The eternal power of the written word

by Aaron Wherry

Jason Kenney explains the inspiration for his exchange with Amnesty International.

“I’m of the view that if you’re in a political forum making unfounded and unfair criticisms of government policy, expect to be called on it. My model in this is Stéphane Dion’s letter writing campaign against Jacques Parizeau and the PQ. I think it was very instructive to see a minister point out flaws in his adversary’s arguments. I think that’s what democratic discourse is all about . . . If they want to have a debate on these issues, fine. Let’s have one. That means I get my say.”

Mr. Dion’s skills, meanwhile, are being put to use as the Liberals discover the game of modern political fundraising.




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The eternal power of the written word

  1. It seems Cons can’t do anything original. In spite of constantly criticizing them, the Cons copy Libs at every turn. LOL

    • No kidding. Seems the only reason they hated everything the Liberals did was because they weren’t allowed in on the party.

      Honestly though, for all the lack of difference in many ways, at least the Liberals didn’t have a potty mouth most of the time and acted with some decorum.

      These Cons however are an embarassment to the name.

      • True, Conservatives used to be a ‘gentlemens’ party’….they didn’t toss off cloddish ‘letters’ in response to a reminder of their legal obligations.

        • What specific legal obligations are you referring to?  Did you even read the letter?

          • I did, apparently you didn’t.

            “Minister, all of these concerns and recommendations arise from Canada’s binding obligations under international human rights and international criminal law. ”

          • Did you understand Kenney’s response that Canada is meeting and in fact exceeding all of our legal obligations? 

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            Well since we’re not, and the best thing Jason can come up with is ‘trust me’…his remarks are irrelevant.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            Kenney’s response is “irrelevant”?  Are you sure you understand what you’re talking about?  Because it seems very much like you haven’t got a clue.

            How are we not meeting our legal obligations, exactly?

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            Gawd this thing has been explained to you repeatedly.

            We are under a legal obligation by treaty to go after war criminals living in this country with criminal law, not immigration deportion rules.

            And certainly not by ‘wanted posters’!

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            Thanks for confirming that you didn’t understand Kenney’s point.  Canada has zero legal obligation to criminally charge and try suspected human rights violators who are in this country illegally.  What specific treaty are you referring to?  You haven’t got a clue. All you can do is repeat the same vague claims over and over, with zero evidence to support them.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            It’s obvious you haven’t understood word one of this situation from the beginning.

            Until you improve your reading skills, don’t bother posting to me.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus
            That’s just sad. Do you honestly think you’re fooling anyone with your infantile bullsh*t?

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            What is sad is that you know nothing about the ICC and the Rome Statute and our legal, not to mention humanitarian, obligations.  Moreover you are willing to let supposed ‘war criminals’ run free…let someone else look after it.

            Not surprising I suppose, seeing as you only show up here to attack me….and can’t even read simple instructions.

            Now sod off.

          • @OriginalEmily1:disqus 

            Ha! Can you cite the specific article of the Rome Statute that you think defines Canada’s treaty obligations that are relevant to this case?

            On the other hand, is the “Rome Statute” just the first thing that popped up when you googled the words “war crime treaty”?

            Nice try, though. It’s a step up from your usual nonsense.

          • I think it’s probably true that we’re under no specific legal obligation to bring international war criminals to justice.  That said, the fact that we’re not going to even try in these cases makes this a bit of a “good news” story for Canada’s immigration system then, doesn’t it?

            After all, these are supposedly the 30 worst international war criminals hiding in Canada that we’re aware of, and no one anywhere – not in Ottawa, not in their home countries, not in the Hague, not in the countries where their crimes are alleged to take place – is apparently interested in prosecuting them for their crimes.  So, either the evidence against them is way too flimsy for us to be getting so excited over this, or what they did couldn’t be that bad. 

            If these men were as bad as they’re made out to be by the Minister, and the evidence against them is so compelling, then I’m confident someone would want these men behind bars.  If not internationally, then I’m confident our “law and order” Tories would step up and do what’s right.  I tend to agree with the Minister that we can’t be spending taxpayer dollars to “conduct full-blown trials, at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars, to prosecute every inadmissible individual for crimes committed in distant countries” and that doing so might “burden an already-strained legal system and clog our courts with foreign criminals”.  Fair enough.  However, that said, if not ONE of the thirty WORST international war criminals hiding in Canada is worth the expense it would take to bring them to justice in the eyes of Stephen Harper’s “law and order” Conservatives, then we must be doing an OUTSTANDING job of keeping the really bad guys out of the country.

