December 3, 2016 - No. 47

Trudeau Government's Program for Electoral Reform

Minister of Democratic Institutions
"Walks Crookedly"

Supplement -- December 4
Farewell, Dear Comrade, Farewell

Mighty Expressions of Profound Respect, Gratitude and Social Love

The Anti-Social Method of Ordering Preferences
- Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada -
Nefarious Aim of Consultations on Electoral Reforms
- Sam Heaton -

For Your Information

Special Committee Issues Report
Government Introduces Amendments to Canada Elections Act
Process to "Clean Up Data" on Register of Electors
Register of Future Electors

Canada Hosts International Meeting on Syria

Canada's Quandary Over What Happens Post-U.S. Election
- Pauline Easton -
Plotting Against the Peace
- Margaret Villamizar -

Mont Tremblant Meeting

Anniversary of November 2015 Paris Attack
Rule by Exception and Violation of Rights Become the New Normal
- Christian Legeais -
French Government Announces Massive Database
of Personal Information

New Peace Agreement Ratified in Colombia
Peace Process Defended

Urgent Call from Network in Defense of Humanity
Petition Campaign for Freedom of Oscar Lopez Rivera

Trudeau Government's Program for Electoral Reform

Minister of Democratic Institutions
"Walks Crookedly"

The response of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Democratic Institutions to the recommendations of the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform, released on December 1, put the final nail in the coffin of the Trudeau government's deceptive agenda for democratic reform.

The significant thing is not that the Liberals and Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef change the story as they go, prevaricating and making decisions according to self-serving pragmatic criteria. That part is obvious. Even the Liberal intelligentsia has to marvel at their arrogance in thinking they could get away with it. It is not that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not show his face during Question Period the day the Special Committee released its report. There is nothing honourable about leaving Minister Monsef to face the consequences of the government's equivocation and prevarication on her own.[1] Patience has worn thin with a Minister whose abilities are limited to spouting silly chauvinistic phrases about how great Canada's democracy is as she repeats the party line. Many are also increasingly contemptuous of the Prime Minister's inability to deal with a real world that does not match his mental construct of himself and everything around him.

The significant thing is the government's dismissive attitude towards the report of the Special Committee, the unwarranted conclusions it is drawing from it and how this relates to the problem it is trying to solve. During Question Period on December 1, Monsef said, "My first impressions [of the report] are that there are some good ideas in there. For example, the only way that we can engage Canadians on their preference for an alternative to first past the post is through a values-based conversation." Monsef referred twice more to a "values-based approach" and suggested it was the only clear recommendation and that "[t]he only thing there was consensus on in that regard was that there was no consensus on a specific system to first past the post." Monsef added, "We are not done hearing from Canadians. We will be reaching out to them through an invitation they will receive in their mailboxes as soon as next week, and we are looking forward to hearing from as many voices as possible before making introductory legislation in this House."

With this, Monsef has made it clear that the Liberal Party is sticking to what it wants no matter what anybody says. Its agenda is to impose that, come what may.

Monsef added, "We are not done hearing from Canadians. We will be reaching out to them through an invitation they will receive in their mailboxes as soon as next week, and we are looking forward to hearing from as many voices as possible before making introductory legislation in this House."

Elaborating the "values-based approach," Monsef told reporters, "the next leg of our consultations, which will go through the month of December, will allow Canadians one more opportunity to be part of this conversation, to make sure that the values that they feel are most important in a voting system, in their democracy, are represented in the final outcome. And we're going to take all the feedback we've received, including that of the Committee, including MP town halls, and my own and [Parliamentary Secretary for Democratic Renewal Mark Holland]'s consultations, before we introduce legislation in the House."

The text of the postcard Canadians will receive invites them to "explore how your opinions about our democracy compare to those of other Canadians." A serious problem with this is that what a society stands for is not the aggregate of the personal views of individuals. When the Trudeau government claims that Canadians have common values and that they will establish the truth of what they are, it is merely promoting values which assist them to perpetuate their own rule. They are trying to divert people from looking at the real problems they face by depriving them of an outlook and political program which establishes their unity in action to open society's path to progress.

Writing in 1995 on the significance of a discussion on values, Hardial Bains explained:

The issue of values needs an extremely serious and dispassionate treatment. People working together in a common economy, geographical territory and common language historically develop a common psychology and give rise to a nation. Can it be said that this commonness gives rise to common values? The answer is no. If there were such a thing as common values in a nation, the right to conscience would have no meaning.

It must be fully appreciated that we are speaking about a society based on a modern economic system with a modern state. Can the motive of modern capitalist production to make maximum capitalist profit be called a common value? It may be a common value of all capitalists, but it cannot be called a common value of the entire society.

In the sphere of politics, can it be said that the "representative democracy as it exists in Canada" is a common value of all Canadians? The answer is no. CPC(M-L) and others do not value the same political system that the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and others do. The same can be said about values in the cultural and other spheres.

The point which I want to raise is: Why should there be such an emphasis on values at this time? Why are the Republicans and others talking so much about values, including family values? The reason is that people are fed up with what is going on, and these forces want to divert the people from dealing with the problems they face by raising the issue of values as a series of abstractions.

It is my strong opinion that we should only speak about values in concrete terms by paying attention to the concrete conditions. A discussion on values can be a positive factor in democratic renewal if we pay attention to modern definitions when we speak about them.

Those values which objectively concern everyone can be called public, but this does not mean they are common. For instance, the profit motive concerns everyone. So does representative democracy. Can official public policy enshrine these values as "common" without infringing upon the right to conscience? [...]

The problem is that when values are spoken about at the present time, what belongs to all and what is private get totally confused. A person has the right to believe and do whatever he/she wishes ... as long as it remains a private affair. As soon as it becomes public, it becomes something entirely different and complex.

Speaking concretely, there are values which are public because they affect everyone, and there are values which are private and only affect the holders of those values. Public values refer only to those values which concern all. Nothing more and nothing less. To enshrine public values as common values with which everyone must agree or disagree will cause a serious conflict.

For over 200 years, capitalists have been promoting values which assist them to perpetuate their own rule, and they have been trying to impose these values on everyone by force of arms. One such value is the profit-motive. On the basis of this value, everyone is compelled to accept the economic system which benefits the capitalists, but which produces the concentration of riches on one pole and the concentration of poverty on the other. If everyone were to accept the motive of making maximum capitalist profit as a universal value, this would have several consequences. First, the claims of the capitalists, especially the creditors, would be the only claims accepted by society. Second, the economy would not be planned but would continue to develop in an anarchic fashion. Third, trade wars leading to inter-imperialist wars, besides many other things, would be accepted as the norm.

Capitalists call their values "universal values" in the most self-serving way. Why are capitalist values promoted as "universal"? Because capitalism grows only through domination. The claim that their values are universal is a device to dominate others. However, if these values are objectively analyzed, they are not universal. The profit-motive as a value belongs only to the epoch of the bourgeoisie, and will disappear with the overthrow of capitalism. How can a value which is universal be overthrown?

On the other hand, the value which recognizes the claims of all people on society by virtue of their being human and which demands that the economy be organized for the benefit of all is objectively a universal value which concerns all. Why would the capitalists not recognize this value? If they were to recognize this value, then they would not be capitalists and capitalism would not be capitalism. In other words, the capitalists have economic, political and other values which suit their pursuit of making maximum capitalist profit. The private values which they hold also assist them in this pursuit.

When the capitalists claim that a country has values, they are trying to divert people from looking at the real problems they face and to have a fight over values rather than over how to move society forward. [...]

Values, whether private or public, appear within specific historical contexts. At this time, the defence of collective rights has emerged as the most important human value. No human rights can be defended without the defence of collective rights. The collective rights of many peoples in the world are being denied. The collective rights of the Indigenous peoples are also denied in the same Constitution which denies the collective rights of the Quebec nation. The same is the case with the collective rights of the people of Canada. [...]

It is very important to discuss values at this time. In doing so, we must ensure that we also defend the value of what is beneficial to all. This is one of the greatest human values. How are we going to have a human race in the true sense of the word if we do not pay attention to this value? We have to establish a modern kinship. Kinship under primitive communism was based on blood relationships. Kinship under capitalism is based on blood and class relationships. In the period of transition to communist society, kinship is also based on class relationships. But kinship in the future society will be based on humanity itself. This value is the most universal of all values and must be upheld by all. [...][2]


1. Definitions of equivocation and prevarication:

"Equivocation" comes from the Latin for "equal" and "naming," and in equivocation, one uses a word that could have a few different meanings, all technically equal, in order to mask what one really means. It is a great way to not-quite lie, but still avoid taking the blame for something one did, which is why equivocation is never a good thing.

It is considered a type of: ambiguity, equivocalness, unclearness by virtue of having more than one meaning, untruthfulness, quality of being untruthful; falsification by means of vague or ambiguous language. Synonyms include: tergiversation, evasion.

"Prevarication" as a noun is mostly just a fancy way to say "lie," it can also mean skirting around the truth, being vague about the truth, or even delaying giving someone an answer, especially to avoid telling them the whole truth. In the 16th century, the word was used to mean "going astray," or "stepping out of line." It comes from the Latin root word praevaricari , which literally translates as "walk crookedly." Synonyms include: fabrication, lying

2. Hardial Bains was leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) until his untimely death in 1997. Originally published in TML Daily Vol. 25 No. 34, February 3, 1995.

