Monday, August 17, 2009

Is This the Cost of 127 Canadian Lives?

It is suspected that Afghan president Hamid Karzai has used a constitutional loophole to enact a controversial law that allows Muslim men to withhold food from their wives if the man's sexual desires are not met, said women's rights activists Monday.

The law, which applies to the Shia Muslim minority, contains a section saying that a man can withhold financial support for his wife if she refuses to "submit to her husband's reasonable sexual enjoyment," according to a translation by Human Rights Watch.

According to Afghan lawmakers, Karzai used a parliamentary recess to approve the law by presidential decree. With only days left to the Afghan election this latest move is an attempt to appease the Shia minority, who constitute approximately 20% of the electorate.

While Karzai was the Western-picked favourite for presidential candidate in the 2004 elections, it is evident that he is cares little for the progression of Western ideals in the country. There have been 127 Canadians lost fighting for progress and democracy in a country that has just demonstrated how futile a fight we are fighting. Did no one realize that by establishing democracy in an religious state, we were only giving Afghanistan the tools to fuse religion with a Western-appointed government?

We can talk all we want about how we are there to bring democracy. We can spend billions of dollars setting up a parliamentary system to represent the concerns and demands of the Afghan people. But when the system is actually put into action, we see that it is following all the rules of democratic proceedings, and that the people's will is being put into law. The only problem is what the Afghan people demand from their government is not what we think they should demand

We are now in a catch-22; the new law stands against all the values, efforts, and sacrifices of our troops, but we cannot interfere in the vile (yet still legal) proceedings of Afghan democracy because we ourselves have forced the system into being. It is entirely legal, despite its repulsiveness, and that is the hypocrisy of our war in Afghanistan.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Face of Prejudice

The Federal Appeals Court of Canada yesterday in a 2-1 verdict upheld their decision that Prime Minister Stephen Harper must seek repatriation of Guantanamo-held detainee Omar Khadr.

Khadr, who was brought to Gitmo as a 15-year old, has been the subject of intense debate over the jurisdiction of Canadian courts in foreign affairs. Justice Marc Nadon was the dissenting vote in the three judge appeal panel, and said that "whether Canada should seek Mr. Khadr's repatriation at the present is a matter best left to the executive."

Justice Nadon's dissent raises a whole basket of questions about the legal proceedings surrounding Khadr's case. Khadr is a Canadian citizen, therefore are we not legally required to repatriate him? Harper seems to consider Canadian citizenship as a ranked system, one in which he should be allowed to administer the benefits and Charter rights as he sees fit.

The government's failure to repatriate Khadr is an embarrassment on an international level. Canada is the only Western country who has not repatriated their citizens from Gitmo.

Lt. Cmdr William Kuebler is one of Khadr's lawyers, and has predicted that US President Barack Obama would not resist the request, if Harper were to make it.

"It’s a tremendous embarrassment, what we’ve done to this young man in terms of detention and interrogation, in terms of fabricating evidence and false allegations against him, and I can’t imagine that the Obama administration would do anything other than jump at the chance to send this young man home if the Canadian government followed this decision and asked for his return," he said.

The real question at hand should be one of justice. Khadr was 15-years old when he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier during a 2002 gunfight in Afghanistan. Does this crime in and of itself deserve a life-sentence in Gitmo? No, it does not. If a 15-year old child soldier from the Congo shot and killed an Canadian soldier, would we lock them up? No, the child would be brought to a place where they can be rehabilitated and de-programmed. Since 2004, more than 2 300 children worldwide have been received by UNICEF-founded rehabilitation and reintegration centers around the world.

Did Khadr kill the American soldier? Indisputably. Did he believe that he was doing a good deed? Probably. Did he hate American soldiers? Likely. Did he come to this conclusion of his own accord? No. Everything that caused him to kill the American soldier was a result of his father's brainwashing, and regardless of Khadr's age right now, he deserves the same chance at rehabilitation as any other child soldier.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

2009 vs. the Dark Ages?

In the high-profile trial of Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien, the residing judge made the decision not to use corroborating evidence for the Crown's key witness because it was given by a mother who commutes to work.

Mr. "Justice" Douglass Cunningham of the Ontario Superior Court is 69 years old and chose to disregard the evidence given in court and under oath by Queen's Park politician Lisa MacLeod because he felt she was "distracted."

MacLeod is a 34 year old wife and mother who commutes during the week from Ottawa to Toronto for her job in Queen's Park. Judge Cunningham said that this is a big distraction for her, and as a result he could not accept her testimony as corroborative evidence.

Nancy Peckford is the national director for Equal Voice, an organization promoting women in public office, and she hit the bull on the nose when she told Globe & Mail reporters that "it is unfortunate that any woman in Ms. MacLeod's situation may be regarded as less reliable because of the demands placed on her life as a politician...Would the same approach have been taken with a male politician who is commuting and has a young family at home? Probably not."

Why is it that in our modern, 21st century society women are still expected to place child-care as their top priority in life? Men can have careers and families without anyone judging them for neglecting their children; in fact, the "absent/working dad" syndrome is so commonplace and accepted in our society that it is almost cliche. Yet reverse the situation and a woman who prioritizes her career is instantly rebuked and negated for having abandoned her children and family. We do not know every detail of Ms. MacLeod's life story, and no one, especially a judge, has the right to assume her thoughts and feelings about the cost of her job as a politician on family life.

If a Toronto mother witnessed a murder in Detroit while on a business trip, would her witness testimony be ignored on the grounds that she must have been too "distracted" at the time of the crime to provide substantial evidence?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

The Roman Catholic diocese of Antigonish, N.S on Friday announced a $13 million settlement to victims of sexual abuse stemming as far back as 1950.

The class-action lawsuit was initiated by Ronald Martin and covers anyone who claims to have been abused by any priest of the Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Antigonish since 1950. The suit was filed last year, and claimed that the Pope instructed the church to institute a policy that would keep sex-abuse allegations against priests secret, under threat of excommunication.

How is it that the Roman Catholic Church can blatantly justify and defend sexual predators, such as the priests of Antigonish, and not face immense international condemnation? While Vatican City's refusal to join the United Nations makes it immune from sanctions and punishment on a global scale, it also allows this tiny state to essentially govern free of any binding international commitments or regulations.

Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that member states must "take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence...including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardians, or any other person who has care of the child."

It's no surprise that Vatican City has not joined the United Nations; many of the UN resolutions work to limit the exploitation and abuse of children around the world. What would happen if the Church was forced to actually enforce international abuse laws against their own priests and clergymen?

There wouldn't be enough priests left to fill a church.