Chlorothalonil in food and our disfunctional democracy

Was interviewed the other day by the US based USA Prepares Show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8W5SjHRHVI)

They wanted to know if I am happy with either a one hour interview or a two hour.
I personally think anything over 10 minutes gets to be boring for the people, so agreed to a one hour.
 
These folks came to know about me from German born New Brunswick farmer Werner Bock, who has been screaming hoarse about Canadian government poisoning its agriculture, its forests and its meadows for more than three decades, to the point where the government started harassing him and even putting him temporarily in a loony bin claiming he was mentally disturbed. Apparently, Werner knows everybody in North America. He found out my phone number a few years ago and usually calls me up every few months. He is well known to the radio show people and apparently told them to find me.
 
I personally am not too sure if radio talks are fruitful.
 
I know articles written in online and printed papers have their value in raising awareness. I know blog posts and social media have their value in raising awareness. I know youtube video, audio podcasts and radio shows have their value in raising awareness. I know seminars, March against Monsanto, and mock tribunals all have their value in raising awareness.
 
And yet, I am coming to the conclusion that all these “raising awareness” is pretty much useless, when I consider what result it has achieved in the western hemisphere, especially in North America, which is faced with the worst of this avalanche of food poisoning.
 
At this rate, we shall have a highly raised level of awareness in a few more decades, while we shall also all be dead from poisons – highly aware people that died from poison but decided to do nothing, other than being “aware”.
 
The reason for this contradiction, in my analysis, is that the western world in general, and North America in particular, is too full of people that are little more than armchair activists, and people that are addicted to “raising awareness” to millions more armchair activists.
 
To me, it is clear as the open sky, that the root of all this problem is a dysfunctional democracy that has been hijacked into a full blows fascism, while the addicted population still believes writing an article, or clicking a like button, or hanging out with this or that talking head will bring them close to Nirvana.
 
If we have a full blown fascism and our democracy is nothing more than a make belief facade, then we have a problem that is political in nature and has to be solved, if at all, by political means.
 
I am not a politician by nature. I hate politicians and consider their professions to be among the lowest of the low, very close to anti-GMO talking heads in fact. They all are there to make a living out of whatever the hot topic of the day is. They are not here to solve anybody’s problems.
 
So, as an activist that is fed up with arm chair activism of my friends, fed up with raising awareness, and fed up with local politicians at the municipal, provincial and federal level – the only option appears to be to try and influence more citizens to stop the bullshit, and start targeting politicians, and try to pull their pants off in public. Time is well past when I can still be polite and ask  politician with folded hands to “please sir, please madam, please look at this or that issue, please see these reports and please disclose that hidden data and please, please please please please …”
 
I am dome with that shit. But, I am not a revolutionary and hate violence and bloodshed. I also hate being an elected politician or the compromises that one needs to make in order to gain political office. I am also a serious disbeliever of the political party system. To me, political parties should be banned and only independents allowed to stand for election. That way, theoretically, each elected official works only according to wishes of his or her constituents and not according to any party leader or party whip. The very notion of a political party is, to me, unconstitutional and anti-democratic. Anyhow, hating politics as a profession and refusing anything outside the law, and fed up with “raising awareness” to a comatose citizenry, my options are limited as an activist.
 
What we have here is a failure of democracy not because politicians are crooks, which they generally are, but because the citizens are in coma. In democracy, even in a failing democracy, every fault of the system lies at the feet of the citizens, no matter how much folks may like to blame politicians or Monsanto or the devil. It is always the fault of the people to allow things to come to whoever it has come. And our citizens, in North America, are are almost incapable of rational thinking. It is as if they are in a coma or has already gone autistic and are incapable of any rational thinking.
 
I want other citizens to grab their politicians by the scruff of their necks, metaphorically, and give them one issue options – “ban glyphosate or your rear end is mine to kick”.
Meanwhile, here is a chart about “Chlorothalonil in foods as tested by CFIA, consolidated from over 65,000 tests and plotted on a logarithmic scale. I have not had the time to look deeper into it, but Canada and USA ranks high in these along with a few others like Guatemala, Mexico and China etc. Some of the worst individual samples have over 50,000 ppb of Chlorothalonil, such as Chinese Cabbage grown in Canada.
 
I shall eventually have time to break these down by nations and food types better. All this would be in my book, which may bloat from the current 400 pages to either closer to 1,000 pages, or be split into volume two.
 
This chart is only covering food types that had chlorothalonil average contamination level of over 20 ppb, and shows both the average contamination and the percentage contamination. So, for items that have very low percentage contamination and yet rather high average contamination – those foods have only a few samples with extremely high levels of Chorothalonil while the rest where clean. Good examples of these might be Fine Herbs, Chinese Cabbage (this was make in Canada), Plum, Apricot and Beet. It would therefore make sense to check if those very high levels of contamination in a few few samples are an indication of where they were grown etc etc.
 
Other food items where the percentage contamination is also high, might be candidates that folks aught to consider rejecting, or growing themselves, or buying organic.
 
Incidentally, all items in this chart are conventional. Lots of organic food types were also tested by CFIA. They all had zero or negligible amounts of Chlorothalonil. So, in this particular case, going organic only is safer. All that will appear in my book eventually. Its a work in progress.
 
The green line represents the concentration in ppb, in descending order from left to right, with corresponding percentage contamination in blue for each of these food types.
 
All that will come in due course. Meanwhile I have to figure out how to kick some more political rear ends and how to goad them, shame them, insult them, till they start responding. 
 
There are some animals that turn over and play dead when in trouble. If you take a stick and turn the animal right side up, it immediately turns over belly up again, to convince you that it is really dead. Our politicians are a master of that act.
 
Some of these should end up in my blogs but I am having some malware issues with the wordpress platform and need to solve those first so that future blogs come out OK.
 
PS I hope to catch up with Anthony Samsel sometime to catch up on the implications of having much chlorothalonil in food, especially what we consider as vegetables.
 
Tony Mitra

Russia-China vetoes Aleppo ceasefire resolution

Well, the goings on in UNSC is perhaps an indication of geopolitical shift in the issue of regime toppling efforts by western interests.

The issue is the town of Aleppo in Syria. There is a multi-pronged warfare going on in much of the country. A lot of different groups are trying to topple the current government of Assad.

According to the US, the people fighting the government are local Syrians that wish to topple a brutal regime there.

According to other reports, the country is infiltrated by jihadists, ISIS, mercenaries etc, sent there specifically to start the next phase of the middle east war, and to topple the Assad government.

Assad

To complicate matters, there are also Kurdish resistance groups who wish to have a homeland of their own, and currently occupy strips of Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and are treated as second class citizens most everywhere. I am not sure which side of the war they are on, but Turkey, who hates the Kurds (Because the Kurds in Turkey also want independence) would either like a piece of land carved out of Syria so all the Turkish Kurds could perhaps also go there and stop bothering Turkey, or perhaps hoping that all the Turkish Kurds would cross the border and join the fight in Syria, on whichever side, as long as they vacate Turkey.

Obama

These are reasons why the issue may be too complex to fully comprehend, and many folks have opinion based on one or another point of view.

There are other factors about Syria that might be relevant. Assad does not allow western banking and oil interests to benefit from Syria’s land or its assets.

Also, Syria, while Muslim, is largely secular and do not promote a sunni version of lifestyle. Women are not required to cover themselves or stay home.

There is also additional issues of two competing oil pipelines proposed to go through Syria. The US plan leads gulf oil from Qatar to reach the west via Turkey to the Mediterranean.

Putin

There is apparently another Russian plan to help Iran develop a pipeline going through Iraq and Syria and reach the west through a Syrian terminal facing the mediterranean.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US do not want Iran to benefit from pipelines, and do not want Syrian ports to benefit from the business, unless Assad regime is toppled and a pro-West, Pro-Saudi, Pro-Israeli group rules Syria.

IN the middle of all this, is the issue of the current legitimate government of Syria inviting Russia to come and help fight the opponents of the regime, who they claim are foreign terrorists being funded by Saudi, Israeli and US interests, and are using US weaponry. Russia accepted the offer.