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The Anti-Social Method of Ordering Preferences

On December 1, the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform delivered a report on its study and consultation on "viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system." The same day, Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, while rejecting the report, referred to the "next leg" of the Liberals' consultations which have yet to be formally announced. Monsef said these new consultations could begin as early as Monday, December 5, and involve a new government website, "" featuring a questionnaire which an anonymous official told media "should not be construed as a referendum, nor is it a survey or a poll." It will not allow Canadians to state their support for any particular method of counting ballots, but instead asks users to state their level of agreement with different "democratic values." To direct Canadians to the online questionnaire the government is mailing postcards to more than 13 million households. According to Minister Monsef, the government will not implement any reforms "without the broad support of Canadians."[1]

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada (MLPC) pointed out before the Trudeau government's consultations were launched that the approach of the government and cartel parties to electoral reform "serves to divide the polity into camps which favour one method of counting votes over another while the fundamental question of the crisis of democracy itself is not even broached. It serves to glorify voting as 'the most basic democratic exercise' precisely at a time when the people are saying that voting every four or five years is not enough."

Electoral reform worthy of the name must address how to enable members of the polity to participate in the decision-making process so that they can exercise control over the direction of the economy and all matters in the social, political, cultural and other domains. Instead, the method of consultations being used is to make sure no discussion takes place on any substantial issue facing the polity. Any action which does not eliminate positions of privilege in the hands of the governors over the governed will only lead to ever greater disenfranchisement and deepen the crisis in which the democratic institutions are mired.

Much speculation about what the Trudeau government is up to has centred on the idea that the Liberals are looking for a way to impose their favoured method of counting votes, ranked ballots. One conclusion that has been drawn by many is that the issue for the Liberals is to either find a way to fabricate "broad support" for ranked ballots or, if that cannot be achieved, claim that Canadians favour the status quo and have bigger fish to fry.

In the opinion of the MLPC, there is more to the problem. The Liberals are trying to confer legitimacy on elections as a means of providing governments with popular mandates at a time what are claimed to be legal mandates are in no way an expression of the popular will. It is precisely the system called a representative democracy and its electoral process which are no longer credible: they bring self-serving parties to power to represent the rich, leave the people completely disempowered, unable to even select their own candidates and give the people a say in setting the agenda for society or permitting them any role besides casting a ballot every four to five years. Counting the votes in a different way will not change any of these basic problems. The other functions of holding elections within the system called a representative democracy are also no longer functioning. One is to sort out the contradictions within the ranks of representatives of the rich and another is to keep the people's resistance movement in check. Instead of sorting out how to make sure the people set the agenda for the society, all the cartel parties seek to destroy the political movement of the people to divert their striving for empowerment.

The system of elections brings governments to power but no longer serves to legitimize their actions, and no amount of fraudulent consultations or preferred choices will solve this problem. What to do about this is the quandary besetting (and besotting) the Liberal government.

The MLPC thinks that the Liberals are trying to use the ranked ballot, also known as the preferential ballot, as the method through which the government will claim the "broad support of Canadians" for a particular course of action. This was the method used in the plebiscite on electoral reform in Prince Edward Island that finished November 7 and this is not reassuring. It is claimed, based on an algorithm, that one option in the plebiscite was the "majority choice," although it was not an option chosen by the majority.

A ranked ballot is an ordering of preferences. On a list of x number of choices, one orders preferences from one, the most preferred, to two, the next preferred, and so on, to the least preferred. An algorithm determines the "majority choice" through successively ruling out preferences with the least overall support while others move to the "next round." The algorithm is supposed to result in moderation and a consensus because it produces something said to be acceptable to the greatest number of people. The ranked ballot and the methods underlying it are not particular to selecting political representatives or even a public voting process such as in the recent PEI electoral reform referendum.

For example ranked ballots are used by the private consulting firm Vox Pop Labs Inc., contracted by the Liberals to run their online questionnaire.[2] The questionnaire it has prepared for Canadians, like the "Vote Compass" platform it markets during elections, is based on ordering preferences, including asking respondents to indicate level of agreement or disagreement with a proposition. These can be run through algorithms to create a false "majority choice" that the people did not choose and which in any case is based on arbitrary questions that "nudge" one towards a particular ordering. It "should not be construed as a referendum, nor is it a survey or a poll;" it is a method of governing that the Trudeau Liberals will claim strengthens Canada's democracy, gives Canadians a chance to be heard, and, whatever reforms the government says the algorithm favours, it will prove that the system is sound.

The methods the Liberals propose to restore legitimacy attack the human factor/social consciousness, the collective consciousness of Canadians and their need for solutions to the objective problems of the democracy and how to renew it so that it reflects the social conditions and relations today. They also reduce the problem of how to gauge the collective consciousness of the polity to using marketing tools to order personal preferences, even though a collective consciousness is not the sum of personal preferences. To claim legitimacy on the basis of ordered personal preferences -- the ranked ballot -- is not only irrational, it is anti-social.

The MLPC thinks that the increasingly dangerous situation the people find themselves in, and the failure of governments of the rich to legitimize their rule, points to the need for Canadians to step up the work to affirm their collective consciousness for pro-social change and empowerment of the people.


1. In a newspaper interview at the end of May, shortly before the Special Committee was constituted, Minister Monsef was asked how the government would gauge support for any course of action. "Frankly, that's the debate," Monsef said. "And we will not proceed with any changes without the broad buy-in of the people of this country. ... It's an opportunity for us to engage in debate about how to move forward in the 21st century. And that in itself is the conversation we need to be having."

On October 19, the one-year anniversary of the 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Trudeau said, "Under Stephen Harper, there were so many people unhappy with the government and their approach that people were saying, 'It will take electoral reform to no longer have a government we don't like'. But under the current system, they now have a government they're more satisfied with and the motivation to change the electoral system is less compelling."

At an event in Victoria on October 27, Monsef expressed the same sentiment: "People aren't clamouring for change the way they were under the former government. ... people have other priorities like jobs, kids and grandkids and house concerns and they care about things like the environment." Monsef stated, "Even though the Prime Minister has a preference, even though I am arriving at a preference for a specific system with certain elements, we are not going to move ahead unless we have broad support from Canadians." As for her interpretation of what Canadians want, Monsef said that on the basis of meetings across the country "what I am hearing is how much Canadians cherish that local representation, how much they want a more legitimate and effective system, how important inclusion and accessibility is." Monsef added that Canadians "ranking these principles is important" for the government to make a decision.

2. "Government to Launch New Online Consultation on Electoral Reform," TML Weekly, November 12, 2016.

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Nefarious Aim of Consultations on Electoral Reforms

Nearly two months after the Trudeau Liberals' consultations on changing the first-past-the-post method of counting votes were supposed to end, the government continues to look for new ways to achieve its aims. The main aim is to confer legitimacy on the system of elections which brought the government to power but which are no longer able to confer legitimacy to the actions of governments. Another aim is to find a process or method which gives the appearance of legitimacy to a reform the Liberals calculate will serve their interests in guaranteeing reelection or at least favouring them over other cartel parties.

The biggest problem for the Trudeau government has been the fact that the consultations so far appear to Canadians to be perfunctory and to not legitimize any course of action, while at the same time they block serious discussion on what kind of democratic reforms would favour the people.

Consultations were set to finish in early October with the end of the hearings by the House of Commons Special Committee on Electoral Reform. Meetings were held in camera (not open to the public) throughout November to produce the report, which included feedback from its own consultations and reports from town hall meetings held by Members of Parliament.

The consultations were meant to be one step in fulfilling the Liberals' election promise on electoral reform:

1. "2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system;"
2. A "special all-party parliamentary committee... will bring recommendations to Parliament on the way forward..." with regards to "ranked ballots, proportional representation, mandatory voting, and online voting;" and
3. "Within 18 months of forming government, we will bring forward legislation to enact electoral reform."[1]

On October 19, just after the Special Committee began its study, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in an interview with Le Devoir:

"Less support and a small change could be acceptable. A bigger change would take greater support," he said. Trudeau clarified that the government does not have to implement any of the Committee's recommendations, "But it is an essential tool to frame a possible government decision." Trudeau then added, "If we are going to change the electoral system it requires that people be open to that. We will see how the consultations unfold, the reactions, the result of the reports. We will not prejudge what would be necessary [to change the voting method]. But when we say substantial support, it means something."

No sooner had the words left Trudeau's mouth than the opposition raised a hue and cry that not only were the fraudulent consultations legitimate, but that the people have spoken, and how dare Trudeau question it. The people have spoken and demand mixed-member proportional representation, the reforms we want, the NDP said. The people have spoken and demand a referendum, the position we hold, the Conservatives said. Both insisted that the consultations have duly shown that Canadians want the same thing they do. On November 16, the NDP said they would be willing to include a referendum in the Committee's recommendations if it would result in the Committee agreeing on a report.

For her part, Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef kept repeating that Canadians do not know what they want and created mystery about how to "gauge whether or not [a] reform has the broad support of Canadians." The Minister of Democratic Institutions rendered her own verdict in a letter to the Special Committee on November 16. Monsef wrote, "Canadians who attended our meetings have passionately championed various systems. While I heard the most passion from proportional representation and first past the post advocates, I have not yet heard a consensus around one particular system over another."

With all of the cartel parties agreed on the legitimacy of the fraudulent consultations, the Liberals still face the problem that they are opposed to mixed-member proportional representation and a referendum but need to find a course of action acceptable to them that can be presented as legitimate. To either implement the method favoured by the Liberals -- ranked or preferential ballots -- or take no action at all now requires something new to cover up the fraud.

