July 29, 2010
In late June, young workers and other volunteers from the BC Federation of Labour and the Employee Action & Rights Network protested at a McDonald's restaurant in East Vancouver.
"McDonald's and other low-wage employers in BC are real beneficiaries of the minimum wage freeze," said BC Fed president Jim Sinclair, in a media release sent out to mark the demo. "McDonald's will pay as little as possible and our low minimum wage means McDonald's workers in BC earn the lowest starting wages anywhere in Canada."
McDonald's highlights the way in which huge corporations profit from BC's below-poverty level wages. While a part time worker starting at McDonald's in St. John's would be paid $10.25 by law, in BC the same worker would be paid as little as $6.75 and could legally be paid as little as $6. Contrary to the claims of right wing economists and politicians to the effect that higher wages automatically mean higher prices, the cost of eating at McDonald's is the same in St. John's as in Vancouver. Meanwhile, a minimum wage worker in BC would have to make $13.21/hour to have a comparable standard of living to that of their Newfoundland counterparts. In other words, big business in BC is simply pocketing the "savings" from paying lower wages as higher profits.
The McDonald's protest was far from the only action against the Liberal government's wage freeze in recent months. Both the BC Fed's $10 NOW campaign, and the Living Wage campaign, have mobilized in different ways for increased wages. Many activists on these campaigns have been young workers. Some of the most exciting developments recently have been the adoption of a living wage policy by municipalities including New Westminster, and the formation of the Employee Action & Rights Network. EARN is educating non-union workers about their rights and fighting to ensure that those rights are respected at work.
The situation of wages in BC, and the living conditions of those who make those wages, may be dismal. But it looks like Gordo and the Liberals could have a rocky couple of pre-election years in store if these movements continue to grow, and to build towards involving the masses of non-union workers who are most directly affected by these issues into these excellent struggles that organized labour has launched.
CPI(M) Organises Seminar
Dusmanta Kumar Das
FOR a revolution, the task of prime importance is to identify who is your friend and who is your foe. But in our country neither the erstwhile Naxalite movement nor the present day Maoist movement has ever taken the pain of analysing the Indian situation and draw the necessary conclusions. The Maoists who swear by the name of Mao Zedong, a great revolutionary, have completely forgotten Mao’s thoughts and guidance whose main theme was: “Never forget the class struggle.”
This was the opinion expressed by Ajijul Haq, a Naxalite leader of yesteryears and a columnist today. Participating in a seminar on “Expose the Real Face of Maoists” at
Making a scathing attack on imperialist media, Ajijul Haq said every attempt is now being made to revive the reactionary ideologies. In imperialist media, even the fascist Hitler is being projected as a hero while Lenin and Mao are being projected as demons. However, Maoists have come to play in the hands of same imperialist forces, and have become the pawns in the imperialist game of attacking the Left parties of our country. As the gist, he said, “Maoists are left in words but right in deeds.” But while criticising the wrong path of Maoists, he said that no gun can finish any ideology and hence the Maoists need to be fought ideologically. Regarding the CPI(M), he said it has valiantly fought against left adventurism since the days of naxalism and is still ideologically fighting against the Maoists and their bankrupt policy.
Initiating the seminar, the CPI(M)’s Orissa state committee secretary Janardan Pati said the Maoist deviation is not new for the Indian communist movement, nor for the world, as the Communist Parties in various countries have suffered such ultra-left deviations. He said that the CPI (Moist) which was formed by the merger of the CPI(ML) (People’s War Group) and the MCCI (the effort started in 1981 and completed in 2004) have many wrong formulations which are far away from the Indian reality. Their programmatic understanding is that
Because of their wrong formulation and understanding, the Maoists are attacking the CPI(M) and other Left forces who are fighting against the wrong policy of the government which is responsible for all the misery of the people. In the process, they thus help the imperialists only. It is thus that they are now in the anti-Left bandwagon of a “Mahajot” in West Bengal, led by the Trinamul Congress, which is nothing but an anti-communist platform created by imperialist camp led by the
Participating in the seminar, CPI(M) Central Committee member and
Referring to the situation in West Bengal, Mishra told that if the Left Front is in power in
CPI(M) state secretariat member Santosh Das presided over the seminar while another secretariat member, Jagananth Mishra, made the introductory speech.
