Note from the author: Originally this report was set to explore the federal government’s hand in the anti abortion lobby. Surprisingly it grew to include an anti gay lobby, anti aboriginal lobby, anti prostitution lobby, anti human rights lobby, anti green energy lobby, anti tax lobby, among other issues.
These developments are so widespread, they had to be expressed in a timeline to alleviate confusion and allow the reader to reach their own conclusions. Numerous hyperlinks lead to the documents cited and supporting multimedia appears throughout.
While each of these topics deserves a dedicated headline, it is the collaborative nature and coordinated efforts of a particular network that is gaining the support of government. The issue that needs to be addressed is the sum of these parts that would normally be lost in a 24 hour news cycle if examined individually. With that said, the report patiently continues.
The 2014 March for Life began Thursday on Parliament Hill, marked by a handful of FEMEN activists being carted away by police. A topless convoy crashed the rally in support of women’s rights, but apparently their message was too avant-garde for the masses. It’s a story of disparity when anti-abortionists are permitted to flood the streets with photos of mutilated foetuses and the female body it comes from is censored by law enforcement, but this situation depicts the polarized views that dominate Canadian discourse.
Justin Trudeau came out the day before, to warn anti-abortionists they needn’t apply for candidacy in the federal Liberal party. Aside of political platforms and moral persuasion, this decision was in keeping with a Supreme Court precedent that determined a woman’s right to choose under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On the surface these sentiments appear to be shared by Prime Minister Harper, as he worked to quell anti-choice motions from Conservative backbenchers in his own party. The government claims to respect the legal status quo, but an investigation has led to serious revelations that challenge that outward appearance.
Several documents retrieved from Conservative MP’s and supporting sources will illuminate a contentious matter on the Hill. For years the media has been chasing rumours about the existence of a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus (PPLC) and historically it’s been denied as an unofficial gathering of MP’s with similar preferences.
Everyone appreciates there is a heated difference of opinions as they relate to these human rights, but there is greater concern if this caucus is operating as an official branch of the Harper government, in defiance of the Charter and Supreme Court position. Consistent denials from members of parliament who engage with the anti-abortion group have helped to keep the issue at bay, but their words are incongruent with caucus literature and the many real actions they’ve taken.
In addition to the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus having an office on Parliament Hill, it became apparent they’re working with a private lobby that has used this access to infiltrate ministries and the PMO. The lobby itself describes the operation as “infiltrating the government” and success has been so great that they’ve replicated the process for provincial legislatures in parallel campaigns.
Some of their goals include abolishing social welfare programs for every walk of life. They include Native assimilation, censoring television and media, widespread privatization, controlling women, facilitating hate speech and rescinding human rights. A common response is disbelief that it could be anything more than ideas, but the following challenges that inclination toward apathy by outlining this government-supported lobby’s significant progress.
1989, October – The Campaign Life Coalition mentions sub organizations such as Tories for Life and Liberals for Life, referring to Canadian political parties. The movement is planning to infiltrate the Liberal leadership convention, to facilitate anti-abortion legislation by selecting representatives who are friendly to it.
1998, September – The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus is re-established, according to the movement’s newspaper. The first co-chairs are MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister), MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, departed government in 2008 to become legal counsel for Campaign Life Coalition) and MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired in 2004 but continued to chair the Conservative election campaign in Atlantic Canada).
In the announcement, Campaign Life Coalition is described as the “political arm” of the movement and they vow to complete their work in the background “from now on”. Their services will include assisting MP’s draft private member bills to achieve anti-abortion legislation. Under Prime Minister Chrétien (Liberal majority government), they plan to lobby for less stringent treatment of private member bills and the first March for Life rally attracts “almost 50 MP’s and senators” to planning meetings on the Hill.
It should be noted that Jason Kenney made history by trying to suppress pro-choice activists in the university setting, pre-dating this caucus by more than a decade. The Walrus attributes his religiously motivated government aspirations to that defining experience with the American movement.
1999, May – The first anti-abortion March for Life is a two day rally on Parliament Hill. It’s hosted by the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus (PPLC) and a press conference is held by co-chairs MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister), MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, retired 2008, Campaign Life Coalition counsel) and MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004).
At this time Kenney made accusations against the Calgary Foothills hospital, that nurses claimed mothers were being induced prematurely and the babies were left to die. The hospital sought a court injunction to stop these reports and Kenney responded by compelling a police investigation.
When the hospital wasn’t found to commit infanticide as Kenney alleged, the technical arguments about abortion were re-asserted. This time the future minister of employment suggested the police failed to properly investigate and he may compel the Attorney General to engage in a province-wide probe. At issue is whether the foetus is technically alive in the surgery removal process.
After this press conference the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus held a luncheon for anti-abortion MP’s and activists to network. In attendance were the co-chairs as well as MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, CPC), MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East, LPC, retired 2011), MP Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, CPC, retired 2008), MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Norman Doyle (St. John’s East, CPC, became senator in 2012), MP Mark Muise (West Nova, CPC, retired 2000), MP Reed Elley (Nanaimo-Cowichan, CPC, retired 2004), MP Janko Peric (Cambridge, LPC, retired 2004), MP Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, CPC, retired 2000), MP John Nunziata (York South-Weston, LCP turned Independent, retired 2000), MP Pat O’Brien (London-Fanshawe, LPC turned Independent, retired 2005), MP John O’Reilly (Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes-Brock, LPC, retired 2004), two unnamed senators and additional members of parliament.
2001 – Social and Cultural Archives prepares the fonds for Campaign Life Coalition, itemizing all lobbying correspondence with schools, hospitals, community organizations and members of government. It covers the years 1967 to 1993 and notes communication with MP Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, CPC) since 1986, before he became the Justice Minister and current Defence Minister of Canada.
2001, May – The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus holds a press conference in conjunction with the March for Life rally. They share their praise of co-organizer and lobbyist, Campaign Life Coalition. The group spoke briefly about the PPLC’s work and noted MP Garry Breitkreuz‘s (Yorkton-Melville, CPC) motion to redefine the meaning of a human being to include unborn children. The rest of the PPLC’s projects had to be kept private.
In attendance were MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004), MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008), MP Reed Elley (Nanaimo-Cowichan, CPC, retired 2004) and MP Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough East, LPC, retired 2011).
2001, May – The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus elects new co-chairs. MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004) remains the same; while MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) replaces MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, retired 2008) and MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) replaces MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister).
Vellacott introduces a “conscience bill” that would allow health care workers to opt out of job duties related to abortions. Wayne is working on a bill to de-fund abortion and MP Jim Pankiw (Saskatoon-Humboldt, retired 2004) is re-introducing a similar de-funding bill from years ago.
Pankiw was also embroiled in controversy due to a public letter condemning the University of Saskatchewan for policies related to First Nations enrollment. He compared supporters of affirmative action to a modern day (reverse) Klu Klux Klan and he would later be convicted of drunk driving in 2014.
2001, December – In the Canadian Alliance leadership race between Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper (pre CPC), the future prime minister lodges a complaint against his challenger for the unethical procurement of memberships. Day was reprimanded for allowing the Campaign Life Coalition to sign up party members directly through their website and feed them into the political campaign without oversight from officials. This lent to distrust and Harper emerged the victor.
2003, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) commemorates the sixth annual March for Life in parliament. Anti-abortion activists complained about a media blackout hindering their event, but together they celebrated an increase of 1,000 participants, for a total of 3,500.
2003, December – Prime Minister Paul Martin succeeds Jean Chrétien as he steps down and the Liberals appoint a new leader from within. It remains a majority government.
2003, October – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) and MP Elsie Wayne (Saint John, CPC, retired 2004) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. The letter denounces Bill C-13 and claims a majority of Canadians do not support embryonic stem cell research. They state that human babies must be killed for this scientific experiment and follow with similar accusations in the parliamentary press gallery, but it doesn’t appear the media covered this appearance. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery.)
2004, October – Prime Minister Paul Martin wins election, to a Liberal minority government.
2004, October – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. They advocate for the anti-abortion conference occurring in Winnipeg and the Silent No More campaign that focuses on women who later regretted having an abortion. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery.)
2004, December – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, that compels federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler (LPC) to intervene in the Saskatchewan NDP government. He cites a Supreme Court decision that allows marriage commissioners to deny gay unions, based on religious conscience. He goes on to say the highest court determined that gay marriage is not a human right and asks the federal government to ensure the provincial counterpart can’t force anyone to perform the ceremony. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery. A backup file can be found here.)
2005, February – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, accusing the Martin Liberal government of “discriminating” against Canadian parents for trying to establish a national daycare program. He states that 75 percent of families would rather have stay-at-home parents or relative babysitters, instead of government intervention that allows them to work. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery. A backup file can be found here.)
2005, February – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, in cross-party support of MP Paul Szabo‘s (Mississauga South, LPC, retired 2011) Bill C-206. Szabo is a fellow member of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and this legislation is intended to regulate alcohol labelling with health and maternal warnings, similar to cigarettes today.
Vellacott explains that alcoholic beverages are consumed by 30-40 percent of pregnant women and this is the “leading cause of mental retardation in Canada”. According to this government presser, he says that 50 percent of inmates suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and alcohol related birth defects. Then, he attributes 50 percent of hospital emergencies, 65 percent of child abuse and 60 percent of homicides to alcohol abuse. These claims are not supported by cited studies and it’s unknown where these statistics originated. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives that has since disappeared and a backup file can be found here.)
2005, April – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, arguing against Bill C-38, The Civil Marriage Act, to recognize same sex unions. He warned this will result in ruinous lawsuits against his constituents and cause them to lose employment due to religious conscience. This legislation passed two months later by a vote of 158 to 133. (A copy was obtained from Vellacott’s archives that has since disappeared and a backup file can be found here.)
2005, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address for the PPLC. The topic is titled Violence No More and it calls on physicians to justify the reason for each patient’s abortion, to ensure the medical community isn’t supporting domestic violence by keeping it secret from the government.
A study coinciding with this year’s March for Life determined that repeated sexual abuse was responsible for many of these decisions and the caucus felt government should be alerted to support victims of molestation to deliver their babies instead of aborting.
Another conference was scheduled in the parliamentary press gallery, but again no record of media coverage could be located. (A copy of this letter was obtained from Vellacott’s archives and has disappeared from the original source since the date of discovery.)
The annual March for Life is a product of the Campaign Life Coalition. This non-profit is also a registered lobbyist (see here and here and here) and lobbying constitutes a vast majority of the group’s work and purpose.
2006, January – The Harper Conservatives are first elected to a minority government.
2006, March – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, accusing the Canadian Cancer Society of lying to the public on CBC. He cites a scientific report that proves birth control causes cancer and so do abortions. That report arises from an American agency that is staffed by known anti-abortion activists and was discredited as biased by the global cancer community, as well as the World Health Organization.