The other problem is the results of the PEI plebiscite on electoral reform on November 7 that Minister Monsef said the Liberals were "watching... very closely." The outcome came up badly for the Liberals on two counts:

First, the preferential ballot algorithm that decided the result put mixed-member proportional as the winner. Secondly, only 36.46 per cent of eligible participants cast a ballot during the nine days they had to rank their preferences. As a result, neither Minister Monsef nor the Prime Minister have had any comment.

Monsef did, however, say that there is a consensus among Canadians "around the democratic values we share... the accountability of local representation, a system that encourages greater voter participation and engagement, and safeguarding the integrity of our voting system." She also said that Canadians are "clear" that they want a more "inclusive and accessible" system.[2]

To extricate itself from this situation, the government is launching a new online survey in December. Thirteen million postcards will be mailed out asking Canadians to visit a website to "rank principles."[3] The online survey is run by Vox Pop Labs Inc., the company behind the "Vote Compass" software, a pseudo-scientific instrument that puts together ranked responses to spurious questions and tells users which cartel party to vote for in an election or where they fall on the so-called political spectrum. In this case the survey will not ask people to choose a particular reform they favour, or even rank those reforms. Instead, it will ask people to rank their level of agreement with a set of "values" or "principles." The government says the survey will help Canadians "understand their own value preferences."

Media reported on November 17 that some former users of "Vote Compass" have been contacted by Vox Pop Labs and invited to participate in a trial run of the government's survey. Some of the questions in the trial run, which Vox Pop Labs later said were not final, leaked to media. Organizations, such as Fair Vote Canada which advocates for mixed-member proportional representation, noted that the questions in the survey seemed skewed in a way that the government could claim a lack of support for that system.

For instance, questions included:

Which would you prefer?
- Having a few big parties that try to appeal to a broad range of people
- Having many small parties in parliament representing many different views

Select the five imperatives for government from the list below that are most important to you.
- Better representation of groups that are currently under represented in parliament
- Allowing voters to express a wide range of preferences when voting
- Increasing the presence of smaller parties in parliament
- Strengthening the link between voter intention and the election of representatives
- MPs that focus on what is best for the country
- Governments with strong representation from every region
- Keeping parties with extreme views out of parliament
- Governments that collaborate with other parties in parliament
- Ensuring the security of the voting process
- A parliament where all viewpoints are represented
- Ensuring that election results reflect the preferences of voters
- Increasing voter turn out
- Greater diversity in parliament
- MPs who spend most of their time in their local community
- Ability to vote online during elections

Fair Vote also noted that there were no questions on whether the seats allotted to a party in Parliament should reflect the vote percentage. One question asks Canadians to state their level of confidence in organized religion, the armed forces, public schools, the courts, the civil service, unions, the police, the federal government, their provincial government, big business and the media.

Another asked for Canadians to state their level of agreement or disagreement with the following questions:

- I do not feel comfortable about taking chances
- I prefer situations that have foreseeable outcomes
- Before I make a decision, I like to be absolutely sure how things will turn out
- I avoid situations that have uncertain outcomes
- I feel comfortable improvising in new situations
- I feel nervous when I have to make decisions in uncertain situations

Vox Pop Labs Inc. CEO Clifton van der Linden, in a letter to media after the survey became known, said, "Over the past several weeks Vox Pop Labs has conducted a number of public opinion studies focused on how Canadians feel about the way Parliament works. These studies are pilots, and the feedback we get from Canadians is being used to inform the development of an innovative online initiative sponsored by the Government of Canada which will be made available to all Canadians in due course."

He continued, "Due to a programming error for which Vox Pop Labs assumes full responsibility, a subset of respondents to the most recent iteration of our pilot study was inadvertently presented with a battery of standard political science survey items (drawn from existing academic studies) that were not intended for inclusion in this study. [...] Many though not all of the 'leaked' items currently being circulated on social media and featured in news articles were part of this battery." However, van der Linden did not say which of the questions were "not intended for inclusion in this study."

The Liberals are in a tight spot indeed to have resorted to such nonsensical and fraudulent schemes to claim legitimacy. The so-called democratic institutions and the sophisticated methods used by the Liberals to capture power through them no longer confer legitimacy on their actions. The aim of using tricks and irrational tools such as those peddled by Vox Pop Labs to attack Canadians' collective consciousness will not bring any legitimacy whatsoever, no matter how much the Liberals claim the results support their actions. The Liberals' efforts to impose new methods of governance behind the backs of the people are not only fruitless, they are despicable.


1. The Liberals made other promises related to reforming electoral laws which were not included as part of the mandate of the Committee. These included "repeal[ing] the anti-democratic elements in Stephen Harper's Fair Elections Act," "review[ing] the limits on how much political parties can spend during elections, and ensur[ing] that spending between elections is subject to limits as well" and "giv[ing] Elections Canada the resources it needs to investigate voter fraud and vote suppression, illegal financing, and other threats to free and fair elections."

2. At a meeting in Victoria, BC on October 28, Monsef repeated Trudeau's comments that "People aren't clamouring for change the way they were under the former government," but added "Even though the Prime Minister has a preference, even though I am arriving at a preference of a specific system with certain elements, we're not going to move ahead unless we have support from Canadians."

In response to an audience member asking the Minister to implement mixed-member proportional representation, Monsef said she cannot promise that because she has not "heard that from an overwhelming majority across the country" but explained that this is why "you ranking these principles is important" for the government to make a decision. Monsef also revealed the difficulty that the government is facing, noting "this room is full right now but I gotta tell you in most rooms across the country it hasn't been standing room only."

Monsef also expressed how "frustrating" it is when hers and Trudeau's commitments to reform are questioned. "People freaked out" when the Liberals wanted to establish a Committee in which they held a majority, Monsef complained. "I'm hustling every day, like 24 hours a day for change," she concluded.

3. See "Government to Launch New Online Consultation on Electoral Reform," TML Weekly, November 12, 2016.

(With files from National Post, Creekside Blog, iPolitics)

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For Your Information

Special Committee Issues Report

On December 1 the Special Committee on Electoral Reform presented its third report entitled Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform. Officially presenting the report to the media were Committee Chair and Liberal MP Francis Scarpalegia, Conservative MP Scott Reid, NDP MP Nathan Cullen, and Bloc Québécois MP Luc Thériault. Following the official presentation of the report, the Liberal Party MPs on the Committee held their own press conference, as did Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The committee's mandate was to "identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system (FTPT), as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting."

The comprehensive report of the Committee's work is 348 pages long. It is made up of nine Chapters:

1) Introduction
2) Electoral Reform and the Constitution
3) Lessons Learned: A History of Electoral System Reform at the Federal and Provincial Levels
4) Values and Electoral Systems: Towards a "Made in Canada" Proposal
5) Civics, Duties, and Rights: Mandatory Voting
6) Online and Electronic Voting
7) Diversity and Engagement: A Parliament That Mirrors Canada
8) Voter Engagement and Participation
9) Moving Forward on Electoral System Reform: A Question of Process.

The report has seven appendices which list and link to the witnesses the Committee heard, briefs it received, Members' reports from MP Town Halls and a summary of responses to the Committee's e-consultations. The final index classifies the briefs the Committee received according to whether they were for or against: a particular electoral system, mandatory voting and online voting.

The report makes 13 recommendations. The Liberal Party of Canada issued a "supplemental opinion." The New Democratic Party and Green Party also submitted a joint "supplemental opinion."

A full copy of the report can be found here.

The recommendations put forward by the report are:

Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Government should, as it develops a new electoral system, use the Gallagher Index in order to minimize the level of distortion between the popular will of the electorate and the resultant seat allocations in Parliament. The government should seek to design a system that achieves a Gallagher score of five or less.[1]

Recommendation 2: The Committee recommends that, although systems of pure party lists can achieve a Gallagher score of five or less, they should not be considered by the Government as such systems sever the connection between voters and their MP.

Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends that mandatory voting not be implemented at this time.

Recommendation 4: The Committee recommends that online voting not be implemented at this time.

Recommendation 5: The Committee recommends that Elections Canada explore, in collaboration with relevant stakeholder groups, the use of technologies to promote greater accessibility of the vote while ensuring the overall integrity of the voting process.

Recommendation 6: The Committee recommends that the House of Commons refer the question of how to improve the accessibility of voting for Canadians with disabilities, while ensuring the overall integrity of the voting process, to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Recommendation 7: The Committee recommends that any electoral reform seek to enhance the likelihood of improving voter turnout and to increase the possibilities for historically disenfranchised and underrepresented groups (i.e. women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, youth, and Canadians of lower economic means) to be elected. [Note that this recommendation applies to both Chapter 7 and Chapter 8]

Recommendation 8: The Committee recommends that the Government amend the Canada Elections Act to create a financial incentive (for example through reimbursement of electoral campaign expenses) for political parties to run more women candidates and move towards parity in their nominations.

Recommendation 7: [repeated] (sic) ...

Recommendation 9: The Committee recommends that, working with the provinces and territories, the Government explore ways in which youth under 18 years of age could be registered in the National Register of Electors, preferably through the school system, up to two years in advance of reaching voting age.

Recommendation 10: The Committee recommends that the Government accord Elections Canada the additional mandate, and necessary resources, to encourage greater voter participation, including through initiatives such as Civix's Student Vote, and by better raising awareness among Canadians of existing options to vote prior to Election Day (voting at an advance poll, voting by mail, voting at any Elections Canada office).

