsor and Calgary. Due to the overwhelming response, more dates and locations in various provinces are still being determined and you can keep an eye on the itinerary here.

 

2013-01-08-1HarryFear.jpg
(photo credit: SPHR McMaster University)

 

For those who can’t make it, he was kind enough to provide us with two hours of intimate answers to our deepest questions, unedited. Via Skype video recording, Harry Fear compels us to think harder about what we’ve been told. He points to concerns about our current leadership’s role in perpetuating the conflict by taking a hard stance that may not be conducive to a peaceful resolution. In fairness, Fear identifies a North American mindset that falls short of grasping the repercussions or why it is so important for us to sit up and take notice.

 

These topics do not shy away from what amounts to controversy in the western world. We do, however, stand alone in our foreign affairs policy toward the situation, as seen by the United Nations vote for Palestine’s observer status and our lonely opinion against them. One hundred and thirty eight countries gave their nod of approval and Canada was amongst the nine to object. We’re also in the minority to label Hamas a terrorist sect, but Harry does a thorough job of explaining international law and how our opinions translate on the streets of Gaza.

 

Not only was Fear present for the onslaught of bombing in Operation Pillar of Cloud (aka Pillar of Defence), he is also a scholar from Oxford in the discipline of political science. In our personal exchange he goes on to explain the reason for that name change, in that Pillar of Cloud is a religious reference to a children’s playground. It might not have been good optics in a public relations war, that sees them dying and sometimes burnt to the bone by white phosphorus.

 

From the bombing of kindergarten humanitarian schools on International Children’s Day to the demoralization of depending on foreign aid for food, Harry Fear is not too timid to express in real terms what their day to day reality is like. He is passionate about this suffering and urges us to understand the majority of civilians in Gaza are children. He says the violence and occupation punishes them as if they were responsible for the adults and world politics.

 

Fear also paints a picture of arbitrary detention, in a system where kids are imprisoned and even tortured for throwing stones. He describes some as having to defend themselves in a foreign court, in a foreign language, all alone. Moreover he amends the terminology of PTSD to say the children are coping with “continuing stress disorder”. This presents with symptoms of bed-wetting, separation anxiety and consistent shell shock that does not have a chance to heal.

 

The dialogue isn’t nearly confined to children though and broaches topics such as apartheid, “with a small ‘a'”. This involves road systems that Palestinians aren’t allowed to use in their own territory and colour-coded licence plates to alleviate racial profiling by identifying their vehicles for interrogation. In other strange measures, Palestinian males can be guilty of a crime for failing to announce their ethnicity to a prospective sexual partner.

 

Nearly every aspect of the Israel-Palestine conflict is touched upon in this account, underlining unemployment, education, Hamas and perceived terrorism, as well the dangers to Israeli citizens. But where the West has been led to believe the Jewish people strictly oppose Palestinians, he challenges us with information about their protests in support. Fear outlines the difference between a Zionist, an Israeli and those who practice Judaism, explaining many Jews decry the occupation and complain their religion was hijacked by politics. Contrary to North American beliefs, the truth of the situation is that Rabbis for Human Rights are some of the most active Israelis campaigning against the illegal settlements in search of peace for all (in English and the original in Hebrew).

 

Fear offers a balanced and honest assessment from both perspectives, right down to the pros and cons of Palestine obtaining observer status. He breaks down the structure of their government, so Canadians are able to understand the nature of each territory, the reasons for disjointed leadership from the West Bank to Gaza Strip and where they’ve been able to work together.

 

He discusses the different tactics of oppression in each of the areas. In Gaza it’s predominantly violence related and an open air prison, surrounded by the Israeli Defence Forces. In the West Bank it’s entirely occupied and they rely on humiliation, complete with constant control of Palestinian movement.

 

He brought this message to Canada and the U.S. to draw attention to superpowers that are aiding and abetting the occupation. One example through my research is the Canada Pension Plan. Our citizens are retiring based on our government’s investment in the very companies that supply arms and build the illegal wall (more here, including photographs).

 

Harry mentions the G4S company, that provides armed security for illegal settlers also contrary to international law. A number of significant entities have already divested to clear themselves of supporting that violation as well as the maltreatment of child prisoners. And yet here is G4S Canada, thriving without an ounce of recognition in the Canadian consciousness.