THE fallouts of the ongoing economic crisis, which has caused massive joblosses, squeezed the social security measures and adversely affected the future employment creation, overshadowed the International Labour Conference this year. This annual event of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) took place at
Gilles de Robin, a former minister in the right-centre French government, was elected president of the conference while Swiss Confederation president Ms Doris Leuthard inaugurated it. Interestingly, in the initial part of her critical speech on the market situation, she said the recession has left behind a mess in the labour market and interdependence of financial markets can very quickly cause serious problems for societies even when a problem actually originates in just one country. But she sought to convey that “globalisation is basically the result of technological changes followed by economic development which is inevitable and we hope dynamic,” and then added that “ILO is a natural partner of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO.” The conference later rejected the idea.
Following the inauguration, ILO director general Juan Somavia presented his report. At the very beginning, he condemned the “unacceptable events this week off the coast of
Somavia’s speech was primarily concerned with macroeconomic development when he specifically talked of “no sustainable recovery without job recovery.” He was highly critical of the recovery process adopted by the crisis-ridden countries. Debts and deficits are the phenomena which are further affecting the third world countries. He asked why such levels of debts and deficits occurred. “We must not forget that partsof them went to save the financial system to avert depression,” he said. He explained that the stimulus given to the financial sector had precipitated the fiscal deficit but deficit reduction would slow down the recovery, contributing in turn to an increase in unemployment. This phenomenon is not unknown as classical Marxist analysis on moribund capitalism had described it as perpetual. He acknowledged that the ILO’s estimation of 212 million unemployed in the present year is much below the reality and that “in the first part of this year we see no sign of a reduction in the global rate of unemployment.” He lamented that “political, social and financial stability are interrelated, and because of the things I have been saying, many people believe that some actors in the financial sector have broken the social contract with the society.” His prescription was to gain only through social dialogue.
The CITU representative was part of the commission on “Recurrent Discussion on Employment.” It held 11 rounds of meetings, dealing with four strategic objectives of the ILO --- employment, social protection, labour standard and social dialogue. The workers group’s spokeperson, Ms Sharan Bourrow, who later became general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), began with an analysis of the contemporary situation. Following the usual line of the ITUC, she praised the stimulus measures taken by the rich countries to save their economies from total collapse a la that in the 1930s, but had to accept that unemployment and underemployment continue to rise. Even before a separate session of the workers group was held, she declared that the workers group supports the stimulus measures. Her only criticism was that “having implemented the right macroeconomic strategy (by stimulus measures --- A G), governments have failed to move urgently to the next important task which was financial market re-regulation and curbing the power and insider relationships that exist between the largest banks, financial institutions, rating agencies and the largest equity and bond investors.” The suggestions she made for the ILO to consider were that it should insist on policy coherence and reconvene a “Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy.” This the employers group forcefully resisted. Ronie Goldbarg, spokesperson of the employers group, strongly advocated that stimulus measures should continue and that the financial sector must find out means to minimise the fiscal deficits.
The CITU representative intervened in the sessions, pointing to the emergence of a speculative market that had outgrown the manufacturing and service sectors several times. Though speculative investment has no role in employment generation, it has caused disaster in many enterprises that have thrown many out of job. He said the ILO should how to reverse the trend of rapid casualisation, increase in informal sector employment and erosion of employment generation, in order to ensure social justice. He also pointed out that the third world countries have become the suppliers of skilled workforce for which the developed countries do not pay what the former deserve to get. Also, the poor countries stand to lose productively in the process. The ILO must insist on utilisation of skilled workers by direct green field investment in the third world themselves, which are rich in primary resources. On the initial draft, the CITU representative demanded that the idea of collaboration with IMF, World Bank and WTO must be rejected as their policy prescription is itself responsible for the financial debacle. This position of the CITU received support from representatives from many other countries, and the concerned paragraph was deleted in the final draft.