Recommendation 11: The Committee recommends that electoral system reform be accompanied by a comprehensive study of the effects on other aspects of Canada's "governance ecosystem," namely: the relationship between, and operations of, the legislative and executive branches of government; the relationship between, and operations of, the House of Commons and the Senate; parliamentary procedure and conventions related to government formation and dismissal; the impact on the operations of political parties.

Recommendation 12: Observation -- The Committee acknowledges that, of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation. The Committee recognizes the utility of the Gallagher Index, a tool that has been developed to measure an electoral system's relative disproportionality between votes received and seats allotted in a legislature, as a means of assessing the proportionality of different electoral system options. The Committee recommends that:

The Government hold a referendum, in which the current system is on the ballot;

That the referendum propose a proportional electoral system that achieves a Gallagher Index score of 5 or less; and

That the Government complete the design of the alternate electoral system that is proposed on the referendum ballot prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.

Recommendation 13: The Committee recommends that Elections Canada should produce and make available to the public materials describing any option, including maps depicting potential electoral district boundaries applicable under that option and sample ballot design, prior to the start of the referendum campaign period.

Supplemental Opinions

Liberals' Opinion

The Liberals' supplemental opinion explains their concerns with the lack of "engagement" of Canadians in the Committee's work as well as their opposition to the use of the Ghallager Index and a referendum. They outline the measures in the recommendations they support, highlighting the implementation of a system of pre-registration of youth.

They also raise concerns about what other changes to Canada's political system would result from changes to the electoral system:

For major changes to be made to our electoral system we believe that a much greater percentage of Canadians must be both aware of what changes are proposed and what impact such changes would have. As part of the engagement process we believe that both Canadians and political parties need a comprehensive understanding of the ramifications that any fundamental changes to the electoral system would have, not just on the results of the changes, but how the results would affect government as a whole.

The opinion concludes:

Ultimately, it is our position that the level of engagement with the electoral reform process amongst the Canadian public was insufficient to generate a clear mandate. We further recommend that greater consultative measures be pursued in order to present an electoral reform proposal that is consistent with the will of Canadians.

Therefore we recommend:

That the Government further undertake a period of comprehensive and effective citizen engagement before proposing specific changes to the current federal voting system. We believe that this engagement process cannot be effectively completed before 2019.

NDP and the Green Party Joint Opinion

The opinion generally hails the work of the Committee and highlights what they say is its decision to support proportional representation, which they describe as an "historic achievement and an important moment for the deepening of Canadian" democracy. It also makes recommendations for specific models that they believe the government should consider, "both of which would result in a Gallagher score of less than four."

They recommend:

- Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) "with 2/3 of the House of Commons elected to represent direct constituencies, and 1/3 elected as regional compensatory members. Regional compensatory MPs may be elected from an open list, flexible list, as recommended by the Law Reform Commission, or they may be elected as 'best runners-up,' as per the Baden-Württemberg system."

- Rural-urban proportional representation (RUP), "in which current riding boundaries are maintained, but current urban ridings are clustered into multi-member ridings of three to five MPs." This system was first put forward by former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley during testimony to the Committee.

The opinion also addresses the issue of "validation and engagement." They raise concerns with holding a referendum on electoral reform and state that "evidence for the necessity of change is overwhelming; the evidence for the necessity of holding a referendum is not." They add: "If the government decides it must hold a referendum on electoral reform, it should include both MMP and RUP as ballot options, and Canadians aged 16 and up should be allowed to vote."

It concludes stating:

With a strong electoral mandate comprising nearly two-thirds of Canadians in 2015, and an all-party committee recommendation in favour of proportional representation following a five month, national consultation, we believe the government now has the mandate, the path, the tools, and the obligation to make 2015 the last election under FPTP.


1. The Gallagher Index (or least squares index) is named after its inventor, Irish political and computer scientist Michael Gallagher. Gallagher is Professor of Comparative Politics and head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Dublin, Trinity College.

The Gallagher Index is used to measure the difference between the percentage of votes received and the percentage of seats a party gets in the resulting legislature and compare this across electoral systems. The Index involves taking the square root of half the sum of the squares of the difference between per cent of vote and per cent of seats for each political party running. Index scores range from 0 to 100. The lower the Index value, the lower the disproportionality and vice versa.

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Government Introduces Amendments to
Canada Elections Act

Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef introduced on November 24, Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. In a press conference that day, Monsef stated that the bill is comprised of seven measures which break down unnecessary barriers to voting while "enhancing efficiency and integrity." She said that the bill comes in response to the Liberals' consultations "before the election" and after, and its measures "represent a strong package for change."

Four of the measures reverse some of the changes to the Canada Elections Act made by the Harper government's Bill C-23, Fair Elections Act.

These measures would: 

- "remove limitations on public education and information activities conducted by the Chief Electoral Officer;"
- "remove the prohibition on the Chief Electoral Officer authorizing the notice of confirmation of registration (commonly known as a 'voter information card') as identification;"
- "replace, in the context of voter identification, the option of attestation for residence with an option of vouching for identity and residence;" and
- "relocate the Commissioner of Canada Elections to within the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provide that the Commissioner is to be appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer, after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, for a non-renewable term of 10 years."

Another measure comes in response to an ongoing court case challenging a five-year limit on the right of Canadians living abroad to vote in federal elections, and removes any restriction based on time outside of Canada.

The other two measures are to:

- "establish a Register of Future Electors in which Canadian citizens 14 to 17 years of age may consent to be included;" and

- "authorize the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with information about permanent residents and foreign nationals for the purpose of updating the Register of Electors."

Both of these measures appear to respond to recommendations of Elections Canada Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand following the 42nd general election, outlined in a September 27 report tabled in the House of Commons. Mayrand made a total of 132 recommendations in the report. The provision in Bill C-33 for obtaining information about permanent residents and foreign nationals matches Mayrand's recommendation. On the establishment of a Register of Future Electors, Mayrand had only recommended that Elections Canada be able to collect information on 16-and-17-year olds for "pre-registration" to facilitate their addition to the National Register of Electors (NROE).

Fair Elections Act Measures Left in Place

Bill C-33 does not repeal the Fair Elections Act in its entirety, only what the Liberals call its "undemocratic elements." The myriad other self-serving changes the Harper government introduced, which the Marxist-Leninist Party noted have compounded the incoherence and irrationality of Canada's electoral laws, are left in place.

Among the many changes not reversed in Bill C-33, are the Fair Elections Act provision exempting anything declared by the cartel parties to be "fundraising activities" involving those who have previously donated $20 or more to a party from campaign spending limits. On this point, Chief Electoral Officer Mayrand noted in 2014, "This fundraising exemption creates a potential loophole in the election expenses regime. As there is a large grey area between promotion and fundraising, the exemption could be used to avoid having to claim something as an election expense. Parties with a larger established contributor base will have a greater advantage. Verification that only existing contributors were contacted would be impossible for Elections Canada and difficult for the party's external auditor."

Since 2007 Elections Canada has assigned each elector a unique voter ID number, and required poll workers to provide to candidates lists, known as "bingo cards," showing who has voted by their voter ID number. The two main purposes of this are to assist the cartel parties in maintaining databases on electors (without a unique identifier for each individual it becomes cumbersome) and overcome a lack of volunteers who would keep track of who has voted poll-by-poll.

The Fair Elections Act went further by requiring returning officers to supply candidates with all the bingo cards after the election, confirming that the purpose of the instrument is not to "get out the vote" but micro-target and profile electors. When the Fair Elections Act was being debated, Mayrand stated, "The bill proposes expanding the use of bingo cards from their original purpose (to get out the vote on polling day). Now, parties will be able to methodically collect and document for all Canadians, after the vote, who has voted and who has not voted. Collecting fundamental personal information in this way about whether or not people have voted goes beyond the operational purpose related to voting on polling day."

In relation to how political parties use information from Elections Canada, during the November 24 press conference, Minister Monsef stated that "political parties, when they collect information, they are guided by the Privacy Act" and "that has not been an issue that I have heard across the country from Canadians." In a technical briefing for reporters following the announcement, a Privy Council Office employee clarified that political parties "are not subject to the Privacy Act." This is true, but they are not guided by it either as Monsef claims. The cartel parties have deliberately shielded themselves from coming under the Privacy Act or any other legislation that would limit their ability to collect and use information about electors or track voting over time. Polling conducted by Elections Canada following the 2011 federal election found that 69 per cent of electors disagreed that it is important for political parties to be able to collect personal information about electors.[1]

Other remaining aspects of the Fair Elections Act include:

- The pro-rated increase in the spending limit for parties and candidates if the election period is longer than 36 days, which resulted in record levels of party spending and public reimbursement in the 2015 federal election.

- Restrictions on the ability of the Commissioner of Canada Elections to provide the public with information about investigations, except in very narrow circumstances.

- Requirements for the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada to issue, on demand, written opinions to political parties on the application of the Canada Elections Act that are then binding on political parties. The Elections Canada Advisory Board noted in 2014 "concern about the use of the regime for partisan purposes," which could take the form of asking for opinions on the conduct of other parties, or using the measure to test the limits of electoral law.

- Requirements for the Treasury Board to approve spending by the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada for remuneration of technical experts or specialists.

- Returning officers at polling places being chosen on the basis of a recommendation by the party whose candidates received the most votes in the respective riding during the previous election.


1. "How the Cartel Parties Micro-Target Electors," TML Weekly, October 15, 2016.

