Digital Freedoms – “My camera is my weapon”.

Amnesty ICM 2013

Panic Button is an app designed for smart phones that sends out a GPS distress signal if activated. (c) Amnesty International Panic Button is an app designed for smart phones that sends out a GPS distress signal if activated. (c) Amnesty International

Written by Remzi Cej, Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, Canada, @remzicej

“My camera is my weapon”. These are the words of Nariman, a Palestinian woman from the West Bank. She recorded her brother being shot by the Israeli Defence Forces during a peaceful protest – sadly he subsequently died. Using the video as her evidence, Nariman is now calling on the Israeli military to investigate and punish the soldiers who shot her brother.

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On similarities between Kosova and Crimea

Much has been said recently about similarities between Crimea and Kosova’s declaration of independence, mostly by Vladimir Putin and others advocating for a Russian Crimea, such as the Russian state-supported media. Others have tried to examine this comparison further in the face of blatant disregard of facts.

I’ve been following the debate from the sidelines, trying to avoid the discussion, largely because from my point of view, there is no comparison between the history, the politics, and the legal outcomes in the two cases.

David McTier's map of the BalkansLet’s start with the case of Kosova, and the alleged precedent Putin says Kosova’s experience set for his annexation of Crimea.

Kosova is located in southeast Europe, in a region of Europe commonly known as the Balkans. It was a constitutionally autonomous province with special privileges in the Yugoslav Federation between 1974 and 1989, a time during which Albanians, the majority population of Kosova, enjoyed equal rights to Serbs, Turks, and other minorities inhabiting Kosova. During this period, Kosovars (Albanians, Serbs, Turks, Bosniaks, Roma, and others) developed their own Constitution (PDF, Albanian), assembly, administration, judiciary, as well as maintained veto power in the Yugoslav parliament, a privilege normally reserved to member republics – in other words, Kosova was a de facto state with virtually all the rights and privileges of other republics such as Serbia.

The serious unrests in Kosova began following the revocation of Kosova’s autonomy in 1989, and the revocation of the Kosovar institutional independence vis-a-vis Serbia.

  • By June 1990, the Milosevic government shut down the Kosova Assembly, citing unusual circumstances, hijacking decision-making powers from Prishtina, and transferring them to Serbia.
  • Shortly after that, the Kosovar public TV and radio station was overtaken by Serbian staff, and the Albanian language broadcasts shut down.
  • In 1991, the Albanian daily newspaper Rilindja was also suspended by the State authorities and incorporated into the state-run Panorama company.
  • The amended Serbian Constitution now included Kosova in its scope, and Kosova’s constitution was deemed null and void by the Serbian parliament, without meaningful consultation, engagement, or involvement of the Kosovar public;
  • Serbian replaced Albanian as the official language used in government institutions, where previously, Albanian and Serbian shared official language status;
  • Prominent visitors and observers, including the US Senator Robert Dole and the UN Special Representative on the UN Commission of Human Rights, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (my father, who was beaten by the Serbian military, is brought up in this OSCE report) commented on the Serbian efforts to deprive Albanians of basic human rights, including the right to political membership, education, employment, free expression, and so on as early as 1992. They, of course, referred to the Serbian move to dismiss Albanians from the health care system, the public service and other jobs simply because they happened to be Albanian, replacing them with Serb and Montenegrin officials and employees, or expelling Albanian teachers and students from public schools simply because the language of instruction was Albanian.
  • In 1991, Serbia passed a law whereby it granted favourable credit conditions to Serbs and Montenegrins wanting to move to work in agriculture in Kosova (Official Gazette of Serbia 43/91) – the intention behind this measure was to flood Kosova with Serb in-migration, thereby ensuring that Albanians eventually became a minority in Kosova.
  • Arbitrary detention and arrests, torture of Albanians became a norm in the 1990-1998 period.

Comparing Kosova’s case to Crimea would be akin to suggesting that Albania, whose people are the linguistic brethren and next-door neighbours to Kosova’s majority Albanians, annexed Kosova for itself, following Serbia’s repression of Albanians, in the fashion that Russia recently annexed Crimea, citing fears of ethnic repression. To be clear, Kosova was NOT annexed by Albania, so the comparison with Crimea fails at this level.