He goes on to educate about female breasts in pregnancy, but this MP is not a doctor and rather holds a Master of Divinity (to church minister). This government press release closes with another suggestion against the Canadian Cancer Society, that it may be failing to adopt this (discredited) study due to a monetary relationship with Big Pharma, that would rather see cancer prevail for profit and mutual benefit. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2006, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. The information claims that breast cancer is caused by abortion. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2006, May – Sun Media National Bureau Chief, David Akin, reports members of parliament who attended this year’s March for Life on his personal blog. Supporting evidence cited in this piece has been removed from internet, but he describes “many Conservative MP’s” including Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, as parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister). Kenney was joined on stage by fellow Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus speakers, MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008), MP Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, LPC, retired 2011) and MP Tom Wappel (Scarborough West, LPC, retired 2008).
2007, May – A secret Conservative party handbook is leaked to reporter Don Martin at the National Post. It’s a 200 page document that includes instructions on how to bring government business to a halt, as well as how to select Conservative friendly witnesses to give committee input.
2007, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. In recognition of International Women’s Day, the caucus condemns sex-selective abortions and alleges a Canadian epidemic in six pages of footnotes, that compare this country to China.
The literature also confirms the PPLC will hold a conference in the parliamentary press gallery (Centre Block), to kick off the annual March for Life. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2007, May – The annual March for Life occurs in Ottawa, to Parliament Hill. The group’s anti-abortion banners are endorsed by the Government of Canada logo. This cannot be done without permission and it’s unknown if the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus approved this request or provided funding. It’s not possible to track their business or disbursements because the caucus operates in secret.
2007, May – Due to complaint from the public and a former MP, the Treasury Board Secretariat investigates the Campaign Life Coalition lobby, for use of the Canadian government logo (aka word mark) on anti-abortion signs. The original story by Macleans magazine has since been removed from internet.
Kady O’Malley’s story from the following year remains hosted and it confirms the 2007 debacle. She reports the government sent a cease and desist order, but March for Life organizers say they used the logo for five years without ruffling any feathers. Ultimately they agree to remove the symbol and blame the incident on volunteers.
2007, May – At the same March for Life event in Ottawa, a number of officials attend as the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. They include MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC, Independent since 2013 due to Elections Canada charges), MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Bev Shipley (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, CPC), MP Jeff Watson(Essex, CPC), MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, CPC), MP Dave Anderson (Cypress Hills-Grasslands, CPC), MP Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC), MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni, CPC), MP Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC), MP Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, CPC, retired 2008), MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga, CPC), MP Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, LPC, retired 2011) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008).
While some of these legislators decline to speak, Steckle addresses his private member Bill C-338, to criminalize abortion after 20 weeks gestation. The footage pans to Dr. Morgentaler’s medical office, where he and staff faced firebombs and attempted murder for their willingness to provide abortions in the past.
2007, May – MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC, now Independent) was Prime Minister Harper’s parliamentary secretary when he gave this speech at the March for Life, on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2007, August – The Abortion Rights Coalition produces a list of anti-choice members of parliament.
2007, October – MP Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, CPC) introduces private member Bill C-484. It’s titled the Unborn Victims of Crime Act and would eventually be defeated.
2008, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008) issue a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus press release, on letterhead that identifies the Justice Building and House of Commons as the official mailing address. The information explains the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a priest and anti-abortion activist (representative of Silent No More).
This year she will attend the March for Life in Ottawa with caucus MP’s and address the parliamentary press gallery to kick off events. Again there is no record of media coverage, despite the government hosting such a high profile figure who is also a Republican employed by a Conservative think-tank. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2008, May – Although the Treasury Board Secretariat claimed to issue a cease and desist order, the Canadian government logo re-appeared on anti-abortion signs. This time they explained it was due to the printer’s oversight and the government was considering if it would take action in response to complaints.
2008, May – Ezra Levant posts a blog that unabashedly slams the Human Rights Commission. The piece accuses investigators of obtaining “illegal warrants” and downright “hacking” the targets of complaint instead of following proper legal procedure.
It reveals an email from then Justice Minister Rob Nicholson (Niagara Falls, CPC, became Defence Minister in 2013) in support of a motion from MP Rick Dyskstra (St. Catharines, CPC), to have the commission reviewed. MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Minister of Employment) is also feted for “stickhandling” the matter and resolving that it be heard by the government’s justice committee.
2008, October – The Harper Conservatives are re-elected to a second minority government, with a slight increase improving upon the first.
2008, December – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) is newly elected to co-chair the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, replacing MP Paul Steckle (Huron-Bruce, LPC, retired 2008). Both chairs are now Conservative MP’s.
2009, March – An event is organized on Parliament Hill for MP’s and senators by ARPA Canada (Association for Reformed Political Action). The organization is a registered lobbyist and the evening was co-sponsored by MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, LPC).
Legislators were greeted by an expert in the Old Testament (Old Testament aka “eye for an eye”, New Testament aka “turn the other cheek”), Dr. Cornelis Van Dam. His speech was titled God and Government: A Biblical Perspective on the Role of the State (full audio available here and text available here).
The ARPA lobby reports that fifteen MP’s from Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties attended, as well as one senator and staff for MP’s that weren’t available. Trinity Western University’s Laurentian Leadership Centre (TWU) was also present and according to another priest, the event was held in an NDP committee room in the West Block.
After a lecture defining God’s ultimate sovereignty over government, the church and lobby representatives say they were encouraged by MP’s to have ‘their people’ search for jobs within legislative offices.
2009, May – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) issues a press release on letterhead that identifies the West Block in the House of Commons as the new Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus mailing address. This media advisory argues for freedom of speech on behalf of anti-abortionists and informs the PPLC will appear in the government’s press gallery the following day to elaborate.
A common complaint from these activists is they cannot protest within the “bubble zone” surrounding medical clinics to harass abortion patients as they come and go. Some have faced repeated criminal charges for purposely breaking this rule. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives.)
2009, May – Corresponding with the item above, MP’s in the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus were joined by students in the parliamentary press gallery. This time they were filmed as an act of government led by PPLC Chair, MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC), but all major media outlets failed to cover the event.
This clip is telling from both perspectives, in that the caucus succeeded in making the anti-abortion plight become government business and the press continues a near-blackout, so their actions aren’t seen by the public. To schedule time in the government press gallery it must be booked with the bureau chiefs who cover it, so every major outlet was aware but simply declined to attend. Of the reporters who did show, no hard questions were asked; but the caucus did reveal there may be members from the NDP and other parties on the Hill.
A 2007 article about the PPLC was written by Kady O’Malley and published by Macleans magazine. It was titled Lust for Life, but has since disappeared from the internet. (A backup copy can be found here.) This is the only known video of the caucus’ government pressers and it does a good job of speaking for itself in lieu.
2009, May – Signs at this year’s March for Life don’t bear the Canadian government logo. The word “National” replaced “Canada”, but the lobby continued to use the identical font with flag placement, mimicking the trademark instead of replicating.
2009, December – The Hill Times publishes a story about the Tory Anti-Abortion Caucus Committee. MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) writes a letter to correct (page 8). He informs it’s the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and it’s a “multi-party caucus of parliamentarians”, “open to MP’s of the House and the Senate”. He identifies MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) as the new caucus chair and mentions a former Liberal, but will not divulge the roster of names because it’s a member’s choice to go public or continue in secret.
2010, March – Campaign Life Coalition is accused of associating with groups that employ violence to achieve the anti-abortion agenda, by the Canadian Bishop’s Conference. In a 10 page report, the Catholic Organization for Development and Peace alleges the lobby is a “militant anti-abortion group” that has targeted some of their priests with “slanderous attack campaigns”, for the appearance of supporting a woman’s right to choose. These bishops say the lobby “continuously misrepresents facts and distorts reality to serve their purpose,” but the lobby proudly defends these actions. It has not admitted the use of violence however.
2010, April – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) proposes Bill C-510. It’s An Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, former CPC, now Independent) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Kelly Block (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Royal Galipeau (Ottawa-Orleans, CPC, former Deputy Speaker) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Gurbax Singh Malhi (Bramalea-Gore-Malton, LPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
2010, May – At the annual March for Life rally, MP Brad Trost(Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC) addresses the crowd with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. He celebrates their success in convincing government to cancel foreign aid to the poorest countries that provide abortions. Even the ones with an epidemic of molested child brides, just as the lobbies requested.
EasyMail is created so lobby supporters can assist the group with email campaigns to MP’s and senators. They publish policy reports to advise the government and have fellow activists forward copies to elected officials “in a matter of seconds”, without needing to add personal comments.
In total, ARPA provides 78 different form letters with their own policy attachments to affect federal laws and provincial matters in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. Some of these topics include kindergarten, sex education, gender identity, human rights, green energy, anti-bullying, WSIB, abortion funding, prostitution, euthanasia, Aboriginal rights, income splitting, pensions, public service and physical discipline. (This is only a sample and some topics will be discussed in detail as the investigation progresses.)
2010, September – MP Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC) films a video campaign on behalf of lobbyist ARPA Canada. Together they push a second motion for a parliamentary committee to assess the Human Rights Commission for alleged abuse of Section 13. One infamous Conservative dubbed this tribunal the “thought crime” police when it comes to hate speech. Others in the anti-abortion movement feel the interpretation of human rights stifles their ability to express displeasure at women entering medical clinics and against gay sexuality.
Of interest, the executive director and head lobbyist at ARPA is Mark Penninga. He interned with MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) as the latter was chairing the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. In a book by Marci McDonald, the author notes that Penninga graduated from Trinity Western University’s Laurentian Leadership Centre. This is the same TWU that participated in private parliament events hosted by the lobbyist. They’re also at the centre of a current controversy, for trying to create a religious law school that can deny admission to gay students.
Another student, Jared Kuehl, went straight to work in Prime Minister Harper‘s office in the issues management division (leaving in 2013 to become head of government relations for Shell). Thirty more Trinity Western graduates would staff the Harper government, whether working for other MP’s or through permanent positions in policy departments.
2010, November – ARPA Canada takes their anti human rights project across the country. Mimicking the true government tribunal, they promote a website titled HumanRightsCommissions.ca, with the goal of abolishing them altogether.
The website publishes quotes from MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC), MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC), MP Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC), MP James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, CPC) and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC) that appear to support the endeavour.
The ARPA advertisement provided by MP Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines, CPC) is featured on the site’s multimedia page, in addition to clips from Ezra Levant and Rex Murphy. The launch of this project is also covered by the Campaign Life Coalition news site, Sun Media and AM980 (audio). All promote the material as a “grassroots” movement called Stand Up For Freedom Canada without mentioning the ARPA lobby whatsoever.