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Process to "Clean Up Data" on Register of Electors

The Liberal government's November 24 press conference and official press releases refer to measures in Bill C-33 related to the electors' list as "Help[ing] Elections Canada clean up data in the National Register of Electors [NROE]." The phrase "clean up data" has since been repeated in news stories about the bill. What does it mean?

In his recommendation that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) share information on non-citizens with Elections Canada, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand said, "Although there is no single repository of citizenship information in Canada, IRCC has information on non-citizens residing in the country that would help Elections Canada ensure that only citizens are included in the NROE. Internal studies have indicated that approximately 0.2 per cent of individuals in the NROE are potentially not Canadian citizens. Having access to non-citizen data would allow Elections Canada to identify and remove these individuals from the NROE on an ongoing basis. Elections Canada could also compare it with data from other sources to confirm the accuracy of the entries in the NROE."

The measures in Bill C-33 are the first that set out a process in the Canada Elections Act for the targeted verification and removal of individuals from the Register who are not in fact, or are no longer eligible to be electors, due to their citizenship status.

The Register of Electors is updated continuously, generally from information that electors have a) given Elections Canada or b) authorized a federal department or body to give to Elections Canada.

The main example of this is citizens authorizing their being added to the Register during the filing of income tax statements. Bill C-33 states that the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada may now request from "databases maintained by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration that relate to permanent residents and foreign nationals" name, sex, date of birth and address of individuals "for the purpose of assisting the Chief Electoral Officer in updating the Register of Electors, including by deleting the name of a person who is not an elector."

The existing language in the Canada Elections Act, which remains after amendment, says that an individual who files a tax return can be requested to indicate whether they are a Canadian citizen "for the purpose of assisting the Chief Electoral Officer in updating the Register of Electors." Those who are granted Canadian citizenship also have the option of choosing to include themselves on the Register during that process. Other sources of information include provincial and territorial driver's licence agencies, vital statistics agencies, provincial and territorial electoral agencies with permanent voters lists and electors who decide to register to vote or update their registration during and between elections. Elections Canada notes that names of deceased electors are removed from the Register, and anyone can request that their name be removed.

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Register of Future Electors

Bill C-33 creates a Register of Future Electors to operate in parallel with the Register of Electors, to the extent that Part 4 of the Canada Elections Act called Register of Elections will be called Register of Electors and Register of Future Electors.

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand's recommendation following the 2015 federal election was that Elections Canada be authorized to collect information about individuals aged 16 and 17 to streamline the process of adding them to the Register of Electors "with their consent" when they reached voting age. He indicated that such a measure would permit Elections Canada to contact youth and "allow them to conduct registration drives in schools to pre-register students." The recommendation is meant to deal with "the challenge Elections Canada experiences in ensuring that youth aged 18 to 34 are registered" as they remain under-represented in votes. Mayrand said, "Elections Canada would benefit greatly by being able to collect information about youth, for example those aged 16 and 17, so that they could be activated as electors on the [National Register of Electors (NROE)], with their consent, when they turn 18."

The new Register of Future Electors is defined as a register "of persons who are qualified as future electors," which presumably means citizens. Like the Register of Electors, it will contain "surname, given names, sex, date of birth, civic address, mailing address" and other information. Each Future Elector will also be assigned "a unique, randomly generated identifier" or voter ID number. It is not specified whether this future elector ID number will be kept when a future elector becomes an elector. The Register of Future Electors "may continue to contain information about a former future elector after they have become an elector until they are included in the Register of Electors." The inclusion of a Future Elector in the Register "does not require the consent of the future elector's parents or guardian or tutor."

Giving consent to be added to the Register of Future Electors will be done in a similar way to how one is added to the Register of Electors, meaning checking a box when filling out an unrelated form. The Register of Future Electors is in fact maintained in the same manner as the Register of Electors. For instance, amendments defining the Register of Future Electors and its function do so by adding "and the Register of Future Electors" after "The Register of Electors" and "or future elector" after "elector" throughout Part 4 of the Canada Elections Act. Use of personal information obtained from the Register of Future Electors is limited to:

- the purposes of updating the Register of Electors;
- the purposes of the transmission of information in the course of public education and information programs;
- any body responsible under provincial law for establishing a list of electors, governing the giving of information contained in the Register of Electors.

In other words, there is not at this time a direct provision of personal information to "enable registered parties, members or candidates to communicate with electors" as is the case with the Register of Electors. A Future Elector may request, in writing, that their information only be used for "updating the Register of Electors; or the transmission of information in the course of public education and information programs."

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Canada Hosts International Meeting on Syria

Canada's Quandary Over What Happens
Post-U.S. Election

The Government of Canada co-hosted with the Netherlands a meeting in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, from November 11 to 13, to "discuss the situation in Syria." At the meeting Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion called for international cooperation in Syria. The meeting was attended by the "Syrian political opposition" and Syrian "civil society" -- what Dion calls legitimate opposition groups in Syria.

Taking place immediately following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. war president, the meeting revealed Canada's quandary over what happens next now that the line of march of the U.S. on Syria has been upended. Nonetheless, Dion spoke about the "complexity" of the situation and the need for a "political resolution" in a big charade to perpetuate the fraud that the U.S. and forces linked to it like Canada and NATO are interested in negotiations and a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria when in fact their "negotiations" have proven to be aggression to achieve their aim of regime change.

The irony is that this is not the route that a Donald Trump U.S. presidency has indicated it will take, which leaves Canada and its co-plotters against the peace in limbo. The coming period will witness how they will either accommodate themselves to the new reality or pursue the course they are on. The contradictions within the U.S. ruling class on how to achieve U.S. imperialist hegemony over the countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are very sharp, reflecting the inter-imperialist contradictions amongst the oligopolies which benefit from trade as well as aggression and war.

Despite Dion's angst about what comes next post-Trump, he asserts that Canada will play a "constructive role" with the U.S. What will this mean? Will Canada go with whatever the new President of the U.S. decides, albeit "constructively?" Will Canada continue to cultivate its role as a "determined peacebuilder" no matter what the new U.S. President does in Syria and with Russia? Does the persona that the Trudeau government has been projecting for Canada internationally which attempts to justify aggression and regime change in the name of "responsible conviction" and "responsibility to protect" have a role to play within Donald Trump's unfettered rule of the U.S. oligopolies using police powers to get the deal he wants for the United States?

To hide Canada's dirty work in Syria, Dion specifically says "there can be no progress in the absence of diplomacy and, ultimately, of a political solution." He must be in total shock with the election of Donald Trump. Dion's charade is sure to blow up in his face because Donald Trump says progress can only be made by cutthroat deal-makers, not those who he implies are namby-pamby diplomats and about whom he has nothing gracious to say.

Dion says "Canada continues to urge an immediate cease-fire and the renewal of serious negotiations involving the legitimate opposition groups." Donald Trump wastes no time persuading anyone about who is "legitimate" and who is not "legitimate." Either an adversary is worthy in making the deal or they will be eaten alive. What will happen to Dion's "legitimate" opposition groups, presumably the ones that he hosted in Mont-Tremblant, is anyone's guess.

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Plotting Against the Peace

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion called for "international cooperation" in the wake of the U.S. election, at an international meeting on Syria at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. He presented matters in Syria as a "complex situation" and the result of various ethnic and religious differences. It is these differences which the imperialists are doing their utmost to exploit so as to set the peoples of the region at loggerheads. All of it is done in the name of upholding the rights of these groups, which merely reveals how worn out is the discourse which denies citizenship rights by conflating them with considerations based on skin colour, national origin, race, religion and beliefs.

Of the "terrorist groups" Dion blames for destabilizing Syria he specifically lists Hezbollah in the same manner as ISIS to hide that Hezbollah is in fact a political party of the Lebanese people that leads a powerful resistance movement which blocks Israeli aggression and expansion and current attempts to take over the Syrian Golan Heights and Lebanon itself. To speak about the resistance movement as a cause of destabilization is unconscionable. Hezbollah has played a role in defeating ISIS in Lebanon and in Syria which undermines U.S. attempts to impose regime change.

Dion also calls the Syrian government "the Assad regime." This is a police method used to criminalize a "bad thing." By detaching it from the social/political relations people in Syria enter into, the Syrian government becomes whatever Dion wants it to become. In this vein, Dion asserts that "the Assad regime" "long ago lost the moral legitimacy to govern but it is supported by powerful forces, namely Russia and Iran." Of course this dismisses the Syrian people and what they decide altogether and reduces everything to the need for police action by "good" outside forces to restore stability and peace and order.

The criminal narrative about who is to blame for destabilizing Syria constitutes nothing short of a plot against peace at a time the imperialists have trampled in the mud the postwar definition of what constitutes aggression. Dion continues to turn reality completely on its head stating: "The actions in Aleppo [Syria] of this regime and its backers -- which also include Hezbollah and Afghan Shia militias -- and the ongoing bombings and the absence of a ceasefire have made peace negotiations impossible since April."

Why has a long-term ceasefire not been permitted to take hold? Why have there been no peace talks since last April? This is a significant issue for those who want peace. But it is dismissed out of hand because, in the most facile childish manner, Dion simply blames it on all those who are not under the direct command and control of the U.S. forces. He does not acknowledge the attempts for a ceasefire which were undermined by U.S. attacks just as the ceasefire was set to come into force. Nor does he recognize the unilateral ceasefires put in place by the Syrian and Russian forces. Are these not facts? Instead, any force which is not under U.S. command and control is made the problem, while actions of the U.S. and its allies are not even talked about.