Jinping

This pits Russian military in direct confrontation with US-Saudi-Israeli interests.

Things have reached a pitch where nothing USA says about Syria, including what comes out specifically from Obama and Hillary (before she lost the election) could be believed.

It was better to look for independent reports emerging from the ground in Syria, such as Canadian reporter Eva Bartlett

Now, the epicentre of the fight is concentrated around the city of Aleppo. It was completely in control of the rebels, and there were reports of horrific treatment of the civilians coming out from there too, including mass graves and using the people as human shields against Syrian forces trying to free the town.

Anyhow, now the rebels are apparently surrounded by the syrian forces who are also being supported (I am not too sure of the details) by Iraqi forces who also want ISIS and jihadists defeated, since they believe these people actually came from Iraq, and if they succeed in Syria, would turn and haunt Iraq again. Anyhow.

Maduro

Now the battle around Aleppo has apparently turned a decisive corner, and much of the town is liberated by the govt forces. The rebels, which are perhaps the concentrated mass of ISIS forces and mercenary soldiers on pay, are surrounded and cannot flee and regroup because their escape route through the desert is blocked by Russian missiles, fighters and bombers.

USA and its supporters have been pushing for a no-fly zone for a long time, specifically in areas where the rebels move around. But since the area is under control of the Russian air force intent on cutting off rebel movement, this pitches the US directly against the Russians. USA has not put their own airforce to enforce a no-fly zone here, presumably because US generals warned Obama that this move would trigger a direct war against Russia.

Hillary herself has spoken often about wanting a no-fly zone there, fully toting the Obama-military-industrial wish. Putin’s intensions are not very clear, but this much is accepted by most – Russia does not have a wish to control the assets of the region. Rather, Russia is more interested in ensuring the region does not become an US stooge and hostile to Russia.

So, now, three countries pressed a resolution in the UNSC to force the security council to adopt a 7 day stopping of bombings around Aleppo, in order to “pass humanitarian aid” to suffering residents of Aleppo.

What has happened today, is that Russia, China and Venezuela voted against it, and 11 other security council members (some non-permanent and some permanent) voted for it. Russia and China are permanent members with veto power.

In essence, this perhaps is the first time China has openly joined Russia in a veto about the war in Syria.

I take that as the beginning of a new phase of China. They are also, slowly, beginning to bring assistance to the Assad regime, in paramilitary and military sphere.

I believe one of the main reason for China to decide to help Syria and defeat the insurgency, even at the cost of openly opposing western commercial and military interests, is because China itself has a lot of boundary provinces with substantial muslim population, and it believes some of the Islamists and Jihadists are fomenting trouble in those Chinese provinces, hoping to start a revolt and turning those areas into an expanding Islamic state. China believes some of the mushrooming or budding terrorists from these regions have already been recruited and are right now being trained first hand in insurgency through the war in Syria.

Therefore, China would like the rebels to be defeated. It considers this mushrooming of Islamic terrorism that spreads from nation to nation, and is apparently supported by Saudi Money, Israeli political support and US weaponry, poses a threat to China’s own security and integrity. In other words, its not a joking matter for them.

Ohh.. well .. we are all living in interesting times..

Good bye, New York Times

Sorry New York Times, I do not buy this latest bout of crocodile tears.

The biggest political story of the US election did reach a dramatic climax but it was unexpected only because media such as yours tried your damnedest to fool the people with corporate and state pushed propaganda to tilt the playing field in favor of Hillary Clinton.

You stopped being neutral, and objective a long time ago. It was not Donald Trumps unconventionality that was the root cause – your corruption and lack of journalistic integrity was.

The election was divisive but the reason was far from what was projected by your media. It was divisive because one side was pushed by the entire corrupt establishment, of which you are a part and and the other side was those that stopped believing in you. Therefore everything you said was suspect. More you trashed Trump, more folks suspected there was something important about Trump that may be good for the people that the establishment does not like. More you ridiculed him, more he appeared a good candidate to those that stopped believing in you.

You should reflect on it all – but you are not going to continue to con past subscribers like me. I would not read you even if someone paid me to do so, forget about buying a subscription ever again.

You say you cannot deliver independent and original journalism without our support. The trouble is, you did not deliver those items even with our support.

Now, you claim you cannot do without us.
I for one, can and will do without you.

Good bye.

Tony Mitra

A blind and arrogant India

My puja greetings
___________________

India ranks 97th, near the bottom, of the 118 nation index of hunger. Indians do far worse than neighbours Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Iran, Iraq, China, or even Ghana, Senegal, Malawi, Congo, Uganda etc.

But we can take pride that India is less hungry than Pakistan, and a very short list of unfortunate countries like Haiti, Zambia and Central African Republic etc.

When thinking this item through, I can identify as the root cause of this to be no other than the voting and upwardly mobile middle class of India – people like you and me.

In the age of virtual world and instant messaging and electronic media and TV channels by the dozens, I see no mention anywhere of the fact that half of India’s population cannot get a healthy meal a day, that nearly half of all children of India are malnourished, or that India, despite all the hoopla about progress, is among the poorest countries when it comes to basic minimum food requirement and access to health care.

For the educated people of India, the other half dose not exist. It is not in their TV, nor in their incessant messaging on whatsapp, Facebook, pinterest, instagram or whatever other platform a huge number of folks are spending millions of collective hours every day to catch up with each other. The endless plethora of soap opera on Indian channels never cover the story of the hungry and dying India.

We are ignorant despite education, and arrogant without any justification.

So, on this so called auspicious occasion when everyone with a laptop, a smart phone or a tablet is wishing everyone else seasons greetings and শুভ বিজয়া, I would write the last paragraph of Tagore’s poem “হে মোর দুর্ভাগা দেশ ”
—–

দেখিতে পাও না তুমি মৃত্যুদূত দাঁড়ায়েছে দ্বারে ,
অভিশাপ আঁকি দিল তোমার জাতির অহংকারে ।
সবারে না যদি ডাক ‘ ,
এখনো সরিয়া থাক ‘ ,
আপনারে বেঁধে রাখ ‘ চৌদিকে জড়ায়ে অভিমান —
মৃত্যুমাঝে হবে তবে চিতাভস্মে সবার সমান ।

Happy holidays – ignorant and arrogant Indian middle class.

Updates on Glyphosate Petition

Hello friends,

It has been an exhilarating time since I opened two separate channels for my Government, in Ottawa, Canada, to address the issue of rising use and presence of the weed killer RoundUp and in particular the chemical Glyphosate in our environment, and the fact that the people do not have either access to information on how much of the toxic chemical is in our food, water and soil, or access to the safety test that is supposed to prove that the chemical and the formulation is actually safe for people or for the environment.

This matter has now reached a turning point since Canada is now having a lot of labs accessible to the public that will test our food for Glyphosate, something that was not the case a few years ago, and something on which I had already butted head with the previous Government under Harper, and where my letter was carried by the then MP Mr. Atamanenko to the then Health Minister Ms Rona Ambrose, to respond to. This is a good sign that labs are now beginning to offer this service.

One of my current multi-channel dialogue with the Government included an application to Health Canada, which is Canada’s way of describing the Ministry of Health, to disclose to me if it actually has seen safety test data on Glyphosate, and if so, to disclose to me all such data and reports. This application was made through the official system known as “Access To Information” act of the Government of Canada. Similar acts are also known as “Freedom of Information” act or “Right to Information” act elsewhere, such as in Canadian provincial Governments or elsewhere in the world.

Another parallel effort was the creation of an online petition for Canadians to support a motion, for our Government to disclose all hitherto hidden safety documents on Glyphosate or RoundUp, to the Canadian people, so that people can independently verify if the product is safe and if the Canadian Government has been diligent in its study and analysis. Further, it is the right of the Canadian people to see such documents and it is in effect be illegal to deny public access to such data.

Why exhilarating? Well, first of all, the correspondence that generated from the “Access to information” act appeal, confirmed a few things,

  • that the Canadian Government has in fact seen a lot of safety test data and documents
  • that they are in possession of over 130,000 pages of such material
  • that I indeed have a right, as a citizen of Canada, to see such data

And in spite of that, the Government has unfortunately been dragging its feet, citing reasons why it needs more time to provide me with the information requested. One of the reason is that they need to cross check with the parties that conducted that safety test, if the details may be divulged to me and under what condition.

