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Another interesting piece on the evolution of the Canadian Senate - this time from a retiring Senator. For my part, I can imagine that the Senate may simply evolve it's own internal party system to address the business of getting things done. Party affiliations already exist among Senators now, and it's all the likely that they will continue to do so. The very ineffectiveness of unaffiliated Senators will, over the long run, simply motivate them to gravitate to like-minded groups - they may simply be less formal and internally disciplined than House parties.

As former Senate leader James Cowan prepares to leave the Upper Chamber, he’s warning that major reforms introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lessen partisanship threaten to transform the legislative body into a passive advisory panel.

Sen. Cowan (Nova Scotia), who will step down on Jan. 22 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age for Senators, cautions that the disbanding of the government Senate caucus by Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and the absence of partisan affiliations of new appointees could conspire to make the Upper Chamber a significantly less effective institution.

“We need to organize. You get more done if you work with other people. For me, that means that Senators will inevitably, and should be encouraged, to work in groups,” he said in favour of the Senate remaining structured as a Westminster-style legislative body like the House...

Ex-Senate Liberal leader Cowan says Trudeau's changes could radically transform Upper Chamber into passive advisory panel - The Hill Times - The Hill Times
Turkish and Russian officials labeled the assassination of Andrey Karlov, Moscow's envoy to Turkey, at an art exhibition in Ankara a “terrorist” attack. Karlov was shot in the back by a gunman who, according to reports, proceeded to shout jihadist slogans.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was “a provocation” that wouldn't affect the thaw in relations between Moscow and Ankara, which were plunged into crisis last year as the countries took different sides in Syria's civil war. Russia's intervention in the war on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad infuriated Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was one of the first world leaders to call for Assad's departure.

In the months since, Turkey had to calibrate its position as the Assad regime dug in and Syrian Kurdish factions galvanized support among Turkey's restless Kurdish minority. Recently, Turkey has worked closely with Russia to find a solution for civilians trapped in the war-ravaged Syrian city of Aleppo.

That doesn't mean all Turks accept Russia's role in a conflict that rages on their doorstep. Protests were held outside Russian diplomatic buildings in Istanbul and Ankara. At the scene of Karlov's killing, the shooter reportedly declared that his actions were retribution for Russia's role in bombing rebel-held areas of Aleppo before he was killed by Turkish security personnel.

Analysts cautioned against alarmist fears of a collapse in diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“No, this is not Sarajevo 1914,” tweeted Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol, referring to the assassination of a Habsburg royal by a Serbian nationalist that preceded World War I. “For Ankara and Moscow will not wage war. Quite the contrary, they may even get closer...”

The assassination of Russia’s ambassador in Turkey creates a crisis for Erdogan - The Washington Post
Thousands of Indigenous Manitoba students will return to better-funded schools next fall with the creation of a new First Nations school board that will serve as an "inspiration" throughout Canada, according to the federal Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennett.

The board is designed and operated by Manitoba First Nations. The provincial government has no jurisdiction over it.

"This is totally unique and historic, because for the first time we will be able to fund a system that then is self-determining," Bennett told reporters after the signing ceremony Friday morning.

Bennett said the system is unique because the federal government will send funding to the school board itself.

"In other agreements, we're sending money to a chief and council that goes to a school. This way, we're building a school system run by a board, working in close collaboration with educators," she said.

"The educators will determine how they work in terms of curricula and professional development, hiring of faculty, staffing — this will be their system that we will fund."

Students will have access to more resources and opportunities as part of a new funding formula, said one of the Indigenous leaders who helped negotiate a new agreement.

"In terms of education, it's huge," said Jim Bear, chief of Manitoba's Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, northeast of Winnipeg...

New Indigenous school board in Manitoba 'historic,' federal cabinet minister says - Manitoba - CBC News
The newly independent Senate seems to be ready to flex it's muscles...

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has agreed to remove controversial changes to the Bank Act from his latest budget bill in response to strong objections from Quebec and some Senators.