Dion went so far as to add climate change into the mix in an attempt to obscure what is going on, claiming that "the beginnings of the conflict in the Arab Spring of 2011 [...] also coincided with a sharp increase in food prices, which itself coincided with damaging weather patterns for food production, which themselves coincide with the warming of the planet." In other words, it is not the clash between the conditions and the authority as a result of social relations which are blocking the path to progress that are the cause of the conflict. In the name of being a "determined peacebuilder" Canada is fanning the flames of an even greater war. The problem is that it now must contend with a Donald Trump presidency and how to adjust itself accordingly.

On the basis of such a pitiful rendering of the forces that are colluding and contending in West Asia, Dion sought to end the meeting by laying the blame on anything but the U.S. imperialist desire for regime change to establish its hegemony over this strategic region of the world.

How to sort out the crucial questions of war and peace is a matter for the peoples of the world as never before.

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Mont Tremblant Meeting

From November 11-13 in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, the governments of Canada and the Netherlands co-hosted a meeting of "special envoys" from 15 countries, along with representatives of the "Syrian political opposition," the United Nations and "Syrian civil society," as well as "leading academics," to discuss the situation in Syria. Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion also held meetings with representatives of the "Syrian opposition" and "civil society" to "hear their proposals for accelerating the cessation of hostilities." No mention is made of who the special envoys, "leading academics" or anyone else were.

In his remarks at the closing of the meeting Dion referred to those gathered as "the brain trust and critical advisers on the resolution of one of the world's most pressing, seemingly intractable and horrifying crises." He added that it was important to "reflect not only on how to mitigate the current turmoil but also on options for a peaceful resolution in Syria." He indicated that the meeting "offered a ... space for engagement."

The meeting took place just following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President. Dion set the context stating that he was "sure that the election of a new U.S. president has flavoured much of your thoughts and your conversations here as it has for many. Given the major role the United States plays in the region, this is natural."

"The impact of the new U.S. administration will, of course, take weeks and months to unfold, and there are still large unknowns," Dion said, adding: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada will play a constructive role with the United States, both bilaterally as well as multilaterally, including in the search for peace in Syria."

The government informs that discussions at the Mont-Tremblant meeting "focused on the conditions for a permanent cessation of hostilities, including by the Assad regime, which is backed by Russia and Iran and for the resumption of peace talks." (TML emphasis.) It is worth noting that one of the big issues has been the fight by the U.S. and its allies to make a condition of the peace talks that President Assad step down or be removed, what they call "political transition."

Dion delivered closing remarks entitled "Canada Determined Peacebuilder." In his remarks he claimed that the fight in Syria and Iraq is against powerful forces destabilizing the world today. He named "Daesh, al Qaeda, al Nusra, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups" as one force and the Syrian government as well as Russia and Iran as the others. Singling out the Syrian government, which he disparagingly calls "the Assad regime," Dion asserted that it "long ago lost the moral legitimacy to govern."

He concluded by calling for international cooperation in the "complex situation" now facing Syria and the entire region which he described in the following manner: "I already mentioned the backing of Russia and Iran to the benefit of the Assad regime. But there are also Turkey's concerns about certain Kurdish groups, which are shared by others in the region. There is tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is feeding distrust between too many Sunni and Shia communities. And there are tensions between Russia and much of the West playing out now from Eastern Europe down through the Mediterranean."

Dion closed by laying the blame for the situation on anything but the role of the U.S. and its allies in trying, come hell or high water, to carry out regime change in Syria. "The beginnings of the conflict in the Arab Spring of 2011-- in addition to root causes related to the democratic deficit and the struggle for rights -- also coincided with a sharp increase in food prices, which itself coincided with damaging weather patterns for food production, which themselves coincide with the warming of the planet," he asserted.

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Anniversary of November 2015 Paris Attack

Rule by Exception and Violation of Rights
Become the New Normal

Action in Rennes, one of many that took place across France January 30, 2016 demanding
an end to the state of emergency declared after the Paris attacks.

President of France François Hollande and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls have both recently indicated that the French government will extend the state of emergency that has been in place since the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

Speaking to the BBC on the occasion of the anniversary, Valls referred to the attack in Nice on Bastille Day, July 14, saying there is a risk of further such attacks, and that the country must remain safe as it prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections in the spring. "At the present, it is hard to bring an end to the state of emergency, especially since we are going to be undertaking a presidential campaign in a few weeks, with meetings and public assemblies. We must also protect our democracy," he said. He later confirmed the plans for an extension in Parliament on November 15.

On his part, President Hollande, quoted in various media on November 15, said, "I want to extend the state of emergency until the presidential election." He claimed that with the risk of terrorism, "We need measures which are -- it's true -- exceptional. And therefore, with the presidential election and rallies in the coming weeks, the government made the proposal to extend the state of emergency and that will be submitted to Parliament."

Thus it can be seen how the Socialist Party has put in place a strategy to present itself as the defender of a government of laws against the right (the Republicans) and the extreme-right (Marine LePen and the National Front), within the framework of the state of emergency and its exceptional measures. With Hollande's December 1 announcement that he will not seek re-election, it is widely expected that Valls will declare his candidacy in the Socialists' presidential primary in January 2017.[1] It is also likely he will pick up where Hollande left off in promoting the state of emergency and the expanded use of police powers in France. Regarding Hollande's decision not to run again for president, Valls stated on December 2, "We should defend the record of François Hollande, his action. I will do it..."

When the state of emergency was first declared, TML Weekly pointed out that police powers that operate outside the rule of law are actually being codified in law: "French President François Hollande, in his November 16 [2015] address to a special joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate, declared that the French authorities cannot respond to terrorism within the rule of law. Since France is a country that abides by the rule of law, he said, the rule of law as embodied in the Constitution must be rewritten."[2]

When Valls says, "At the present, it is hard to bring an end to the state of emergency," it indicates that the government will make permanent the violations of rights and "constitutionalize" them in practice regardless of whether the constitution is amended, all to be presented as "protecting democracy." The presidential election will unfold under a state of emergency and all its exceptional measures, such as bans on protests, house arrests, limits on the freedom of expression, as well as the spying and provocations of the state agencies and their police powers.

TML Weekly also pointed out that under the state of emergency, "The police have the power to act and even kill with impunity. They can search people and places without judicial warrants and detain people without charges. Anyone the police suspect of posing a threat to the state can be placed under house arrest indefinitely. Even if the house arrest is lifted, suspects can be prevented from meeting others the police identify. Electronic tagging will be used to ensure house arrest is not violated and to track individuals. State authorities will block Internet sites they deem dangerous. All public demonstrations are banned and groups the police want to target can be dissolved."[3]

These are the developments and the circumstances that have prevailed in France for the past year.

Repeated Extensions of State of Emergency

Annecy, January 30, 2016

France has now been under a constant state of emergency for more than a year. The first 12-day period declared November 13, 2015 was extended on November 20, 2015 for a period of three months (effective until February 26). On February 16, the French Parliament voted 212-13 to extend the state of emergency a further three months following the February expiration. Prime Minister Valls said at the time that it must remain in place "until we can get rid of [ISIL]." In May, it was extended a further two months, until the end of July, with the justification that it was necessary to ensure security during the Euro 2016 soccer championship and the Tour de France. On July 14, there was an attack in Nice in which a truck plowed into a crowd of people on Bastille Day. Shortly afterward, Hollande claimed it was "an attack whose terrorist nature cannot be denied," even though the perpetrator was not on any watch lists, had no proven links to terrorist organizations nor was he known for being religious, although he did have a history of psychological problems. Nonetheless, Parliament extended the state of emergency another six months, until the middle of January 2017. On June 13, a police officer and his wife (a police secretary) were killed in Magnanville, a municipality located west of Paris, for which ISIL later claimed responsibility. A priest in Rouen was killed on July 26 by two youth whom ISIL later claimed had pledged allegiance to it. Despite the fact that the prior extension was still in effect, the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the November 2015 Paris attacks was used to announce that the government would seek an extension until May 2017.

What emerges is the view that for life to carry on as usual, exceptional measures are required. Events such as the Euro 2016 and the Tour de France are used to extend these measures time and time again. Now we have the need for the presidential elections to be conducted in a secure atmosphere as the reason given for the latest extension despite the state of emergency failing to prevent the events in Nice, Magnanville and Rouen.

Given all this, along with the nefarious role that state security agencies have played in carrying out terrorist acts and blaming others for them, it is not hard to see how the state of emergency will be endlessly extended because the French state is unable to address the social and economic problems facing the people. The crisis in which the French state and the nation-building project which gave birth to it at the time of the French Revolution and since then, is deepening by leaps and bounds. It is the refusal to address this crisis which creates the conditions for the promotion of racism by the state and its agencies and demagogy about xenophobia.

Abuse of Police Powers Is not an Aberration but the New Normal

Lille, January 30, 2016

The state of emergency is said, ostensibly, to protect the people and deal with the problem of terrorism. However, from the beginning of the state of emergency, the French state abused the people's sorrow and hysteria over the tragic events in Paris for aims that had nothing to do with ensuring their safety. A significant example was the ban on all marches and outdoor events during the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, held November 30 to December 15, 2015. The people have profound concerns about protecting the social and natural environment, and mass actions at such summits ensure that these demands are put on the agenda and given a global spotlight, regardless of whatever agenda the U.S., France, Canada and other developed nations wish to impose on the rest of the world.