The very facts that the Canadian Government acknowledges it has the data, and that I have a right to it, are positive development. That I cannot see it yet unless third parties that provided the data agree to the arrangement – is in my view illegal. If such data cannot be shown to the people, then the product (Glyphosate) cannot be approved for use among the people either. That is how I read the law.

The second part – the petition, has 30 updates so far, has generated almost 23,000 support, over 98% of them being Canadian. This is far and away more support than I had anticipated. For a country with a very small population of 35 million, this is an unprecedented level of support on a subject not so easy to understand and one that has not been covered by the mainstream media at all. The sheer volume of support, I suspect, has influenced my MP Carla Qualtrough, who also happens to be a federal minister, to agree to see me on April 27th for 45 minutes, so I can hand over all the documentation on the petition, which runs to over 1,000 pages, to her in a CD or a flash drive, to be taken to Ottawa and handed over the Health minister.

I asked if I might bring a delegation of six other persons, to which the Minister Qualtrough’s office that I may. The petition itself can be visited by clicking on the image below.

It has many interesting updates. One of which is a comment by India’s noted supreme court advocate Mr. Prashant Bhushan, who is representing petitioner Ms Aruna Rodrigues in her public interest litigation against the Government of India on account of GMO, where legal precedence is already set, that obliges the Government to disclose biosafety data of transgenic products to the people before the product is to be approved for release. In other words, intellectual property rights, or agreement on Confidentiality or or non-disclosure clauses cannot be used to trump public safety. Click below for that video.

My request to the Honourable minister is going to be in three parts, of which one would be to personally carry the petition documents to Ottawa and hand over same to Health Canada and to ask them to respond. The second is to have a personal talk with Prime Minister Trudeau, requesting him to drop in at the secretarial office of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, located in the same home turf of the Prime Minister, in Montreal, and to ask the staff in that office about how Canada is doing in comparison with the rest of the world with regard to Cartagena Protocol. The third is to look into ways to kick start testing of local foods in Delta, her constituency, for presence of Glyphosate.

 I have added information on a few UN platforms for Canadians in the latest update. These are:

There is also an effort on my part to convert a condensed form of the petition material and references into an interactive e-book on Apples’s iTune store and/or Amazon’s Kindle for around $3 in the next few weeks.

There are perhaps a few more updates that will go into the petition before it is closed. These might include:

  • A talk with the president of the Canadian Farmers Union
  • How to engage citizens into coaxing our Municipalities to start testing local food, water and soil, for presence of Glyphosate and to make the data public.
  • An update on the coming meeting with Minister Carla Qualtrough about this petition.

Stay tunes and feel free to add your comments below.

Thank you.

Tony

A letter to a mayor

Apr 2, 2016 — To: The Mayor Ms Luis Jackson,
Delta Corporation
April 1st, 2016 (not a prank)
Subject : Test Glyphosate in Delta’s water, soil and food.

Mayor Jackson,

Good day.

I write to you, yet again, regarding potential dangers linked with exposure  to Glyphosate for residents of Delta, and what the municipality could do.

Delta has fertile lowlands and farms. Glyphosate is the most used chemical in Canadian food production. Besides, since our town is actually in the delta of the Fraser river, and comprises of tidal mudflats and lowlands, most runoff from farms, as well as from the upland forests go through our midst. Both these regions use glyphosate, in agriculture by farmers and aerially in hilly forests by logging corporations.

In spite of being the most used toxin in Canada and the planet for a generation, safety test records and data of this weed killer are kept hidden from Canadians, possibly illegally, to protect commercial interest of the promoter.

Legal precedence is already being set in some countries, where supreme court has overruled federal Governments about keeping safety documents hidden from the people. Apparently, commercial confidentiality agreements and intellectual property rights cannot trump public safety. So, if a corporation cannot divulge safety records of its product to the public, the product itself may not be approved by the Government either.

I have two different channels of communication ongoing with the Ottawa Government about this. One of them is an online petition through change.org for the Government to disclose all safety test documents, based on which it is supposed to have approved Glyphosate for use in Canadian agriculture and environment. Link : https://www.change.org/p/minister-of-health-canada-justin-trudeau-health-canada-prove-glyphosate-is-safe

The petition has generated a large number of follow up updates with input from scientists around the world and other notables, and has over 22,000 supporters, 98% from Canada. The volume of information on the petition has crossed a thousand pages, and MP Carla Qualtrough has agreed to see me so I can present all that to her and request her to hand deliver it to the minister in Health Canada, to either place the safety documents in public domain, or inform Canadians why they do not have a right to these safety documents, or perhaps arrange a debate on the floor of our parliament about if Canadian citizens have, or do not have, a right to see first hand, all safety test data on this herbicide that has been entering our food chain in ever increasing dose for a generation.

Meanwhile for the town of Delta, and perhaps many other towns where concerned Canadians have supported this petition, there are areas where our municipal governments could actively engage, at the bottom tier of our political system, to address this issue in the following manner:
1)
Start having our food, water, and soil, tested for concentration of Glyphosate. This could not even be done just a few years ago since labs did not offer such services, especially about testing our food for Glyphosate. But this can easily be done today. Increasing number of accredited labs are offering a high quality service. And some of the labs are nearby, such as in Burnaby. This testing is legal, and reasonably easy to do for a Municipal corporation. The reason so many labs are now scrambling to offer this service, is because our Government has started a massive effort to test our food, but behind closed doors, more or less from the time World Health Organization decided to reclassify Glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
2)
Start placing these test results online and available for any research student, scholar, scientist or concerned citizen to read, download and follow up on, should they so desire.

3)
Inform all parties, such as farmers, or loggers or nature park managers, that samples will be drawn from their areas after application of the herbicide, or when its concentration is noted to be highest, and also in off season, to get an idea of seasonal variation, and to start tracking the toxic load in regions within Delta.
4)
This data should be available to local hospitals and doctors, to check if reports of skin rashes, gastro-intestinal or auto-immune disorders, especially among children, seem to be following the rise and fall of prevalence of Glyphosate, in which case any research organization would now have some data to start working on, to investigate if some ailments might be linked to Glyphosate exposure. The municipality need not get involved in this research, but can easily and legally offer accumulated data. Why ? Because that aught to be our first line of defence against environment induced ill-health and it aught to be the duty of our town council to ensure the residents are protected from the most used and most controversial agriculture and environmental toxin in Canada.
5)
This data should also be available to wildlife research scientists that are investigating sudden population decline, unexpected mass death, skewring of sex ration in newborns, or disappearance of creatures starting from bees, birds, amphibians, herbivores and even whales.
6)
Invite volunteers to check if recommended limits of dose of glyphosate is followed by those authorized to use it, like farmers and loggers, or exceeded by anybody. I have reason to believe that application of Glyphosate is not supervised by anybody, even if the packaging warns that it is (or may be) relatively safe only if applied according to instructions and within the maximum recommended dosage limits. I believe a municipality has the right to allow citizen volunteers a right to check if such limits are maintained, even if the council cannot afford employing people to do so for them.

This is not the first time I have written to the Delta Corporation on Glyphosate and what I wished the town council to consider engaging in. This is unlikely to be my last. I wish the municipality would take this seriously.
This letter will likely be included in the petition asking Ottawa to place all safety data on Glyphosate in the public domain. The reason this letter, and others written to other politicians, will be included is that battling indiscriminate use of an untested (it remains untested as long as the tests are hidden from people) and potentially hazardous chemical will need to be challenged on multiple fronts and the people would need to engage in it directly, and apply pressure on the politicians. It is my hope that this update, which reaches all 22,000 supporters of the petition across Canada and beyond, will influence a few hundred others to also write to their respective town councils, MPs and MLAs. Even if a single politician or town ends up being the first in initiating a program to track our food, soil, water and environment for glyphosate concentration, that will amount to a kicking in of the door, a pathfinder, and a worthy achievement that others might follow.
Should Delta Corporation have an interest in discussing this further, I shall be more than happy to attend.
Looking forward to a positive response,
With good wishes
Tony Mitra, 10891 Cherry Lane, Delta, BC, V4E 3L7, Canada

Publishing a few books

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Writing is a gift – or is it?

