April 9, 2016 - No. 15

Trudeau Government Moves to Criminalize
the Right to Conscience

"Responsible Conviction" -- Another Criminal Doctrine of Canada's Foreign Affairs to Justify Aggression and War

Hubris About Canada's Role in the Imperialist System of States

Another Death in Immigration Custody
Canada's Detention System Violates Law, Duty and Moral Principle
- Philip Fernandez -
Open Letter to Canadian Government and People from the Family
Key Facts About Immigration Detention & Violations
- End Immigration Detention -

End Canada's Military Support to Philippine Government
Human Rights Coalition Demands Trudeau Government Stop Supporting State Terror Against Filipino People
President Aquino and Governor Talino-Mendoza Accountable
for the Bloody Police Operations in Kidapawan, Cotabato

- International Coalition on Human Rights
in the Philippines (Canada) -

Protests Across Philippines Demand Ouster of U.S. Military

Get Canada Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!

NATO Enforcing U.S. Imperialist Pivot to Asia

Trudeau Government Moves to Criminalize the Right to Conscience

"Responsible Conviction" -- Another
Criminal Doctrine of Canada's Foreign Affairs
to Justify Aggression and War

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion spoke at an international conference at the University of Ottawa on March 29, entitled "Canada in Global Affairs, New Challenges, New Ways."[1] Dion continued the practice of prior governments of making important announcements about Canada's foreign policy in an offhand manner. Dion used a speech to a university audience to announce a new foreign affairs doctrine for Canada he calls "responsible conviction." Dion says "responsible conviction" will be the "guiding principle" the government will follow in implementing foreign policy.

"It is an immense honour to have been appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau as Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs," Dion said. "To accomplish the ambitious mandate that he has given me, my guiding principle will be responsible conviction. One of the convictions that drives me is the sense of responsibility. I will make my decisions by taking into account their foreseeable impact on others. This is what the Prime Minister asked of me and I am working on it with my officials. That is what responsible conviction demands."

This new doctrine follows on the heels of prior Canadian doctrines called "Human Security" and "Responsibility to Protect," announced in a similar fashion by the Chretien Liberal government's Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, who also spoke at the conference. Axworthy did not bother to note that the doctrines promoted by Canada under his watch have given rise to disasters and that they have never been accepted by the people of Canada or any other country.

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) denounces the "responsible conviction" doctrine as pragmatic, immoral and irresponsible. Canadians have not been consulted on this doctrine despite the serious ramifications. However, they can expect it to be used to justify the criminalization of the resistance struggles being waged by the oppressed peoples and nations, especially those living under the occupation of foreign powers, those opposing "regime change," and the Palestinian resistance and its supporters whose actions in defence of their right to be are termed anti-Semitism and "hate crimes." Canadians can also expect the same logic to be used to criminalize their own struggles for their rights here at home.

Dion asserts that the right to conscience belongs to those who exercise it "responsibly," those who temper their convictions according to what he calls "the real world." Acting in this way, he says, is the proper way to act not only for a statesperson but for all Canadians and individuals.

Dion constantly refers to himself in the first person when talking about the "principles" he follows. He derides those he calls "pacifists," who he suggests have "conviction" but lack "responsibility in the face of the enemy." He states that his foreign policy mandate "reflects the values and convictions of a Liberal Canadian" but its objectives are "also shared by a number of my fellow citizens whose political affiliations differ from my own." According to this "new doctrine," the "responsibility" is to what he calls "Canada's interests." "Conviction" cannot exist without the "sense of responsibility" to these interests, Dion asserts.

For CPC(M-L), this view of Dion is a real step backwards. Having a conscience is the fundamental quality that makes us human. The quality is the capacity to abstract absence. This quality includes the capacity to think, to distinguish right from wrong, to differentiate what is just from what is unjust, and to define the principles we stand for. It includes the ability to form judgments based on principles, to engage in a decision-making process and organize to provide the problems society faces with solutions. These are all part of the essence of what defines us as human beings of having a conscience. These human qualities distinguish us from all other animal species, which also have varying degrees of intelligence in the form of memory imparted as instinct. But it is the affirmation of our conscience that makes us human. The right to conscience of human beings thus refers to their right to be.

The liberal conception of rights on the contrary upholds the right to belief, which it calls conscience, so long as the belief accords with the beliefs promoted by the ruling class, which Dion defines as "the values and convictions of a Liberal Canadian." Only those who agree to espouse those beliefs are allowed to practice them and advance their careers; others must forsake their beliefs to get ahead. Meanwhile, more often than not, the beliefs of Nazis and racists are given free rein in the name of freedom of speech, while the beliefs that do not suit the rulers are called extremist or anti-Semitic, or declared harmful to the national interests.

In an attempt to provide the criminalization of dissent with some intellectual clout, Dion resorts to quoting the sociologist of the late 19th century Max Weber. Weber's theory of the rationalisation of society pushes a pragmatic approach in the name of modernization. He refers to "the replacement of traditions, values and emotions as motivators for behaviour in society with rational, calculated ones." Dion points to the "traditional distinction that Max Weber made between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility."

"Weber contrasted behaviour that remains true to one's convictions, regardless of what happens (ethics of conviction), and behaviour that takes the consequences of one's actions into consideration (ethics of responsibility)," Dion says. He argues, "In isolation, the ethics of conviction of course lead to pure action, defending a principle or a cause, while ignoring the consequences. Pacifists who recommend unilateral disarmament in the face of the enemy are inspired by the ethics of conviction: they advocate non-violence at all times."