Tension mounted in the commission on domestic workers, where the government of
The Committee on the Application of Standards continued its meetings parallel to the conference, and it heard complaints against the governments and employers. This year the target was
Three meetings were arranged by the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) before and during the conference. In the first meeting, a briefing was made about the conference procedure. Some countries described how they were being unjustly targeted for criticism and a kind of blockade. However, veiled attempts against the complaining countries did not get much success in the sessions due to the firm position taken by workers’ representatives from many countries of Africa, Asia and
One obvious fact was that the ITUC dominated the ILO conference; its people headed most of the committees meant for workers. In some cases, a workers group meeting appeared to be a meeting of the ITUC; they even discussed the (then ensuing) conference of the ITUC which later took place in the June end. It was clear that the WFTU has not yet regained its strength enough to counter the ITUC dominance
(Amitava Guha attended the International Labour Conference as the CITU representative.)
THE meeting of the working committee of CITU being held on July 15-17, 2010 at B T Ranadive Bhawan, New Delhi welcomes the decision taken by the national convention of workers called by almost all the central trade unions to go for countrywide general strike on September 7, 2010 against unprecedented price rise, rampant violation of labour laws, contractorisation of workforce, disinvestment of profit making public sectors and for provision of universal social security for unorganised sector workers. The convention was also participated by the representatives of several independent federations of state and central government employees, employees of banks, insurance, defence establishments and other services and establishments from all sectors of the economy.
It is unfortunate that despite remaining together in all the joint programmes held so far, and despite agreeing in principle for a countrywide general strike sometime in the first week of September 2010, BMS opted out at the last moment citing their organisational inconvenience. The national convention appealed to BMS for extending their support to the general strike on September 7.
The working committee notes that the present phase of all-in united movement is the culmination of decades-long united struggle by the trade union movement against the neoliberal policies and its fall out on the people. The ground created by such united struggles in the background of deepening economic crisis and resultant miseries faced by the workers and people has given rise to a situation where all the central trade unions in the country had to come together in the joint platform of struggle.
The united platform of struggles comprising the central trade unions and the employees federations covering almost all industries and services have already demonstrated their united resolve to fight and recorded their united protests against the anti-people policies and their fall out through “all india protest day on October 28, 2009, joint dharna before parliament on December 18, 2010 and countrywide jail bharo/satyagraha on March 5, 2010, which had drawn participation of several lakhs of the workers throughout the country.
But the government of the day appeared to remain totally unresponsive to the countrywide united protest action by the working class and has been going ahead with the same anti-people policies viz., steeply hiking the prices of kerosene, LPG, petrol and diesel again within a period of three months, allowing the employers class to rampantly violate labour laws and carrying on repression on trade union rights and pushing through the disinvestment process in the blue chip PSUs etc. The government has taken no step yet to augment the allocation for national security fund and has not yet removed the restriction of so called “poverty line” on the entitlement for the benefits under various social security/welfare schemes thereby throwing overwhelming majority of the unorganised sector workers outside the purview of those schemes.
Moreover, the government of the day has been arrogantly pushing through one after another measure on the economic policy front like allowing 100 per cent FDI on retail trade, free trade agreement with European Unions etc on the one hand and trying to impose drastic curtailment on trade union and social security rights of the workers through anti-workers changes in labour laws, privatisation of pension etc on the other which is going to have severe negative impact on the national economy and directly impact upon the life and livelihood of the mass of the working people.
In such a background the call for general strike on September 7, 2010 by the trade union movement of the country is the most important step towards heightening the united movement of the working class for a determined resistance struggle against the neoliberal policy regime.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
On July 15, 25 Justice Ride participants returned from their trip across Queensland to Alice Springs for the Defending Indigenous Rights convergence over July 6-9.