The public relations campaign to abolish human rights tribunals is touted in defence of Macleans magazine, Ezra Levant and those accused of hate speech against gays. Going by this grassroots pseudonym, ARPA explains the commission has been overtaken and manipulated by “leftist” activists to “target Conservative citizens” and organizations. They encourage the public to pressure politicians for swifter action through the EasyMail service, as an investigation was initiated by parliament and they needed to convince the government there was strong public will behind this ARPA concern.
2010, December – ARPA Canada produces a video to incite political pressure for the second reading of Bill C-510 in parliament. The organization is clearly a registered lobbyist,
with a Christian anti-abortion mandate, but the director asserts they’re a non-profit entity when it presents a problem for Tories in the Ontario election (federal and provincial campaigns intertwining). At least one funeral home accepts memorial donations in the name of ARPA as a charity as well.
This ARPA campaign is then hosted by the national president of Campaign Life Coalition – a sister registered lobby. Both supported MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) as Chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, but the legislation they promoted was defeated by a vote of 178 to 97.
2011, March – Escalating from last year, a Quebec Catholic priest sues the Campaign Life Coalition news service. Media describes the battle as pitting “two extremes of Canadian Catholicism against each other”. Father Raymond Gravel was also an MP for the Bloc Quebecois in the riding of Repentigny and he was open about his younger years as a sex trade worker in Montreal’s Gay Village. It’s believed this history and open-mindedness attracted numerous articles against him.
One campaign by the anti-abortion lobby resulted from Gravel’s lack of support for a PPLC member’s bill. MP Ken Epp (Edmonton-Sherwood Park, CPC) proposed C-484 to make it a separate crime when a baby is harmed in the womb, in addition to the mother who is already protected by law. When the modern priest stood opposed, the Campaign Life Coalition began publishing his contact details, as well as associates and superiors within the Church.
As a result of this relentless publicity, Gravel reports he was warned by the Vatican that he would be de-frocked if he bothered to seek re-election. At the same time the anti-abortion lobby proudly took credit and praised supporters for ousting a member of parliament. (All claims remain alleged as the case is unsettled and Gravel retired from politics.)
2011, April – Prime Minister Harper announces he will create a religious freedom office if re-elected.
2011, May – The Harper Conservatives are re-elected, this time to a majority government.
2011, May – Campaign Life Coalition distributes a wire announcement. They advise media of their presentation in the government press gallery to kick off the March for Life (Centre Block), but the lobby is speaking on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and MP’s who are eligible to schedule the government’s press events.
2011, May – At least four MP’s speak on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, at the annual March for Life rally that occurs under their sponsorship.
2011, July – Lobbyist ARPA Canada partners with the Holland Shopping Centre in British Columbia, to offer $500 in prizes for letters to the editor in mainstream media. They note their success with a similar drive in Alberta regarding the repeal of human rights and hope to inspire additional editorials in response to the new campaign. In this way they won’t appear to come from the lobby and are made to look independent.
2011, August – Lobbyist ARPA Canada consults on the federal budget. The report is accepted by the House of Commons standing committee and recommendations include de-fuding and disbanding the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal.
ARPA calls for a 90 percent reduction to arts funding for a few noteworthy reasons. The lobbyist sees no point in the National Film Board and they take special offense to Telefilm for objectionable content. In this government report they complain of “lewd and crude” material, like a “poo testament” with an image of Jesus ascending to Heaven as a piece of feces. The album was titled “Holy Sh*t” but they failed to see the humour in it. In fact, they say every Canadian is mortified and therefore art should not be encouraged by the government.
They also complain of a movie titled “Year of the Carnivore” and suggest the main character engaged in sexual activity in a room full of children. ARPA points out that child pornography is a criminal offense imply the actor should be charged, but a review from the Globe and Mail didn’t get anyone’s libidos or fists pumping.
The last concern noted is producing a balanced budget by reducing the role of government. ARPA believes citizens relinquish their personal responsibilities when they look for handouts like childcare and forms of social support. They believe business and charities can handle these needs more efficiently and ask the government to defer. They also promote income splitting as a fairer way to treat families that want to keep one parent at home.
2011, September – MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC) proposes private member Bill C-304, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act; to repeal Section 13 entirely and any mandate over hate speech. As noted by Slaw legal magazine, there was little if any debate from opposition parties. The assessment goes on to describe the consequence of allowing racism and bullying to flourish online. Although the bill was promoted as a vehicle for freedom of speech, there are countless examples of white supremacists, anti-abortionists and anti-gay activists celebrating the move. MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC) was also green-lighted by the Campaign Life Coalition as being onside with the lobby’s agenda.
2011, September – Lobbyist ARPA Canada publishes a policy report on prostitution, calling for the federal government to enact legislation that criminalizes johns, “rather than risk the Supreme Court creating another legal vacuum” due to the case that’s being argued from Ontario.
Ultimately they wish to see prostitution eradicated, but they’re willing to classify the female service provider as a victim of violence if the male is still incarcerated for a crime. ARPA bases this position on the writings of Dr. Melissa Farley, who was arrested 13 times in 9 different states as a prolific, American, anti-prostitution activist. She also led a “Rampage” campaign to destroy copies of Penthouse and Hustler in book stores.
ARPA asks followers for help to lobby the government in another EasyMail campaign, but this time they’ve created three different form letters so MP’s don’t receive “ten that look identical”. Another branch of ARPA operates in Tasmania and they lobbied that justice department for similar intervention, accusing the government of becoming a pimp if they sought to decriminalize.
2011, October – Campaign Life Coalition distributes a press release through the wire service. It announces a protest at the Ontario legislature to de-fund abortions; the first of its kind in the province. In this literature the lobby claims that 60 percent of Ontarians “oppose the status quo of paying for all abortions” and this is based on an Abacus poll of 1,015 people, from an online panel in which Roman Catholics and Conservative voters account for the majority of respondents (Ontario has a Liberal government). Abacus is also the house pollster for Sun News and Sun Media.
After examining the data it might be said that claims were misleading, in that 60 percent didn’t wish to de-fund all abortions and the responses supported health coverage in emergency procedures, even when a panelist appeared to be opposed. Only 10 percent opposed abortion completely. Furthermore, Bloomberg Businessweek has written about the accuracy of online polling and there is still an issue of reliability due to sampling pools of biased “enthusiasts”.
2011, October – Registered lobbyist ARPA Canada is invited by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (Ottawa West-Nepean, CPC) to consult on the establishment of a religious freedom office. In their response, ARPA describes itself as a representative of the Reformed Church community. The Reformed Church is commonly referred to as Calvinism, that believes all humans are depraved but some are elected as righteous, regardless of their actions and good deeds. It also believes in theocracy (a God based government) and the faith accomplished this feat in Geneva, Switzerland, circa 1500’s.
- Ignore “political correctness” when it comes to monitoring and assistance. They state that Christians constitute 75 percent of the world’s persecuted and therefore 75 percent of resources should be dedicated that faith.
- Assist “emerging democracies” with implementation of religious freedom.
- Continuous monitoring of countries where Canada has contributed military support “of any magnitude or length”. This includes Libya and Afghanistan.
- Escalate sanctions, withhold foreign aid and pursue military intervention “should the circumstances warrant”. (It’s unknown how adhering to this philosophy would impact the situation between Israel and Palestine.)
2012, January – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, berating CTV for an investigative report on pregnancy crisis centres. He makes allegations against the broadcaster that cite ethical impropriety, because they didn’t report similarly undercover from medical clinics that provide legal abortions to find wrongdoing.
He continues to intimidate the interviewed sources with comments about their charity designation, officially as a member of parliament. He states it is his duty, but one might question if Vellacott penned the complaint independently, in light of three pages of footnotes that suggest additional legal intimidation and the lobby’s prior statements that indicate they would assist. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012, February – ARPA Canada publishes a report that determines environmentalism is a religion and proceeds to explain the doctrine. The lobby labels David Suzuki its “High Priest” and lambasts the CBC for stories about climate change “as if it is an objective science beyond repute” and not a religious doctrine that’s really used to program children in the school system.
ARPA contrasts this environmental religion with true Christianity and determines that God made man the stewards of His earth, therefore we must trust man’s judgement because to question human actions would be equivalent to questioning God. This assertion is supported by an EasyMail campaign that promotes a Fraser Institute report against green energy and calls for a moratorium against wind and solar production in Ontario.
2012, February – MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) introduces Motion 312, to determine the definition of a human being and when life begins in the womb. It causes much controversy and is criticized as a backdoor to re-open the abortion debate.
2012, February – MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) appears in a multimedia ad for lobbyist ARPA Canada and together they produce material to advance Motion 312. This is the second ARPA video that is hosted by the national president of the Campaign Life Coalition lobby, Jim Hughes.
2012, March – Campaign Life Coalition shares a press release with the wire service. They create a website to assist MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) with advancing Motion 312.
2012, May – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, pressuring the federal government to include abortions under the popular anti-bullying campaign. He cites an Oregon doctor who claims the foetus is able to feel the pain of being attacked. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012, May – The annual March for Life rally occurs on Parliament Hill. At least five MP’s spoke on this video, as well as students from Catholic schools who were covered for the trip by their boards of education. A pro-life mass coincides with the march and the Church says, “they need to challenge the false idea that abortion is a private, personal decision.”
The director of Campaign Life Coalition who worked with the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus to advance Bill C-510 and Motion 312 also appears on the clip. He explains his group is there to see that MP’s who stand in the way of the anti-abortion movement are “removed from office in the next election”.
A second video arising from this event captures at least twelve MP’s addressing the crowd on behalf of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. A new addition to the public face of this group is MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni, CPC).
2012, June – Campaign Life Coalition begins community presentations against Ontario Bill 13, the Toronto District School Board and Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, for adopting gay-straight alliances and “homosexualizing school curriculum”. Bill 13 was anti-bullying legislation and it passed despite the lobby’s objections.
A second video from the same event berates a handful of gay, Liberal and NDP members of provincial parliament.
2012, August – The ARPA lobby congratulates supporters for creating a stir in parliament. A petition campaign to support Motion 312 was devised (regarding the definition of a human being) and the group bombarded MP’s with numerous, separate petitions to be read in the House. Many only contained 25 signatures, but MP’s from every party stood to read them into Hansard.
Participating doesn’t indicate support, but the majority of MP’s didn’t present them. Others rose multiple times to address every paper individually and this includes shadow cabinet members from opposition parties. In all, these MP’s might have represented petitions more times than signatures appeared on each document.