Dion says he prefers to "go beyond this rigid distinction to create a more syncretic concept -- the ethics of 'responsible conviction.' This formulation means that my values and convictions include the sense of responsibility. Not considering the consequences of my words and actions on others would be contrary to my convictions. I feel I am responsible for the consequences of my actions."

Speaking in the first person Dion posits that he and "the world" are two separately existing entities." His decisions will have some impact on "others" and as long as this is "foreseeable" he will take these impacts into account. He "feels" he is responsible for the consequences of his actions. His conviction includes his responsibility, while his responsibility is to be true to his convictions.

With such tautological and sophistic arguments Dion is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Not surprisingly, he does not tell us who are the "others" who will be "impacted." We are to believe in the goodness of his "responsible conviction" but why we should do so he does not say. His only argument, if one can call it an argument, is that he holds the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Canada and he has the backing of his Prime Minister and that is all that matters. He can strut around to his heart's content because nobody has the power to stop him or to even question his "responsible conviction" and ask what connection it has with the problems the world and Canada face. Or so he thinks, which is nothing more than the manifestation of his own narcissism. Does he think the political people such as those who are associated with CPC(M-L), the workers who take independent political stands, resistance fighters and others are going to abandon their right to conscience because Dion so sincerely follows his "responsible conviction"? Does he think anybody, anywhere in this vast world is going to give up their right to resist foreign intervention, oppression and occupation? Dion can dream on. His government's attempts to criminalize the right to conscience and the resistance struggles will certainly not make them go away. On the contrary, it will intensify the struggles of peoples everywhere for their rights no matter what petty King Canute, such as the Foreign Affairs Minister and his Prime Minister may think of themselves and how earnestly they spout their "responsible conviction."

To be a follower of Max Weber in the 21st century is hardly something to be proud of. Weber was a German sociologist associated with Neo-Kantianism and positivism. According to Weber the essence of any socio-economic phenomenon is determined not so much by its objective aspects as by the viewpoint of the investigator and the cultural significance attached to any given process. Proceeding from the assumption that the social sciences study only the individual aspects of various phenomena (instead of their whole and their connections and relations), Weber tried to substitute for scientific abstraction the arbitrary notion of an "ideal type." This "ideal type," he claimed, had no basis in reality, but was merely a device for systematizing and comprehending individual facts, a concept against which the investigator could measure reality. In opposition to a scientific analysis of the development of society, Weber posited the theory of "plurality" of historical factors.

Dion has cribbed his theory from scholars on Weber such as Christopher Adair-Toteff of the University of South Florida who points out:

"Whether it was because Weber believed that he lived in a post-Nietzschean world, or that he was 'unmusical' in matters of faith, or simply for some other reason, he insisted that one no longer had the luxury to act solely according to one's conscience and to disregard the consequences. Instead, politics demands that one acts with regard to the foreseeable consequences of those actions; that is, politics demands that one act responsibly. [...]

"In Weber's opinion, only those who have strong nerves and will take responsibility for their political actions should be permitted 'to stick their hands in the spokes of the wheel of history',' i.e., be permitted to exercise their right to conscience.[2]

Coming down to earth and off his trite philosophical perch, Dion gives an example of Canada's "responsible conviction" in action and it is not pretty. He cites the government's $15 billion contract to sell Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia that are used to suppress the Saudi population and in the Saudi war against Yemen. He states that the Liberals are honouring the contract, which has aroused the outrage of Canadians, because "breaking it would lead to damaging consequences." He elaborates these "damaging consequences" saying it would "result in Canadian taxpayers having to pay costly penalties and damage the credibility of the Government of Canada's signature. This would have a ripple effect in an industry on which 70,000 jobs in Canada directly depend, including many veterans. At least 2,000 workers, primarily in London, Ontario, would be out of a job."

Compounding his degenerate logic according to which war production should be supported because it creates jobs, Dion adds that the Saudis would "almost certainly" buy similar weaponry from another country, and do not care if it comes from "a factory in Lima, Ohio or Sterling Heights, Michigan, rather than one in London, Ontario."

This trite talk is given as examples of taking responsibility for consequences. It boggles the mind. Only those who have compromised their conscience can say that as long as Saudi Arabia is looking for weapons with which to commit crimes against the people, it is "responsible decision-making" for Canada and its monopolies to be the beneficiary. It is good for jobs and is needed by Canadian companies and workers and, in any case, Canada does not control trade between Saudi Arabia and other countries and does not control what Saudi Arabia does with the weaponry it buys from Canada.

This logic can be likened to the statement attributed to Ramón Fonseca of the now infamous "Panama Papers." In an interview he denies all responsibility for money laundering and fraud on the part of the companies his firm, Mossack Fonseca, set up. He says blaming his company is like blaming an automaker "if the car was used in a robbery." So too the President of the Royal Bank of Canada whose name comes up related to the Panama Papers some 400 times, asserts that the Bank was just involved in "tax planning, not tax evasion"!

The underlying logic to all this is that Canada behaves responsibly in what the Liberal government does and is deeply convinced that what it does is responsible, which makes it so without further to do or analysis. To prove it to be the case, the government presents the doctrine "responsible conviction," which makes its behaviour "responsible" because the "convictions that drive [the government] is the sense of responsibility," and besides, this simple-minded tautology provides grounds to criminalize the conscience of opponents in the name of the greater good and to justify taking action against them.