The trip to Alice Springs took four days each way, so there was plenty of time for us to get to know each other, discuss local Aboriginal rights campaigns, such as those against black deaths in custody, and take in Australia’s beautiful and ancient landscape.
The inspiring information and talks at the convergence itself had a huge impact on all of us, even those who have campaigned against the Northern Territory intervention for some time.
The range of speakers meant that every aspect of the intervention was covered in depth.
The convergence has given many of the newer activists the confidence to be more involved in campaigning; confidence they didn’t have before hearing first-hand what the intervention has meant for Aboriginal people affected by it. We clearly saw how we could support Aboriginal leadership in these remote areas.
Joss, a University of Queensland student on the Justice Ride, said: “It was clear just how strong the layer of Aboriginal leadership is, how many great thinkers are addressing ways to stop the intervention. This leadership is never acknowledged or mentioned in the mainstream media.”
A Murri woman on the bus was so inspired by the experience that she is now seriously considering running in the election in her local area of rural Queensland.
The Justice Ride also demonstrated the crucial role of trade union support for the campaign against the intervention and the bus trip itself. The Queensland Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) provided two amazing drivers who got us to Alice Springs and back safely. We also received donations from the Queensland Public Sector Union and Electrical Trades Union.
The RTBU has now invited Justice Riders to speak to its members about their experiences, and about the campaign to stop the intervention. We also plan to take our presentation to the Queensland Council of Unions and elsewhere.
We also want to build links with the Australian Education Union in the campaign against the NT government’s racist bilingual education ban. The ban means Aboriginal students, for who English may be a third or fourth language, are forced to learn in English for the first four hours of their school day. All evidence shows this has negative impacts on educational outcomes, as well as being culturally discriminatory.
We need to build support for any union members who defy the ban, and build a national campaign supporting bilingual teachers, and their students, in the NT.
We saw clearly how the intervention has sent a signal to the people of the NT and across Australia that racism is acceptable. It has emboldened some people to publicly air — and even act on — their extreme racist views.
Every participant on the bus witnessed or experienced direct racism towards Aboriginal people. There were small examples, such as Murri Justice Riders being rudely addressed without title when their (much younger) white co-travellers were addresses as sir and madam.
Aboriginal people were constantly moved on from outside shopping centres, when they were simply sitting down on public chairs. At an NT roadhouse, one of our Murri fellow travellers was told he couldn’t use the “normal” toilets and had to use a broken toilet with no door.
The inspiration the Justice Ride gave to all who took part is already felt within the Brisbane Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC). The first meeting held to discuss building public forums after the trip and convergence was attended by more than 20 people.
The meeting began planning presentations to unions, churches and university campuses. A city-wide public forum has been called for Thursday, August 12, 6.30pm at the Trades and Labour Council building in Brisbane.
One resolution passed at the Defending Indigenous Rights convergence was to build a campaign in solidarity with Aboriginal workers in the NT who are in effect working for rations cards.
Community Development Employment Projects have been turned into “work for the dole” programs. Half the welfare payments of these workers are paid onto a Basics Card, which can be used only in certain stores on certain things.
The convergence pledged to build a campaign, with support from the unions, to demand “jobs with justice”, culminating in a national day of action in September.
Many of the Justice Riders are also involved in the Brisbane music scene and are planning a big fundraising gig for local and national Aboriginal rights campaigns.
The ARC also agreed on the need to support Aboriginal candidates running in the federal election who support the demands of the Defending Indigenous Rights gathering. More than 15 new people signed up to help Murri leader and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson run for Senate.
Anne Curthoys, a participant on the original 1965 Freedom Ride that exposed racism in country NSW, and author of Freedom Ride: A Freedom Rider remembers, summed up our feelings in her message of support for the Justice Rides of 2010: “I imagine your trip was demanding, exciting, depressing and invigorating, just as ours was, and the follow-up will be of utmost importance.”