Somewhere down the track where we evolved from apes to hominids with a brain that could handle complex sentences and a language, the basic tools for being a speaker were hardwired in.

I am told that this change essentially distinguishes anatomically modern humans from archaic forms, and that this development is rather recent, perhaps under a hundred thousand years old.

And then, much more recently, a mere five to ten thousand years back, folks started scratching around on the sand, of the walls of their caves, to describe something or other – passing phase of the moon, or the tide, or animals that were around them. And as humans discovered pastoralism and agriculture, experienced perhaps the first population spurt, and started building their own homes and not depend on caves, they managed to figure out how to use those scratchings for record keeping and identification. Written text, or script, was on the way.

And thus, although we have not yet evolved to the point where ability to speak in a language or read and write is hardwired into our genetic construct, and we have come  some distance towards it. A normal child will automatically pick up a language without being expressly tutored, simply by being around others speaking a specific tongue. Writing or reading, unfortunately is something that a human needs to specifically learn. It does not come automatically by hanging around people, or books, or a pencil.

Nonetheless, it is perhaps a fair assumption that a lot of people around the world can read some and write some, in some language. A few fortunate ones are comfortable in two languages, and some in more than two.

And that brings me all the way to my own situation. I had mentioned I knew three languages – Bengali, which is my mother tongue, Hindi, which is India’s national language, and English, which is the language I used in my profession as well as one of the two working languages of my adopted nation – Canada.

The problem these three languages each uses its own distinct script. This means, even if I am conversant in speaking in those languages, I would need to be familiar with three distinct scripts, or letters, to be able to read or write in any of them. This can be better understood if one considers differences between European languages such as English, Spanish and French. They use the same script, with perhaps a small number of special characters in each. If one is proficient in any language, one could more or less read the other, even if he fumbled with the exact meaning of grammar of it. Not so in my case. The three languages use three different scripts. Hindi and Bengali are both derived from a common mother language – Sanskrit and fall in the same language family, and yet their script separated from each other early on, and now one needs to be totally familiar with the different scripts to be able to read a sentence.

Anyhow, I write very little in Hindi, although I did part of my early schooling in that language and my first tentative writings and childhood poems were composed in Hindi.

My later years in a different part of India in a different school system let me lose familiarity with  writing Hindi, while picking up two others – Bengali and English. Today, I can read Hindi and converse in it, but would struggle to write in it.

I type the fastest in english, but that is primarily because the computer keypad is designed for english, and adapting that keypad to other scripts has its hassles, and sometimes I have to press multiple keys to generate a single letter in Bengali, which automatically slows things down and increases chances of mistake. While I can usually type in English without looking at my fingers, I cannot do that easily for Bengali using the same keyboard.

Anyhow, I have a lot of writings done in English and Bengali. And now the time has come I feel, to start publishing some of them since self publication is reasonably easy.

Some years ago, I tried to write a novel, but it turned out to be more a musing of an opinionated immigrant that observed the world around not superficially at the surface, but using What could amount to be a maverick effort at penetration below the surface and check if what we see at the surface is sustainable, or if the root is getting rotten, or in indeed the surface is shiny but is blocking out other parts of our world intending to insert an element of romance, the guy had a Canadian girl with him as they travelled across western Canada. But it was not really up to him to write a romance, and the continuing novella turn out to be a conversation between the two, mostly covering the land, its geological transformation, and evolutionary track of the living world, including man’s involvement is it.

Nonetheless, the total writings might appear to be somewhat curious and did include musings that I believe deserve to be preserved.

Due to sheer bulk of material, the writings needed to be split into multiple volumes. The first volume, covering 133 pages, was put up today. Its sections went as follows :

Captor description : Early writings
Section 1: A vanishing world
Section 2: Missing the world of his father’s paintings
Section 3: Golden
Section 4: An universe for an anchor
Section 5: Quantum mechanics of mass hysteria
Section 6: Storm warning
Section 7: Wish I could write like them
Section 8: Miguel, the Everglades and Lovelock’s warning
Section 9: Eocene Thermal maximum in a bowl of soup
Section 10: When you are right and wrong at the same time
Section 11: Rice in the Vedas
Section 12: Autobiographic blues
Section 13: At the water’s edge
Section 14: How green was my Facebook
Section 15: Suta at the riviera
Section 16: Coffee with a giant rhynoceros
Section 17: Considering Mabel
Section 18: Overload
Section 19: A sunset, mitochondria, peat bog, and a kiss
Section 20: A few pages on a leap year day
Section 21: The ten thousand year old woman
Section 22: The vanishing Y chromosome
Section 23: Cult of Tagore
Section 24: Old woman sacrifices herself.
Section 25: Hello world

And so, I compiled these twenty five blogs into 25 sections of chapter 1 of the book. The book has only one chapter but 25 sections, and is 133 pages long.

And then I converted it into an iBook (epub) format and uploaded it in Apple store.

Next, I exported it to pdf, reimported that for kindle and uploaded it again at Kindle.

Now, I can go have a coffee and plant some more seeds.

Paris Talks on Climate – a gathering of liars

I do not believe the Paris Climate talks will produce any result other than a lot of empty talk and photo shoot. Why do I feel that ? Because the world leaders appear to be allergic to calling a spade a spade, and spend their time on obfuscation that to me looks like deliberate attempt to hide the truth from the people who is responsible for the carbon, or total greenhouse gas emission. And the trick is – total emission by nations, and per capita emission by citizens of nations. If you cannot wrap your head around these two figures, you may fail to get to the bottom of this issue.

Here are a few graphs and sources of what I mean.

The above twin chart was made by me, taking CO2 emission figures from Wikipedia, World Bank, World Resources Institute and COTAP. The left half of the chart is what the major leaders would like to talk about – singling out China as the one polluting the planet. The same figures are also at the right half, but sorted according to per capita emission, or how much each person in these countries are emitting. And here you see a different pattern – the Anglo Saxon world is leading the attack on our environment, leading by far in carbon emission. Since these nations, and in particular USA, gives the impression of being among the best country in the world that others should imitate, they are setting the worst possible example for the rest of the planet. And this is something I would like to hear from Malcolm Turnbull, Barak Obama, or Justin Trudeau, And that is exactly what these leaders will not talk about, and will not accept.

Let us look at some more figures. This one is from Wikipedia

The list is sorted according to total emission of CO2 by nation. China is touted to look like the bad guy, having overtaken USA as the single largest CO2 emitting nation. But the bars at the right, give you the per capita figure. I added the red arrow to single out the greatest polluters on a per capita basis. Again, the Anglo saxons stand out as the worst environmental degraders, along with a few countries with easy access to fossil fuel such as Saudi Arabia, Kazakstan and UAE.

Now let us check a chart of total Green House Gas emission (Carbon Dioxide is not the only GHG) per capita, among the ten largest total emitting nations of the world, by World Resources Institute.

 I added the red and blue dotted horizontal line and the ellipses around USA and Canada. Notice that the world average emission is just over six (tons per person per year), along the dotted line. This means, if the playing field was made level right now, and the world decided not to increase carbon emission any further than what is today, every one will be allowed to emit only around 6 tons per year. Of course that is not what the world likes to aim at. They would like to limit total green house gas emission to what it was back in 1990. That total figure, of around 37 or so giga tons per year, when divided by the current population, of say 9 billion people, comes to, around 4 tons per person per year. That line was superimposed by the fat blue dotted line by me.

So now, let us see what this means. First, why do folks want to go back to the 1990 total, or reduce emission even less than the 1990 total? That is because folks have figured out that the cumulative effects of global warming and climate instability has a lag period in relation to the greenhouse gas emission. This means, even if every human dies today and stops producing any more CO2, the warming effect would continue for a while, before it begins to fall off. And we are not planning to all die off. Far from it. So, it was decided that going back to 1990 level would be a start. Even achieving that would ensure the world climate would change for the worse, up to a point, and then stay that way and not get any worse.