 

Our collective CPP investments (domestic companies list and foreign companies list — PDF) include Elbit; responsible for drone smart cars and the newest patrol of Palestinians with the ability to kill by remote control. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air, drones are being used to target citizens 365 days a year regardless of any ceasefire. Our retirement is doubly invested in CAE, which has partnered with Elbit to provide similar technology on Canadian soil.

 

The University of Alberta partnered with the government in Alma, Quebec, to develop and test Israeli drones for greater human impact and profit. This was accomplished through an Israeli economic mission to Canada last spring, unbeknownst to most Canadians. So not only is our retirement tied to keeping the conflict going, but we’re also developing the unmanned machines to kill Palestinians in our own backyard.

 

The Canada Pension Plan is heavily invested in construction of the illegal wall. That too was reprimanded by United Nations, but we’re paying for it through Elbit, CHR and Caterpillar. As Fear says, this places blood on all Canadian hands and we are morally compelled to guide our leaders in an ethical direction. For a running list of companies in the divestment campaign, please see Stop the Wall. (PDF)

 

Finally Fear addresses the Canadian government, asking the Harper Conservatives and federal Liberals to rethink their stance in support of Israeli violence without question. He notes the NDP may have represented our country better under Jack Layton and was surprised to learn even they haven’t condemned the occupation or spoken of divestment under new leadership.

 

In the video he encourages everyone to visit IfAmericansKnew.org to get a real handle on the numbers and to visually grasp the disparity between them. Fear describes the Israel-Palestine conflict as a case of David and Goliath and asks us to take one minute out of each day to learn more, write a letter or anything we can to make a difference. A solution must be found and 60 years of suffering hasn’t improved by us ignoring it. The rest of the world doesn’t perceive Canada as the good guys anymore and it’s high time we restore our reputation for the benefit of these many children.

 

Without further explanation, here is the answer to every burning question you’ve ever had about Palestinians and what Fear was able to see for himself. If you would like more information, please visit HarryFear.co.uk or GazaReport.com. You can also follow Fear on Twitter via @HarryFear.

 

Is This Politician Insulting War Vets?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/grant-humes-remembrance-day_b_2109220.html

 

Is This Politician Insulting War Vets?

Posted: 11/11/2012 7:59 pm
Remembrance Day Canada 2012
It all began when Conservative MP Bev Oda resigned her position with the Harper government. The disgraced Minister of International Cooperation was responsible for a series of scandals that including being the first sitting cabinet minister to be found in contempt of Parliament, extravagant use of taxpayer dollars and repeat performances defying the law by smoking in her parliamentary office. Her eventual departure from politics spawned a by-election in the Ontario riding of Durham and all eyes across the nation are now fixed on the candidates vying to become her replacement.

 

Campaigns kicked into high gear for this second chance to win the public’s support and federal Liberal Grant Humes has managed to generate controversy amid the excitement. As his election sign was revealed on social media leading up to Remembrance Day, it generated negative responses from veteran families the candidate wasn’t expecting.

 

2012-11-10-LIBsign0022.jpg 

Facebook followers of the campaign page shared their criticisms ranging from “offensive” to “publicity stunt,” “classless” and “shameless as stealing a poppy box.” A concerned Afghanistan vet voiced disapproval and others indicated they would not vote for Humes as a result of this material.

 

Part of the problem was confusion about the sign itself. The candidate’s name does not appear and it seems to be an invitation to a patriotic website in support of veterans. Upon arrival at Durham4Vets.org, visitors are greeted by press clippings regarding veterans’ issues, followed by Grant Humes’ reasons for seeking office and a bit about his work history.

 

Clicking the petition displays a form to collect personal information, requests a $20 contribution toward the veterans awareness campaign and support for “sound National Policy” — although there is no petition.

 

In the same navigation bar clicking the “donate” option will cause a different box to appear; this time displaying the candidate’s Liberal Party of Canada donation page pertaining to the by-election.