2012, September – MP Stephen Woodworth’s (Kitchener Centre, CPC) Motion 312 is defeated. However, there is much ado in the media resulting from Conservative cabinet ministers who voted in favour. They include MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast), MP Peter Van Loan (York-Simcoe), MP Julian Fantino (Vaughan), MP Gerry Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminster), MP Gail Shea (Egmont), MP Ed Fast (Abbotsford), MP Peter Penashue (Labrador, defeated 2013), MP Diane Ablonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill), MP Alice Wong (Richmond) and MP Rona Ambrose (Edmonton-Spruce Grove).
Ambrose took the most heat for siding with anti-abortionists as Minister for the Status of Women. But these Conservatives were joined by a few Liberals who include MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood), MP Lawrence McAulay (Cardigan), MP Kevin Lamoureaux (Winnipeg North) and MP Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt). Visit here to see the 91 MP’s who supported the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus position.
2012, October – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) nominates two anti-abortion activists for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. One of them was in jail for violating laws that are supposed to protect women who are entering abortion/medical clinics. Regardless, both are selected by the Harper government to receive the award for this “civil disobedience” that was deemed criminal.
Joseph Overton was an American Tea Party Libertarian from Michigan. He established the Mackinaw think-tank that pushes for charter schools, right-to-work legislation, low tax – no government, extreme right-wing policies. This is accomplished by use of the Overton Window, that in practical summary may resemble this:
Begin by asking for the unfathomable. It gains attention and infects the public dialogue. With a long term vision, gradually pull back from the extreme by increments and make the proposals a little more bearable. With each proposal, it keeps the dialogue going and entrenches the language in popular society. It then becomes an issue for politicians as the consistent language in media and their communities. Now the unthinkable gains some amount of consideration. By repeating this process it can shift public perception and bring them to the negotiating table.
An example from your children might also resemble this:
Mom says no snacks before dinner and Joe says, “But I want a whole cake!” Mom responds with a scowl so Joe compromises, “Well how about just one piece?” Mom still denies, but she tilts her head to the side and Joe can see he gained at least one iota of sympathy. Eventually the child asks for a “tiny cookie” and swears he’ll starve to death without something to put in his belly. Mom raises her eyebrow and agrees in frustration, because at least it’s only a small treat. But Joe has learned how to shift his mother’s window of what’s considered reasonable and now he can push for a treat before dinner every night. Once he gets the cookie, he can also push for larger snacks in the future.
This ARPA paper describes the strategic purpose of tabling consecutive private member bills, in an effort to shift perception about abortion and what the public considers normal (within the “window” of being acceptable). This piece also documents the group’s achievements, in shifting government attitudes and controlling the mainstream media.
2012, October – Lobbyist ARPA Canada is heard by the BC Finance Committee, in advance of the 2013 budget. They encourage the government to withdraw from early learning education programs. They request mandatory repayment of debt and phasing out the BC Human Rights Tribunal. They also implore legislators to de-fund abortion, so patients who can afford private surgical costs are the only ones who would have access to this medical care.
2012, October – Three Ontario Progressive Conservatives sponsor a Campaign Life Coalition press conference, to de-fund abortions through the public health care system. MPP Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington), MPP John O’Toole (Durham) and MPP Rick Nicholls (Chatham-Kent-Essex) didn’t attend the event despite hosting it. Liberal Education Minister Laurel Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, OLP, retired 2013) was described by Sun Media as “self righteous” for accusing the Tories of trying to re-open the abortion debate.
2012, October – The president of Campaign Life Coalition writes an editorial about the need to stack parliament and senate with anti-abortion supporters, if they’re to pass legislation the lobby group is seeking. He mentions the Harper government’s opportunity to appoint activist judges to the Supreme Court of Canada, in an effort to help the process along judicially. He closes by noting an interesting tidbit about the group’s history.
Campaign Life Coalition takes credit for establishing the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus back in 1986, when it was often chaired by Senator Stanley Haidasz (Liberal, deceased 2009).
2012, October – ARPA congratulates supporters for helping to ensure the Alberta Education Act would not be subject to compliance with the Alberta Human Rights Act. The lobbyist claims parental freedom is at stake and encourages additional support for the overall human rights campaign, to abolish these laws and tribunals completely.
2012, November – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, promoting an email from a communications rep with the Toronto Right to Life Association. His office is used as a media centre on behalf of the anti-abortion movement and together they condemn MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, LPC, retired 2013, former leader of the Liberal party) for defending the Supreme Court and his concern that awarding criminals with the Diamond Jubilee Medal may incite more unlawfulness. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012 November – Macleans publishes an article about the death of an infant that was heard by the Supreme Court. This frames a discussion about renewed action from members of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus and adapting the lobby’s language to be more acceptable to the public.
MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC) follows by vowing there will be repeated attempts at anti-abortion legislation that “might be every six months”, until they accomplish the caucus mandate. ARPA is also interviewed to make the human rights argument, but a hardline on Muslim immigration is also noted. Finally, MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, LPC) contributes his sympathy and opines the anti-abortion issue is “a vote mover” that gets people to the polls.
2012, December – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, praising an anti-abortion blogger for releasing heath statistics the lobby interpreted to support a homicide allegation in relation to abortions. These conclusions are cited as a reason to compel the RCMP and the matter is re-ignited under the title of “infanticide”, nearly identical to the move by MP Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC, now Employment Minister) in 1999. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2012, December – Campaign Life Coalition attempts to interfere in the federal Liberal leadership race. The lobbyist pressures a Catholic high school in Sudbury, Ontario to cancel an appearance and communication with MP Justin Trudeau (Papineau, LPC), because he doesn’t represent anti-gay and anti-abortion ideals. The say, “The Board may be inviting spiritual harm to children,” by allowing Trudeau near youngsters in a widespread press release. If the Board doesn’t back down, the school will face embarrassing demonstrations.
2012, December – ARPA Canada publishes a report on their 2012 lobbying successes. It’s described as manipulation of the Overton Window to shift the public psychology and some of these advancements include favourable attention from Macleans magazine. After their consultation regarding Native affairs (explained in detail at 2013 Sidebar), ARPA found the government listened and began to legislate private property on reserves. They convinced the CBC to cancel racy content after a campaign of complaints. They obtained private group meetings with multiple MP’s and the Ontario Human Rights Commission asked for ARPA to present a legal opinion.
In the same communiqué, ARPA receives thanks from MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC), for helping to pass Bill C-304. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was officially repealed and would no longer apply to hate speech.
In a second entry ARPA explains how MP Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC) approached them to co-sponsor events between these politicians and the lobby. Storseth also contributed to an ARPA video that is ultimately used to solicit donations.
2013, January – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC), MP Leon Benoit (Vegreville, CPC) and MP Wladyslaw Lizon (Mississauga East-Streetsville, CPC) write the RCMP commissioner on House of Commons letterhead, requesting a homicide investigation for each abortion where the foetus might have exited a female’s body (after 19 weeks) without being technically dead first. (A copy can still be found in Benoit’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, February – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, chastising the Canadian Press and CBC for reporting the story above. He clarifies his position and re-asserts the call for homicide investigations, if the foetus is more than 19 weeks and not yet technically dead in the removal process. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, February – Campaign Life Coalition publishes a press release celebrating the “demotion” of Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, OLP, retired 2013). They claim it was a response to her sex-ed classes being forced on Catholic school boards, but in reality the minister was switched to a different portfolio under the new premier. The lobby goes on to warn the next Minister of EducationLiz Sandals (Guelph, OLP), not to meddle with religious curriculum and a similar rebuke of outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty (Ottawa South, OLP, retired 2013) was expressed in a scathing press release.
2013, February – The Office of Religious Freedom is established by the Harper government. It will promote religion as a “Canadian foreign policy priority”.
2013, February – The Whatcott decision is rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada and it upholds key parts of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, as it applies to hate speech. Whatcott is a religious anti-gay activist who distributed disturbing flyers with strong language that resulted in complaint.
Although ARPA applied for intervener status, it wasn’t granted. Instead legal counsel for the lobby contributed video analysis of the decision. In it they suggest the presiding Supreme Court Justices should be criminally charged for case exhibits they included in the reasons. ARPA goes on to justify hate speech as a fundamental need for Christians to critique others’ sexual lifestyles and warns they will need to lobby provincial governments for new laws to protect these rights.
2013, March – Campaign Life Coalition begins a crusade against Bill C-279, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Gender Identity). This legislation to prevent discrimination and violence against those with alternative gender identities is still before the senate, awaiting Royal Assent.
As such, the lobby is focusing on senators in an effort to have the bill denied and they’re targeting Prime Minister Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC) with a letter writing campaign, encouraging him to use his authority over the Tory caucus.
2013, March – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, regarding his Motion 408 to condemn sex-selective abortions. He bases the reason on a CBC investigation, after attempting to discredit the broadcaster a month before. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, March – MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) issues a press release on House of Commons letterhead, on behalf of a private research group from Chile that determined abortion is violence against women. While the report cites Chile as having a low maternal death rate they attribute to the government’s anti-abortion stance, it fails to mention that Canada has less than half the deaths per 100,000 women. Regardless, it’s promoted to media as a member of parliament. (A copy can still be found in Vellacott’s archives, in addition to here.)
2013, March – ARPA Canada attends the Manning Institute Networking Conference as an exhibitor, promoting itself with right-wing political celebrities such as Preston Manning, Tea Party founder, Ron Paul, and Conservative party legal counsel, Guy Giorno (PM Harper’s former chief of staff).
2013, March – Campaign Life Coalition releases a newsletter that details a new endeavour to host De-fund Abortion rallies at the Ontario legislature. In March they attended with words of support from MPP Joe Dickson (Ajax-Pickering, OLP), as he accepted their petitions to cancel this health care funding. Similar encouragement was sent by a federal counterpart, MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, CPC) from Saskatchewan.
2013, April – Mark Penninga (former Vellacott intern, TWU grad, turned exec director of ARPA) publishes an update on the lobby’s use of the Overton Window. He cites MP Mark Warawa‘s (Langley, CPC) motions M-312 and M-408 and how they garnered massive media attention with public sympathy when the MP was muzzled.
From the NDP to Margaret Wente, this lobby claims to have won their support, if not in a backhanded way. As a result of this fiasco the Liberals filed a motion that would allow backbenchers to speak freely and Penninga describes this as playing into their hands. MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC) then thanks the PMO in Question Period, for drawing greater attention to their cause. Global News reports that he’s speaking from an informal pro-life caucus.
2013, April – ARPA submits a policy paper to the federal government in support of corporal punishment for children. It’s in response to Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette‘s (Liberal) Bill S-204, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (protection of children).
This time the lobby claims that hitting kids is beneficial, akin to the benefits of martial arts. They claim all science proving a negative effect is wrong and they assert contrary reports to debunk. However, new “science” cited by the lobby arises from anti-abortion activists and their letters to the editor. As in previous examples, when letters submitted by fellow lobbyists are published by a newspaper, they become cited as fact in subsequent policy papers and ARPA declines to mention this conflict.