That was the basis for the 1990 emission level. So, now we understand the issue, and that the world average annual emission, based on 1990 total emission and current world population, should be around 4 tons.

This effectively means, if we really wish to make the playing field level, and that every human on earth is allowed have the same limit of GHG emission, then Canada, for example, will have to learn to do with a sixth of its current level of emission, or say 17% of its current level. And USA, the so called leader of the free world, will have to learn to live with a fifth of its current emission level. Can USA, or Canada, or Australia, manage to go back to energy consumption of a century ago? Can anybody imagine it? I do not see any of our leaders even talk about “per capita” emission, let alone setting any limit. And I know no poorer or developing country is going to accept any level that is lower pollution level than what the rich nations now enjoy. So, as long as the rich and the powerful are not willing to call a spade a spade, the rest of the world has every right to tell the leaders to go fly a kite, even if the outcome is environmental destruction that makes the earth’s surface less habitable by large air breathing vertebrate animals.

Meanwhile, how it is going to be for China, if the limit of 4 tons was to be implemented today ? Well, China will have to cut its own per capita emission to almost half. China is of course not at all ready to do that. In fact, China’s understandable argument or accusation has been that it is the west that caused the problem through four centuries of “development”, and damned if China is going to be penalized for that. China has every right, and will exert that right, to catch up with the west.

What does that mean, in terms of total emission ? If china is to catch up with the west, meaning primarily the anglo saxons (USA, Canada, Australia), it can easily double its per capita emission. That would add at least another 10 giga tons of carbon annually, and increase the global total by a fourth. In short, if the Anglo Saxons do not agree to decimate their emission level, China promises to increase global emission by 25%, from the current total level of around 40 to around 50 giga tons. What would that mean, in terms of average rise in temperature ? I do not know, and would appreciate anyone clarifying that.

Now, what about India? If we are to believe what some of the leaders are saying, it is USA, China, India, EU that are the power blocks. India is not high on total or per capita emission levels. But India is being taken seriously because it has the second highest population and is slated to overtake China as the most populous country soon. Not just that, but India is also an emerging nation, meaning it is recording a faster growth rate going over 7% annually, and its fuel consumption, deforestation, and contribution towards GHG emission is expected to climb exponentially for the coming decades.

Interestingly, among the top ten total emitters of today, in the chart above, only two nations, Mexico and India, have a per capita emission that is lower than the current average, while India is the only one that is below the average based on 1990 level too.

So, if India was to jump from its current low emission to the 1990 average level, there would not be a significant rise in global emission. But, if an agreement is not reached, and India too decides to go like China, and catch up with the Anglo Saxons, it can in essence increase its per capita emission ten fold, and national total by almost 20 giga tons, or 50% of the world total as of today. How much would that translate into a climate crisis ? How much would China+India catching up would cost the world in environmental greenhouse effect ?

Do we, as Canadians, have the right to demand that we continue to burn up 20 tons per man per year, and that China stays at 8 and India stays at 2? Will India or China agree to such a demand? Will USA agree to go back to the stone age with regard to fossil fuel consumption ?

Is anybody talking about these issues? I do not see truth coming from any of our leaders, not even second tier leaders. Not even small party leaders like Elizabeth May of the Green Party.

If we check the cumulative effect of CO2 emission since the dawn of the industrial age, from Dennis Silverman’s Southern California Energy blog, again USA stands out as a major villain, along with Germany, Russia, China. Eurasia, comprising of a rather vast region, and a slew of nations, still comes up with far less cumulative emission in the past two and a half century.

Greenhouse gases might be one out of more than one weapon of mass destruction we have unleashed on the planet – a chemical onslaught being at least one other. And since no leader is at all willing to call a spade a spade, I do not see how the higher planetary life can survive. Our leaders are calling a spade a Micky Mouse.

Whats the matter with the Anglo Saxons?

In general the more developed a nation is, more it has been polluting the environment with GHG. But out of them all, Australia, Canada and USA stand out as particular bad apples. Why? Is it something to do with their ethnicity, or culture, or work view or language, or geography? Well, Geography can be discounted since Australia, USA and Canada do not share identical climate geographic region. I shall let experts ponder this one out, but at first glance, the Anglo Saxons seem to be the least likely to provide a way out of this environmental dead end, because, as an ethnic group, it appears to be the most polluting in the entire planet. Unfortunately, the same anglo saxons also often assume they are in fact the leaders of the world, along with UK of course. Time for us to have a paradigm shift in our thinking, if we are going to solve this problem and get out alive as a civilization.

In general, the world is screwed, and human development and technology are, when you cut it to the bone, responsible for this crisis.

May be the solution would not come from humans at all, but from the micro organisms. I doubt man’s destructive “developmental” habits will be able to harm much of the micro-biota of the planet though. Those nitrogen fixing, oxygen breathing or exhaling, Methane eating, biochemically inventive micro-organisms might collectively produce a feedback loop, and begin to address the climate crisis, like in James Lovelock’s gaia hypothesis.

That, is a whole different story.

Bill C-51. What is a Canadian to do?

I am in search of an expert that is willing to speak with me on record about Bill C-51 and how it might affect free speech and rights of Canadian citizens, as well as why Canada should need such a law


Bill C-51, also known as Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, was proposed by Conservative MP Steven Blaney, was discussed in the parliament, voted on, got Royal assent and became law in the summer of 2015.
Part 1 of this bill is suspected to be an act legitimizing sharing of secret information about Canadians citizens by Canadian security agencies.
Part 2 is suspected to enact a Secure Air Travel Act that can restrict rights of air travel to suspect individuals.
Part 3 is suspected to amend the Criminal Code.

I use the word “suspect” because I do not consider myself an expert on the bill, and neither have I studied the bill personally. However, the implication of the bill concerns me as a citizen of Canada. I wish to learn more about it, and wish to spread awareness about it for Canadian citizens.I am aware that the bill, proposed by a conservative MP and supported by the Conservative party then in power, did not have the necessary votes to pass it, and that the Liberal party in opposition voted in support of the motion, thus providing it with the necessary number.
I have so far failed to get hold of a person that is able and willing to speak on record, preferably in short clips of no more than 5 or ten minutes, on what precisely the wordings of some sections of the bill is, and how this can affect citizens rights, either providing better security or taking away their rights to due process of justice.
There is a broader question as to why precisely does the Canadian Government need this anti-terrorism act, and if Canada is engaged internationally in actions that are expected to expose Canadian citizens back home to acts of retaliation or terror. The traditional image of Canada had been one that is a kind, peace brokering sympathetic nations that does not engage in foreign wars that are not our business. As a result, traditional Canada should not need to curtail its citizen’s freedom in order to stop terrorists around the world.So, what has changed ?Since I have been frustrated in my effort to find an expert that is willing to speak on record, and ask direct questions, I wrote this letter to the Canadian Bar Association, based on their online executive summary on the bill.


To the Canadian Bar Association
Hello,
I am a blogger (www.tonu.org), podcaster, amateur videographer (https://www.youtube.com/user/Tonymitra/videos), wild bird photographer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonu/), aspiring writer, a food security activist, a backyard organic farmer, a retired marine engineer and a concerned citizen of Canada. My blog gets between a thousand and two thousand hits a day.
I have been concerned about bill C-51 and its implications. I have been on a search to find a suitable person that is able and willing to speak with me, preferably on record, in order to create an brief audio podcast or a video to accompany a blog for the people, to explain how rights and freedom of Canadian citizens might be compromised by the bill C-51 and its broader implications as to why this bill has been created and what a secretive Government could do with this bill, to the people of Canada and to people outside of Canada, and why it should be important for Canadians to act on it, either supporting it or resisting it.
I have found many people that do not like the bill. I too do not like it instinctively. But unfortunately I am yet to find anyone that is knowledgable, has read the bill thoroughly, has checked how it infringes against people’s freedom point by point, and is willing to educate us on it.
I write to you because I have read your Executive summary on C-51, the anti-terrorism act of 2015 (http://iclmg.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/03/15-15-eng-Executive-Summary.pdf).