 

To clarify, I contacted Humes and he put me in touch with campaign manager Quito Maggi to respond on his behalf. By telephone and follow up email exchange, Maggi explained the purpose of the site and how it relates to the by-election. I also learned animal cruelty is an issue dear to the candidate’s heart and a similar venture was set up to address those matters at StopTheCruelty.org. Both endeavours are authorized as part of the Grant Humes Liberal campaign, but some donations are separate for advocacy about the featured issue at each website. Manager Maggi elaborates,

 

“Any money raised through the Durham4Vets.org website goes right back into the public awareness campaign (and) yes the money raised from the animal cruelty campaign goes towards keeping that website active and paying for magnets that have been designed (a number have already been produced and distributed).”

 

When asked about support for these projects, the campaign cited intimidation from the Harper government as a reason veteran groups were afraid to speak up. As a result there were no official endorsements of Humes’ initiatives to report. Regarding the websites and their strategy to educate with continued monetary support; the candidate said he planned to establish veterans and animal advocacy prior to any knowledge of an election. Maggi affirms,

 

“The websites were registered before the writ was dropped (on October 21) and there was no way for us to know when the writ would be dropped.(Referencing veteran website advertising on election signs,)

“If we could keep the signs up after the election we would, but the sign bylaws are very strict.”

 

StopTheCruelty.org and Durham4Vets.org are collecting funds through Liberal party mechanisms in the meantime. Whether a by-election campaign or public awareness for cherished issues, this confusion could result in consequences for those who are unable to tell the difference. The timing of a federal election coinciding with the candidate’s project is reported to be incidental, but surely they should be kept apart for the public to perceive ethics in politics.

The last word is offered by Grant Humes who summarized,

“It’s important we respect our Veterans and give them the benefits they deserve. What the government is doing is wrong and I hope people will add their voice and call on the government to take action.”

 

Why Are Freemasons Collecting Our Children’s DNA?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/amy-macpherson/freemason_b_1906521.html

Amy MacPherson

Why Are the Freemasons Collecting Our Children’s DNA?

Posted: 09/26/2012 7:31 am

Conspiracy theorists need theorize no more. In pages from a fiction novel brought to life, the strangest twists in popular folklore have been winding through our government corridors. In this case I wouldn’t blame you for being tempted to run it by Snopes.

 

Fabled as a secret society, Freemasons see themselves as an esoteric fraternity; an ancient brotherhood of initiates who are voted into membership for the purpose of sharing enlightenment through the use of exclusive teachings.

 

They are not a religious group and yet elevated status can be obtained through invitation to the various esteemed Rites and the legendary Knights Templar. That full proper title is The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St. John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta.

 

It is argued they find their roots in an historical Christian militia, which once upon a time nearly bankrupted the Vatican. Despite an effort to distance themselves from politics and religion in modern times, Scandinavian branches to this day will only permit entry of fellow Christian worshipers. Women remain forbidden although there’s good news for slaves and the disabled — who may have overcome discrimination after a thousand years of human rights progression.

 

On the Grand Lodge of Canada website, they continue to affirm this illusive aura with statements like the following:

 

“Freemasonry is a fraternal association of men of good and high ideals but it is not a public association. “Private” is a more appropriate description than “secret” and as with many organizations, certain information is reserved for members only.”

 

So why then is an exclusive group collecting our children’s DNA, with support of police and the government across the USA and Canada?

 

You know them as MasoniChip, or perhaps you’ve been led to believe it was a state and provincial endeavor intended to protect your little ones. They set up fairs, forge partnerships with law enforcement and even strive to distribute their services through North American public school systems.

 

In Massachusetts this Freemason program was promoted by CBS News from the steps of the official State House and included their police dog, coincidentally named Mason. Reporters only failed to mention the private nod to those promoting him or that government had little to do with it.

 

What is MasoniChip you ask? It begins on the surface as a child identification project, in case your loved ones are ever to be horrendously abducted. Parents are familiar with at-home kits to record their kids’ vital information, for protection against the greatest of all fears to be inflicted on a family. Normally height, weight, hair and eye colour are recorded, along with a set of fingerprints and hopefully a current photograph. It’s just the good folks at your local Masonic Lodge saw fit to take things further.