The report also accuses the government of playing God by assuming any rules over children. They state that parents are accountable to God directly and this does not require “Orwellian” oversight from bureaucrats. The lobby then encourages followers to use their EasyMail system, to overwhelm MP’s and senators with a copy of the same report.
2013, April – The Canadian Catholic News applauds Speaker of the House, Andrew Sheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, CPC) for his ruling on MP Mark Warawa‘s (Langley, CPC) complaint that parliamentary privilege was abused when the whip quashed his statement about an anti-abortion motion. It opened the door to getting anti-choice opinions debated on the floor and Sheer was previously noted as being supportive of the PPLC cause.
2013, May – At the annual March for Life rally on Parliament Hill, MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, CPC) tells the crowd they must get involved in politics and stack nomination meetings to select anti-abortion candidates. Although the Canadian Press produced this story, very few outlets carried it. There was little coverage this year except for the lobbyist news service that estimates there were 25,000 in attendance and a CBC piece explaining how they’ve re-framed the movement as a human rights issue that discriminates against the foetus by giving women a choice.
At a prayer meeting before the march, a Baptist church compared abortion to the Holocaust and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in support of their plight (but the quote is blatantly taken out of context). They also note the movement had been struggling for a decade, but it gathered momentum in the past six years (coinciding with repeat bills from PPLC members in the Harper government). The main commentary in this Campaign Life article is also provided by legal counsel for the sister lobby, ARPA.
In related news, the PMO refused to comment or commemorate the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler. That space was filled by MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) who asserted that victims of sexual assault are abused when their tormentors drag them to abortion clinics. He says many of these victims are children and their “immeasurable” suffering is attributed to Dr. Morgentaler (not the sexual abuser).
Only MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre) rose for the Liberals and MP Niki Ashton (Churchill) for the NDP, to honour the doctor’s courageous work in women’s and patient rights.
2013, May – MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) receives a lifetime achievement award from the Campaign Life Coalition lobbyist. It’s titled the Joseph P. Borowski Award, in recognition of that cabinet minister leaving the Manitoba NDP to stay true to anti-abortion causes. Only eight Conservative and Liberal MP’s have received this honour.
2013, June – MP Brian Storseth’s (Westlock-St. Paul, CPC) private member Bill C-304, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, receives Royal Assent and becomes law. Sections that prevented hate speech have now been repealed. ARPA and Campaign Life Coalition also noted contact with MP’s and senators during this period, in the government lobby record.
2013, June – MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) celebrates the first National Aboriginal Prayer Breakfast in the House of Commons (as unspoken Chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus).
Deeper investigation of this event produced unsettling material that requires explanation as a group, as opposed to chronologically.
Indigenous cultures have traditional, spiritual beliefs that do not resemble the trinity of Christianity or narrative of the Bible. This isn’t meant to disparage Native peoples who subscribe to organized religion, as many of them do and it’s an individual’s right to choose without judgement from any person.
It’s when one group speaks for the other that issues may arise and this very scenario clouds the parliamentary prayer breakfast. Thousands of Aboriginal children were taken from their homes by government and the Church and the history of residential school abuse didn’t stop until the early 1990’s. Therefore a great number of Canada’s First Peoples still have distrust for both the government and religion.
With that said, in June 2012, ARPA Canada submitted a report to parliament that lobbied for changes to the Indian Act. It was titled “Respectfully Submitted – Aboriginal Affairs”, similar to all the lobbying reports before it. Because they’re all generically titled “Respectfully Submitted”, it makes it extremely difficult to locate these documents through a general search on the internet.
ARPA supporters would have received an alert at the time, urging them to visit this page and EasyMail extra copies of the report to their members of parliament. This is how the lobby group gets coordinated action from anti-abortion activists and why they thank supporters for defeating bills or helping them oust elected officials. But this time a Christian appeal would be applied to Indigenous interests.
This particular report can only be summarized as a comprehensive call for Native assimilation. Based on Bible scripture from Romans 13, the group believes that First Nations can’t heal until they accept God and pay taxes.
In the same Aboriginal file containing government submissions, ARPA publishes a ditty from their “resident poet”. It’s titled “Call to Discriminate – A Moral Responsibility!” and it explains how Psalm 1 instructs Bible followers to discriminate against those who mock the Christian God. It says those on the “right” will be helped by God to “thwart the wicked’s might” and the enemy that refuses to believe will be “blown away” like “useless chaff”. This lobby rep also believes that no one has the right to retire from working, according to the book of Genesis.
ARPA goes on to argue that Natives must become indebted through mortgage and sell their lands to enjoy prosperity like everyone else. They approve of the infamous 1969 white paper but due to the contentious Charter, the lobbyist realizes they can’t nix land claims and therefore the best option is converting them into municipalities.
The report says Native peoples must forget about the past and forgive their oppressors to move forward. It chastises the Supreme Court for conveying the idea that Aboriginal ancestry entitles anyone to victimhood. They claim “every Canadian can point to their past to get the same label”.
ARPA blames the First Nations struggle on collective “spiritual brokenness” and believes “the ultimate goal of poverty alleviation is not to see our standards of wealth and prosperity applied to others, but to see people restored to what God created them to be”. The document closes with reference to an Aboriginal organization named Gathering Nations, who they applaud as getting that message.
The lobbyist was pleased to update that MP Rob Clarke (Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, CPC and First Nations RCMP) responded to ARPA’s recommendations with Bill C-428, Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act.
Gathering Nations International led to a number of surprising pages in support of ARPA. It begins with Kenny Blacksmith who was a Deputy Chief to the Cree Nation of Mistissini, near James Bay in Quebec. A missionary went to live on the reserve in the 1960’s and Kenny with his wife were converted to Christianity by 1991.
In 1997 the family left the reserve for Ottawa inspired by a prophetic vision and they converted the Bible into Cree, so they could teach the un-ministered to find salvation and adopt the settlers’ way. Ever since relocating to Ottawa, Mr. Blacksmith became politically involved and these activities are related to both lobbyists and the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.
In June 2006 Blacksmith created The Covenant of the First Peoples of Canada and a conference was held in the capital with other religious leaders. The Cree pastor is consistently addressed as an ordained minster, but at no point is a school named and there is no record of training or seminary college. No denomination is ever stated to inquire with a regulating body.
Twenty-four signatories and twelve witnesses endorsed the document on National Aboriginal Day in Ottawa. It’s unknown who they are and there is no record beyond a photo of the signatures. Despite being a First Nations contract, the content was solely about God and supporting the people of Israel.
When this document was signed, Blacksmith claims the group was free from carrying an Aboriginal grudge and they rejoiced in the church plus the government, enough to sing the national anthem twice (something most Indigenous peoples will not do). This was also done without approval from the Assembly of First Nations or any Chiefs who can be found on record.
In 2009 Blacksmith returned to the reserve to run for the Grand Chief position. In an interview with the Cree Nation news he boasts, “I know Jean Charest and many of the ministers and the government leaders on a personal level – not just in Quebec but also in Canada, in the federal government”. He didn’t win the honour and Chief of the Mistissini Cree is Richard Shecapio, but Blacksmith is called the chief by himself and everyone in parliament.
By June 2010, Blacksmith organized a National Forgiven Summit at the Ottawa Civic Centre. Religious leaders and Christian Aboriginals met with MP’s and senators, to engage in an elaborate ceremony that ran parallel to the first Truth and Reconciliation event.
MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South, CPC) was pleased with the gesture, as was Senator Nick Sibbeston (Liberal, former premier of NWT). The latter reported to senate that Aboriginals forgave the prime minister and showered him with gifts, as a Charter of Forgiveness and Freedom was presented to the government on behalf of Native peoples.
AFN Chief Shawn Atleo took a more hesitant approach, asking the group to be “very careful” while reminding a Grand Chief had already complained they weren’t ready for this. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hadn’t finished its work and Atleo countered the prime minister’s apology with examples of program closures.
But AFN did not intervene in Blacksmith’s event and the three day conference included special segments. There was the forgiveness summit itself, where The Charter of Forgiveness and Freedom was unveiled. This is another document concocted by Blacksmith to release the government for Native abuse. No text can be located on the internet and again there’s only a photo of signatures.
It was presented to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl (Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, CPC, retired), who attended. Of note, Strahl left this cabinet position to become the top watchdog over CSIS, but he had to step down when the press revealed he was performing double duty as a lobbyist for the Enbridge pipeline. The Northern Gateway project has been met with opposition from First Nations and CSIS was additionally convicted in the media for spying on Indigenous peoples and sharing the intelligence with major oil companies. Strahl is also a graduate of Trinity Western University (TWU) in the company of fellow parliamentarians and he was appointed to mentor at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation.
After the forgiveness summit, organizer Kenny Blacksmith had the opportunity to meet personally with Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC). Another copy of The Charter of Forgiveness and Freedom was presented to absolve the government and then it was off to the Pastors and Leaders Gathering.
The second event was held by Blacksmith and a co-host from the 700 Club – an evangelical ministry that prays and raises funds on Christian television. It’s unclear what transpired at this gathering, but leaders and teachers were invited in addition to “prophets and apostles”.
On the following day there was a National Aboriginal Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast that was co-hosted by “Members of Parliament and with the Senate of Canada”. Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl (Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, CPC, retired) was a keynote speaker along with Blacksmith and the theme of this meeting was “Beyond Forgiveness”. First Nations peoples who wished to participate and forgive the government were charged $55 admission to accept their sorries.
This prayer breakfast in 2010 occurred at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, at 1 Rideau Street in Ottawa. This is the same address ARPA uses in suite #700, that otherwise rents as a virtual office. ARPA uses this virtual address on the lobby registry, as well their work with the Supreme Court of Canada. Technically speaking it has no legal, physical address, unless the alternate PO Box number is considered and a business registration that lists Alberta is no longer valid.
Adding to the confusion about ARPA’s address is a claim to have an office on Parliament Hill. According to web data company Zoom Info (relied upon by Google and Dow Jones), this lobby’s base can be found in Room 574, Confederation Building at the House of Commons. The phone number provided belongs to MP Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent-Essex, CPC) and the fax belongs to the PMO. The only way for Zoom Info to present this data is by crawling the internet for places it was listed, and/or if the company entered a business listing itself. This parliamentary location was further confirmed by seven different sources from 2011 to the end of 2013.
ARPA’s director, Mark Penninga, is listed with the same government address, in addition to a home base in West Virginia.
On the federal registry, ARPA lists Mark Penninga, Andre Schutten and Mike Schouten as paid lobbyists (see lobbyist details tab).