Dion concludes his speech by saying that Canadian foreign policy "must be principled, but less dogmatic and more focused on delivering results." To further muddy the murky waters and pretend that he is upholding some sort of principle, Dion says, "responsible conviction must not be confused with some sort of moral relativism." He says, "Since the classic concept of the honest broker is now too often confused with moral relativism or the lack of strong convictions, I prefer to say that Canada must be a fair-minded and determined peace builder."

These are indeed the perverse dreams of those grasping at straws, those who no longer have a clear conscience and are haunted by a morbid preoccupation with defeat.[3]


1. "Canada in Global Affairs, New Challenges, New Ways" was organized by The Hague Institute for Global Justice, a think-tank based in The Hague, Netherlands, and co-sponsored by the University of Ottawa and the Centre for International Policy Studies (which also sponsored the Canada 2020 Ottawa Forum 2016 where Dion was the keynote speaker). Others speakers at the conference were former Supreme Court Justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour; former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy; Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova; United Nations Under Secretary-General Adama Dieng; former Canadian International Development Agency President Huguette Labelle; The Hague Institute President Abiodun Williams; former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd; and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin spoke at a dinner for conference attendants at the Chateau Laurier.

The Hague Institute President Abiodun Williams, also an academic and former senior UN official, appeared on CTV's Power Play on March 28 to discuss Canadian peacekeeping. He said that it is encouraging that the Liberal government has said engaging with peacekeeping will be a priority. Williams said it would be important to set up a new peacekeeping centre in Canada to train both military and police and civilians who are part of peacekeeping missions. He added that an important contribution by Canada would be a "stabilization doctrine" for peacekeeping missions in countries in which this is a component of the mission. The Hague Institute describes its work as "Informing Policy," "Convening Power" and "Training Practitioners and Future Leaders."

The Hague Institute's Advisory Council is chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Other Advisory Council members include former foreign ministers of the Netherlands, Russia and Jordan, a former minister of state from India, and a judge at the International Court of Justice. It is funded by a variety of embassies, governments and non-governmental organizations.

2. Adair-Toteff, Christopher. "Protestant ethics and the spirit of politics: Weber on conscience, conviction and conflict" (2011), History of the Human Sciences, 24 (1), pp. 19-35.

3. Perverse (of a person or their actions): showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences. Contrary to the accepted or expected standard or practice. (Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English)

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Hubris About Canada's Role in the
Imperialist System of States

To prove the importance of "responsible conviction," in his speech at the University of Ottawa on March 29 Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion presented a fairy tale of Canada as an intrepid and indispensable international actor whose "responsibility" has allowed it to change the course of history. The Harper government only had "conviction" but not "responsibility" Dion suggested, and this has blunted Canada's ability to play such a role.

He referred to the action to liberate the U.S. hostages held by the Iranian government in 1979 as an example of a positive role. He did not say that this was not a "Canadian action" but an action of the CIA and its agent who was the "Canadian ambassador to Iran," Ken Taylor. Dion said that "the world" was "lucky" that Canada had an embassy in Iran "at the end of the 1970s so it could come to the aid of the American hostages."  Using an example from hockey, Dion also said that under the policy of the Harper government it would have been "impossible to organize the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR, which saw the famous Paul Henderson goal, and which helped build cultural and people-to-people ties during a time of great tension."

Dion went further, arguing that Canada helped "plant the seeds" for the end of the Soviet Union: "It would have been impossible to invite a young Mikhail Gorbachev to Canada in 1983. Gorbachev was then Party Secretary in charge of Agriculture and a rising star. As he has written in his memoirs, it was in Ontario and Alberta that Gorbachev first came to see the great inefficiencies of the Soviet agricultural system compared to ours, and the potential for 'perestroika,' which became his vision for 'reform.' And it was in his frank and open discussions with Canadian politicians and citizens that the early seeds were planted for 'glasnost.'"

Dion's delusions of grandeur are on such a scale that Canada is given credit for the beginning of the end of a state born from the greatest revolution carried out by the working class in human history, based on the visit of a Minister of Agriculture and the wisdom he gleaned from Canadian politicians. It was not the failure of that country to renew its political and economic arrangements consistent with the requirement to advance a socialist nation-building project which started stalling in the 1950s and 60s and was reversed by the 1970s as it became a social-imperialist superpower which entered an arms race with the U.S. imperialist superpower and contention for domination. For Dion it was the revelation that "our" system is "efficient" and showed the "potential" and "openness" which became a reality with the humanitarian disasters Gorbachev was instrumental in bringing into being by dismantling the vestiges of socialism in an allegedly controlled demolition.

Dion's hubris repeats the Liberal lament that the Liberal aspiration to have the 21st century "belong to Canada" did not materialize. It is a throwback to Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier who, after the slaughter of Canadians in the First World War on behalf of the British Empire, declared that now Canada had earned its place in the world and the 20th century would belong to her. This aspiration was repeated by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien after he was elected in 1993. He declared that henceforth Canada's aim would be to make the monopolies number one on world markets and thus take its place in the world.

This wish that Canada be a major power in the imperialist system of states, despite the size of its population and economy relative to those of the United States, Russia, China and other big powers, underscores the Yes Man role Canada was accorded since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and that it sought to play within the imperialist system of states. Its role was to cast one more vote for first the British and then the U.S. imperialists when major decisions were taken. This is the role Canada is trying to regain despite the fact that it is now totally integrated into the U.S. command through NATO, NORAD and directly through bilateral border agreements and the fact that it has been humiliated time and time again, doing yeoman's service only to be ignominiously discarded when important meetings take place.