            If an NDP government was rounding up 30 international war criminals with the intent of setting them free to resume their lives outside of Canada instead of working to bring them to justice for their crimes maybe I’d be more concerned.  However, given that it’s Stephen Harper’s “law and order” Conservatives who are letting these men go, I guess either they aren’t that bad, or there wasn’t enough evidence against them to actually convict any of them of anything serious.

            As I said, it seems to me that if the 30 worst international war criminals in the whole country aren’t even worth prosecuting for their crimes, then we must be doing an excellent job of keeping serious international criminals out of Canada.

          • Most of these guys are probably on the level of grunts who are guilty of participating in decades-old atrocities–machine-gunning villagers, etc.–where they were “just following orders”.  There are literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of low-level human rights violators around the world who match this description, and most of these guys will never be tried for their crimes.  That still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find those who are in Canada illegally and deport them.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus

            I’m tellin’ ya, these guys seem less and less dangerous all the time.  It’s almost as if the Minister of Immigration is vastly overstating their importance in order to score political points and make a relatively routine operation look like a dramatic hunt for dangerous international fugitives!

            I guess at least I should feel much better about the fact that apparently no one is going to try to prosecute any of them for the crimes they’ve allegedly committed.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus

            You’re right CR, I’m feeling better about this all the time.  Some of these “most wanted” were just common soldiers in wars where crimes were committed.  At least one of them hasn’t been in Canada since 1993 apparently, so I guess we’ll have to wait until he comes back across the border before we can deport him.

            Deporting him back to the country where he was a soldier is going to be tough though (even if he ever comes back in to Canada) since he has since become a U.S. citizen.  How a wanted war criminal (one of the 30 most wanted war criminals in Canada no less – except for the whole not being in Canada part) ended up getting U.S. citizenship is pretty shocking I suppose.  Oh yeah, that’s right, he’s not actually wanted on war crimes charges anywhere in the world.

            Anyway, given that he’s still on CBSA’s “most wanted” website, do you suppose Sun News should have told CBSA that he’s working as a pastor in N.Y.?  I mean, I guess if he and his family go ahead with the lawsuit, CBSA is bound to hear about it, but it seems silly to take up a spot in their most wanted top 30 in the meantime with someone who’s no longer in Canada.  And do you suppose we should send a note of diplomatic protest to Washington that not only are they harbouring a “war criminal” we’ve been looking for, but they actually went so far as to give him American citizenship?

  2. We should have more democratic discourse in the Dion and Kenney epistolary model.  It’s refreshing to see a minister pointing out the flaws in his adversary’s arguments so directly and so skilfully.

    • That some of that sarcasm Kenney used, right?

    • Agreed, and so open about where he got the model from.

      • Except Dion wasn’t being a sarcastic prick, unbecoming of a minister responding to a citizen concern.

        Kenney did that all on his own.

  3. LOL

    At least he didn’t compare himself to Thomas Jefferson corresponding with John Adams!!!

    • Oh, have you read the book? Wow, amazing, truly enjoyable!!

      • Haven’t read the book (I presume you mean this), but it’s on my “to read” list.

        Have you seen the HBO John Adams miniseries?  It’s excellent.  It also makes me think that the collection of letters between John Adams and his wife Abigail would be fascinating reading.  She seems to have been an invaluable advisor and confidant to her husband, and I love the fact that she makes this sentence possible: She was the first Second Lady of the United States, and the second First Lady of the United States.  (And, of course, she was the mother of the sixth President of the United States).

        • Sorry about the late reply!

          I loved the miniseries and I love the book! She was on smart woman and very compassionate and kind!

  4. He’s joking right?

  5. I know Stéphane Dion.  Mr. Kenney, you are no Stéphane Dion.

    • Thank God!!!!!

      • Yeah, all Dion did was write cogent and articulate letters shredding the arguments of a group dedicated to breaking up the country.