The Justice Riders have hit the ground running to build initiatives coming out of the conference and make ending the intervention and defending Aboriginal rights central issues in the election and beyond.
|English.news.cn 2010-07-28 18:18:43||FeedbackPrintRSS|
The U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington leaves for joint naval and air drills with South Korea at a naval port in Busan, South Korea, July 25, 2010. (Xinhua/Yonhap)
SEOUL, July 28 (Xinhua) -- South Korea and the United States on Wednesday wrapped up the four-day joint military drills.
The two allies continued with anti-submarine exercises in waters off the east coast of the divided Korean Peninsula on the last day of the drills, in which the two nations' troops practiced transporting logistical support for the soldiers when they face aerial, underwater and maritime threats from enemy.
Code-named "Invincible Spirit," the four-day naval and air maneuvers, starting from Sunday and involving 20 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 8,000 troops from the two nations, included anti-submarine drills, naval live-fire exercises, aerial training and computer-based simulation exercises.
It was the first in a series of similar joint exercises to be conducted in coming months, part of military "countermeasures" against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), who was blamed for sinking a South Korean warship with a torpedo in March, which took 46 lives of South Korean sailors. But Pyongyang denied any involvement.
Apart from the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises between Seoul and Washington, which will take place in the period from Aug. 16 to Aug. 26, the two allies will also stage joint military drills in waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula in September, and will conduct similar drills every month till the end of this year, in a bid to "prevent the warship sinking case from recurrence", local media reported, citing senior military sources.
In response, the DPRK on Tuesday said it did not fear "military threats" and "warnings" by the United States and South Korea, calling the war games, planned maneuvers for later this year and new sanctions threats against Pyongyang were "serious provocations " to the DPRK and "rude challenges" to the international community appealing for peace. Pyongyang also threatened a "retaliatory sacred war" against the show of joint military prowess.
China has also expressed its concern over the drills near the country, urging relevant parties to "remain calm and exercise restraint and not do anything to exacerbate regional tensions."
Editor: Mo Hong'e
|English.news.cn by David Harris|
JERUSALEM, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The past week has perhaps left the Israeli government somewhat confused as to the nature of its relationship with the new British government of Prime Minister David Cameron.
There was a collective sigh of relief in Israel when British cabinet agreed last Thursday to legislate an amendment to the country's universal jurisdiction law. That move was the start of a process that should prevent Israeli leaders from facing arrest in Britain for alleged perpetration of war crimes.
However, in the interim Cameron surprised Israel by launching strong attacks on the Jewish state during his visit to Turkey, an event that in part overshadowed the next leg of his overseas travels -- to India.
FROM ELATION TO CONCERN
As it stands, the British statute books allow for attempts to prosecute Israelis for their alleged crimes against Palestinians. On more than one occasion in recent years, Israeli leaders have been forced to cancel trips to the country because the threat of arrest hung over their heads.
Those who did land on British soil narrowly avoided capture.
In October, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke at the Labor Party's annual conference alongside then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. On the same day, Palestinians unsuccessfully attempted to have him arrested.
Four years earlier, Doron Almog, a senior Israeli general, was advised not to disembark from his plane at Heathrow because he would face arrest.
As a result of these and other cases, one involving Tzipi Livni, who was Israel's foreign minister at the time, Israel has been pressuring London to make the change.
The Labor government said it would do what it could but then lost the general election. However, Cameron picked up the mantle and promised to introduce the reform.
"At the moment anyone can apply to the courts for an arrest warrant. That is a right that the Government wants to protect," read a statement from Britain's Justice Ministry.
"However, because the evidence necessary to issue an arrest warrant may be far less than would be needed for a prosecution, the system is open to possible abuse by people trying to obtain arrest warrants for grave crimes on the basis of flimsy evidence to make a political statement or to cause embarrassment," the statement continued.
"The government has concluded, after careful consideration, that it would be appropriate to require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions before an arrest warrant can be issued to a private prosecutor in respect of an offense of universal jurisdiction," added Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.
The move was welcomed by Israel with the country's Ambassador to the Court of St. James Ron Prosor, defining it as "a step in the right direction."
