Holiday Break and Season’s Greetings

Rock 3Best wishes to all readers. Will restart in the New Year.

New Year

Explained: How the Harper government put spending on ice –

Department  Authorities for 2014-15 ($millions) Year-to-date (first six months) spending at September 30, 2014 ($millions) % of authorities spent
Agriculture and Agri-food $365 $48 13.2%
Employment and Social Development $1,702 $680 40.0%
Environment $107 $29 27.1%
Fisheries and Oceans $58 $25 43.1%
Health $1,683 $1,047 62.2%
Natural Resources $444 $99 22.3%
Transport $758 $42 5.5%
Veterans’ Affairs $2.7 $1.3 48.1%

Good piece by Jennifer Robson on the various ways to reduce spending:

So, if you’re in government and want to restrain your own spending, another way to do it is to just make it harder to move money out the door.  There are a lot of small but incrementally effective ways to do this.  Some of us use tricks to stop ourselves from spending.  For example, when my mother grew alarmed by her credit card bill, she would put her card in a block of ice in the kitchen freezer.  Really.  I’m not making this up.

The ways:

  1. Increase complexity of Treasury Board processes and requirements;
  2. Limit “March Madness” spending;
  3. Tie executive bonuses to managing spending (good discipline in any case);
  4. Make staffing processes more lengthy and complex;
  5. Increase administrative burden on grants and contributions.

Even at the time when I left government in 2011, some of this was apparent and being implemented.

Explained: How the Harper government put spending on ice –

Changing the minds of wannabe terrorists

More commentary on deradicalization approaches:

And while these may seem to be the only two options open to Canadians who turn down the path of violent extremism — death or a court date — experts say a third option — deradicalization — isn’t receiving the attention it deserves.

“These programs can work,” said Jocelyn Bélanger, a psychology professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal who has studied radicalization around the world.

“Even though the number of cases (of homegrown extremism) are limited, we know how much damage just a few individuals can create. … If we do it well, if we read the research on this, we can develop better programs. We can be preventive as well, flagging individuals who are at risk, and once they are flagged they go into a (deradicalization) program.

”Existing approaches to this type of “deprogramming” have had varying degrees of success, and the rehabilitation is usually offered on a voluntary basis, Bélanger said. In most cases, the “beneficiary” is given a choice, to serve their sentence in jail or in a special facility.

“I know it sounds like a false choice, but it is nonetheless psychologically important,” explained Bélanger. In Saudi Arabia, he noted, “Imams will actually use the Qur’an, will engage in discussion with the beneficiary about the Qur’an, ultimately trying to convince them that Islam does not support the killing of innocents.”

Changing the minds of wannabe terrorists.

Farzana Hassan, who seems to be oblivious to the many messages from Canadian Muslims against extremism:

Muslims need to transcend the propaganda that has so defined their narrative on these issues and reject the naive “crusader” fiction.

Tragically, this is a point lost on the majority of the faithful, even supposed moderates.

Mosques must discredit this narrative actively, and they must preach the values of Canadian identity even above religious affiliation.

While Muslims are of course entitled to remain distinct, they must abide not only by the laws of the land but also by its universal values.

Inciting the murder of innocent Canadians is a clear violation of those laws and values.

In dealing with religious extremism, true moderation involves more than refusing to commit violence; it involves campaigning against the absurd political assumptions that may encourage it in others.

…It is the obscurantist views of extremists like Maguire that have hampered progress towards economic prosperity and political stability in the Muslim world for so long.

Muslims must not see attacks on ISIS as attacks on their religion as a whole.

On the contrary, they may help alleviate all the burdens that have bedeviled the Islamic world for so many decades.

Al Canadi’s rants are those of an impressionable and disturbed young man brainwashed by a lethal world view, a view so simplistic we can only wonder at its appeal.​—brainwashed-disturbed …

Michel Petrou provides a good overview of some of the challenges with deradicalization and the absence of an equivalent program in Canada, citing the UK experience in particular:

Usama Hasan, a British imam and senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank in Britain, says he is “astonished” that Canada does not have a de-radicalization program for Canadians who have returned from Syria and Iraq.

