Published: Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Last Build Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:09:23 -0500
Mon, 05 Dec 2016 15:00:00 -0500Canadian Prime Minister and woke bae Justin Trudeau earned some well-deserved mockery for his fawning statement praising long-time Cuban dictator Fidel Castro upon his death last week. Among Trudeau's more guffaw-inducing platitudes were his description of the self-declared Maximum Leader who ruled over his island nation as "a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century." Conceding the tyrant who denied his subjects any rights of free expression or the ability to leave the country without permission was "a controversial figure," Ottawa's pretty-boy-wonder breathlessly declared Castro "made significant improvements to the education and healthcare" of Cuba. Reason contributor Marian Tupy took on this oft-repeated claim by Castro supporters and apologists, but the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" columnist Glenn Kessler focused specifically on Trudeau's statement, ultimately awarding the prime minister "Three Pinocchios" for his willful gullibility. Kessler writes: Trudeau appears to accept outdated Cuban government spin as current fact. The reality is that education and health care were already relatively vibrant in Cuba before the revolution, compared with other Latin American countries. While the Castro regime has not let that slip — and given greater access to the poor — it is a stretch to claim Castro was responsible for "significant improvements," especially more recently. Many other Latin American countries made far more dramatic strides in the past six decades, without the need for a communist dictatorship; Cuba simply had a head start when Castro seized power. Noting that "police states generally are not known to provide accurate numbers," Kessler concedes it is hard to definitively compare the Cuban government's stated accomplishments with other countries that were able to instill social welfare reforms while also maintaining a modicum of economic and political freedom. That said, Kessler cites data compiled by Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a Cuba specialist affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh, which shows that "from 1989 to 2014, the number of hospital beds [in Cuba] declined 29 percent, hospitals fell 37 percent and family doctors plummeted 61 percent." Kessler adds: Reporters have also documented that Cuban hospitals are ill-equipped. A 2004 series on Cuba's health-care system in Canada's National Post said pharmacies stock very little and antibiotics are available only on the black market. "One of the myths Canadians harbor about Cuba is that its people may be poor and living under a repressive government, but they have access to quality health and education facilities," the Post said. "It's a portrait encouraged by the government, but the reality is sharply different." As far as education, Mesa-Lago is quoted as saying, "Cuba probably has the best-educated population in the region, but the considerable investment in human resources is partly lost due to the low wages paid and lack of incentives that force professionals to emigrate or stay but abandon their state work and shift to private nonprofessional activities that allow them to survive." This is a long way of saying that in impoverished communist Cuba, a great many highly educated people are better able to provide for themselves as cab drivers and cooks than as doctors and scientists. But Trudeau, convinced of Castro's "tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people," has no time to look into how the deceased ex-dictator broke his country while living like a king. According to Kessler, the prime minister's office declined to cite any facts to back up the statement on Castro, but did offer, "Canadians have had an unwavering commitment to the Cuban people for decades" and that Trudeau's statement would speak for itself.[...]
Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:30:00 -0500The task force charged with advising the Canadian government about how to legalize marijuana delivered its report this week. Although the report won't be released to the public until December 21 or thereabouts, National Post columnist John Ivison has the scoop on its major recommendations. It sounds like the panelists learned from some of the mistakes made in Colorado and Washington—in particular, the policies that have helped preserve a black market. "The key recommendation of the panel charged with outlining the framework for Canada's legal marijuana regime is that the system should be geared toward getting rid of the $7-billion-a year black market," Ivison writes. "All the other recommendations flow from that guiding principle." The task force cautions against prioritizing revenue from marijuana taxes, which has been a major selling point for legalization measures in the U.S., because high tax rates make legal merchants less competitive with black-market dealers. "To eat into the black market," Ivison says, "the report is expected to recommend prices should be lower than the street price of $8-$10 a gram." That's $6 to $7.50 in U.S. dollars, which is substantially lower than the prices typically charged by state-licensed retailers in Colorado and Washington. Grams at Medicine Man in Denver, for example, currently range from $12 to $14 (including taxes). Uncle Ike's in Seattle offers a "cheap pot" special for $7 a gram, but prices otherwise range from $10 to $19. Concerns about a lingering black market also inform the task force's recommendations concerning a minimum purchase age. "Provinces will set the legal age for marijuana consumption," Ivison writes, "but the report is likely to recommend the limit be the age of majority—18 in six provinces; 19 in B.C., Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the three territories—which would keep many young people from turning to criminal sources." In the U.S., by contrast, all eight states that have legalize marijuana for recreational use have set the minimum age for buying, possessing, and consuming cannabis at 21, the same as the purchase age for alcohol. That decision exposes adults younger than 21 to criminal penalties for harmless activities (such as passing a joint) that are legal for their slightly older friends and siblings. It also helps keep the black market alive as a source of pot for college-age cannabis consumers who are not allowed to patronize legal retailers. Another consumer-friendly policy reportedly recommended by the task force would allow home delivery of cannabis by mail, the way medical marijuana is currently distributed in Canada. Home delivery was not part of the first four state legalization initiatives approved in the U.S., but it was included in the measures that passed in California and Massachusetts last month. Each Canadian province will decide whether marijuana should also be available from storefronts. Ivison notes that Ontario might sell marijuana at its provincially owned liquor stores, although that idea is controversial among people who worry about encouraging consumers to mix bud with booze. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government won't necessarily follow the task force's recommendations. It is expected to introduce legislation next April, and legal recreational sales could start as soon as January 2018.[...]