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Another Death in Immigration Custody

Canada's Detention System Violates Law,
Duty and Moral Principle

On March 13, Francisco Javier Romero Astorga, a Chilean citizen, died while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ontario. He is the 14th person known to have died while in the custody of the CBSA since 2000, and seven have died in the last three years alone. Less than a week earlier, 64-year-old refugee Melkioro Gahungu committed suicide while in the custody of the CBSA rather than be deported back to Burundi from where he had fled.

Francisco Astorga was detained in January 2016 after arriving in Canada in October 2015. Prior to this he had lived and worked in Canada during the 1990s before returning to Chile. The CBSA did not inform why Francisco Astorga was taken into detention or under what circumstances he was arrested nor his cause of death. His family has been left completely in the dark as to the circumstances surrounding his death. This shows that Canada's practices concerning the protection of foreign nationals are in contradiction with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and reveals the brutality and racism of the Canadian state. Canada has a legal and moral duty to provide answers to Francisco's family as to the reasons for his death and to conduct a full investigation so that they know what happened to him. Even after Francisco Astorga was detained in January, his family only found out about his situation when they called the Chilean consulate in Toronto to enquire about his whereabouts.

In its 2015 periodic review of Canada's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Canada's treatment of immigration detainees is cruel and unusual, and results in arbitrary detention. It expressed concern that those who enter Canada "may be detained for an unlimited period of time" and that "any migrant and asylum-seeker designated as an 'irregular arrival' would be subject to mandatory detention until the asylum-seeker's status is established." The Committee also expressed serious concerns about the conditions in prisons for immigration detainees.

The powers of CBSA officers show how far Canada's immigration detention system is from the rule of law and international duties. The CBSA can detain someone indefinitely under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act if, according to an officer:

- It is considered necessary to "complete an examination."
- The officer is "not satisfied with your identity."
- The officer has "reason to believe" you are "inadmissible to Canada and were a danger to the public, unlikely to appear (risk of flight) for an examination, an admissibility hearing, removal from Canada or a proceeding that could lead to a removal order."
- The officer has "reason to suspect" you are "inadmissible to Canada for reasons of security, violating human or international rights, serious criminality, criminality or organized criminality."

The CBSA informs that it detains children under 18 "only as a last resort." Detention reviews must be carried out by a judge within 48 hours, then after another seven days, and following that every 30 days.

In 2014 the CBSA detained 8,519 people, more than half in Ontario. During that year 58 people had been in detention for more than one year, and four for more than five years. Reg Williams, director of CBSA immigration enforcement in Toronto from 2004 until his retirement in 2012 told the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto that the culture of the CBSA is heading "towards a more para-militaristic organization where the emphasis is on power and force..." A 2015 study by the International Human Rights Program reported, "Without exception, the immigration detainees we spoke to communicated incredible despair and anxiety -- over their immigration status, their seemingly indefinite detention, their lack of legal rights, their conditions of confinement, and the lack of adequate mental health resources to allow them to get better. They are treated like 'garbage,' 'animals,' or something less than human."

Francisco Javier Romero Astorga
(End Immigration Detention)

Francisco's family in Chile, including his four children, are demanding answers and they are appealing to the Canadian people for assistance. They have rejected the CBSA's claim that the cause of Francisco's death is "undetermined." In a joint statement, among other things Francisco's family stated: "No one from the federal Canadian government, including the Canada Border Service Agency has contacted us. We don't know of an autopsy and no results of any tests or reason for his death have been given to us. All we know is that his body lies in a hospital and that we must pay nearly $10,000 to bring him home to give him a proper burial. Our brother, our son's body has been in hospital for ten days already and we are in pain every minute that passes. Behind all this tragedy is a family and a mother who are grieving."

The family also wants the federal government to pay for the return of his body, and they want assurances that this will not happen to others. The family also notes that without knowing the exact cause of his death, Francisco's four children will not receive a single peso of his pension.

The case of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga brings to the fore the brutality, racism and lawlessness of the Canadian Border Services Agency and the manner in which immigrants and refugees are criminalized and mistreated, in complete violation of their basic human rights. As part of the Anglo-American imperialist system of states, Canada is involved internationally in exploiting the resources of other nations and displacing their peoples such as the Canadian mining monopolies are doing in Chile. Then when people such as Francisco Astorga come to Canada seeking a new beginning, they are criminalized. This is unjust and unacceptable.

Stand with the family of Francisco Javier Romero Astorga in their demand for justice! Demand that Canada respect its international obligations as concerns the treatment of refugees and immigrants, in particular those under custody!

(With files from Toronto Star, "'We Have No Rights': Arbitrary imprisonment and cruel treatment of migrants with mental health issues in Canada," International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto, 2015)

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Open Letter to Canadian Government
and People from the Family

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, Francisco Javier Romero Astorga -- our brother, our son -- died in immigration detention custody. No one has told us how Francisco died, or why he was in prison. To date, no one from the federal Canadian government, including the Canada Border Services Agency, has contacted us. We do not know of an autopsy and no results of any tests or reasons for his death have been given to us.

Francisco Javier Romero Astorga with his sister and grandmother.