Instead, Serbian nationalist efforts to undermine Albanian presence in Kosova in the 1990s continued and the situation exacerbated until 1998, when the Serbian paramilitary committed the tragic Jashari massacre – for three days straight, the Serbian troops shelled the family compound of the Kosova Liberation Army leader, Adem Jashari, and in the process, deliberately targeted and killed 60 other members of his family, including an infant. Forceful expulsions from communities across Kosova ensued, and within a year:

  • Over one million Kosovars had become internally displaced or expelled to neighbouring countries;
  • Over thirteen thousand Kosovars, most of whom were civilians, were killed;
  • Twenty thousand Kosovar women and children were raped by the Serb paramilitary troops and nationalist volunteers,
  • Immediately following the end of the war, nearly ten thousand Kosovars (mostly Albanians, as well as Serbs, and Roma), murdered during or as the war ended, were missing. The remains of most of these individuals were found in mass graves often far away from where the civilians had been murdered. Today, nearly two thousand are still missing.
  • Virtually all roads, infrastructure, homes, schools, factories were destroyed.

When the international community sought to intervene in ending the bloodshed in Kosova, Russia  and China threatened to veto any UN Security Council resolutions authorizing a military/peacekeeping force. When instead, the United States realized it couldn’t get a resolution passed in the Security Council, it chose to act in defiance of the Russian calls to inaction while citing non-interference in internal matters of a sovereign state (Serbia), it took 78 days of repeated NATO air strikes for the Alliance to force Milosevic into peace.

With the arrival of the international community to war-ravaged Kosova under the UN-passed resolution 1244 (agreed to by Russia), Kosovars could rebuild their homes and communities, and hope for a better, more peaceful future. Serbia’s rule over Kosova was suspended as the international community guided the reconstruction of the Kosovar physical, political, and social institutions.

In late 2005, the UN Secretary General, with Russia and other members’ approval, appointed a Special Envoy who was tasked with devising a solution to Kosova’s final status. Could Kosova return to Serbian rule? Could it be cantonized into regions, as the Swiss model suggested? Did it need to be supervised by the international community indefinitely? After over a year of helicopter- and one-on-one diplomacy, negotiations about Kosova’s final status stalled, with no resolution in sight. The Envoy concluded that “the negotiations’ potential to produce any mutually agreeable outcome on Kosovo’s status is exhausted. No amount of additional talks, whatever the format, will overcome this impasse. The time has come to resolve Kosovo’s status…I have come to the conclusion that the only viable option for Kosovo is independence, to be supervised for an initial period by the international community.” In his memorandum, the Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish President, laid out the conditions the Kosovar government had to fulfill to complete its supervised independence and achieve full-on, big-boy independence. In his rationale, Ahtisaari concluded that Kosova’s relationship with Serbia had too tense a history for Kosovars to return to Serbian rule.

So, let’s be clear on this: The international community (through the Special Envoy) concluded that Kosova’s history with Serbia did not allow for a return to an autonomous status. That is important to note, because Putin has been stating that Kosova unilaterally declared independence from Serbia – Kosovars may have exercised their right to self-determination by declaring independence without Serbia’s approval, but it is argued in the UN memorandum that by virtue of committing grave acts of violence and ethnic cleansing against the majority Albanian population (and most non-Serb populations), Serbia forfeit its right to sovereign rule over Kosova. This is NOT the same as Crimea choosing to voluntarily break away from Ukraine without a history of ethnic, linguistic, cultural, or other repression.

In February 2008, the Kosovar government declared independence, after a nine-year international administration of Kosova following the bloody war waged by Serbia. To date, 107 states, including 23 out of the 28 EU states, as well as Canada, UK, and the United States, have recognized Kosova as an independent state, despite Serbia’s relentless lobbying using any means possible to halt these recognitions, including by using fear tactics in countries like Canada, where it argued that Canada’s recognition created a precedent for Quebec’s secession – Canadians shrugged, as did Quebecers. There was no comparison to be made between the two – Quebecers hadn’t, after all, experienced a civil war verging on genocide and war crimes that Kosovars had gone through.