Besides the COP21, French labour unions informed the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) that "certain demonstrations [have been] forbidden on the basis that it was impossible to guarantee the security of the public due to a lack of security personnel and that, for others, authorisation was only given the night before, thereby disrupting the organisation and effectively preventing the protest from being held."[4]

France's National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), in a February 18 opinion paper, noted other instances where state of emergency measures were used to violate the right of assembly:

- a staff strike in Paris at a multimedia company;

- a gathering of trade unions for retired people in Toulouse;

- a gathering in front of the Regional department for companies, competition, consumption, work and employment for the Rhone-Alps area, following the implementation of dismissal proceedings against a protected employee.[5]

As well, workers held mass actions beginning in March when the government tabled its anti-worker Labour Law and the state of emergency measures were used to ban people from participating in the protests and to restrict the routes of marches. Amongst the numerous protests that were prohibited were the following:

- on June 14, one hundred and thirty people were banned from demonstrating in Paris against the Labour Law;

- on June 22, a demonstration against the Labour Law in Paris was initially banned, then authorized to proceed on a restricted route; and

- demonstrations in Nantes also on June 22 were prohibited and 100 demonstrators were arrested.

More recently, other protests continue to be banned using the state of emergency measures:

- on October 1, demonstrations organized in Calais and the surrounding municipalities by the International Coalition of Undocumented Migrants (CISPM) to support those in the refugee camps were banned; and

- on October 22 in Saint-Étienne, central France, a demonstration for the "disarmament of the police and the demilitarization of conflicts" was banned.

A June 2016 report by the FIDH gives an overview of police activity under the state of emergency, including the raids and searches carried out by police. It informs that "Interviews conducted by the FIDH delegation indicate that many of the state of emergency measures, and searches in particular, were used for reasons other than counter-terrorism. Above all, it became evident that legislation already in effect was sufficient and that a new law was superfluous."

In a section called "Use of State of Emergency Measures for Purposes Unrelated to Counter-terrorism," the FIDH writes that it "met with a representative of the branch of the CGT trade union that represents police officers, who explained that most of the searches were carried out by members of the drug squad, especially in the Paris region. This means that searches supervised by the administrative courts and provided for under the state of emergency were used in relation to investigations unrelated to terrorism. According to the Union syndicale des magistrats (USM -- France's largest national syndicate of judges): 'We were told that the Prefect, to increase the number of searches carried out, asked the Prosecutor which individuals could be the object of them, even if these individuals had no connection with terrorism.' This practice was denounced as an effort by the authorities to 'boost' the number of searches conducted and opportunistically issue search orders for persons linked to ordinary crimes by claiming the existence of a direct link between drug trafficking and terrorism.


"A proportion of the searches conducted under the state of emergency were thus carried out in the context of anti-drug trafficking, the alleged motive being that the drug trade financed terrorism."

Later on in its report, the FIDH points out the violence, prejudice and impunity with which the raids are carried out: "Various testimonies provided to the FIDH delegation indicate that the violence inherent in searches, especially when conducted at night, was made even worse because they were accompanied by acts of humiliation, racism, a total disregard for the presence of minors and pointless destruction of property. In several cases, individuals whose homes were searched were not provided with any notification or document justifying the search, making it impossible for them to prove that the search had actually taken place. House arrests often led to losing a job and/or major health problems or disruptions to family life, not to mention the many cases in which there was a clear intention to do harm (why require someone to report to a place that is several kilometres from their home when a closer option exists?).

"On balance, even if the state of emergency was justified during the first 12 days, the French authorities have not yet demonstrated its effectiveness with regard to its original purpose: fighting against acts of terrorism."

More recently, the Ministry of the Interior published on November 13 the following statistics regarding the actions taken by the state agencies after one year under the state of emergency:

- 4,000 searches;
- 95 house arrests, of which 46 have been in force since November 2015 (in February 2016, the number had reached 405);
- 500 arrests;
- 80 deportations;
- 600 firearms seized;
- 430 people given travel bans;
- 201 administrative entry bans (interdictions administratives du territoire -- IAT);
- 24 mosques, prayer rooms and places of worship closed; and
- 54 websites shut down.

If the state security agencies in France are already abusing their expanded powers to carry out drug raids, and anti-terrorism measures are being used to violate the right to freedom of assembly, a similar analogy can be drawn for the use of the state of emergency as a whole by the French state and ruling circles. Namely, the state of emergency is itself state-organized terrorism and therefore is not aimed at stopping terrorism. Its purpose is to ensure the police powers are given priority in the society while violations of rights by the state become the norm. The aim of this government by police powers is not to sort out any problems facing France and French society but to suppress the people's striving to exercise control over their lives and open a path to progress on the basis of the affirmation of rights in the present, as was done in the past. This time it is not the affirmation of what are called civil rights which will open a path to progress but the affirmation of rights by virtue of being human. Only the creation of a collective consciousness based on activating the human factor/social consciousness will be able to settle scores with the police powers which are tragically taking over France.

As TML Weekly pointed out in November 2015:

"This irrationality into which the police powers are plunging the world makes it as clear as clear can be that no solution can be found to any problem of this era without depriving the police authority of its privilege to eliminate the striving of the people for empowerment. The security of human beings today lies in fighting for the rights of all so as to provide them with a guarantee. This is the truth which lies within the irrational demands of the French president to rewrite the constitutional law to incorporate the police powers within the government of laws. It is not without consequence and that consequence will not be favourable to the moribund rulers who today preside over the killings of the people on a massive scale by providing themselves with impunity."

Rouen, January 30, 2016


1. In his December 1 announcement, Hollande did not say a word about the state of emergency but declared that being "motivated by the best interests of the country," he is proud of his record as president and said, "Our criminal arsenal has been hardened without our freedoms being questioned at any time. I have also made massive recruitments to our armed forces, the gendarmerie and the police, because we need them and there is still much to be done." He also said: "I have deployed our armed forces in Mali, in the Central African Republic, in Iraq, in Syria to defend our values..."

Regarding his reason for not running for re-election, Hollande stated that he could not resolve the "break-up of the left" that would "deprive him of any hope of prevailing over conservatism, or even worse, extremism."

Hollande is now the first president of France's Fifth Republic to not pursue a second mandate. The deadline for those who wish to be a candidate in the Socialists' presidential primary is December 17. The first round of elections will take place April 23, 2017, with the second round scheduled for May 7, 2017.

2. For a full review of the anti-terrorism measures instituted in France in November 2015, see "The French President's Irrational Proposal to Legalize Exceptional Measures and Violation of Rights by Rewriting the French Constitution," TML Weekly, November 21, 2015 - No. 36.

3."Security Measures Outlaw All Marches and Outdoor Events During Climate Conference," TML Weekly, November 21, 2015 - No. 36.

4. France, International fact-finding mission report: Counter-terrorism measures & human rights; When the exception becomes the norm, International League of Human Rights (FIDH), June 2016.

5. "Statement of Opinion on the State of Emergency," National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, February 18, 2016.

(Photos: Partide Gauche, LDH)

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French Government Announces Massive Database
of Personal Information

The Socialist government of François Hollande on October 30 created by decree a massive database for purposes of collecting and storing personal information on some 60 million people, out of a population of 66 million. The Interior Ministry is responsible for the database and gave a seemingly innocuous justification for it, saying that it is an administratively and financially efficient way to fight identity fraud, and that the system is safe from being hacked and will only be used to confirm people's identity, not to investigate them. The announcement of the database, known as the "titres électroniques securisés" or Secure Electronic Documents (TES), comes in the midst of an extended state of emergency in France in which the expanded police powers of the state security agencies have been misused repeatedly to violate rights with impunity in the name of fighting terrorism.

The TES file is an administrative database to which virtually all law enforcement bodies such as the police, the gendarmerie and the courts have access under the Intelligence Act of July 2015. The customs and the intelligence services will also have access, in the name of "preventing harm to the fundamental interests of the nation." According to the Code of Internal Security, these "fundamental interests" are broad. They range from fighting "attacks on the republican form of institutions," "organized crime and delinquency" and "collective violence likely to seriously harm the public peace," writes Le Monde in a November 2 item.

The TES will merge all data from passports or French identity cards, depending which one a person holds. This includes their first and last names, address, eye colour, weight, marital status, a photograph and the fingerprints of nearly everyone in France (with the exception of children under the age of 12). This process is to be completed by October 2018. The information taken from passports will be stored for 15 years while identity card information will be kept for 20.

Marc Rees, journalist for the website NextINpact who broke the story on October 31, writes: "The decree also provides that 'in the course of [exchanges of information between security agencies], personal data may be transmitted to foreign authorities.' [...] Article 6, however, authorizes France to transmit to Interpol and the SI Schengen [System d'Information Schengen, pertaining to the visa-free travel system for the EU -- TML Ed. Note] a great deal of information, such as the numbers for [travel] permits that have been lost, stolen or invalidated. For Schengen, this process can be completed with the surname, forenames, date of birth, date of issue of the permit."

Citing the recent hacking of Yahoo, Rees expressed skepticism in an interview with CBC of government claims the database will be secure from hackers. Regarding the government's promise that use of the data will be limited, he said, "It's systematic: even if a law is constrained to a specific use, eventually there will be interest in using it to other ends. It's not a question of whether, but of when."

Also speaking to the CBC about the matter, French civil rights activist Yasser Louati added context to the TES, pointing to surveillance laws passed in the wake of the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack that are disproportionate to their ostensible aims.

"We're definitely living in a police state," he says. "This is not some kind of ideological statement. It is the case. Remember: the Intelligence Act was passed last year with an overwhelming majority.