Wed, 02 Nov 2016 12:18:00 -0400The Montreal Police Department spied on a journalist's phone for months, and they did it legally by obtaining 24 surveillance warrants which police used to track his location through the phone's GPS, and also keep an eye on his incoming and outgoing text messages. La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé was quoted by The Guardian as saying, "I was living in the fiction that police officers wouldn't dare do that, and in the fiction that judges were protecting journalists – and hence the public – against this type of police intrusion." The Ottawa Citizen reports Lagacé also said, "I'm not an investigative journalist and they did this to me," adding, "this is now free game and not taboo anymore." What was so important that both the police and justice of the peace felt the concept of a free press was standing in the way of public safety? An internal police investigation called Projet Escouade, which involved investigating allegedly corrupt officers accused of fabricating evidence in drug-related cases, and which has led to five officers' arrests. The police's spying on Lagacé's phone revealed that one of these officers had been in contact with Lagacé. Montreal Police Chief Philippe Pichet gave a press conference on Monday where he reportedly paid lip service to the importance of a free press but also defended his department's actions because "We do have a responsibility to investigate all types of crimes involving officers," adding, ""What is important for me is that all regulations were followed." Lagacé responded to Pichet's press conference by telling the Ottawa Citizen, "Lives were not at stake, this was not a question of national security," and asserted that his writing about the alleged corruption "made them look bad, that's why they decided to go after me in the way they did." Lagacé added, "There is a real witch-hunt going on at the Montreal police department. It has been going on for years, they have been trying to find out who dare speaks to reporters." Montreal's Mayor Denis Coderre called the matter "troubling" and the city's public safety commission will be examining the issue, but will do so behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny. The Guardian notes: The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression said it had sent a letter to the mayor of Montreal and the city's police force demanding that the practice of spying on journalists be condemned. "It really fits an extremely troubling pattern around policing and security agencies in Canada," said Tom Henheffer of the organisation. Recently Québec police seized the computer of a reporter from the Journal de Montréal over concerns that he had illegally obtained information for a story. Their actions followed revelations that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had followed two journalists for nine days without any kind of authorisation and came as the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] RCMP is engaged in legal action aimed at forcing Vice Media to hand over background materials relating to a series of stories on a suspected terrorist. The judge's justification for approving the warrants remains a mystery until November 24, when the warrants are scheduled to be made available to the public. CBC News interviewed Christopher Parsons of the Canadian Telecom Transparency Project at Citizen Lab, who said that the spying might not have been made "legal" by anti-terrorism statutes, as some suspect, but an anti-cyberbullying law called Bill C-13 that permits police to "track an object, person, or transmission of data if the authorities have the suspicion or belief that doing so could assist an investigation." From CBC News: Parsons said that Bill C-13 was "sold to the Canadian public as necessary to stop cyberbullying," but applies to the general public. "These orders that were used to conduct surveillance on the journalist and his respective sources, those are all powers that can be used in ongoing investigations, so most Canadian citizens will be subject to them," he said. What's more, the target of such surv[...]
Fri, 28 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) In British Columbia, retired road engineer David Pacey has pleaded not guilty to two counts of damaging flora, fauna or a natural object in a national park. Pacey has repaired and cleared of debris some five kilometers of existing trails in Kootenay National Park. He says officials at Parks Canada are just angry with him for doing the job they should be doing.