At the request of Serbia at the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary General submitted three questions to the International Court of Justice. In 2010, the International Court of Justice published an advisory opinion on whether or not Kosova’s declaration of independence was permissible under international law. In the opinion, the ICJ stated that Kosova’s independence declaration was permissible because declarations of independence are not contrary to international law when they involve the people of territories “subject to alien subjugation, domination, and exploitation”. Indeed, the provision in international law allowing for peoples’ right to self-determination made it possible for the establishment of a great many post-colonial states, so claiming that sovereignty trumps self-determination in instances of historic repression would be ignoring the reality of world history, especially in the last 60 years. It bears reminding that the Court’s conclusion pointed to Kosova’s declaration of independence being sui generis. In other words, Kosova’s declaration of independence could not set a precedent because it was a unique case, and it was a specific case, not one to which other secessionist movements could compare their situation. By the way, this was not the United States or the European Union deciding that Kosova had a right to declare independence. The body deciding Kosova’s declaration of independence was legal and legitimate under international law was the International Court of Justice.

Kosova went through a supervised independence period over four years, to ensure that the Kosovar state institutions were inclusive and democratic, and finally, at the end of 2012, became fully independent.  

Now, turning to Crimea, what remains to compare? While discussing identity, Wittgenstein famously stated that “to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense.” Earlier this week, I watched a Kosovar current affairs show in which the commentators concluded that the only thing the cases of Kosova and [K]rimea (spelled in Albanian) had in common was the letter K. I tend to agree. 

Crimea is a region of Ukraine that declared independence for a day in 1992, then revoked it, remaining a region in Ukraine in return for increased autonomy. Minor tensions between Ukrainians and Russians notwithstanding, no violence appears to have been a trend in the region, nor did Russian speakers fear using their language. In fact, it appears Russian is commonly spoken everywhere in Ukraine, and anti-Russian sentiment is non-existent, especially when, during the recent Evromaidan protests in Ukraine, in one instance, protestors chanted “Long live Russia! Long live Russia!”. As open-minded as I try to be, I can’t imagine most Kosovars shouting “Long live Serbia” in the main square in Prishtina anytime soon.

A month ago, Crimea was a region that was voluntarily occupied by Russian military troops (even though the Kremlin denied they were Russian) after the Russophile Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned his post and fled to Russia. Crimean Russians now claim to live in an independent state after a referendum conducted without the consultation with or engagement of Ukraine, the country from which they sought to secede. Even in Kosova, where grave violence and decades of abuse characterized the relationship between Albanians and the neighbouring Serbia, the two factions were pressured by the international community to seek a common agreement on the future of Kosova. No such thing was ever encouraged by Russia in the case of Crimea over the last month. Kosova’s independence took five years to concretize (2008-2012), after all the supervision and conditionality the international community imposed on the Kosovar government. Somehow, Crimea unilaterally declared independence within a month and Putin concluded that its case was comparable to Kosova. And apples are oranges.

The Crimean secession poses more (rhetorical) questions than it provides answers, and its case bears no comparison to Kosova – Was the Russian majority historically and presently repressed and discriminated against in Ukraine? Did it witness grave acts of violence from the Ukrainians? Was its population’s property destroyed, pillaged, and its people raped, killed, expelled from their homes and communities? Timothy Snyder answers all these questions when he writes about “a country where millions of Russian-speakers lack basic rights. That country is the Russian Federation. There is a neighbouring country where tens of millions of Russian-speakers enjoy basic rights — despite the disruptions of a revolution and Russian invasion.” How does Russia’s action vis-a-vis Crimea and the use of the argument of protecting the Russian minority there affect the safety of Russian communities across Ukraine? If Putin’s concern really had been the well-being of Russians in Crimea, is it a safe strategy to expose other Russians living in Ukraine to potential attacks by ethno-nationalist Ukrainians? Knowing the history of Russo-Ukrainian inter-ethnic relations, I don’t think we can expect violence against Russians in Ukraine, but I do wonder to what extent this possibility was considered by the Putin administration, which used the protection of this ethno-linguistic community as justification for the action in Crimea. Already, there has been at least one publicly reported attack against a Ukrainian TV chief accused of being pro-Russian.