2013, June – Coming back to the chronological date, pastor Kenny Blacksmith obtained a position on the board of directors for Canadian Race Relations. Here he was listed as an Aboriginal management consultant; providing services in rights, education, negotiations and Christian leadership training.
That leadership brought Blacksmith to open the Canada Celebrates Israel conference, where parliamentarians met with the “Jewish, Christian, Zionist” community to discuss the country’s commitment to a Jewish state. He beat the Native drum, sang Indigenous chants and offered Christian prayer, as others in the group complained of apartheid allegations becoming the new anti-Semitism.
For context, Blacksmith devised the new Indigenous Charter and Covenant to honour Israel as the number one priority. He teaches that First Nations must respect the political state and Israeli people to find Indigenous salvation, even though traditional beliefs do not embrace the biblical trinity (and neither does Orthodox Judaism that relies solely on the Torah).
2013, June – The first National Aboriginal Prayer Breakfast is officially recognized. Despite earlier events that were similar, this one is a matter of public record and will continue to be promoted as a yearly event. It’s co-hosted by Kenny Blacksmith on behalf of First Nations (without their consent), along with MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni, CPC) and Senator Don Meredith (Conservative). The Ontario Minister for Seniors, MPP Mario Sergio (York West, OLP) represented the provincial government and speakers included the co-host of 700 Club.
Meredith is the same official who recently came under fire as one of the senate’s top spenders, also boasting degrees from non-accredited institutions. One of those degrees is an honourary Doctor of Divinity he received from the Christian television program, 100 Huntley Street. Huntley was established by the same creator of the American 700 Club mentioned prior. Since that exposé Meredith stopped calling himself a doctor, to shield Prime Minister Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC) from criticism regarding his appointment.
At the prayer breakfast, newly retired Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Chuck Strahl gives the keynote address. Both he and Kenny Blacksmith discuss the duty of First Nations to forgive the government under God. Blacksmith says the work of missionaries 500 years ago was not in vain and the black book (Bible) would yet teach his people. This was reinforced by Strahl’s belief that a Christian God would help with the power of forgiveness because he couldn’t write legislation that would force Native peoples to become the government’s friend. Both men spoke as if they forgot it was Christians who placed Aboriginal children in electric chairs and sexually abused them, en masse.
The Catholic Register ran a feature article but took their site offline as this investigation was being written. Luckily a backup copy was saved before this happened, because the piece displayed a poignant photo that is likely to inflame First Nations. During this event Strahl stood at the podium wearing a Native headdress while making his assertion that forgiveness was owed to the government, in order for Aboriginals to heal. Behind Strahl is an Israeli flag, a Canadian flag and an American flag, but nothing to represent Indigenous cultures.
2013, November – Kenny Blacksmith attends a religious event on Parliament Hill with Mennonites. He’s described as the Chief of Cree Nation in Mistissini, but he doesn’t hold this position and hasn’t lived on the reserve for sixteen years. He prays with the group encouraging “shalom”; a Hebrew word signifying peace and the underlying principle of the Torah and Judaism. It’s expressly important to the Jewish religion, but it’s not traditionally spoken or known by First Nations.
As a result of this prayer the Mennonites were overcome with guilt for past racism and indifference toward Aboriginals. The event organizer apologized to Blacksmith on behalf of this religion and Blacksmith accepted on behalf of all Natives.
2014, February – The Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association announces their official partnership with the ARPA Canada lobby. In the extensive newsletter, Bill Whatcott of the earlier Supreme Court case (to allow hate speech against gays) is noted as a regional representative. A number of paid ads appear from law firms, in addition to MP Ed Komarnicki (Souris-Moose Mountain, CPC), MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-Humboldt, CPC), MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) and MLA Greg Ottenbreit (Yorkton, Saskatchewan Party).
2014, March – Campaign Life Coalition begins a project against doctor assisted suicide and bills addressing compassionate patient rights in parliament. MP Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, CPC) was paralyzed from the neck down, but he became a target of the pro-life movement when he proposed legalizing euthanasia (bills haven’t been tabled yet).
MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) came out against him and Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt (Halton, CPC) cited her Catholic faith as a barrier to supporting. Sister lobbyist ARPA Canada has also taken up the cause, while congratulating its supporters for quashing previous euthanasia bills. They warn their masses to remain vigilant, in case a call to action is needed to defeat the next attempt.
2014, March – MLA Shayne Saskiw (Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, Wildrose, Justice Critic) proposed motion M-502 in the Alberta legislature. It called on government to repeal sections of the Alberta Human Rights Act with respect to hate speech, similar to what was accomplished at the federal level. This initial attempt had support from the provincial Conservative justice minister, however it was defeated.
2014, March – Legal counsel for ARPA Canada, Andre Schutten, makes a submission to the Law Society of Upper Canada compelling certification of a Trinity Western University (TWU) Christian law school. At issue is the intention to deny gay students admission, that ARPA believes is a justified requirement.
A second piece is distributed to the ARPA community, filled with unrelenting criticism of respected lawyers Clayton Ruby, Gerald Chan “and others like them”, for speaking against proposed, discriminatory enrollment provisions.
2014, March – The Loyola case is accepted to the Supreme Court of Canada. It’s about a private Jesuit boys’ high school in Quebec that was required to teach Ethics and Religious Culture curriculum, as mandated by the Ministry of Education. This course also requires a secular approach that conflicts with the private school’s Christian purpose.
Legal counsel for ARPA Canada, Andre Schutten, is also acting as legal counsel for the Association of Christian Educators and Schools Canada, that achieved intervener status. This case is being promoted on the ARPA website as one of their own, but ARPA isn’t named anywhere in the Supreme Court file. Mr. Schutten then supports this project with an article in the Ottawa Citizen, that states ARPA is an intervener. It’s unclear if this statement means the educators’ group is another entity within the lobbyist organization.
2014, March – Lobbyist ARPA Canada releases a new policy paper titled “The Supremacy of God”. It’s sent to every senator and member of parliament, followed by a campaign to have supporters discuss these concepts involving the EasyMail program.
The paper begins with explanation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms preamble. “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law,” they reason that a Christian God is the basis for all laws. ARPA asks legislators to consider the powers bestowed upon them were given through the Bible and forsaking that would bring an end to the rule of law. It would bring an end to slavery and racism protections, because these laws were proposed by religious leaders. It would end human rights and the Criminal Code of Canada. It would also disrespect Magna Carta and the basis of constitutional law.
ARPA finds that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin errs when she says the law is supreme, because laws can change and it’s the power of God that remains constant to reign supreme. They say Christianity is responsible for civilized society and attributing an MP’s power to religion is hardly as radical as it sounds. They also find the premise of law is built on the Ten Commandments and therefore secular courts and governments are hiding behind a veneer to conceal their true purpose.
Tucked in the middle is how this ideology applies to make anti-bullying legislation inappropriate. ARPA continues to explain how “feminist” MP Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP) is really no less religious than Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC). They use this opportunity to push support for their Loyola Supreme Court case as well.
2014, May – The focus of this year’s March for Life includes gendercide and criminalizing abortion, with “gendercide” taking root in the public vocabulary due to the PPLC and lobbyist efforts. Two new campaigns are launched to compliment that progress. The first is meant to ban “abortion drug RU-486” from becoming available in the Canadian market. The second is meant to establish Silent No Moreas a Canadian staple (imported from the US, the same as Campaign Life Coalition), to bring the anti-abortion plight mainstream and nudge the Overton Window a little further.
A list of MP’s and senators in attendance is published by the Campaign Life Coalition. In 2014 they doubled their numbers and the roster includes 23 names, but this wasn’t covered by mainstream media. These elected officials are presumably part of the growing Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, as the PPLC hosts this lobbying event, according to historical press releases.
2014, May – ARPA publishes God & Government 2014: A Huge Success. The write-up celebrates their “infiltration” of parliament and claims 70 ARPA lobbyists met with 50 MP’s and senators in the week leading up to the March for Life event. Three days of activity included a reception that ARPA hosted for members of parliament, a speech to ARPA from Employment Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary-Southeast, CPC) and a mutual prayer service.
ARPA had access to Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green officials, to discuss their lobbying concerns about prostitution, palliative care, abortion and sports betting. They were invited to attend government committee meetings beyond the standard Question Period and pictures weren’t taken to protect the identity of the MP’s hosting them.
In the same article ARPA mentions spearheading a political tour through Alberta on behalf of MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC) of Ontario. It’s unclear how a registered lobbyist can run a campaign for an active member of parliament and this appears to resemble Prime Minister Harper‘s complaint against Stockwell Day during that bitter leadership cycle.
They close by offering thanks to a “generous company, which does not wish to be singled out for its financial sponsorship of this venture”. Whether it’s related or not, the Knights of Columbus have long been known to foot the bill for ARPA’s sister lobby, Campaign Life Coalition. That doesn’t signify a correlation to these particular events, but they were part of the annual March for Life and Knights have traditionally subsidized the endeavour. The lobby has also enjoyed joint publication in Knights of Columbus newsletters. The jet-set MP from Ontario, Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre, CPC), is also a longtime member.
2014, May – The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, publicly scolds Liberal leader MP Justin Trudeau (Papineau, LPC), for the party’s new policy that disallows anti-abortion candidates. Six days earlier the cardinal hosted an anti-abortion mass in conjunction with Campaign Life Coalition events. This left Trudeau to defend his pro-choice convictions as a matter of human rights against excessive pressure from the Catholic Church.
2014, May – MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, LPC) reacts to the Liberal leader’s news above, in the Catholic Register (site abruptly taken offline but with patience a cached copy may still load from archives – a backup can also be found here). During the interview McKay laments about the party position, but says they needed to react to an influx of anti-abortion activists who pursued nomination without any Liberal, political history. He believes the issue needs to be handled “ambiguously” in the political arena, without fundamentalism inflaming the dialogue on either side. McKay remains an anti-abortion proponent and closes by questioning the Liberals’ lack of position on “ethnic politics” as well.
2014, May – MP Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP) proposes a motion for the government to affirm a woman’s right to abortion as a fundamental question of equality and human rights. She also moves to reverse a policy that rescinded foreign aid to countries that perform abortions. The media sees this as a bid to gain political points against Trudeau that has the potential to backfire, especially as the NDP didn’t make this a priority for years since the policy was enacted.
ARPA rejoiced immediately as an opportunity to re-open the debate. Within a few days they put together an EasyMail campaign, supported by a new telephone campaign that comes with a script and computer auto dialing to reach every member of parliament. The lobby is using this break to show vocal support for the anti-abortion cause and their ranks were ready for this gift to mobilize, whereas pro-choice activists weren’t prepared with their own campaign to refute. Ashton may very well stand for women’s rights, but using them as a political weapon against the Liberals who are in the middle of addressing the issue may only weaken the plight of females.