Mon, 24 Oct 2016 15:50:00 -0400
(image) The European Union has failed to get approval for a trade deal with Canada (CETA) after one of the five regional governments in Belgium rejected the deal, which would have been the first the EU struck with a country in the G-7. The other 27 member states of the EU all consented to the deal.
All the other member countries approved the trade deal, but Belgium's federal government needed approval from its regional parliament and the French-speaking socialist government in Wallonia refused to endorse it, citing concerns about its impact on employment and consumer safety. It also claimed the deal jeopardized "social and environmental standards and the protection of public services" and objected to non-government arbitration.
The Belgian federal government held a crisis meeting of regional leaders, where Paul Magnette, the minister-president of Wallonia, said his government would not budge. "Every time you try to put an ultimatum it makes a calm debate and a democratic debate impossible," Magnette told reporters in Brussels. "We don't need an ultimatum. We will not decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure."
An EU-Canada summit was planned for Thursday, where Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was supposed to sign the accord. His trip to Brussels may be delayed if the EU can't secure Belgium's support for the deal before then.
The EU and Canada have been negotiating the trade deal for seven years. If the EU is unable to approve it, it will call into question negotiations with Japan and the United States, both of which have been ongoing since 2013, and more broadly the EU's ability to operate as a cohesive free trade bloc that can enter into trade agreements with other countries and blocs.
Anti-free trade parties have been on the rise across Europe as America's major party presidential candidates have also embraced anti-free trade rhetoric and policies despite its crucial role in increased prosperity worldwide.
Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:05:00 -0400
(image) 2016 has been an absolutely dismal year for the prospects of free trade, what with the two major party presidential candidates working to outdo each other on who can be the most protectionist. Last week things got even worse with news that a trade war is brewing between the United States and—wait for it—Canada.
On Wednesday the U.S. Lumber Coalition—which represents this country's timber industry—put out a press release saying that it had "no choice but to move to initiate trade cases against" Canada for the allegedly unfair practices of its logging industry.
These actions came on the heels of the expiration of the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) on October 12. The SLA was signed back in 2006 as means of ending a decadeslong trade conflict between the United States and its northern neighbor over the supposed dumping of cheap Canadian lumber onto the U.S. market, to the detriment of American loggers.
The U.S. lumber industry's complaint centers around "stumping" fees Canadian provinces charge timber companies to log on publicly owned land. American loggers assert that these fees are too low and thus amount to an unfair subsidization of a domestic industry.
Since 1986, the U.S. Department of Commerce has tended to agree with American loggers, imposing trade duties that at times have reached as high 27 percent on Canadian imports.
But this has prompted counteraction from the Canadians, who have repeatedly dragged the U.S. before North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization tribunals. Both bodies, in turn, have ruled multiple times against the U.S.'s protectionist actions. The most significant of these ruling came in March 2006 when a NAFTA panel ordered the U.S. to refund to Canada some $5 billion in import duties.
These international rebukes at last brought the U.S. to the table, and in July of that year, American and Canadian officials signed the landmark SLA. Under the terms of the deal, Canadian provinces would adopt a series of self-imposed duties and quotas designed to limit Canadian exports to at most 34 percent of the U.S. market. In exchange, the American timber industry agreed to drop its complaints over those notorious stumping fees.
For a blessed 10 years under this managed trade deal, relative peace prevailed, but with the expiration of the accord last week, that delicate calm looks like it's about to to shatter.
The result is likely to be higher prices for U.S. consumers, along with mill closures and job losses north of the border. And all this is happening under President Barack Obama, a man who at least pays lip service to free trade. It's hard to imagine the prospects for open lumber trade will get better under either of his likely successors.
Wed, 12 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) Parents of students in Ontario's Durham school district are furious that teachers are taking food they have sent to school with their children away from them. They say foods including raisins, chocolate milk, granola bars, banana bread and Animal Crackers have been taken away from their children because a teacher said those foods are unhealthy. And since it's individual teachers making the decisions about what is and isn't healthy, foods that are OK in one school may be banned in another and foods that may be OK in one classroom of a school will be confiscated in another classroom in the same school.
Tue, 04 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) Officials at Toronto's Jackman Avenue Junior Public School recently let parents know just how upset they are with their children. Specifically, students are tossing juice boxes into the garbage instead of recycling bins. And when they do manage to put them in the bins, they leave the straws in. Jackman has the school district's highest "EchoSchools" rating, and officials don't want any children screwing it up, so they have banned juice boxes.