With relations seemingly getting back on track and Israel immediately talking of a possible Britain role in the peace process, Cameron chose to attack Israel regarding its maritime operation to prevent a convoy of boats from bringing aid to the Gaza Strip.
The incident on May 31 led to the killing of nine people on board a Turkish ship. Israelis claimed their officers were attacked by those on board and in order to extricate themselves, the Israelis used live fire.
"What we saw happen, was taking place in international waters and this attack can only be termed as piracy. There is no other word to describe it," Cameron said of the Israeli operation as he answered questions in a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.
During his Turkish visit Cameron also referred to the Gaza Strip as a "prison camp." In clarifying that remark he said he had made a similar comment several weeks previously in the House of Commons of the British parliament.
PLEASING NO ONE
While the Britain-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) welcomed Cameron's comments in Turkey saying they reflected popular British opinion, the organization is exasperated with the universal-jurisdiction announcement.
"Disappointed is not the word. We are incredibly concerned that the British government does not seem to realize that it has a responsibility under international law to prosecute those suspected of war crimes and bring to justice those who have committed war crimes," the PSC's Director of Campaigns and Operations Sarah Colborne said on Thursday.
"What this change will do is to allow those people who have committed war crimes to walk freely in this country," she added.
Likewise the Israelis have been left with a bitter taste in their mouth. The fact that Cameron describes himself as "a critical friend of Israel," means he will not be trusted by the Jewish state in the same way its leaders confided in his two predecessors, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, according to Jonathan Rynhold, a British born senior research associate at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies near Tel Aviv.
The new strategy of Britain seems to be about appeasement, said Rynhold. He points to the British dialogue with Hezbollah, the south Lebanon-based organization with its own military wing.
"He's gone to Turkey at a time when Turkey has invited (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad, is supporting the Iranian position on the nuclear question...is inviting the Sudanese leader who is wanted for genocide, and in that environment he says all of this about Israel. You have to say that is something different and problematic," said Rynhold.
While Israelis and the U.S. pro-Israel lobby were initially concerned about the stance of United States President Barack Obama, in recent months he does appear to have given considerable credence to Israel's diplomatic position.
The British, however, appear to be moving in a different direction, so much so that Rynhold believed this could well make Israel turn to France in place of Britain as one of its main allies in Europe.
Two things stand out about the great Canadian census controversy.
The first is that there is a controversy. Who could have predicted that the federal government’s decision to eliminate something as profoundly prosaic as the mandatory long-form census questionnaire would generate such fierce opposition?
The second is the shameless hypocrisy shown by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Industry Minister Tony Clement says he’s axing the mandatory questionnaire because the state has no right to demand intrusive information, such as the number of bedrooms in a home.
Yet his is the same government that requires airlines to collect and hand over detailed personal information on everyone who flies – and then give much of it to a foreign state.
It’s also the government that last month transformed downtown Toronto into an armed camp, where police arbitrarily stopped and searched people going about their lawful business and then—equally arbitrarily—arrested and jailed scores more.
Until forced by the courts last year, Harper’s “non-intrusive” government used all of its power to keep Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik from returning to Canada.
Once Abdelrazik (who has been charged with no crime in any country) did return, this government intruded into his life to deny him the most basic rights: to work, to earn an income, to open a bank account.
So no. The Harper government is not libertarian. It has used the full muscle of the state to walk over the civil and constitutional rights of those it purports to represent.
Yet it insists that requiring a sample of Canadians to anonymously provide information on their living arrangements is an affront to freedom—this despite the fact that Ottawa’s privacy commissioner has received only three census complaints in 10 years.
What’s more unusual about this issue is that so many seem to care.
The scrapping of the census long form has been attacked by every organized group imaginable and decried editorially by newspapers of all political stripes.
Opposition to the government’s move appears to have resonance not only with those who make use of census data in their work (academics, urban planners, bankers, marketers) but with the public at large.
By resigning in protest this week over the government decision, former Statistics Canada head Munir Sheikh is on his way to becoming a national hero.