“There may be a risk that they’ve spent time with extremist groups and been brutalized by the war. So there’s always a risk that their minds won’t be thinking straight. So it’s very important to have ‘de-rad,’ which has to include a bit of mental health counselling and looking at PTSD and things like that,” he says.

“Even if they are prosecuted and convicted, you still need to de-rad them, because they will eventually be released from prison, and quite possibly they will be even more of a threat then because they will have been hardened in prison, and so they’re a threat either way.”

When he was a student at Cambridge University in the early 1990s, Hasan left Britain and briefly joined the Islamist insurrection, or jihad, against Afghanistan’s communist government.

At the time, Hasan was a radical Salafist and followed an extreme interpretation of Islam. He has since become much more moderate. In addition to officiating at interfaith marriage ceremonies, he now advises the British government on its own de-radicalization program, dubbed Channel.

People immersed in extremist groups “live in a kind of disconnected world,” says Hasan.

“They have their own reality, which they invent and perpetuate among their group by repeating the same old propaganda over and over again, but also blocking out anything that runs counter to that world view. We have to find holes in their world view and try to get through to them in as many ways as possible to make them doubt and rethink those kinds of ideas.”

Has likens the process to convincing someone to leave a gang. “You have to give them alternatives, address their needs,” he says.

When extremists rely on their faith to justify their world view, “you have to address all those religious points as well,” he says, “with better religion.”

Hasan describes recently counselling a young man who was determined to go to Syria. Hasan says the man knew “almost nothing” about the conflict there, or about the Middle East in general.

“People had just told him it was a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, and it was his duty to go and fight for Islam.”

The man believed there were American ground troops in Syria whom he could fight. Hasan educated him about the war, especially its sectarian nature and the ongoing slaughter occurring between Muslims. The potential recruit decided to stay in Britain.

He was lucky. Many others have left from Britain, Canada and other Western countries and died far from home. Some have committed horrific atrocities. Some will come back. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to figure out a way to live with them.

Canada’s extremist problem –

From the US and the need for a more differentiated approach:

“Should they be prosecuted, should they be counseled, should they be reintegrated in a more compassionate way?” says Juan Zarate, who used to be a terrorism official at the Treasury Department. He’s now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Those are important questions because to the extent they are not fully radicalized, they perhaps were lured by a romanticized vision of what life was like in Syria,” he says. “Maybe it is appropriate to apply different tools and measures to peel them away from the movement as opposed to the same tools we have applied to more hard-core members of the group.”

When Americans Head To Syria, How Much Of A Threat Do They Pose?

The state and Islam: Converting the preachers | The Economist

Good article in The Economist regarding state control of mosques and Imams to reduce radicalization:

In fact, the Saudi effort to tone down its clerics is mild, hesitant and belated compared to what some Muslim states do. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan already routinely use cameras. Kuwait has long installed tape-recorders to monitor Friday sermons. Preachers in the neighbouring United Arab Emirates need not write their own sermons. Except for a few trusted senior clerics, they read instead from a text delivered weekly by the government department for religious affairs that also pays all their salaries. “Protecting Youth from Destructive Ideas” and “Our National Flag, Symbol of Affiliation and Loyalty” provided two stimulating recent topics. Similarly, Turkey has for decades enforced a monopoly of Islamic discourse via a religious bureaucracy, known as Diyanet, that wields 121,000 employees and a budget of $2.3 billion.

Other governments aspire to such dominance. Tunisia’s government has in recent months restored strict state control of mosques that had slipped following its revolution of January 2011, leading to a brief flowering of Wahhabist-style jihad promotion. Morocco, whose king has traditionally posed as Commander of the Faithful, delivering televised Ramadan sermons, has steeply boosted state promotion of a relatively tolerant version of the faith. Its budget for training imams, including a growing number of foreign students, has swollen tenfold in the past three years. The unspoken aim is to counter the spread of extreme Salafist ideas in places such as Mali and northern Nigeria.

…Egypt’s government has of late clamped unprecedented controls. In January it decreed that all Friday sermons must adhere to a weekly theme set by the religious-affairs ministry, establishing a hotline to allow worshippers to denounce preachers daring to voice political dissent. Further decrees required all preachers to be government-licensed, imposed a code of ethics forbidding discussion of politics in mosques, and banned smaller prayer halls from holding Friday prayers. The ministry fired 12,000 preachers and now allows only those trained in government-approved institutes to deliver sermons.