Mon, 26 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) An Ontario high school teacher is under investigation after allegedly telling a student to "lick me where I fart." Jennifer Elizabeth Green-Johnson reportedly has a history of disciplinary actions taken against her by the local school system and the provincial teacher licensing body, including a 30-day suspension in January. According to press reports, she slapped one student on the head and told him to grow some balls, called another a "bloody pedophile" and called various other students stupid, gay, idiots and a bitch.
Mon, 12 Sep 2016 11:17:00 -0400
(image) As Jacob Sullum notes, anybody trying to enter the United States from a foreign country who has used a controlled substance is inadmissible without a special waiver. This law often trips up Canadians driving into the country from the Great White North and Sullum writes about concertgoers being kept out, a medical doctors denied entry simply because he'd written a journal article detailing decades-ago use of psychedelics, and a former Canadian football player who had been convicted of possessing a joint 30 years prior to his attempted visit.
But if America is serious about keeping out potheads from Canada and really wants to send a message, we should insist on an all-points-bulletin for the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Young, hip, and hunky, Trudeau has never made a secret of his past pot use. And yet, there was earlier this year, toasting his spiritual "sibling" (and another admitted pot user) Barack Obama at the White House! In 2013, he told Huffington Post Canada:
Trudeau said he's smoked pot five or six times in his life. "It has never really done anything for me," he later told HuffPost in an email.
"When the joint went around the room, I usually passed it around to the next person," he said.
"(But) sometimes throughout my life, I've had a pull on it."
"Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I'm not really crazy about it."
Drugs, Trudeau said, were never his thing. He also described himself as not much of a drinker. He has never smoked cigarettes and doesn't drink coffee.
Even worse, there's this statement of personal responsibility that would be ruinous to our own war on drugs:
Trudeau said that his decision to smoke pot was personal and that adults should be allowed to make their own decisions.
Trudeau is also outspoken in his desire to legalize marijuana and treat it akin to alcohol. He also notes that all sorts of international treaties make that tougher than it should be.
Somebody get Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on the horn and make sure he knows about this. It may help the prohibitionist legislator in his pernicious quest to sink criminal-justice reform on the grounds that currently illegal drugs are inherently violent commodities. Certainly, President Barack Obama, no stranger to the bong himself, seems at least half-heartedly committed to keep marijuana illegal. Despite the apparent spectacle of one of his daughters lighting up, about 600,000 people will be arrested for pot-related crimes this year.
Aren't our elected leaders supposed to set examples for the rest of us, who are incapable of making our own life choices?
Hat Tip: rachel gurstein
Mon, 12 Sep 2016 08:41:00 -0400Citizens of other countries can legally visit the United States if they've been convicted of driving under the influence, breaking and entering, smuggling, assault, or involuntary manslaughter—but not if they have ever smoked pot, dropped acid, or snorted cocaine, even if it happened decades ago and they were never charged with a drug offense. Under Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, "any alien...who admits having committed acts which constitute the essential elements of...a violation of (or a conspiracy or attempt to violate) any law or regulation of a State, the United States, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance...is inadmissible." That rule has been on the books since 1987, but it is only fitfully (and arbitrarily) enforced, so it continues to ensnare unwary tourists who do not realize that candidly answering questions about past drug use can end a trip before it begins. The CBC recently described two such cases. In 2014, it reports, Matthew Harvey "was driving from Vancouver to Seattle for a concert when a customs officer noticed a marijuana magazine in his car," which prompted questions about his marijuana use. Harvey answered honestly, thinking it was no big deal, especially since he used marijuana legally for medical purposes in Canada and was on his way to a state where it was legal for recreational use. But marijuana is still completely prohibited by federal law, which is the relevant point as far as Section 212 goes. Although Harvey has worked in British Columbia's marijuana industry, his lawyer says that had nothing to do with the decision to bar him from the United States, which was based entirely on his admission that he had smoked pot recreationally as an adult. Now Harvey would like to take his 3-year-old daughter to Disneyland, but first he must obtain a "waiver of ineligibility." The application costs $585, whether or not a waiver is granted, and that fee will rise to $930 later this year. The waiver must be renewed as often as once a year, depending on the term chosen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another Vancouver resident, Alan Ranta, was on his way to a music festival in Washington last July when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers found a purse humorously labeled "weed money" in his car, which led to questions about Ranta's drug use. "I answered truthfully," he told the CBC. "I said I had smoked [weed]. That led to followup questions on how much I smoked, where had I smoked it, and when I smoked." None of those details actually matters under Section 212. As long as Ranta consumed cannabis when he was 18 or older, even if it was just once, he is "inadmissible." Other examples of Canadians turned away at the border because of illegal drug use include Myles Wilkinson, a fantasy football player with a 1981 conviction for marijuana possession who in 2013 won a trip to the Super Bowl he was not allowed to take, and Andrew Feldmar, a psychotherapist who was prevented from visiting his children, friends, and colleagues in the U.S. because a CBP officer's web search turned up a journal article in which Feldmar discussed his experiences with LSD and other psychedelics in the 1960s. Unlike Harvey and Ranta, who incriminated themselves, Wilkinson and Feldmar were tripped up by publicly available information. For travelers who have a choice, Harvey recommends a strategy of "deny, deny, deny." Len Saunders, an American immigration lawyer consulted by the CBC, suggests a less legally perilous approach: "Saunders' advice to Canadians asked about their past marijuana use at the border is to refuse to answer the question. They may be held for several hours, but there is no legal requirement, he says, to answer the question." [Thanks to Marc Sandhaus for the tip.][...]