All we know is that his body lies in a hospital, and that we must pay nearly $10,000 to bring his body home to give him a proper burial. Our brother, our son's body has been in a hospital for ten days already, and we are in pain every minute that passes. Behind all this tragedy is a family and a mother who are grieving.

We are writing this open letter to the Canadian government and the Canadian people to request information and support. We want to know why our son, our brother died. We want to know what the Canadian government is doing to make sure this does not happen to anyone else again. We want the Canadian government to provide us the financial resources to return Francisco to us so that he can be laid to rest.

We know that the Canadian government has not provided any information to the Canadian people about Francisco. We want you to know who he was, so that you understand the loss and grief we are suffering.

Four months from now, Francisco would have turned forty years old. He is a father of four children, Ignacio 10, Hector 11, Aimy 12 and Camila 19. He is the eldest brother to Cecilia, Esteban, and Maria. Francisco's father, Esteban, is a man who holds strong family values and is dedicated to his family. He served in the military for 30 years. Francisco's mother, Cecilia, is a devoted mother, loves her children, and has always been a pillar of the family. His sister Maria teaches in kinesiology, loves to laugh and is devoted to her family, and his sister Cecilia is self-employed, and is a caring and hardworking person. His brother Esteban, who is very close to his siblings, works in Dubai. Esteban is married with an 18-month-old son, Maria is a mother to a 2-year-old daughter, and Cecilia is mother to a 5-year-old son.

As a young boy Francisco was a fighter. He always stood up for what was right. No matter what. He loved football and played it every day. As an adult, Francisco was a devoted son, a loving brother. His passion was music. He loved to draw. He was passionate about cooking and was an excellent chef. He was a dreamer who was always looking for ways to make the future brighter.

In the mid 1990s, Francisco went to Canada in search of work, so that he could make money to build a better life for himself. He worked in a bakery, and loved Canada. He was happy to be there. By 2002, he had saved up enough money to come back to Chile. He came home with music equipment and plans to open a dance club.

But Francisco was unable to get ahead back here in Chile. He had to sell his equipment, and work odd jobs. It was a difficult time for him and for the whole family, but we came together to support him. By 2015 he was ready to rebuild his life. Francisco wanted to go back to the place that he loved, Canada. He told us he wanted a 'new beginning'.

In October of 2015, Francisco travelled to Toronto. Some Chilean friends of ours in Canada helped Francisco find somewhere to stay until he found a permanent place to live. A generous and caring family took him in like he was their own son. We were so grateful and moved by their generosity. When we called one day in January to speak to Francisco, the family told us he had not returned home, that they did not know where he was, and were worried about him. We called the Chilean consulate and they informed us that Francisco had been arrested.

The next thing we heard was on Sunday, March 13, 2016 when we received a phone call from the Chilean Consulate informing us that Francisco was dead. In an email a few days later, a detective from the Halton Police Services informed us that the cause of death was "undetermined". We were told that this was no longer a criminal investigation, and so blood test results would be available by May of 2016.

When cause of death is "undetermined," the Chilean government does not release the pension that a person has collected. As a result, Francisco's children will not see a single peso of that money, and we have to bear the costs of transporting his body.

We are utterly in the dark. Francisco's mother is very ill, and her health has deteriorated rapidly because of this news and we have no answers to give her. Francisco left Chile in perfect health, he spent much of his most recent time in Canada in immigration detention custody and now he is dead. We need to know more, and we need the Canadian people's help in getting us answers.

There is nothing worse in the world than losing a child. What we want most is to have our son and brother returned to us, laughing and alive. Now that we know that he is not the first person to die in immigration detention, we want an investigation into his death to also tell the truth about what is happening in the Canadian immigration system. How can people be dying in government detention? It is inhuman what immigration detention is doing to people. Families like ours deserve answers. No one else must suffer like we are suffering.

(March 22, 2016. Photo: End Immigration Detention)

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Key Facts About Immigration Detention & Violations

Since 2000, at least 14 immigrants have died in CBSA custody. 8 of the 14 deaths took place in Ontario provincial prisons. Most common cause of death is denial of adequate health care followed by suicide. CBSA has never publicly revealed details of all the deaths in its custody.

Over 7300 migrants were detained without charges or trial in 2013. Approximately, one-third of all detention happens in maximum security provincial facilities rented out by provincial governments to Canada Border Services Agency. 60 per cent of all detentions take place in Ontario. In 2013, migrant detainees spent a whopping total of 183,928 days (that's over 503 years) in immigration detention. Detentions cost over a quarter of a billion dollars over five years.

CBSA regularly imprisons children. At the same time, it does not report on imprisonment of children with Canadian citizenship insisting that they are 'accompanying' their parents.

Canada is one of the few western countries in the world without a time limit on detentions, thus some immigrants have been jailed for over 12 years without charges or trial. The United Nations has twice asked Canada to end this practice.

There is absolutely no system to determine under what circumstances some detainees are held in one of three federal immigration holding centres (Toronto, Laval and Vancouver) and the rest in provincial jails.

The decision to detain or release is made by civil servants, who are not legally trained, known as Board Members. Board Members release rates vary arbitrarily between 5 per cent and 38 per cent. Release rates also vary by region, 9 per cent in Ontario, and 26.5 per cent in the rest of Canada. There is no comprehensive judicial oversight of these decisions. An immigration detainee does not have an automatic right of appeal.

If convicted for a crime, immigrants unlike citizens are punished three times. First, for the crime itself. Second, by having their immigration status revoked or if it's in process, denied, and pushed into deportation. Third, by being jailed, in some cases indefinitely.