"And this law allows the government to tap your phone conversations, your web browsing, the books you read, the movies you watch, the people you meet, your email account, your social media accounts, your whereabouts by following you on your cellphone. That's not something from a movie. That's the law."

Louati also pointed to the ongoing state attacks on Muslims in the name of anti-terrorism:

"Take the state of emergency itself: they raided more than 3,500 homes, Muslim homes, ransacked the mosques, ransacked the businesses, resulting in only six terrorism-related inquiries.

"So what they did then is put any person who seemed suspicious under house arrest. So these laws have definitely put Muslims under the security apparatus."

Adding to doubts about the government's intentions for the database is the fact that the last time such a database existed and was used in France was under the collaborationist Vichy regime, that used census information to help deport French Jews.

In 2012, the Socialists opposed a similar database when it was proposed by the Sarkozy government. At that time, Jean-Jacques Urvoas, who is now Justice Minister in the Hollande government and a defender of the TES, warned against such as system because it could be hacked. "No computer system is impenetrable. Any database can be hacked. It's just a question of time," he wrote. Ultimately, France's Constitutional Court banned Sarkozy's database, which would have allowed police to use it to investigate people, because it "failed to safeguard against the risk of arbitrary use."

The Hollande government's decision to issue a decree to create the system instead of submitting a bill for parliamentary approval has also raised questions over the database's legality, notes France 24 in a November 4 report.

Antoine Cheron, a lawyer specializing in emerging technologies with the French firm ACBM, told France 24, "One could think that the government is trying to circumvent the Constitutional Court by issuing a decree, because the only way to contest it now is to go to the State Council [France's highest administrative court]." He added, "From a legal perspective, there's nothing to prevent the government from creating a database by decree, but there are some politicians who believe that such a system, given the scale, should not exist without a major public debate."

Faced with the unanimous condemnation of the government's decree and the TES by organizations that defend rights, Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve announced on November 10 that "users who do not wish to see their fingerprints added to the secure national database, can refuse. But they will not benefit in this case from the services associated with this collection of data." Clearly, this means that those who refuse to give their fingerprints will have every conceivable difficulty in obtaining an identity card or a passport, which in France are essential to establish one's identity during the numerous police street checks, to access health services, schools, colleges and universities, obtain a driver's license or take an exam. They will become undocumented and marginalized.

(CBC, France 24, NextINpact, Le Monde)

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New Peace Agreement Ratified in Colombia

Peace Process Defended

Youth oversee Congress vote on Definitive Final Peace Agreement, November 30, 2016.

On November 12, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - Peoples' Army [FARC-EP] and the Government of Colombia reached a new Peace Agreement after one reached in August failed to be approved in a plebiscite held October 2. The plebiscite was lost by a narrow margin, largely the result of a deliberate disinformation campaign used to destroy Colombians' ability to think about what the agreement represented in a calm and rational manner.[1]

The response of the Colombian people to this negative result was to immediately go into action to ensure the opportunity for ending more than fifty years of war was not derailed. With youth and students taking the lead in a spirit of "it's up to us now," people from all walks of life and backgrounds took to the streets of their towns and cities night after night to defend the agreement reached in Havana, and demand negotiations resume until the parties came up with a new agreement without sacrificing any of the fundamental principles of the first one that was reached. New organizations sprang up, women and victims of the war mobilized numerous times to make their voices for reconciliation and non-repetition heard. A peace camp was set up in Bogota's Plaza de Bolivar that stayed in place until after a new agreement was reached.

Buoyed by this massive popular response, the FARC-EP and government negotiating teams regrouped after the failed plebiscite, with each receiving proposals from and meeting with different organizations and groups about ways to improve the first agreement. This was followed by a short period of intense negotiations that resulted in the Definitive Final Peace Agreement reached on November 12.

On November 24 the new agreement was officially signed by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, and the Commander in Chief of the FARC-EP, Timoleón Jiménez (also known as Timochenko). It was ratified on November 29 in the Senate and November 30 in the House of Representatives. On both days rallies and activities were held outside the government buildings to urge elected representatives to vote in favour of the new agreement. Youth and students organized themselves as "citizen overseers" to hold Senators and Representatives to account for if and how they voted. The youth mounted photos and identifying information for each member on big sheets of cardboard, then posted notices on each one reporting when they arrived, if they came late, left early, voted or did not. Others tweeted photos and videos from inside if they observed members socializing or in other ways not paying attention during the session.

In the end, the Agreement was unanimously ratified in the Senate by a vote of 76 to 0. In the House of Representatives the vote was 130 to 0. Members of Alvaro Uribe's Centro Democratico Party and a few others walked out before the vote, claiming it was "illegal" and that only a new plebiscite could determine the "will of the people."

Speaking at the signing ceremony held in Bogotá's Teatro Colón FARC-EP leader Timochenko stated:

To achieve the signing of this Definitive Agreement, we Colombians have lived through more than seven decades of violence, half a century of open war, thirty-three years in peace processes, five years of debates in Havana, the disenchantment of the October 2 Plebiscite and the most historic effort to achieve the majority consensus of the nation.

In this last stage we enriched and modified the previous Agreement, taking into account the concerns and proposals, clarifications and specific definitions made by the most varied groups and social organizations, opinion sectors as well as political parties and movements. We studied with care and attention everything put to the consideration of the parties at the Negotiation Table by the various groups, and we introduced important and numerous changes and substantial modifications to the old texts, until turning the Final Agreement into the Definitive Final Agreement.

He paid tribute to the country's women's and LGBTI organizations, the youth and other sections of the people whose support was crucial in bringing about a new agreement in a short time:

Our feeling of solidarity and admiration goes to the thousands of compatriots who took to the streets and squares of cities and towns, to express their disapproval of the war, their support for the foundations of the Final Agreement, and to require the parties sitting at the Negotiation Table not to stop until signing a Definitive Agreement. Our feeling of solidarity goes to the youth and university students who succeeded in awakening a genuine national mobilization in defence of a political solution, and who promoted and achieved a Youth Pact for Peace with the support of a majority of the political representatives of the different parties and movements, including the Conservative Party and the Democratic Center.

To the indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant communities, the agrarian and communal leaders with a long history in the work for peace in the territories, the tens of thousands of families that joined the FARC in the vigils for peace, personalities of the Catholic Church, science and the world of art, academics from different universities, platforms for peace that sprang up in the cities of the country, [those] who joined the marches of silence, of flowers, the victims of the Patriotic Union, [those] who founded peace camps and stayed in them, to those who called for peace acts in different cities around the world -- this Final Agreement belongs to them because they helped to build it with their hopes and actions."

Timochenko also made a point of denouncing the rise in assassinations of social and community activists, most of them members of the Marcha Patriotica movement, killed by paramilitary forces that continue to operate with impunity in various parts of the country.

"The first national demand is to put an end to the use of weapons in politics, and that the right to dissent, to oppose, to protest against bad administrations, unjust laws, arbitrariness and the abuse of power is guaranteed," Timochenko said. "Let life, personal integrity, the freedom of movement and thought become real. It is for this that Colombia is closing ranks around this Definitive Agreement."

Celebrating signing of peace agreement in Bogota, November 24, 2016.

With the new Agreement ratified, the critical phase of implementation has now begun. The timetable established in the Agreement says movement of FARC members to 23 transitional zones around the country where they will prepare for re-integration into civilian life and disarmament which will eventually take place under UN supervision, must be complete 30 days after the Agreement is ratified. December 1 was therefore designated as "D" day, activating the timetable for what must happen when.

An issue of concern at this time is how quickly the necessary constitutional reforms and legislation can be put in place to provide the guarantees that FARC members will not be arrested as they begin moving to the designated transition zones with state forces providing security along their routes.

The government has said it will present the all-important Amnesty Law for discussion in Congress on December 5 in the hopes its passage can be expedited via a Fast Track process it has asked the Constitutional Court to approve. It is not a given however that this request will be granted. The Court's decision is said to be expected any time.

TML Weekly extends its congratulations to the FARC-EP for the achievement of this new Definitive Peace Agreement with the Colombian government despite all the obstacles put in the way of this historic accomplishment. The Colombian people are also to be congratulated for their role in bringing this about by putting heart and soul into showing their support for the peace process and the agreements reached. TML Weekly encourages Canadians to continue standing with the Colombian people as they now take up the crucial task of ensuring that the Agreement is fully implemented so the peace, reconciliation and non-repetition that has been committed to is realized.


1. See TML Weekly, October 8, 2016.

(Photos: FARC-EP, @ConsejeríaDDHH, @PazALaCalleCol)

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Urgent Call from Network in Defense of Humanity

Petition Campaign for Freedom of
Oscar Lopez Rivera

The Network of Intellectuals, Artists and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity joins the campaign launched by the National Boricua Human Rights Network for the freedom of Oscar López Rivera.

Oscar López Rivera, who is now 73, is the longest-held political prisoner in Puerto Rican history. He was charged with seditious conspiracy -- the same charge that Nelson Mandela received -- for his participation in Puerto Rico's independence movement. He was never accused of hurting anyone or participating in any violent crime. Oscar's crime was fighting for his country to be free. Last year several heads of state attending the annual OAS General Assembly proclaimed Oscar "the Nelson Mandela of Latin America."


The Network in Defense of Humanity asks all organizations, communities, unions, churches, activists, political parties -- to CALL ON THEIR INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS to sign this petition and spread the word -- this is a time-sensitive request!

Our goal is to get 100,000 signatures by December 11.

To sign petition click here.

Freedom for Oscar Lopez Rivera Now!

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