Both ARPA and Campaign Life Coalition have an inventory of reliable soldiers (including MP’s) who are professionally ready (audio) to commandeer the discussion with little more than a moment’s notice. The NDP also fails to address its history of privately hosting these same lobbyists in parliament. The courts and a majority of Canadians support a woman’s right to choose, but these reactionary and self serving tactics make it look they don’t because females were never invited to speak for themselves. It’s either a lobby that stands against human rights or a party that’s trying to inflict partisan damage that’s doing all the talking.
After examining the evidence, the fable of a Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus is hardly built on fiction. There seems to be a concerted effort to keep the project private, but the result of this work has altered significant pieces of Canadian and provincial legislation. It extends well beyond the topic of abortion and has grown to become an unparalleled, right-wing operative. Shielded by a religious front, it has also escaped legal scrutiny.
Moreover documents that display PPLC information on House of Commons letterhead were obtained under unusual circumstances. An initial check of MP Maurice Vellacott‘s (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) government press releases came up empty, until a cache was stumbled upon from 2003. It appears every one of these items was tucked into that file and removed from site menus at a later date, except for the memory indexed by Google that remained accessible through web archives. This did not involve leaks or any sort of malicious hacking and anyone could have found the same if researching hard enough.
Aside of confirming the existence of an official Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, this investigation reveals a multi-pronged effort for MP’s to reverse Canadian law as coordinated by lobbyists. Members of Parliament produce ads for lobbyists on the government’s dime, from their elected offices. The Justice Block has become a communications headquarters and when The Office of Religious Freedom was created, it came with help from ARPA to make religion the new priority of foreign policy. When 70 lobbyists were given special, extended and private access to MP’s and senators, at the very least it represented an unaccountable playing field. The incessant bragging about media manipulation is an indictment of the fourth estate as well.
ARPA Canada and Campaign Life Coalition are registered as non-profits and they’re directly linked in partner projects with MP’s from the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. Both openly boast of their lobbying offices on Parliament Hill, but addresses are impossible to confirm due to secrecy. The vast majority of their work is however lobbying and this doesn’t mesh with regulations that govern the activities non-profits.
Campaign Life Coalition also encourages followers to stack political nomination meetings, to ensure a social conservative candidate emerges.
They take further credit for pioneering anti-abortion lobbying at the United Nations. Campaign Life Coalition became one of the first approved lobbies of this ilk and it remains one of few to achieve this status.
This is complimented by a UN contingent of youth delegates that is speaking for Canada and the world.
Sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act were repealed to allow for hate speech. Some Native reserves have become municipalities. The criminalization of abortion has appeared in Hansard in one way or another, every year of the Harper administration. A Supreme Court decision that found abortion was protected by a female’s Charter rights hasn’t done anything to quell these bills, or the media frenzy when Justin Trudeau unequivocally stands up for it. In this way the lobby may be right, that the Overton Window has been skillfully shifted.
The Harper government participated from another perspective by impugning the Supreme Court with malicious, unprecedented accusations, regarding developments throughout its term. Supporting every one of these baseless criticisms is the ARPA lobby, with lawyers to take each of these items to the Supreme Court for a decision. As Marc Nadon didn’t make the bench, it appears the campaign to discredit Canada’s Chief Justice has been fired up, right when the highest court needs the public confidence most and ARPA is standing before it.
These successes are being measured by the lobby’s proverbial yard stick and now that everyone is aware, they’ll have to decide if they want to keep abetting it.
Ontario residents have been kept in the dark, but Canada’s most populous province is about to become an unlikely and international battleground. After all, how many times does the Great White North threaten the drinking water of more than 40 million people, including their neighbours in America?
Legislators from south of the border have already taken issue with plans for a deep geologic repository. Less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron, Bruce Power intends to store 200,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste within the natural rock formation. Senators and congressmen shared their dissent with the Canadian government, but the fed responded by sending police to the homes of eco protesters, in what some would call an act of intimidation.
(photo credit: Ontario Power Generation)
It will take at least 300 years for the nuclear waste to decay, to a point that radioactive catastrophes are not a threat to human populations. This Kincardine, Ontario location was also chosen for its low seismic activity, reducing the likelihood of water and soil contamination by earthquake.
This much we’ve always known, due to the federal environment assessment that required public consultation. The Harper government has since levied time restrictions to speed the process along, but this is one project that was too big and too perilous to keep from the radar at all.
Seemingly unrelated, the controversy over fracking and in-situ technologies to harvest oil has been raging around the world. Ohio experts claim it causes earthquakes. Texans say it releases benzene and hydrogen sulfide in the air, causing everything from cancer to nosebleeds and skin rashes. British scientists say it causes radioactive contamination. Researchers at Duke University say it makes water flammable in Pennsylvania and New York, where investigators cite enough contamination to blow up homes with families in them. In Canada, the Idle No More movement continuously defends First Nations from plans to frack their tribal territory and there’s still the argument of numerous toxic chemicals used in the extraction process.
(photo credit: HBO, GasLand)
The topic of hydraulic fracturing is so polarizing that countless provinces, states and cities have sought a moratorium. The mayor of New York City added his voice to the opposition, with strong reservations about the impact to water safety. By contrast and north of this shared water source, scientists from Canada were abruptly silenced by the federal government and environmental laws were gutted, so there is no mechanism or freedom to complain above the forty-ninth parallel any longer.
This much we also knew, but how could it possibly relate to a nuclear waste dump?
Critics warned that sweeping changes to de-monitor water, curtail public input and failure to assess smaller power projects would have a grave and lasting impact on the Canadian ecosystem. They denounced newly legislated secrecy and threw their hands in the air when the government conducted a good old-fashioned, scientific book burning. They went so far as to accuse the Harper administration of oppressing Canadians for the sake of Alberta oil profits, meant to benefit the Prime Minister’s friends at a cost to every other industry in the country. With few studies or consultations required anymore, the public wouldn’t be privy to projects that conflict with each other either.
It was a Nostradamus moment that wouldn’t take a thousand years to come true. It’s just that our first example arises in Ontario, further east than they predicted when pitted against bitumen, LNG or coastal pipelines as the likely candidates. When people think about oil, they don’t naturally imagine the Great Lakes region as an epicenter for this development.
No one can blame residents for being remiss, when information became inaccessible to the public and for that matter to Americans who are impacted by Canadian activity. Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty claimed there would be no fracking until the province studied evidence to determine if the practice was safe. The new premier has never commented and no elected officials have alluded to anything different.
With all this government subterfuge from provincial and federal levels, the only way to learn about energy projects is through private company investor reports and knowing which ones to research now.
Bruce Power, meet Dundee Energy Limited. The former is an Ontario nuclear giant and the latter has the largest stake in Ontario oil. The two may operate side by side, but you’d never know from asking any level of government including municipal managers. These companies also favour the same rock formation, but for very different reasons.
Nuclear proponents believe the shale is strong enough to store radioactive waste, while oil competitors have chosen the area due to rich deposits and the porous nature of the same rock, making it a perfect specimen for fracking. It’s hard to see how both could be correct, but everyone drinking water along the Great Lakes is in the crosshairs of this corporate aggression.
From Neil Young to Yoko Ono, concerned stars have raised alarm bells regarding each of these topics, but no one thought to consider the impact of running these operations together. Fracking beside nuclear waste is a new concept for sure. The consequence of either practice is still a new frontier and combining them won’t be studied in Canada, nor will anyone be informed to care.
This situation is complicated by a few key players. Nuclear behemoth Bruce Power is technically owned by TransCanada Corp, that is better known for the KeystoneXL oil pipeline and tribulations visiting the White House. It’s also owned by Cameco, recently accused of tax evasion related to uranium sales. This partnership is completed by the retirement funds of municipal employees and the Power Workers Union, otherwise known as an affiliate of the left-wing labour movement and CUPE. As these strange bedfellows negotiate long term destruction of the environment for short term gain, the public is none the wiser because every brand of elected official appears to have taken a vow of silence.
In the case of Dundee Energy, it’s a subsidiary of the Dundee Corporation and federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch was implicated in an alleged conflict of interest with this very consortium. While sitting on a board of directors for Dundee (REIT), Leitch was also debating legislation that impacted her environmentally averse tenants. In addition to meeting the needs of numerous oil clients under the Dundee real estate umbrella, this MP’s company position included an asset-based relationship with the National Energy Board (pgs 20-26).
The National Energy Board is Canada’s environmental regulator and the body that oversees public consultation in a situation like the Bruce Power nuclear waste dump. It no longer needs to conduct environmental hearings related to Dundee’s oil pursuits, as a result of the Labour Minister and Conservative government’s plight to de-monitor water and “streamline” approvals.
It’s now come to light that Leitch’s business associate was buying considerable land for oil extraction, with an eye for the riding she continues to represent. Dundee Energy also purchased junior speculators with rights to harvest oil in Ontario, around the same time she was named a trustee to the sister company with shared executives.
For context, the Labour Minister’s family established the Fort McMurray oil sands town in Alberta, before her career was transferred to Ontario where the process may be repeating. This time brings us to Collingwood, Ontario and begins with thousands of acres around Blue Mountain that the oil industry took an interest in.
This location boasts a farming heartland and world class ski resort, with waterside tourism in the summer. It’s unlikely Intrawest realizes the surrounding property is on the fracking horizon. It doesn’t bode well for stable snow formations if earthquakes are indeed caused by fracking. Yacht owners may pull their boats from oil-slicked waters and tourism around the protected Niagara Escarpment Biosphere may soon resemble the tar sands on this deregulated trajectory. The groundwaters sustaining agriculture in the bins at your local grocery store may also become poisonous if the experience of early adopters is any indication.
To manage a complex and conflicting set of developments, here’s a recap to give clarity that illuminates who might have known what.
1857 – 1863: Canada’s first shale gas operation was founded in Collingwood, Ontario. It originally supplied the market in Toronto. This enterprise eventually failed due to competition from Lambton County and this local history would be forgotten, until the present day when it’s repeated.
April 2008: Bruce Power begins drilling boreholes to test Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Georgian Bay and Manitoulin shales, in preparation for the nuclear waste deep geologic repository. A layout of the project is included, depicting the proximity to Lake Huron and a railway passing directly above the proposed radioactive location.
September 2008: Mooncor begins aggressive acquisition of Ontario shale oil assets. They have access to 23,000 acres with the ability to develop Collingwood and Blue Mountain formations.
November 2008: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Talisman and Torque Energy, as well as Enbridge, Haliburton and the US Energy Development Corp. Exhibitors include the Government of Newfoundland and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The latter presents “Shale Gas Opportunities in Ontario” during the session dedicated to fracking. The Ontario Power Generation also speaks about the Bruce Power waste site. That seminar is sandwiched between the effect of petrochemicals and how to fight back against eco protesters.