Indeed, a casual observer might think that Canadians are fixated on statistical methodology.
My guess is that most are not. Rather, it is the arbitrary and secretive nature of the government’s decision that strikes a chord. It reminds those who are suspicious of Harper why they still don’t trust him.
Most Canadians may not care whether future historians will be able to use the census to accurately track the growth over time of, say, three-car garages. But a good many instinctively disapprove of the high-handed manner in which Harper has made this calculation impossible
His handling of the census is a reminder of other equally arbitrary moves, such as proroguing Parliament to avoid defeat in the Commons.
Worse still, the otherwise inexplicable census decision leaves Harper open again to charges of being ideological—of pandering to a shadowy grouping usually referred to as his hard-line base.
Whether such a proto-Republican base even exists to any meaningful extent within the Conservative Party is an open question. But as long as enough Canadians think it does, as long as they suspect that Harper and his cronies are closet Tea Partiers, they will mistrust this prime minister.
The census controversy is not about statistics. Not in the least. It is about Stephen Harper.
Thomas Walkom's column appears Wednesday and Saturday.
Four years ago, the Toronto 18 terror case exploded in a blaze of publicity. Last week, with the conviction of the remaining two accused, it ended like a damp squib.
When details of the alleged plots were first revealed by police, it seemed to many that full-scale, Islamic terror had finally arrived in Canada. There was talk of beheading Prime Minister Stephen Harper and blowing up buildings.
To others, particularly in the Muslim community, the charges seemed too absurd to be true. Revelations that two RCMP moles were paid, respectively $4 million and $300,000, only added to those suspicions.
The story that emerged was somewhere in the middle.
Yes, there was a bomb plot. One ringleader, Zakaria Amara, admitted that when he pled guilty last year. He confessed that he had been developing a serious plan to blow up buildings in downtown Toronto as well as at an unspecified army base as part of an effort to force Canada out of the war in Afghanistan. He said, before being sentenced to life in prison, that he was heartily sorry.
Two others pleaded guilty to taking part in the bomb plot and the fourth accused in that scheme was found guilty in a judge-only trial. And yes, there was a broader attempt to set up a terrorist group. That attempt involved holding a so-called winter training camp near Washago as well as looking over a potential safe house in the northeastern Ontario village of Opasatika.
The second ringleader, Fahim Ahmad, effectively admitted that when he interrupted his own trial last month to plead guilty.
Yet, as testimony in various trials showed, this second, broader attempt never really got beyond the realm of big talk. The training camp was a comedy of errors. The ill-conceived Opasatika trip led mainly to a lot of stops at doughnut shops. Even the RCMP bug planted in the Opasatika-bound van didn’t work most of the time.
That didn’t mean the plotters weren’t trying to do something. But it did mean that, with the exception of bomb-aficianado Amara, they weren’t very good it. Police mole Mubin Shaikh, who had infiltrated the group, testified in court that by March 2006, ringleader Ahmad had become more fantasizer than doer.
Finally, the scale of the Toronto 18 plot was never as broad as the Crown initially suggested.
Of the 18 originally arrested, seven effectively had their charges dropped.
Two others pled guilty and received one more day in jail. Given that they had already spent more than three years behind bars, these were rational decisions.
One more was found guilty by a judge and immediately released after being sentenced to time already served.
Three others who pled guilty face between two and seven additional years in prison. A fourth, Amara, got life. Four await sentencing.
Meanwhile, the world has moved on. The public seems to have lost interest in the homegrown terrorism story and so has the media.
By the end, only a handful of reporters were covering the terror trial. Last week’s verdict was almost immediately overshadowed by the latest crisis: the G20 summit and the trashing of downtown Toronto.
As for the reason behind the plots, the terrorists got their wish. Unless the more war-supportive Liberals win the next election, Canadian troops are due to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2011. Not because buildings blew up in downtown Toronto, but for a much simpler reason: Canadians don’t want their soldiers there any more.
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