…As a foil to the powerful Brotherhood, the [Egyptian] state had long allowed followers of quietist forms of Salafism to run some 7,000 mosques. But the ministry in September decreed it would take over their mosques too, after reports of a sermon forbidding the faithful from buying interest-bearing government bonds.

Amr Ezzat, an Egyptian researcher, sees the effort to impose state-ordained orthodoxy as misguided and possibly dangerous. Religious institutions will lose legitimacy with time, pushing more Muslims towards radical margins. And by acting in effect as the imam, the state takes upon itself a duty to enforce morality. It is perhaps as a sop to religious conservatives, for instance, that Egyptian authorities have mounted an increasingly lurid campaign against homosexuality, most recently by staging a midnight raid on a Cairo bathhouse on national television, dragging a score of naked men to prison.

The state and Islam: Converting the preachers | The Economist.

Why are so many Ontario black children in foster and group homes?

black kids in careInteresting but not surprising. Having the data allows questions and discussion:

Researchers concluded the results were influenced by the 2008 recession, which affected blacks more than whites and caused more strain on families. Poverty, it noted, is the strongest predictor of maltreatment rates.

Most children’s aid societies in Ontario don’t keep income statistics on the families they serve. The new provincial database won’t capture that information either. But local CAS officials know poverty is often a factor.

“Sometimes people don’t want to make the connection between poverty and child protection,” says David Rivard, chief executive officer for the Toronto CAS. “But there is a correlation. That’s the reality.”

A recent report on child poverty in Toronto co-authored by the agency noted that 41 per cent of children of southern and eastern African heritage are growing up poor — more than three times the rate of children with roots in the British Isles. Meantime, 26 per cent of children whose families are from the Caribbean and 25 per cent from North Africa live in poverty.

Groups serving the black community are trying to bridge the cultural divide that can land children in care. The common use of spanking to discipline children in Africa and the Caribbean, for example, can lead to astonished parents being charged with assault.

… After the Star began asking about the over representation of black youth in care, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services met with CAS officials, the provincial child advocate and Parsons’ African Canadian Legal Clinic.

Children’s aid officials and the legal clinic late last month submitted a funding proposal for a project to look into why the numbers are so high and how to reduce them.

“This cannot be just another study or training program,” Parsons insists. “What I want to see is concrete, substantive change — a reduction in those numbers.”

Parsons and other advocates say the numbers won’t go down until family counsellors from their community team up with CAS workers on every protection investigation involving a black child. That’s how Texas, for example, reduced the number of black children and youth in care.

“I’m not saying there aren’t kids in our community who should be in care,” Parsons says. “But the first approach for an African-Canadian child should not be apprehension and care. And that’s what the numbers are saying to me right now.”

Why are so many black children in foster and group homes? | Toronto Star.

CBSA faces obstacles in fight against crooked immigration consultants

The challenge of implementation from CBSA President Luc Portelance:

Over the last six years, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada has accepted 22 cases, with 13 resulting in guilty convictions and several others still making their way through the courts, the memo adds.

In 2013-14, the border agency opened 40 investigations into consultant fraud — the highest number in the last six years.

“Most of these cases are still under active investigation,” the memo says.

However, consultant fraud cases are among the most time-consuming and resource-intensive investigations, Portelance notes.

In August the border agency laid four charges against an Edmonton consultant who allegedly provided her clients with forged documents — charges that came three years after the agency received a complaint against her.

Obtaining evidence to prove intent of a crime often includes several search warrants, production orders, interviews and surveillance operations, Portelance says in the memo.

“The focus on complex cases creates a significant pressure on (border agency) time and resources, and statistical reporting often does not truly demonstrate the significant amount of work being undertaken at a given time,” it says.

“Additionally, obtaining evidence of consultant fraud continues to be a challenge.”Immigration applicants are “often hesitant” to report consultants, as they were either complicit in the misrepresentations or they remain convinced their consultant can help them gain status in Canada, Portelance says.

“Many applicants fear removal from Canada as they did not acknowledge using a representative for a fee or consideration.”