From Canadian Bar Association summary

From Canadian Bar Association summary

Can you help connect me with a person that might be willing to speak with me on record of the specifics of this bill and how each of them impact our freedom?I live in Delta, BC, and am able to drive within the lower mainlands in BC, or connect over the phone or on skype.
Thanking you
Tony Mitra
(contacts)


A sort of petition to the Liberal Govt

Open Letter to MPs, to amend or kill C-51

The following is an open letter addressed to all members of Parliament and signed by more than 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines.

Dear Members of Parliament,

Please accept this collective open letter as an expression of the signatories’ deep concern that Bill C-51 (which the government is calling the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada’s democracy.

Beyond that, we note with concern that knowledgeable analysts have made cogent arguments not only that Bill C-51 may turn out to be ineffective in countering terrorism by virtue of what is omitted from the bill, but also that Bill C-51 could actually be counter-productive in that it could easily get in the way of effective policing, intelligence-gathering and prosecutorial activity. In this respect, we wish it to be clear that we are neither “extremists” (as the Prime Minister has recently labelled the Official Opposition for its resistance to Bill C-51) nor dismissive of the real threats to Canadians’ security that government and Parliament have a duty to protect. Rather, we believe that terrorism must be countered in ways that are fully consistent with core values (that include liberty, non-discrimination, and the rule of law), that are evidence-based, and that are likely to be effective.

The scope and implications of Bill C-51 are so extensive that it cannot be, and is not, the purpose of this letter to itemize every problem with the bill. Rather, the discussion below is an effort to reflect a basic consensus over some (and only some) of the leading concerns, all the while noting that any given signatory’s degree of concern may vary item by item. Also, the absence of a given matter from this letter is not meant to suggest it is not also a concern.

We are grateful for the service to informed public debate and public education provided, since Bill C-51 was tabled, by two highly respected law professors — Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa and Kent Roach of the University of Toronto — who, combined, have great expertise in national security law at the intersection of constitutional law, criminal law, international law and other sub-disciplines. What follows — and we limit ourselves to five points — owes much to the background papers they have penned, as well as to insights from editorials in the media and speeches in the House of Commons.

Accordingly, we urge all MPs to vote against Bill C-51 for the following reasons:

  1. Bill C-51 enacts a new security-intelligence information-sharing statute of vast scope with no enhanced protections for privacy and from abuse. The law defines “activities that undermine the security of Canada” in such an exceptionally broad way that “terrorism” is simply one example of nine examples, and only “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression” is excluded. Apart from all the civil-disobedience activities and illegal protests or strikes that will be covered (e.g. in relation to “interference with critical infrastructure”), this deep and broad intrusion into privacy is made worse by the fact there are no corresponding oversight or review mechanisms adequate to this expansion of the state’s new levels of information awareness. Concerns have already been expressed by the Privacy Commissioner, an Officer of Parliament, who has insufficient powers and resources to even begin to oversee, let alone correct abuses within, this expanded information-sharing system. And there is virtually nothing in the bill that recognizes any lessons learned from what can happen when information-sharing ends up in the wrong hands, as when the RCMP supplied poor information to US authorities that in turn led to the rendition of Maher Arar to Syria and his subsequent torture based on that – and further – information coming from Canada.
  2. Bill C-51 enacts a new “terrorism” offence that makes it criminal to advocate or encourage “terrorism offences in general” where one does this being reckless as to whether the communication “may” contribute to someone else deciding to commit another terrorism offence. It is overbroad, unnecessary in view of current criminal law, and potentially counter-productive. Keep in mind how numerous and broad are the existing terrorism offences in the Criminal Code, some of which go beyond what the ordinary citizen imagines when they think of terrorism and all of which already include the general criminal-law prohibitions on counselling, aiding and abetting, conspiring, and so on: advocacy or encouragement of any of these “in general” could attract prosecution under the new C-51 offence. Note as well that gestures and physical symbols appear to be caught, and not just verbal or written exhortations. In media commentary and reports, there have been many examples of what could be caught, including in some contexts advocacy of armed revolution and rebellion in other countries (e.g. if C-51 had been the law when thousands of Canadians advocated support for Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in its efforts to overthrow apartheid by force of arms, when that was still part of the ANC’s strategy). So, the chill for freedom of speech is real. In addition, in a context in which direct incitement to terrorist acts (versus of “terrorism offences in general”) is already a crime in Canada, this vague and sweeping extension of the criminal law seems unjustified in terms of necessity – and indeed, the Prime Minister during Question Period has been unable or unwilling to give examples of what conduct he would want to see criminalized now that is not already prohibited by the Criminal Code. But, perhaps most worrying is how counter-productive this new crime could be. De-radicalization outreach programs could be negatively affected. Much anti-radicalization work depends on frank engagement of authorities like the RCMP, alongside communities and parents, with youth who hold extreme views, including some views that, if expressed (including in private), would contravene this new prohibition. Such outreach may require “extreme dialogue” in order to work through the misconceptions, anger, hatred and other emotions that lead to radicalization. If C-51 is enacted, these efforts could find themselves stymied as local communities and parents receive advice that, if youth participating in these efforts say what they think, they could be charged with a crime. As a result, the RCMP may cease to be invited in at all, or, if they are, engagement will be fettered by restraint that defeats the underlying methods of the programme. And the counter-productive impact could go further. The Prime Minister himself confirmed he would want the new law used against young people sitting in front of computers in their family basements, youth who can express extreme views on social-media platforms. Why is criminalization counter-productive here? As a National Post editorial pointed out, the result of Bill C-51 could easily be that one of the best sources of intelligence for possible future threats — public social-media platforms — could dry up; that is, extreme views will go silent because of fears of being charged. This undercuts the usefulness of these platforms for monitoring and intelligence that lead to knowing not only who warrants further investigative attention but also whether early intervention in the form of de-radicalization outreach efforts are called for.
  3. Bill C-51 would allow CSIS to move from its central current function — information-gathering and associated surveillance with respect to a broad area of “national security” matters — to being a totally different kind of agency that now may actively intervene to disrupt activities by a potentially infinite range of unspecified measures, as long as a given measure falls shy of causing bodily harm, infringements on sexual integrity or obstructions of justice. CSIS agents can do this activity both inside and outside Canada, and they can call on any entity or person to assist them. There are a number of reasons to be apprehensive about this change of role. One only has to recall that the CSIS Act defines “threats to the security of Canada” so broadly that CSIS already considers various environmental and Aboriginal movements to be subject to their scrutiny; that is to say, this new disruption power goes well beyond anything that has any connection at all to “terrorism” precisely because CSIS’s mandate in the CSIS Act goes far beyond a concern only with terrorism. However, those general concerns expressed, we will now limit ourselves to the following serious problem: how Bill C-51 seems to display a complete misunderstanding of the role of judges in our legal system and constitutional order. Under C-51, judges may now be asked to give warrants to allow for disruption measures that contravene Canadian law or the Charter, a role that goes well beyond the current contexts in which judges now give warrants (e.g. surveillance warrants and search and seizure warrants) where a judge’s role is to ensure that these investigative measures are “reasonable” so as not to infringe section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights. What C-51 now does is turn judges into agents of the executive branch (here, CSIS) to pre-authorize violations of Canadian law and, even, to pre-authorize infringements of almost any Charter right as long as the limits in C-51 – bodily harm, sexual integrity and obstruction of justice – are respected. This completely subverts the normal role of judges, which is to assess whether measures prescribed by law or taken in accordance with discretion granted by statute infringed rights — and, if they did, whether the Charter has been violated because the infringement cannot be justified under the Charter’s section 1 limitation clause. Now, a judge can be asked (indeed, required) to say yes in advance to measures that could range from wiping a target’s computer clear of all information to fabricating materials (or playing agent-provocateur roles) that discredit a target in ways that cause others no longer to trust him, her or it: and these examples are possibly at the mild end of what CSIS may well judge as useful “disruption” measures to employ. It is also crucial to note that CSIS is authorized to engage in any measures it chooses if it concludes that the measure would not be “contrary” to any Canadian law or would not “contravene” the Charter. Thus, it is CSIS that decides whether to even go to a judge. There is reason to be worried about how unregulated (even by courts) this new CSIS disruption power would be, given the evidence that CSIS has in the past hidden information from its review body, SIRC, and given that a civil-servant whistleblower has revealed that, in a parallel context, Ministers of Justice in the Harper government have directed Department of Justice lawyers to conclude that the Minister can certify under the Department of Justice Act that a law is in compliance with the Charter if there is a mere 5% chance a court would uphold the law if it was challenged in court. Finally, it is crucial to add that these warrant proceedings will take place in secret, with only the government side represented, and no prospect of appeal. Warrants will not be disclosed to the target and, unlike police investigations, CSIS activities do not culminate in court proceedings where state conduct is then reviewed.
  4. We now draw attention to effectiveness by noting a key omission from C-51. As the Official Opposition noted in its “reasoned amendment” when it moved that C-51 not be given Second Reading, Bill C-51 does not include “the type of concrete, effective measures that have been proven to work, such as working with communities ‎on measures to counter radicalization of youth – may even undermine outreach.” This speaks for itself, and we will not elaborate beyond saying that, within a common commitment to countering terrorism, effective measures of the sort referenced in the reasoned amendment not only are necessary but also must be vigorously pursued and well-funded. The government made no parallel announcements alongside Bill C-51 that would suggest that these sort of measures are anywhere near the priority they need to be.
  5. Finally, the defects noted in points 1, 2 and 3 (information-sharing, criminalizing expression, and disruption) are magnified by the overarching lack of anything approaching adequate oversight and review functions, at the same time as existing accountability mechanisms have been weakened and in some cases eliminated in recent years. Quite simply, Bill C-51 continues the government’s resolute refusal to respond to 10 years of calls for adequate and integrated review of intelligence and related security-state activities, which was first (and perhaps best) articulated by Justice O’Connor in a dedicated volume in his report on what had happened to Maher Arar. Only last week, former prime ministers and premiers wrote an open letter saying that a bill like C-51 cannot be enacted absent the kind of accountability processes and mechanisms that will catch and hopefully prevent abuses of the wide new powers CSIS and a large number of partner agencies will now have (note that CSIS can enlist other agencies and any person in its disruption activities and the information-sharing law concerns over a dozen other government agencies besides CSIS). Even if one judged all the new CSIS powers in C-51 to be justified, they must not be enacted without proper accountability. Here, we must note that the government’s record has gone in the opposite direction from enhanced accountability. Taking CSIS alone, the present government weakened CSIS’s accountability by getting rid of an oversight actor, the Inspector General, whose job was to keep the Minister of Public Security on top of CSIS activity in real time. It transferred this function to CSIS’s review body, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which does not have anything close to the personnel or resources to carry this function out – given it does not have sufficient staff and resources to carry out its existing mandate to ensure CSIS acts within the law. Beyond staff, we note that SIRC is a body that has for some time not been at a full complement of members, even as the government continues to make no apology for having once appointed as SIRC’s Chair someone with no qualifications (and it turns out, no character) to be on SIRC let alone to be its chair (Arthur Porter). And, as revealed in a recent CBC investigation, the government has simply not been straight with Canadians when it constantly says SIRC is a robust and well-resourced body: its budget is a mere $3 million, which has flat-lined since 2005 when the budget was $2.9 million, even as its staff has been cut from 20 in 2005 to 17 now. Without an integrated security-intelligence review mechanism, which should also include some form of Parliamentary oversight and/or review, and with especially SIRC (with jurisdiction only over CSIS) not a fully effective body, we are of the view that no MP should in good conscience be voting for Bill C-51.