February 2009: A Calgary based oil and gas consultant is hired to conduct seismic testing for the Ontario Bruce Power nuclear site. Data is borrowed from a nearby Texaco well and Shell oil pipeline. Many gas wells are noted in the area and previous studies failed to indicate a seismic fault line. With newer technology however, faults were discovered around the nuclear site and this information will be submitted to the National Energy Board.
May 2009: The federal government finalizes a process of environmental review for the proposed Bruce Power nuclear waste site.
November 2009: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Torque Energy, Talisman Energy and Enbridge. Shale gas opportunities are promoted in Ontario and the Minister of Natural Resources is a keynote speaker this year. Numerous reps from the Ontario government provide seminars as well as a report for oil companies, enticing hundreds of new explorations. The Collingwood and Blue Mountain deposits are given special attention, closest to the nuclear waste site. Health Canada is also an exhibitor.
March 2010: Central Ontario oil was predominantly owned by Mooncor and Talisman Energy. The Dundee Corporation purchases “the largest accumulation of oil and natural gas assets in Ontario” for $131 million from Talisman, to overtake their interest in the area.
June 2010: Simcoe and Bruce Counties experience an uncharacteristic earthquake. The area surrounding a proposed nuclear waste dump and fracking locale, shakes enough to startle half the province awake.
October 2010: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsor information was withheld this year, but exhibitors include the Canadian Consulate General and various members of the Ontario government. Keynote speakers include disgraced Congressman Chris Lee (R-NY) and seminars are provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources, in addition to the Ministry of Northern Development. Dundee Energy updated their progress in purchasing Ontario shale assets, as the government updated its list of shale assets for promotion. Additional seminars were offered regarding hydraulic fracturing and the difficulty moving enough sand, water and chemicals to supply the fracking industry.
April 2011: The Bruce Power nuclear site tests for the presence of gas. It’s found in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay formations, among others. Upon detailed analysis, the highest concentration of oil is noted in the Collingwood shale samples (closest to the nuclear repository), while the highest gas concentrations can be found in the Blue Mountain companion. This study and many more were submitted to the National Energy Board.
April 2011: Mooncor creates spinoff company DRGN Resources to handle its Ontario shale oil and gas assets. The long term strategy includes overtaking smaller companies to become a major player in the province.
May 2011: Kellie Leitch is elected Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey, after accusations of being parachuted from out of town. This riding consists of Collingwood, Blue Mountain and much of Georgian Bay. She still works with Dundee REIT and will not resign the executive position until the end of the next quarter, representing both the public and a corporation at the same time.
June 2011: Dundee Energy Limited establishes 100 percent ownership of its Ontario oil assets, further retained by the Dundee conglomerate as the parent company. New horizontal wells are planned for extraction.
June 2011: Several fish begin dying in Lake Simcoe. It’s part of the same glacial movement that created the Great Lakes system and it’s a 30 minute drive from the shores of Lake Huron. A magnificent amount of oil and gas tests are occurring at the same time (from government, the fracking and nuclear industries), but this is not considered a possible culprit because the public is unaware.
August 2011: Dundee Energy purchases Torque Energy – a former sponsor of the Ontario Petroleum Institute and a remaining holdout competitor. Torque Energy includes oil assets in Ontario and the acquisition helps to pad Dundee’s dominant market share.
September 2011: Mooncor retains a small amount of stock in Torque Energy, now owned by the Dundee corporation (pg. 12). At the end of this month, Member of Parliament Kellie Leitch resigns from her position with Dundee’s real estate branch as well.
October 2011: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. Sponsors include Dundee Energy, Torque Energy (under Dundee ownership) and Mooncor (with stock interest in Dundee). Keynote speakers include the Mayor of London and First Nations elders. Seminars are provided by the federal government’s Indian Oil and Gas Canada agency, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ontario Energy Board. Topics covered Aboriginal affairs and fracking, with a hydrofracturing demonstration to close the event.
October 2011: Six thousand dead birds and fish scatter the shores of Wasaga Beach. It’s the longest freshwater beach in the entire world and lines much of Georgian Bay, connecting to Collingwood at Lake Huron. Both shale formations were being tested for oil and gas reserves, but botulism is the suspected culprit with little explanation regarding changes to the lake’s chemistry. The area never saw a die-off like this before and experts were left to guess a reason.
November 2011: Mooncor engages the Dundee conglomerate for help to raise $5 million toward expansion.
November 2011: An executive lawyer for Bruce Power and the nuclear waste site is appointed to the Ontario Centre of Excellence, to guide the provincial economy. This centre is funded by the Ontario government and Bruce Power continues to be owned by the same curious partners.
May 2012: Thousands of dead fish appear on the shores of Lake Simcoe. The second time is worse than the first. The Ministry of Natural Resources waited a number of months before informing the public of a widespread infection and no detailed cause was ever given.
September 2012: The Ontario government promotes shale fuel extraction at a conference in the United States. Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Georgian Bay formations are the focus, with 31 percent oil saturation and 77 percent gas saturation to encourage deeper investment. One of the wells cited is adjacent to the Bruce Power nuclear waste site. (A similar situation between oil wells and nuclear generators occurs in the Pickering location on Lake Ontario.)
September 2012: Dundee Energy invests $13.7 million in Ontario assets. Another $3.4 million is spent to acquire maps with seismic data, needed to plan the next harvesting sites. Inland extraction has become a priority to increase production, that offsets lower gas prices affected by greater American penetration and the Canadian petro dollar. A rig is purchased to assist with new drilling, allowing expansion in the Toronto gas market. In the process, they reserve $3.3 million for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, in anticipation of future environmental costs.
October 2012: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. The sponsor list is excluded again, but the Ministry of Natural Resources, Conservative MPP Bob Bailey and a National Post editor were mentioned as speakers. Embattled Liberal Energy Minister Chris Bentley was invited to give the keynote address and topics narrowly focused on pipelines, fracking and promoting Ontario’s shale assets for exploration.
November 2012: The Ontario government releases a comprehensive report (490 pages) meant to attract investment, reform applicable laws and assist corporations in negotiating with First Nations. Shale gas and oil in the Collingwood, Blue Mountain, Georgian Bay, Nottawasaga and Manitoulin areas is given special attention (pgs. 222-240), with specific mention of fuels (pgs. 275-286). Each is promoted as having the best potential for fracking related extraction. At least 360 samples were tested from wells and new boreholes in the years preceding, as part of the larger “shale gas assessment project” the public was never informed about. Groundwater mapping for Simcoe County is thoroughly noted (pgs. 295-306) and includes data from Lake Huron to Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe, the Nottawasaga River, Newmarket Till and Oak Ridges Moraine. It is further identified as one of the most significant glacial aquifers, responsible for drinking water obtained from the Great Lakes and every connecting path from Canada to Chicago, Illinois.
November 2012: At the same time Ontario promoted shale extraction, Premier Dalton McGuinty informed the media there was no reason to worry about fracking in the province. He offered this reassurance despite public objection to Dundee Energy and Mooncor buying land for the same purpose. This message was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources when they confirmed one new shale well was drilled, but denied any knowledge of plans to continue. All political parties responded as if the premise of fracking was hypothetical, but each shared a connection to this series of concrete developments. The Liberal government spent millions to encourage fracking extraction and accepted millions from interested companies. Elected Conservatives spoke at fracking events and/or occupied an executive table with the most aggressive corporation. The NDP also enjoys considerable input from the labour movement, as business partners with an oil giant involved in testing the area.
June 2013: Dundee Energy plans to invest $13.2 million in new Ontario wells and exploration to increase production. Another $2 million will be spent to map 314 kilometers of prospective shale opportunities. The corporation pays an extra $270,000 to the Ministry of Natural Resources in anticipation of future abandonment costs (pgs. 8, 28). This expansion is again reported to offset losses incurred by the American market and complication from the petro dollar (pgs. 10-13).
September 2013: Dundee’s rig is used in Lambton County, Ontario to fracture-stimulate a new well. Additional projects are planned for summer the next year.
October 2013: The Ontario Petroleum Institute holds an annual conference. This time it’s at the Windsor casino and sponsors are dwindling as companies are bought up, but Dundee Energy has attained the gold level. Seminars are provided by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Dundee itself, regarding radial jet drilling and its benefits to the fracking industry. This talk was followed by a presentation regarding the Blue Mountain shale formation and the majority of that day was dedicated to hydraulic fracturing topics. The smaller event was then closed by the Ontario Minister of Rural Affairs. It should be noted that a few days earlier, First Nations made international news with a government standoff against fracking. A Chief close to Bruce Power was also protesting the nuclear waste dump.
In other curious developments, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources defers to the oil industry as its spokesperson. Visiting the government internet page to learn about provincial resources not only misinforms about Ontario’s history (forgetting Collingwood as the first producer), but it also directs readers to the “Discovery Education Centre” as the government’s source for facts.
It just so happens the Discovery Education Centre is owned by Discovery Drilling Funds. They were purchased by LongBow Energy Corp and this business is steeped in the Alberta oil sands. Head office is located in Calgary, Alberta and one of the key executives is a former Koch Petroleum manager (of Koch Industries fame). It’s unclear why a private group of five western oil companies is now speaking for the Government of Ontario.
Regarding competition between fracking and nuclear waste, the town of Walkerton, Ontario is located at the midpoint between them. Driving half an hour west, residents will arrive at Bruce Power and driving half an hour east, they’ll arrive at the heavily promoted Collingwood oil deposits. If they dare to drive south, they’ll arrive at Sarnia’s petrochemical industry and advanced plans for fracking in Lambton County as well.
This tiny hamlet was foisted to world news when the water supply was contaminated and more than 2,300 residents became severely ill. Several died. Criminal charges were laid. The Conservative government of the day was blamed for legislation that privatized the testing of water safety. Now the same families may serve as a test, to see what happens when government policy allows fracking beside nuclear waste, fourteen years later in a repeat performance.
Everyone who obtains drinking water associated with the Great Lakes will also be affected, if any part of this experiment goes wrong. And despite Ontario denying plans to frack, taxpayers footed the bill to produce widespread tests for shale oil, in addition to yearly seminars designed to entice extraction.
These water tables come from one of the most important Precambrian aquifers. It supplies the local area and stretches deep into the United States. This underground water highway also supports Toronto and all the towns branching out along the way. The only thing that doesn’t appear to support 40 million North Americans, is politics north of the border and its friends in the energy industry. If all bureaucracies have skin in the game, who’s left to speak for the water?
David Suzuki Empowers 8,000 Youth to Wake Up Canada!
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:
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.