CBSA faces obstacles in fight against crooked immigration consultants (pay wall)

Why 13 new citizens decided to become Canadian

Nice profile in the Globe of a number of new citizens at a citizenship ceremony hosted by the Governor General and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship:

‘Canadian citizenship is valued the world over, and with good reason. This is a society that values equality of opportunity and excellence, and that sees diversity as a virtue rather than a weakness. In Canada, inclusiveness is a key value, which means that every Canadian citizen should have the opportunity to help shape this country for the better, regardless of background or ethnicity.’ – Governor-General David Johnston

Why 13 new citizens decided to become Canadian – The Globe and Mail.

Overseas voters will have to prove citizenship, residency under new rules

While I suspect that the extent of “riding shopping” is quite limited, and the Government provided no numbers to indicate that it is, the basic requirements for voting abroad to provide proof of citizenship and last place of residence in Canada are reasonable.

Interesting that both opposition parties have not condemned these measures off the bat:

A government-issued backgrounder accompanying the bill notes that in Canada, voters “cannot pick and choose their riding,” but are required to cast a ballot in the riding in which they live.”

By contrast, Canadians living abroad do not have to prove any past residence in the riding in which they vote,” it notes.

“It is unfair to allow a person who has never lived in a community to vote on who will represent that community.”

The bill was introduced by Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre Wednesday afternoon. In a written statement, he said the new rules “will help ensure that only citizens vote, that their votes only count in their home ridings and that they show ID to prove both.”

The bill also seems to be a response to a recent Federal Court ruling that upheld the right of Canadians abroad to vote in federal elections even after being out of the country for five years.

Overseas voters will have to prove citizenship, residency under new rules – Politics – CBC News.

Immigration express entry: 5 things you need to know

The most interesting part to observe, in the short-term, will be the commitment to transparency (not a strong point for the Government), the last comment, about “an aggressive” ad campaign, is little surprise given the Government’s normal approach, particularly acute in an election year:

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has said individuals with a job offer or a provincial nomination will be “picked first” and that the first “invitations to apply” for permanent residency will be sent out by the last week of January.

Manicom told MPs during the Commons committee that there will be a “draw” every two weeks.

The senior official said applicants will be able to see how they are ranked against each other in the pool. “We are very highly transparent,” he said.

Once a skilled immigrant has received an offer to apply for permanent residency, he or she would have 60 days to accept or decline the offer. If the applicant doesn’t receive an offer of permanent residency after 12 months, he or she will have to start the process again.

… Anita Biguzs, the deputy minister for citizenship and immigration, said the government has budgeted $32.5 million in total funding for express entry.

Of that, $6.9 million has been allotted so the department can align its IT system in preparation for the launch of the new system.

Manicom told MPs to expect a “very aggressive” ad campaign in 2015.He was not asked how much the ad buy would cost taxpayers.

Immigration express entry: 5 things you need to know – Politics – CBC News.

CIA torture report: Why Canada can’t claim innocence

Both Wark and Juneau-Katsuya make valid points about likely Canadian complicity:

However, as Juneau-Katsuya points out, intelligence Canada shared with the CIA led to the torture of a number of Canadians.

“That’s exactly what took place with Maher Arar, that’s exactly what took place with Omar Khadr, that’s exactly what took place with tons of other people,” says Juneau-Katsuya, who calls Harper’s stance “a very hypocritical position.”

Harper s dismissive tone about the Senate report obscures how closely Canadian intelligence works with its American counterparts, says Juneau-Katsuya.

He says that Canadian spies have a “phenomenal” relationship with the CIA. Not only do they share intelligence related to foreign threats, but CSIS has liaison officers that work in CIA headquarters, and vice versa.

Given their close working relationship, did Canadian intelligence agents witness any of the CIA’s torture tactics?

“It would be speculation on my part,” says Juneau-Katsuya, “but I think its very likely.”

He adds that “some [Canadian agents] might have had the wise reflex not to be there and simply say, I wasnt present.”

But the bottom line is the Canadian government “cannot deny the fact that we were aware of the practices.”

CIA torture report: Why Canada can’t claim innocence – CBC News – Latest Canada, World, Entertainment and Business News.