Above, we have limited ourselves to five central concerns, but it is important to reiterate that some or all of the signatories have serious concerns about a good number of other aspects of C-51 – and/or about detailed aspects of some of the concerns that were generally expressed in the above five points. The following are some (but only some) of those concerns, in point form. They are included by way of saying that signatories believe these all need to be looked at closely and rigorously during House of Commons committee study of C-51, now that it has passed Second Reading:

  • C-51 radically lowers the threshold for preventive detention and imposition of recognizance with conditions on individuals. Only three years ago, Parliament enacted a law saying this detention/conditions regime can operate if there is a reasonable basis for believing a person “will” commit a terrorist offence. Now, that threshold has been lowered to “may.” There has been a failure of the government to explain why exactly the existing power has not been adequate. In light of the huge potential for abuse of such a low threshold, including through wide-scale use (recalling the mass arrests at the time of the War Measures Act in Quebec), Canadians and parliamentarians need to know why extraordinary new powers are needed, especially when the current ones were enacted in the context of ongoing threats by Al-Qaeda to carry out attacks in Canada that seem no less serious than the ones currently being threatened by entities like ISIS and Al-Shabab.
  • C-51 expands the no-fly list regime. It seems to have simply replicated the US no-fly list rules, the operation of which has been widely criticized in terms of its breadth and impacts on innocent people. Is this the right regime for Canada?
  • C-51’s new disruption warrants now allows CSIS to impinge on the RCMP’s law enforcement role, bringing back turf wars that were eliminated when intelligence and law enforcement were separated in the wake of the RCMP’s abusive disruption activities of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But, even more important than turf wars is the potential for CSIS behaviour in the form of disruptive measures to undermine both the investigation and the prosecution of criminal cases by interfering with evidentiary trail, contaminating evidence, and so on.
  • C-51, in tandem with C-44, permits CSIS to engage not just in surveillance and information-gathering abroad, but also in disruption. There are many questions about how this will work. The danger of lawlessness seems to be significantly greater for CSIS activities abroad, in that CSIS only needs to seek approval for disruption under C-51 where Canadian, not foreign, law could be breached or where the Charter could be contravened (with Canadian law on the application of the Charter outside Canada being quite unclear at the moment). And there is no duty for CSIS to coordinate with or seek approval from the Department of Foreign Affairs, such that the chances of interference with the conduct of Canada’s foreign affairs cannot be discounted. Nor can we ignore the likely tendency for disruption measures abroad to be more threatening to individuals’ rights than in Canada: for example, Parliament needs to know whether CSIS agents abroad can engage in detention and rendition to agencies of other countries under the new C-51 regime.

We end by observing that this letter is dated Feb. 23, 2015, which is also the day when the government has chosen to cut off Second Reading debate on Bill C-51 after having allocated a mere three days (in reality, only portions of each of those days) to debate. In light of the sweeping scope and great importance of this bill, we believe that circumventing the ability of MPs to dissect the bill, and their responsibility to convey their concerns to Canadians at large before a Second Reading vote, is a troubling undermining of our Parliamentary democracy’s capacity to hold majority governments accountable. It is sadly ironic that democratic debate is being curtailed on a bill that vastly expands the scope of covert state activity when that activity will be subject to poor or even non-existent democratic oversight or review.

In conclusion, we urge all Parliamentarians to ensure that C-51 not be enacted in anything resembling its present form.