This is not the first time Russia has occupied and annexed the territory of a neighbouring state for purposes of its own expansionism and power showdowns – South Ossetia and Abkhazia, recognized by 5 UN states (Vanuatu, bullied into recognizing their independence, eventually withdrew its recognition), are now officially economically and politically dependent on the Russian Federation, itself struggling to exist. Ukraine expert Nadiya Kravets co-wrote an excellent piece on the possible problems of Russia annexing an economically dependent territory like Crimea, and the issues it might pose for Russia’s future.

There are genuine cases of regions in different states where secession is approached in a reasonable manner. The self-determination of the people living in breakaway regions is possible if approached sensibly. Sensibility is sorely lacking in Russia’s recent takeover of Crimea: the action is comparable to the hypothetical example of United States annexing a Canadian province without the consultation or engagement with the federal government, and lacking any sort of legal framework to implement this politically unorthodox and illegal action. Of course, for those stating that Crimean residents largely supported the secession from Ukraine, it is important to note that regardless of their desires, being geopolitically part of a state territory requires that the region, pending a commonly agreed upon referendum (and referendum results clearly pointing to independence), develop a plan that will allow for the region’s transition to independence. But then again, logic is out the door in Russia’s actions towards Crimea in the recent past. Time will tell how provocative Russian nationalism will prove to be in eastern Ukraine, where ethnic Russians have also been itching to break away.

Crimea is no Kosova, and saying it is will not make it so.

On male dance and its disappearance

A Turkish Male Dancer, 1700. (Photo courtesy of Columbia University)

Men have been part of the dance tradition in the Balkans and the Middle East for a long time, but socially and culturally assigned gender roles and expectations have segregated them from being equal partners in an entertaining, exciting, artistic, and enjoyable activity to passive viewers of an art predominated by women.

Most of the dance men participate in today involves female partners –  whereas we are accustomed to seeing single women dancing, society has unaccustomed itself from seeing men do the same. Where is this coming from? Have we assigned men macho roles that restrict them from showcasing a softer, more sensual side? I argue that in the Balkans and the Middle East, cultures have marginalized, exoticized the male participation in dance in the last century – for all the progress we claim to have made, we have become part of  rigid, boxed in societies that assign expectations of what is acceptable and what isn’t, dance being a very clear example. To the extent that these roles have been firmly cemented, we are now surprised to see single men dancing, and when it comes to traditional dance, the surprise element is verging on shock.

Some Kosovar traditional dances that have survived the transition and feature men do so by depicting a sword fight, a macho challenge and battle.

Challenging the idea of men not dancing in Balkan and Middle Eastern dance is why I recently answered some questions for the Dance from the Mat blog (see my blogroll or click below). Also, I love dancing. Just sayin’.

More here -> Danse « orientale » : et les hommes ? Quatre questions à Remzi Cej.

A brief summary of Bill C-31 and why it matters to Canadians

Bill C-31 is the omnibus refugee bill that will most likely be read in the House this week. The bill has been seriously criticized by Amnesty International (PDF file), UNICEF Canada, Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Bar Association (PDF file), and numerous other groups for its complete disregard of basic human rights. Various events across the country discussed the serious impacts Bill C-31 will have on newcomers to Canada, such as members of the LGBTQ community.

Among other things, the bill will create two categories of refugee claimants – the category of individuals who arrive from countries the Immigration Minister deems safe, such as countries with which Canada has signed a free trade agreement, i.e. Mexico, Colombia, member states of the European Union, etc, and the category of individuals who may arrive from unsafe, conflict regions. For example, someone filing a claim from a country deemed unsafe will have their case reviewed within 75 days, whereas someone coming from a country the Minister of Immigration deems safe would only have 30 days. Expedited claims processing is not necessarily a good thing in this case because it does not give claimants enough time to find a lawyer, gather evidence, and prepare their case.