 

With advances in technology, they began to offer digital fingerprints, digital imaging, digital video, dental impressions and DNA mouth swabs. This data processing is managed by their proprietary software that’s designed to be compatible with local and national law enforcement. This is after all, a campaign created by police in the brotherhood regardless of its private funding.

 

A great distinction is made to ensure governments are nothing more than their supporters. Freemasons assert ownership of this project as an integral part of their mission statement:

 

“We the Freemasons are the sole “sponsor” of the Masonic Safety Identification initiatives as developed in our various Masonic Grand Lodge Jurisdictions. As such we schedule the Events and coordinate the equipment, materials and volunteers necessary to conduct events. All groups and individuals are welcome to work alongside, but they are not referred as sponsors but listed and involved as “supporters”, “supporting partners”, “corporate partners”, “in collaboration with”, or “in cooperation with.”

 

They claim their services are superior to what a parent could accomplish at home, by recording the children’s data personally and providing their own “health care professionals” to collect their DNA samples.

 

These are either hired hands who answer to the Freemasons or members of the fraternity whose history and credentials are protected by the organization. There is no way to guarantee what happens behind closed doors and although they claim to delete sensitive information (the Canadian website states “No information is ever stored by the MasoniChIP program”), any computer savvy person knows that clicking an “x” isn’t permanent unless you format the entire system.

 

Parents are asked to trust an intriguing, private fraternity; to ensure that quality standards are met and family privacy is legally respected without any kind of oversight. Because Freemasons fund 100 per cent of the initiative, there is no opportunity to discuss issues regarding data ownership or how they feel about those technicalities in the privacy of their meetings.

 

Every Masonic Lodge may “jump on the bandwagon” and choose to run the program differently. None are managed at the national level by an exact set of principles. The only thing they share is an internet portal, where everyone claims to expunge the information that was painstakingly collected.

 

Let us then consider the function of a DNA sample. If a child goes missing will police swab every glass and rock they come across for a match to find the trail? In the video for Massachusetts they claimed it would help Mason pick up a scent, but in all reality the clothes a child was last wearing will provide stronger notes and this can’t be the intended purpose. DNA has nothing to do with scent and its only use can be harnessed once a child has been located.

 

With somber scrutiny and if further tragedy struck, authorities would match remains with parental samples for definitive confirmation. It is the parents’ DNA that could aid in matching the unnamed, but only accredited laboratories are permitted to conduct the process. Whether a parent or child, collecting DNA cannot occur at an open park event, run by stranger volunteers and become admissible to the national database. The FBI continually quotes the DNA Identification Act of 1994 in establishing these requirements to be included within CODIS.

 

It is with great sadness for grieving families that we must note the Freemason project is not supported by government DNA databases. Although the superficial identifiers are surely helpful and Freemasons contribute to charitable acts in their communities, the most controversial component of the MasoniChip undertaking is not recognized for the purpose they advertise and state to parents.

 

Furthermore, a simple hair sample from children is all that was needed and in the United States only five of these cases are permitted per month, per licenced agency. (Downloadable from the FBI here.)

 

In Canada the situation is even more colluded, as the federal government won’t consent to a missing persons DNA database whatsoever. They cite privacy law and cost concerns as a barrier to its establishment; so the 50,000 families that already participated have shared their biometric markers with Freemasons for apparently no good reason. It is therefore peculiar the Masonic Grand Lodge of Canada would make bold claims to be working with Canadian law enforcement agencies to gain the trust of parents.

 

All in all they’ve registered 1.5 million children to date. The push is on to document as many possible, as keenly demonstrated by the event schedule for Ontario. From community halls to grocery stores, fairground booths, libraries and even chartered banks, the private fraternity will be on hand to collect everything about your children whether it’s relevant or not.

 

When it comes to the little people we’d do anything to protect them, but perhaps their families might give sober second thought to what exactly they’re signing in a contract with Freemasons. This DNA collection program is planned to be extended to the disabled community and seniors, but who benefits when it’s inadmissible to a certified registry of any sort?

 

And why is the face of government through public schools or police through public events, being placed on an effort from private organizations to mislead parents? Sharing one’s fingerprints and biometrics is a serious decision. For public safety we must insist that brokers of such events become transparent and regulated.