Tue, 06 Sep 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) In Smithers, British Columbia, North Central Plumbing and Heating spent $10,000 to build a 30-foot sidewalk that goes nowhere. The nearest sidewalk is 500 meters away. The problem is that a local ordinance requires developers doing more than $75,000 in construction or repairs to build public infrastructure outside their premises. That law was triggered when the company moved to a new building and remodeled it.
Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:30:00 -0400A French citizen who sees Muslim women wearing full-body swimwear at the beach and loudly declares the burkini a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny is committing a crime: insulting people based on their religion, which is punishable by a fine as high as €22,500 and up to six months in jail. By contrast, a French politician who imposes a ban on the burkini because he considers it a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny will not be arrested and probably will prevail against any legal challenge, as long as he frames the ban in terms of security, equality, and/or social harmony. As Asma T. Uddin, director of strategy at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, explains in a New York Times op-ed piece, the European Court of Human Rights has upheld bans on burqas, veils, and head scarves based on the premise that women who wear them "are simultaneously victims, in need of a government savior, and aggressors, spreading extremism merely by appearing Muslim in public." Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights ostensibly guarantees an individual's "right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," including his right "in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance." But Article 9 also allows restrictions on religious freedom "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." When French Prime Minister Manuel Valles says the burkini is a tool for "the enslavement of women," or Cannes Mayor David Lisnard says "the burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion," they are implicitly appealing to those Article 9 exceptions. Uddin cites a 2001 case in which the European Court of Human Rights rejected a Swiss public school teacher's challenge to a rule preventing her from wearing a head scarf in the classroom. The court worried that "the wearing of a head scarf might have some kind of proselytizing effect" and that the custom is "hard to square with the principle of gender equality," meaning a teacher so attired would be ill-equipped to impart "the message of tolerance, respect for others and, above all, equality and nondiscrimination that all teachers in a democratic society must convey to their pupils." In 2005 the court upheld an Istanbul University policy that prevented a medical student from wearing a head scarf while taking an exam, concluding that the ban furthered gender equality and aided the government in "fighting extremism." A 2014 ruling said France's ban on face-covering veils promoted harmonious coexistence. The commodious exceptions to Article 9 are reminiscent of the all-purpose limitation on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 1 of which allows "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." Among other things, that loophole has been used to uphold bans on so-called hate speech, notwithstanding the "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression" that the charter supposedly guarantees. It may seem that Section 1, which also qualifies the "freedom of conscience and religion" promised by the charter, would be a handy excuse for restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. But Canadian courts do not seem to share the French passion for coercive secularism. Last year the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a rule that would have required a Muslim woman to shed her veil while taking a public oath of citizenship. The court resolved the case on statutory grounds and therefore did not reach the constitutional issue. But in 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a Muslim wom[...]
Tue, 26 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) Quebec's Human Rights Council has ordered comedian Mike Ward to pay $35,000 to a singer he made jokes about in his standup act. Jeremy Gabriel has a condition which causes facial deformities. Ward joked he defended Gabriel's poor performance when singing before the Pope Benedict XVI because he thought he was dying only to find out he was not. The court ruled Ward's remarks infringed on Gabriel's rights to "dignity, honor and reputation."
Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) At just 60 pounds, Sheldon is smaller than some dogs. But under Hamilton, Ontario, law, the pot-bellied pig is considered a farm animal and therefore banned. Officials have told his owner, Diane Hines, she has to get rid of him. She's trying to get officials to overturn that law.