        Kenney had the gumption to write a sarcasm-laden attack on an international human rights group for the temerity of wanting to ensure that the Canadian government ensure respect for the due process of law, and do whatever they can to bring justice to the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

        • “Yeah, all Dion did was write cogent and articulate letters ….”

          Dion did more than write letters because, so far, Libs are only party to try and form Government with BQ. 

          “The Liberals and New Democrats signed an agreement on Monday to form an unprecedented coalition government, with a written pledge of support from the Bloc Québécois, if they are successful in ousting the minority Conservative government in a coming confidence vote.”
          http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2008/12/01/coalition-talks.html

          • Dion did more than write letters because, so far, Libs are only party to try and form Government with BQ.

            LOL  Your statement is contradicted by the first eight words of your supporting quote.

        • I really can’t understand why this bothers you so much. His tone? Seems petty

          • Yes, his tone does seem petty. Our politicians are supposed to be better than that.  At least when they correspond with outside organizations.

          • No, I was referring to criticism of his(Kenney) tone as being petty

          • If they’re “war criminals” I believe that we have a duty to do something (ANYTHING) to try to see if we can help bring them to justice for their crimes, not just stick them on the next flight out of Canada and wash our hands of them.  If no one anywhere on the planet shows the least bit of interest in charging any of them with a crime beyond being in Canada illegally, then we shouldn’t hold four separate press conferences declaring them “war criminals”, and put on the CBSA website that it’s already “been determined” that they committed acts in contravention of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or international law.

            It seems to me that we’re either deporting war criminals with no effort to see that they’re brought to justice, or we’re calling immigration law violators “war criminals” so that the government’s actions can appear tougher and more meaningful and impactful than they really are.

            It seems transparent to me that the government wants the public to give them credit for both deporting illegals AND going after international war criminals, without any of the hassle of actually going after the war criminals for their crimes.

            It also worries me a bit that one of the people we’ve been trying to track down to deport has been living in N.Y. since 1993 (he’s still on the website though… I guess they’re waiting for him to come back to Canada so we can deport him) and the evidence that he’s a war criminal is apparently so strong that the U.S. gave him American citizenship a few years back.

          • OK that’s fair.

  6. Well. I know I feel better now.

  7. Anybody know where I might be able to find these letters from M. Dion to M. Parizeau? I’d be very interested to read them (I suspect these might be the letters/articles I read back in undergrad, but I’m pretty hazy on who the intended audience was).

    As for Mr. Kenney’s letter – I was thinking last night about the old CBC debates from the ’60s between Trudeau and Levesque. The most striking thing about them was the exceptional level of civility displayed between two men with fundamentally different conceptions of Canada – these men were diametrically opposed on the most fundamental question this nation has ever faced and yet they still spoke to each other politely and eloquently debated their positions.

    • There is discourse, and then there is civil discourse.

      • What we get now is course dissing.

    • We may have to resort to this, lol

      Quebec bans ‘weathervane’ insult ”In a bold move to protect the democratic process and stand up for the forces of justice, Quebec’s legislature has banned its politicians from using the word ‘weathervane’, on the grounds that it is ‘hurtful’.The move to stop Quebecois politicians from calling each other ‘weathervanes’ was taken the legislature’s speaker, Michel Bissonnet. It was provoked after Premier Jean Charet referred to Opposition Leader Mario Dumont as the ‘national weathervane’. This was in itself an escalation of previous comments Charet had made about Dumont, in which he merely described him as a weathervane, but not a national one.The weathervane comment came in a full-blooded debate about infrastructure, news agency the Candian Press reports. Speaker Bissonnet intervened and ruled that the weathervane remark was out of order, and demanded that Charet withdraw it. Charet responded by defending his right to call the leader of the opposition a weathervane, saying it was a fair comment.
       But Bissonnet was unmoved, and insisted: ‘I find that this is unparliamentary and hurtful.’ So now Quebec’s legislators can’t call each other weathervanes. It is not known what they will call each other instead.”

      • Lots of words banned in Ottawa.

        • Maybe war criminal should be banned until a common definition can be agreed upon.  Same with terrorist.