The Quebec government opposes a section of Bill C-29 that asserts the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over Canada’s banking sector. Quebec insists that provinces have constitutional authority in areas such as consumer protection for bank customers and warns the bill would impose weaker standards than those currently in place provincially.

“We’ve listened to Quebeckers about their concern that they have a high level of protection in the banking sector,” Mr. Morneau said Monday afternoon on Parliament Hill, where he announced the change.

The Finance Minister said he has instructed the government’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, to introduce an amendment that would remove the banking sector provisions.

The government will then ask the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to assure that the proposed federal protections for consumers are at least as strong as those available provincially. After that, the provision would be re-introduced as a standalone bill.

Mr. Morneau had previously urged Senators not to amend the bill, arguing that it should be adopted in its entirety. Mr. Harder had also asked Senators not to overstep their traditional role by amending a budget bill.

The government’s decision to change course offers a clear example of the implications created by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to loosen party discipline in the Senate. Since coming to power in 2015, Mr. Trudeau has appointed a wave of new Senators who sit as independents.

While short of a majority, the 42 independent Senators now outnumber the 41 Senators who sit as Conservatives. Another 21 Senators sit as Liberals.

Independent Senator André Pratte, who had been rallying Senators to oppose that section of the bill, said it was good the government backed down. However ,he said he remains concerned that Mr. Morneau plans to come back with a similar proposal in a few months.

Mr. Pratte also said the situation highlights the fact that there is a new political dynamic in the Senate.

“These are not just words. It is true. This is an independent Senate,” he said.

Morneau pulls Bank Act changes from budget bill after objections from Quebec, Senate - The Globe and Mail
Meanwhile, in Canada, Hell also froze over...

After two years of clamping down under the mantra of getting the fiscal house in order, Quebec's government has delivered a surplus budget that opens the spending taps, albeit cautiously.

"We have laid a solid foundation on which to build our prosperity," said Finance Minister Carlos Leitao in the opening remarks of his budget speech on the floor of the National Assembly.

"Achieving these results was a collective effort … Now all Quebecers will reap the rewards."

The $102.5 billion budget is the third for Premier Philippe Couillard's Liberals, and the second to post a modest surplus. The government projects reinvesting a $2 billion surplus in the Generations Fund, a trust fund created in 2006 to reduce Quebec's public debt...

Quebec Budget 2016: $2B surplus, but little spending wiggle room - Montreal - CBC News

5 December 2016

Sexual Violence Policy

The Board of Governors approved a new sexual violence policy on 1 December 2016. The version of this policy that was passed (here or see the meeting materials posted online for 1 December 2016) was essentially identical to the draft released by the administration on 6 October 2016, a version that many stakeholders on campus were highly critical of. Provincial law mandated that a sexual violence policy be fully implemented no later than 1 January 2017.

Discussion of the sexual violence policy at the open session of the Board started with the former chair of the Board moving that the Board pass the proposed policy without amendment. Things were then handed-off to the vice-president for students and enrolment, who did little more then hand-off matters to her director of student affairs. This director, who is usually very good, proceeded to drone on for 35-minutes with a monologue that either lacked content or contained content in a Trump-like fashion. One way to suppress discussion is to monopolize all allotted time with a soliloquy.

When discussion of the policy finally did begin amongst all Board members, the Board’s executive was adversarial, as noted in the Ottawa Citizen. The former chair of the Board said that he simply wanted this matter to go away: “I’m interested in getting a policy over and done with.” A student governor asked that interested and knowledgeable stakeholders – the ones that were critical of the 6 October 2016 draft policy – be allowed to express their concerns to the Board, something that had not and was not allowed. The vice-chair of the Board then browbeat that governor so much that the student governor had to leave the room (see here). The vice-chair forcefully said to him, “I have a governance point: If you don’t feel you can speak for graduate students, then why are you here?”