CBSA has been found to use international smugglers to get fake documents to deport migrants to countries they have no connections to, as in the case of Michael Mvogo. See full details here.

CBSA flies detainees to Kenya, and then pays bush-pilots US$25,000 in cash to transport those detainees to Somalia. See CBC investigation in the case of Saeed Jama here.

The purpose of detention is stated to be 'flight risk' or 'danger to the public.' There exist no criteria to make this designation, and no appeals process or access to courts to challenge it. Immigration detention is limited to undocumented residents -- who may be denied refugee claimants; migrants who overstayed their work, study or visit permits; or former permanent residents who had their status revoked. Contrary to popular perception, 94.2 percent of refugees are detained on grounds other than being an alleged security threat.

Immigration Detainees Known to Have Died in Custody Since 2000

At least 8 of the known deaths have taken place in Ontario provincial prisons

1. Francisco Javier Romero Astorga (March 2016) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
2. Melkioro Gahungu (March 2016) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
3. Abdurahman Ibrahim Hassan (June 2015) 'Restrained by guards' (in Ontario provincial prison)
4. Joseph Dunn (September 2014) Suicide (in Ontario provincial prison)
5. Prince Maxamillion Akamai (April 2014) Denied adequate medical care (Toronto Immigration Holding Centre)
6. Unidentified man (March 2013) Cause of death unknown (in Ontario provincial prison)
7. Lucia Vega Jimenez (December 2013) Suicide (in Vancouver immigration holding centre)
8. Shawn Dwight Cole (December 2012) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
9. Unidentified man (August 2010) Cause of death unknown (in Laval immigration holding centre)
10. Kevon O'Brien-Phillip (January 2010) Beaten by fellow inmates (in Ontario provincial prison)
11. Jan Szamko (December 2009) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
12. Joseph Fernandes (January 2007) Denied adequate medical care (in Toronto immigration holding centre)
13. Sheik Kudrath (April 2000) Denied adequate medical care (in Ontario provincial prison)
14. Unidentified man ([date] unknown) Cause of death unknown ([location] unknown)

(March 22, 2016)

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End Canada's Military Support to Philippine Government

Human Rights Coalition Demands
Trudeau Government Stop Supporting
State Terror Against Filipino People

On April 1, police forces on the island of Mindinao in the Philippines opened fire on 6,000 farmers and Lumad Indigenous people and their families, who were blocking the highway in Kidawapan to protest the local government's refusal to provide emergency rice rations and other relief needed to offset a food crisis triggered by persistent drought caused by El Niño.

The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) (Canada) has condemned the brutal military attack on the peaceful protesters and is holding the Benigno Aquino III government of the Philippines responsible for this act of state terror against the people. The Coalition points out that it is the anti-social policies of the Aquino government and the local governments that are causing increasing impoverishment and the deterioration of the living conditions for the people in Mindanao and across the Philippines.

Picket outside Ministry of Agriculture in Manilla following attack on farmers,
April 1, 2016

More than 50 per cent of the Philippines' military personnel have been relocated to Mindanao as part of Operation  Bayanihan, a so-called counter insurgency program. These troops are carrying out a campaign of political killings and mass expulsions of the Lumad, peasants and farmers in order to clear the way for mining and other resource extraction monopolies including a number of Canadian mining monopolies. To date close to 100 people have been killed including Lumad leaders and political activists who are organizing the people's resistance against the gross violation of their rights.

ICHRP (Canada) is also demanding that the Trudeau Liberals review their relations with the Aquino government and immediately terminate Canada's military assistance to the Philippine state. Since the signing of the Military Cooperation and Training Program (MTCP) with the Philippines in 1998, more than 200 military personnel from the Philippines have received specialized training by the Canadian military, including officer and "peace support operations training." The Coalition is also calling on the Liberal government to end the sale of military equipment to the Philippine government, such as helicopters, which are being used in military operations against the people.

TML Weekly calls on all peace and justice-loving people in Canada and abroad to stand with the Lumad people and the farmers and peasants in Mindanao and other regions of the Philippines who are standing up to the violence and terror of the Philippine state and demand an end to Canadian military relations with the Aquino government.

(Photos: Kilab, J. Torres)

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President Aquino and Governor Talino-Mendoza Accountable for the Bloody Police
Operations in Kidapawan, Cotabato

Picket in Quezon City, April 3, 2016, condemns police attack on farmers. (Gabriela)

The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) (Canada) condemns in the strongest terms the violent police attack April 1st on peaceful protestors in Kidapawan, Philippines.

The protesters, mainly peasants, Lumads and their families, who are suffering from the effects of the drought caused by El Niño, have been appealing to the government for food assistance and the release of much needed calamity funds. Specifically, they are calling on the national and provincial governments to provide 15,000 bags of rice for 6 municipalities for the duration of the drought, until farmers are able to recover.

As their appeals had been ignored, approximately 6,000 farmer and Lumad protestors occupied the Kidapawan highway on March 31 to draw attention to their demands. The following day, the police under orders from North Cotabato Governor, Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, conducted dispersal operations. Shots were fired at the protestors killing 3 and injuring some 116. Eighty-nine were arrested.