Yours sincerely,

Jennie Abell, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Amir Attaran, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law , University of Ottawa
Natasha Bakht, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Clayton Bangsund, Assistant Professor, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
Margaret Beare, Professor of Law and Sociology, York University
Faisal Bhabha, Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Jennifer Bond, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Suzanne Bouclin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law – Civil Law, University of Ottawa
Susan Boyd, Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Sarah Buhler, Assistant Professor, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
Karen Busby, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba, and Director, Centre for Human Rights Research
Michael Byers, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Global Politics and International Law, University of British Columbia
Angela Cameron, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Pascale Chapdelaine, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Larry Chartrand, Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Allison Christians, H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Tax Law, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Brenda Cossman, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Stephen Coughlan, Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University
François Crépeau, Hans & Tamar Openheimer Professor in Public International Law, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Hugo Cyr, Professor of Law, University of Quebec in Montreal
Jennifer E. Dalton, Assistant Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration, York University
Maneesha Deckha, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Julie Desrosiers, Professor, Faculty of Law, University Laval
Peter Dietsch, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal
Stacy Douglas, Assistant Professor, Department of Law & Legal Studies, Carleton University
Susan Drummond, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Isabelle Duplessis, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Stuart Farson, Adjunct Professor, Political Science, Simon Fraser University
Gerry Ferguson, Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Leonard, Findlay, Professor, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan, and Director, Humanities Research Unit
Colleen Flood, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; Research Chair in Health Law & Policy
Fabien Gélinas, Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
Daphne Gilbert, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Jassmine Girgis, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Isabel Grant, Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Marie Annik Grégoire, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Sakej Henderson, Professor, University of Saskatchewan, Research Director, Native Law Centre of Canada
Gleider I. Hernández, Senior Lecturer in Public International Law, Durham Law School
Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, University of Birmingham
Louis-Philippe Hodgson, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, York University
Felix Hoehn, Assistant Professor, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
Jula Hughes, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick
Allan Hutchinson, Distinguished Research Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Shin Imai, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Martha Jackman, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Juliet Johnson, Associate Professor, Political Science, McGill University
Rebecca Johnson, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Jasminka Kalajdzic, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Charis Kamphuis, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University
John Keyes, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Muharem Kianieff, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Jeff King, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Laws, University College London
Jennifer Koshan, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
François J. Larocque, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Fannie Lafontaine, Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair on International Criminal Justice and Human Rights, University Laval
Louis-Philippe Lampron, Professor, Faculty of Law, Laval University
Nicole LaViolette, Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Jean Leclair, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Ed Levy, Retired Professor of Philosophy, University of British Columbia
Brian Lewis, Professor of History, McGill University
Jamie Liew, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Catherine Lu, Associate Professor, Political Science, McGill University
Audrey Macklin, Professor of Law and Chair in Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Alice MacLachlan, Associate Professor, Philosophy, York University
Warren Magnusson, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Victoria
Kathleen Mahoney, Professor of Law, University of Calgary; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
Marie Manikis, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University
John Manwaring, Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Michael Marin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Graham Mayeda, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Sheila McIntyre, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Michael M’Gonigle, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
Cynthia Milton, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Montreal
Richard Moon, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Mary Jane Mossman, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Claire Mummé, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Roxanne Mykitiuk, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Pierre Noreau, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Darren O’Toole, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Charles-Maxime Panaccio, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Steven Penney, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta
Denise Reaume, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Philip Resnick, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of British Columbia
Darryl Robinson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
David Robitaille, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Ottawa and trustee at the Quebec Centre for Environmental Law
Sanda Rodgers, Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
Bruce Ryder, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Academic Director, Anti-Discrimination Intensive Program
Hengameh Saberi, Assistant Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Calvin Sandborn, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria, Legal Director, UVic Environmental Law Centre
Steven Savit, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia
Jennifer Schulz, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba
Dayna Scott. Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Graduate Program Director
Noel Semple, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Martha Shaffer, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Elizabeth Sheehy, Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
James Sheptycki, Professor of Criminology, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University
James Stewart, Assistant Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Donald Stuart, Professor, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University
Marie-Eve Sylvestre, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law – Civil Law, University of Ottawa, and Vice-Dean, Research and Communications
François Tanguay-Renaud, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security
David Tanovich, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Christine Tappolet, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Montreal
Saul Templeton, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary
Kimberley N. Trapp, Senior Lecturer in International Law, Faculty of Laws, University College London
Gus Van Harten, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Lucinda Vandervort, Professor, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan
Wilfrid Waluchow, Professor, Senator William McMaster Chair in Constitutional Studies, Department of Philosophy, McMaster University
Christopher Waters, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
Wesley Pue, Professor, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
Reg Whitaker, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, York University, and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, University of Victoria
David Wiseman, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law – Common Law, University of Ottawa
Stepan Wood, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Relevant Links :

Bill C-51 (Historical)
Openmedia Petition

A Petition about Glyphosate

I have had a series of exchanges with Health Canada on Glyphosate. These include :

1. A letter to Ms Rona Ambrose, the minster of health, hand carried by outgoing MP Alex Atamanenko to Ms Ambrose, on the issue of lack of laboratories in Canada (at the time, i.e. last year) where Canadians could test themselves (urine sample or breast milk), or their food, for presence of Glyphosate. That produced a convoluted response from the ministry, without actually covering the main issue, i.e. labs for Canadians. At the time, Canada had labs that test for Glyphosate only in soil and in water. That is all.

Things have improved since then. I do not know if it happened because of my question, and because MP Alex Atamanenko pushed it with Health Canada, or because World Health Organization re-classified Glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, or for a combination of reasons including the above two. Whatever the reason, a number of Canadian labs now offer testing of food items for presence of Glyphosate. Some will test only vegetables, or processed food. Some will test grains. Some might only test crops from the field. Some have this testing methodology and process accredited. Some claim they can get the accreditation but have not done so because it is costly and they do not know if the business will be enough to maintain this accreditation that involves high annual fees.

Some will only test target weed type plants that show visible damage due to suspected glyphosate attack, but will not test plants that show no trace of damage, such as RoundUp Ready crops.

They mostly use High Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry or similar high end methods and have a lowest repeatable and verifiable detection level that is between 10 and 20 parts per billion.

Most will do such tests for any paying customer including the general public. Costs can vary from around 200 to 400, depending on various factors.

Unfortunately, testing of human body fluids such as urine, blood, or mother’s breast milk, for presence of Glyphosate, is still not possible in Canada. There is a system in the US, that allows Canadian urine to be transported safety and tested in the US, for USD 119 each – and effort in which I am personally involved. We have sent out the first batch of samples and are awaiting results. This is covered in another blog.

2. Safety test documents: Request to Health Canada, through Access To Information (ATI) act, for Health Canada to disclose to me the document, based on which it approved Glyphosate. This resulted in huge file being copied into a CD and sent to me by mail. But the document and its attached reports and links did not include direct test data conducted on animals that have been exposed to the chemical. Rather, it was a summary report comprising of visiting other scientific papers. So the issue remains unresolved, i.e. if Canadian Government of its Pest Management Review Association has at all sighted a direct safety test report with their raw data, or not. And if it has, then will it make those document(s) public. I intend to make fresh requests to Health Canada, with different wording, for disclosure of the safety test raw data.

3. Results of Canadian foods being tested for Glyphosate content. I know the Canadian Government has started testing our food for Glyphosate content. I know existing labs are scrambling to get on board, and are either developing their own technology or adopting/licensing European or American systems. I asked the Government, against under Access To Information Act, to disclose to me all such results. Unfortunately, again, I am being given selective results, involving tests of crops suspected to be clean already, such as organic plants, and not conventional, or RoundUp Ready plants. So, in my view, the Government is playing hide and seek with us on safety data on glyphosate.

4. A fresh petition: Now that we have a fresh Government to take helm, and this Government is promising to be more transparent, I intend to see if fresh engagements will help bring transparency in this field which has been opaque for too long.

This petition, which is now collecting signatories and is sort of open ended. I was thinking of closing it when it collects 500 signatures. A letter should be sent to New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as the new Minster of Health, for them to disclose the safety documents relating to Glyphosate, and also to make the system transparent so that people do not have to run around to get an honest answer on issues of food safety.

Meanwhile, there has been some interesting sniping behind the back from some anti-GMO and anti-pesticide talking heads, who might be harbouring a desire to own the movement, or appear to be the omnipotent guru in their ivory towers.

One comment that has come back through circuitous paths is that it is not Health Canada’s duty to sight first hand safety test data and not their duty to prove to the citizens of Canada that a product it approved is safe. All Health Canada needs to do, perhaps, is copy paste whatever they get from the biotech industry.

The petition has gathered over 19,000 supporters by November 14. It also got under the skin of a Harold Ingram, who was kind enough to send me an email.

Naturally, that is not what we expect a Government to do. There are rule books and guidelines on that the approval regime under the ministry of health is supposed to follow.

I had a minute and a half talk with Dr. Shiv Chopra, and converted that into a video, for clarifications.

So, here is a request for those that believe such a petition is necessary – go sign it. Click on the petition image to go to that page.

Thank you.