There are two profound ironies to the above quote by the current vice-chair that were directed at the student governor [other than that these two individuals having a history, with the vice-chair previously and unapologetically accusing this student of using “the tactics of Brownshirts and Maosists”]...
Root Gorelick reporting on Carleton University's Board of Governors
Well, this is escalating quickly.

As the government increasingly turns to appalling violence in their efforts to subdue the unshakable will of the Standing Rock Sioux, the protesters fighting to protect their sacred lands have a new ally – our veterans.

Hundreds of veterans are planning to travel to North Dakota to join the protesters and assemble as “an unarmed, peaceful militia to defend water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL Security.” A Facebook page devoted to the event has 600 confirmed marchers and 4500 potential more. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) will be joining them at the protest site.

“This country is repressing our people. If we’re going to be heroes, if we’re really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we’re going to do when we took the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic” says prominent veteran and former Baltimore police officer Michael A. Wood.

“I’ve been watching the news, how they’re spraying everybody and using rubber bullets, and these guys are fighting for what they believe in and as a veteran we took an oath. We’re not just there to protect Americans in foreign countries. We’re here to protect this country inside of it, too” said former Marine Jade Emilio Snell.

The protesters are in desperate need of more support as police turn to riot suppression tactics commonly used in authoritarian dictatorships. Since beatings, mass arrests, and targeted sexual humiliation has failed to break the spirit of the protesters, they have turned to outright violence, using water cannons to soak protesters in freezing temperatures and unleashing brutal fusillades of rubber bullets and concussion grenades.

Hundreds have been injured from bullet fire. One protester will lose her arm after a grenade detonation sliced through her muscles in a gruesome fashion. Five to six hundred have been treated for hypothermia after being hit by water cannons. The veterans, however, are undaunted at the prospect of violence. “Bring Body armor, gas masks, earplugs AND shooting mufflers (we may be facing a sound cannon) but no drugs, alcohol or weapons” reads the Facebook page...

Hundreds Of Veterans "Self-Deploy" To Standing Rock To Defend Protesters
Lion's Roar: On your second trip to Standing Rock, you attended in your capacity as a priest, along with other clergy. What can you tell us about that gathering and the common ground that was (or was not) found there?

Wendy Egyoku Nakao: Rev. John Floberg, who has had twenty-five years of relationship with the Standing Rock Sioux through the Episcopal Church in North Dakota, issued a call for clergy to come “Stand with Standing Rock.” He’d hoped for 100, but in the end, over 500 clergy representing some fifteen denominations attended. The unifying factor was to stand with Standing Rock against the DAPL and for the protection of the water for all. I spotted at least seven Buddhist clergy there.

Rev. John laid out the agreement of the participants: Prayerful. Peaceful. Nonviolent. Lawful. We were asked not to engage in any violence and to treat law enforcement with respect. We were free to express our faith through our dress and speeches and to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux nation.

One of the most important moments was the repudiation of the 15th-century Doctrine of Discovery by eight Christian Churches on the morning of the gathering. This doctrine, issued through Papal Bulls which are still on the books of the Catholic Church, sanctioned the domination and destruction of indigenous peoples by explorers and missionaries in the interests of the spreading of Christianity. The effects of this colonizing document reverberate in the world today through our laws and basic attitudes of racism. (In 2014 at the Zen Peacemaker retreat, Steve Newcomb, a Native American lawyer who has dedicated his life to having this document renounced, taught us about its pernicious effects.)

The ceremony for renouncing the document began with representatives from eight Christian churches, which had already repudiated the document, each taking turns reading a statement of renunciation in front of Tribal Elders. Then copies of the document were given to each Elder and subsequently burned. All clergy and people at the camp in attendance were witnesses, with Rev. Floberg stating that “We [the Protestant churches represented] were wrong” about the document. Very powerful.

Following the ceremony, each clergy member was smudged with sage and then joined a procession to the bridge where a violent confrontation between militarized police and unarmed Native Americans had taken place a week prior...

Among the Bodhisattvas at Standing Rock - Lion's Roar
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 - 1870)


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