Lumad farmers barricade, March 18, 2016. (Kilab)

We hold the government of President Benigno Aquino III responsible for this crime. Government neglect forced the starving farmers and their families to conduct the protest actions in Kidapawan. The actions of the police are part of a wave of state-sanctioned attacks and a campaign of terror that the military, and paramilitary groups under its command, have been waging against the Lumad communities and peasants of Mindanao. Likewise, we hold Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, responsible for the killing of 3 protestors and the violence committed during the police operations. We condemn the Governor for threatening to arrest United Methodist Church Bishop, Ciriaco Francisco for providing shelter to the farmers, Lumads and their families and for the police raid of the UMC Spottswood Mission Center where they were staying.

ICHRP (Canada) stands with the peasants and Lumad peoples in their struggle for economic and social justice. In solidarity, we demand that the Philippine government:

1) Provide rice and calamity support to the areas affected by the drought.

2) Conduct an immediate investigation of the massacre through an independent body.

3) End the harassment and intimidation of peasants and Lumad peoples, and pull out government troops and para-military groups from Lumad communities in Mindanao.

4) End the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.

ICHRP-Canada calls on the Canadian government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to:

1) Review Canada's relations with the government of President Aquino. Canada should not compromise its commitment to human rights by uncritically supporting this brutally repressive regime and perpetrator of heinous human rights violations.

2) Withdraw its support for and cooperation with the Philippine government's security agenda which provides justification for the counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan.

3) End all military support to the Philippine government, including the sale of military weapons and equipment and training for the military and police.

End Human Rights Violations!
Justice for the Peasants and Lumad of Mindanao!
Justice for the Victims of the Cotabato Massacre!

The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is a global network of organizations outside the Philippines who are concerned about human rights and committed to work for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.

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Protests Across Philippines
Demand Ouster of U.S. Military

Thousands of Filipinos are taking part in protests and demonstrations across the Philippines to demand the end of the U.S. military presence on their island nation. They are protesting the annual joint U.S-Philippines military exercises now under way, as well as the scrapping of the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that allows for the expansion of the U.S. military presence on the islands.

Some 10,000 American and Philippine troops are involved in the 11-day Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) land and sea war exercises which began on April 4. This is the 15th year that these exercises have been undertaken against the will of the Philippine people who have consistently called for their end. For the last three years, Australia, which is part of the Anglo-American imperialist system of states, has also been involved. As well, the number of U.S. troops, ships and planes has been increased in the Philippines in recent years as part of the Obama administration's pivot to Asia aimed at challenging and containing China.

The heroic Philippine people have been affirming their right to be against U.S. imperialism since the time the U.S. annexed the Philippines in 1899 following the Spanish-American War. The U.S. military was forced to shut down its bases and leave the Philippines in 1992 in the face of massive opposition by the Philippine people.

In recent years the sell-out Aquino government has caved to the demands of the U.S. to boost the number of U.S. forces in the Philippines under the pretext of the U.S.- led "global war on terror" as well as through militarizing emergency aid such as during Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 when the U.S. military used "typhoon relief" to establish a stronger foothold in the country. U.S. military officers are now "advising" the Philippine military in "counter-intelligence" operations -- a euphemism for suppressing the revolutionary forces of the New People's Army led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and other progressive and democratic forces, including Indigenous peoples fighting for their rights.

Despite widespread opposition, the Aquino government signed the EDCA which enables the U.S. to build new military bases on the islands if they serve both U.S. and Filipino troops as a way to get around the people's opposition, as well as increase the time U.S. troops can remain in the Philippines in each rotation. The EDCA extends the much opposed Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999. Unions, church groups, human rights organizations, women's groups and other political forces in the Philippines have denounced the signing of the EDCA as an affront to the dignity of the Philippine people and a violation of their collective rights, recalling that the U.S. military in the Philippines has a long history of committing crimes against the people including rapes, thefts, physical assault and other abuses with impunity.

By their concerted political actions against the U.S. militarization of their homeland, the people of the Philippines are carrying out their duty to themselves and humanity to secure peace on their island homeland and in Asia and the world.

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Get Canada Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!

NATO Enforcing U.S. Imperialist Pivot to Asia

On April 4, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and U.S. President Barack Obama met at the White House. The meeting coincided with the 67th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty commonly known as the Washington Treaty, upon which NATO was founded. Their meeting took place as the United States is stepping up the permanent rather than rotational deployment of its troops, equipment and bases in the countries of eastern Europe.

Trying to present the moves to militarize eastern Europe under U.S. domination as anything but aggressive, Obama noted that NATO continues to be the "cornerstone" of collective defence for the U.S. and Europe. "This is obviously a tumultuous time in the world. Europe is a focal point of a lot of these stresses and strains in the global security system," Obama said to justify the deployment of more U.S. troops.

For his part, Stoltenberg presented U.S.-NATO relations as based on fighting terrorism, to hide the terror the military alliance has carried out against the countries and peoples of the world, including Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and most recently Libya. U.S. imperialism now seeks to impose itself on Syria and once again Iraq and is increasingly using NATO to carry out this push. Stoltenberg stated, "Terrorism affects us all, from Brussels to San Bernardino," noting that all NATO Allies contribute to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS and that NATO has just started training Iraqi officers "in partnership" with the coalition. Showing the role NATO plays as gendarme of the U.S., Stoltenberg stated that NATO's biggest operation has been its role in Afghanistan, which he claimed was in response to the 9/11 terrorist attack and that this shows the importance of Europe and North America standing together. The NATO Secretary General also thanked Obama for new permanent deployments of U.S. troops and equipment said to be to bolster NATO through the "European Reassurance Initiative."