          • I vote for just banning Kenney until he gains a clue about what he’s doing. LOL

          • @JanBC

            Ministers Frank and Jesse James there, have kind of made a laughingstock out of themselves I see. LOL

             

  8. Oh boy – a war of words!  Nice big, meaty, interesting words. 

    JK should enlist Alykhan Velshi again – his calling George Galloway “Infandous”  “is a candidate to appear in future editions of books of modern quotations. His extraordinarily rare choice of word may even be enshrined in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.”

    http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-inf2.htm 

  9. A debate on the issues is all fine and good.  After reading Mr. Kenney’s letter, though, I believe he was motivately substantially, if not primarily, by personal offense rather than a simple desire to for debate.  His first paragraph was particularly unreasonable – the fact that certain dictatorships are flagrant in their violations of human rights does not mean that no attention should be paid to wrongs done by democracies.

    In this case, though, I don’t see a problem with the government’s actions on this issue; deportation is certainly an improvement over the previous status quo of doing nothing.  If the war criminals in question are accused of crimes under international law, we can deliver them to the Hague, but it makes little sense to prosecute them here.

    • Are you absolutely certain that in all of these cases it “makes little sense prosecute them here”?

      After all, we went to all the trouble of passing a law in response to our adoption of the Rome Statute that let’s us do just that, and we’ve  already used it to apprehend, charge, prosecute and sentence an international war criminal to life in prison, all right here in Canada.

  10. Kenney’s going to have to write to the folks at The Economist next, they don’t seem to get it either:

    Canada is making little pretense of presuming the suspects’ innocence of
    these vague allegations. Although Mr Toews insists that “we are not
    making a finding of guilt or innocence”, the CBSA web site says that “it
    has been determined that [the suspects] violated human or international
    rights under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act or under
    international law”…

    Most importantly, if the government is right that vicious war criminals
    are on the loose in Canadian territory, it is shirking its obligation to
    bring them to justice. Suspected war criminals from foreign conflicts
    can be tried under Canadian law. And if the government decides not to
    undertake that costly and lengthy process, it could still try to arrange
    extraditions, which would guarantee that the suspects would face trial
    elsewhere. Instead, Canada simply plans to put them on the first flight
    out and wash its hands of them. “It’s appalling the way they are
    handling it,” says Jayne Stoyles, the executive director of the Canadian
    Centre for International Justice…

  11. Richard asked above where one could find the Dion letters, and as I think others may be interested as well I thought I’d put my response here as a new comment so more people who might be looking for them can find them!

    I presume that Minister Kenney actually misspoke in the interview, as I believe the letters he’s referring to are the somewhat famous letters from Stephane Dion to Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard and Quebec intergovernmental affairs minister Jacques Brassard.

    Dion to Bouchard August 11, 1997
    Dion to Brassard November 19, 1997
    Dion to Bouchard August 25, 1998

    • Awesome, thanks! It would seem that I now got me my Friday afternoon reading.

      (incidentially, I’ve been agreeing with pretty much everything you’ve written on this topic. Good work!)

      cheers,

    • I also agree with what you’ve said LKO….you’re doing beautifully!

      • Agreed.  Well done.   

  12. If Minister Kenney truly believes that he is acting in the grand tradition of M. Dion, who wrote like this:

    “Reconciling secession with democracy is such a difficult undertaking
    that no well-established democracy has yet attempted to do so. These
    grave questions cannot be avoided if you persist in your project of
    secession. Our fellow citizens expect their elected representatives to
    debate these issues in a calm and level-headed manner. This debate on
    the procedures that would apply concerns us as Quebecers first and
    foremost, because an attempt at secession in an atmosphere of confusion
    would profoundly divide our society; but it also concerns Canadians as a
    whole, all of whom would be affected by the break-up of their country.”

    by responding to a criticism like this:

    “I must confess that my first reaction upon reading your open letter to
    Minister Toews and myself was one of surprise and joy.  For your
    organization to muster its formidable powers of suasion against the
    orderly and innoxious proceedings of the Canadian immigration system
    must mean that the world’s most truculent regimes have discharged their
    last political prisoners and advocates of democracy are free to march in
    the streets of Tehran and Pyongyang.”

    Then I think somebody should explain to him what “instructive” means.

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