European Reassurance Initiative

Under the guise of defending Europe from an "assertive Russia," the U.S. is in the midst of a large buildup of troops and equipment and construction of new airfields in Europe. It involves the permanent placement of thousands more U.S. troops in the Baltic republics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria as well as airfields for the rapid deployment of these and other troops. It is said this is a show of support for NATO but it also means the permanent placement of thousands of U.S. troops and additional equipment for use against the peoples of NATO member countries and those not members or allies of NATO.

The 2017 U.S. Defense Department budget includes funds to "support the deployment of between 3,000 and 5,000 troops and the forward placement of military equipment to NATO's eastern flank."

On March 30, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) announced that continuous U.S. Army presence in Europe will reach three brigades -- one armoured, one airborne, one Stryker brigade -- by 2017, as well as one pre-positioned set of combat-ready equipment sufficient to support another armoured brigade combat team and "division-level enablers," officials said. Reports say that for the past year, the U.S. military has deployed "rotational units" in eastern Europe and used a set of pre-positioned equipment -- known as the European Activity Set -- which includes vehicles, weapons, communication equipment and other essential supplies to outfit a combat brigade.[1]

The new deployment will mean a permanent troop presence in the targeted countries as well as the permanent placement, maintenance and repair of equipment to be used in the event of "emergencies." Military Times reports that the "rotational" troops at military installations in places such as Germany and Italy will swap out "heel to toe," meaning there will be no permanent garrison of U.S. forces like those in Germany and Italy but troops would retain a constant presence on the ground in eastern Europe.

The rotations will "demonstrate the ability to rapidly deploy equipment and forces to Europe by sending U.S.-based rotational forces with their currently assigned equipment." Officials noted that this equipment will be the most modern the Army has to offer and over the next year will replace the current training equipment in Europe.

"This is a big step in enhancing the Army's rotational presence and increasing their combat equipment in Europe," said Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, EUCOM commander. "This Army implementation plan continues to demonstrate our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. This means our allies and partners will see more capability -- they will see a more frequent presence of an armoured brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries."

U.S. Air Force Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said that the U.S. government's increase of European Reassurance Initiative funds will enable NATO to strengthen its presence there. "This will allow us to do another aspect that I am keen on and that is continuing to develop the airfields, particularly on the Eastern side of NATO -- the Baltic Republics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria." He noted that the airfields "will allow for an easier place to go, to accomplish high-volume, high-velocity operations."

In related news, on March 11, the North Atlantic Council (the decision-making body of NATO) announced that it has approved the nomination of General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, United States Army, to the post of Supreme Allied Commander Europe, replacing Breedlove. Scaparrotti is currently serving as Commander, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Korea.

Training of Iraqi Forces in Jordan Begins

An announcement from NATO informed that the "first group of officers from Iraq's national security forces started their NATO training course" at the for-profit U.S.-run training camp called the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Centre (KASOTC) in Amman, Jordan on April 2.[2] Jordan's King Abdullah II visited NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 17, where NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised the country's role "as an active member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue," which also includes Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

The training mission is reported to be part of a NATO Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative first announced at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Wales in September 2014. Countries targeted for "capacity-building" include Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Tunisia, Iraq and Libya.

The Trudeau Liberal government announced on February 8 that Canadian troops will participate in "capacity-building" missions in Jordan and Lebanon. Media reports prior to the announcement stated that this would involve Canada joining a NATO "training mission" at "military camps" in Jordan, Turkey and "possibly Lebanon" but the government never disclosed that the "capacity-building" was under NATO/U.S. dictate. Since then no information has been released about Canadian troops in Jordan or Lebanon or their role in the training missions.

NATO says the program provides "specialised assistance in the areas where NATO can add the most value," including "advice on security sector reform, military training, explosive ordnance disposal, de-mining, cyber defence, civil emergency planning, civil-military planning, countering improvised explosive devices, military medicine and medical assistance." A NATO press release announced that the aggressive alliance "is ready to step up this work with other interested partners as well."

It is also part of establishing NATO command over the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq and Syria. Following the NATO defence ministers' meeting in February, U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter announced that they are exploring the possibility of NATO joining the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. NATO also agreed to provide surveillance aircraft to assist in bombing runs in Iraq and Syria.


1. The number of military personnel in every U.S. Army brigade is about 4,200 people. A division can be made up of anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. A division is the U.S. Army's largest tactical organization that trains and fights as a combined arms team. It is a self-sustaining force capable of independent operations. The division is composed of varying numbers and types of combat, combat support, and combat service support units. The mix and types of combat units determine whether a division is armoured, mechanized, infantry, light infantry, airborne, or air assault.

2. The KASOTC facility in Amman began operations in 2009 and was paid for by the U.S. Defense Department and built by a U.S. construction firm supervised by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Training at the base is overseen by ViaGlobal Group, a U.S. private military contractor, along with the Jordanian Armed Forces.

Its director is Frank Toney, a retired U.S. brigadier general and commander of the Army Special Forces. Toney in 2009 became senior advisor to Iraq's counterterrorism forces before spending three years working for DynCorp, another U.S. military contractor.

KASOTC is staffed by "ex-Army Rangers, Deltas and SEALs," the New York Times reports. In 2013, reports said that U.S. special forces and military planners were based at KASOTC under CIA leadership for training of Syrian "rebels." It also hosts an annual "Warrior Competition," with more than 30 international and local teams competing in counter-terrorism drills.

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