Then there is the question of creating safe and unsafe country lists. From that, one wonders: Is Mexico considered a safe country? The House Subcommittee on International Human Rights does not consider Mexico a safe country. Yet, the federal government would claim that individuals coming from Mexico would be coming from a safe country. Regardless of whether these individuals belong to sexual minorities, to families and individuals threatened by armed gangs, to journalists who place their lives at risk by reporting on murdered and missing women or human trafficking, they will be considered “designated foreign nationals”, individuals who will be further punished for escaping persecution through 12-month detention, which the bill will enact, costing Canadians up to $90,000 per person, per year.

According to the new bill, a refugee claimant who is labeled a “designated foreign national” [essentially, someone from a country deemed safe by the Minister of Immigration] will be placed in automatic detention of up to 12 months. An earlier version of the bill allowed refugee claimants no opportunity to be heard during the 12-month detention. A revised version of the bill now includes a two-week and six-month reviews, so that there is at least a semblance of giving claimants an opportunity to state their case for seeking refuge in Canada.

The new bill will also call for the detention of children under 16 years of age. According to Minister Kenney, children will have the choice of going to foster care or living in detention with their parents. Doesn’t sound like much of a choice to me. UNICEF has called on the federal government to seek alternatives to detention because of Bill C-31’s flagrant violation of Articles 3 and 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which call on signatory states to always keep the best interests of the child in mind when designing policy.

Similarly, there have been numerous instances of the Minister of Immigration stating that EU refugee claimants are bogus refugees and that in most instances, they abandoned their claims, which according to him means that their cases had no substance. He fails to mention the fact that as soon as those claims were filed (most were from Roma refugee claimants seeking protection from persecution in Romania and Hungary), the Minister was out in the media hinting that those claims had no hope of ever being accepted in this country – when he repeatedly stated that the EU is a group of countries respecting human rights law, he also stated that there should be no reason for someone from Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, or Poland to file a refugee claim in Canada. There are two issues with this statement: Firstly, the assumption that someone from the EU cannot claim refugee protection in Canada – as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees, Canada has an obligation to accept all refugee claims, regardless of where their origins may be. Secondly, EU citizens cannot file a refugee claim in the EU, so alternatively, a Roma refugee claimant would have to file their claim in Canada or outside of the European Union. A couple of years ago, France forcibly returned members of the Roma community that had fled Romania and Bulgaria, even though they were at risk of persecution in those countries. You may wonder how, in a European Union of open doors, a state could deport the citizens of another state – any form of protection, political, social or economic, in EU states, is contingent on individuals being employed. As such, a Roma member of community from Romania would not be eligible for state protection unless they were employed. In a European Union that continues to discriminate significantly against the Roma community, it is understandable that someone would resort to distancing themselves as far as possible from Europe and seeking some hope in Canada by filing a claim here.

Something that has not been mentioned much in discussions about Bill C-31 is how flagrantly it violates the right to refugee family reunification. Under the bill, claimants found to be refugees under the UN Refugee Convention will be ineligible for permanent residence in Canada, which means they would be unable to sponsor any family members to the country (in order to sponsor family to Canada, an individual must be a permanent resident or Canadian citizen).

The bill will also significantly shift the way in which refugee claim applications are received by replacing an appointed Immigration and Refugee Board with a Board comprised of public servants, who will necessarily have to follow the direction they’d receive from Ottawa and reflect that in their decision-making.

So, why has this bill not reached the headlines? Maybe because it’s 81 pages long. It’s a bill that was introduced in February, and just recently, last week in fact, made it to the Senate. Two days of senate hearings are already over, so the stage is now set for the bill to pass on June 29th.

To sum up, if Bill C-31 passes in a few days, among many other changes, refugee claimants and Canadians can expect the following:

  • 12 month-detention of refugee claimants, including children, coming from designated countries of origin;
  • No right to appeal a negative decision – if a judicial review of a negative decision does take place, it could be done after an individual has been deported from Canada. This also means that if a wrong decision is made by the Immigration and Refugee Board, someone could be deported back to torture or face other forms of persecution, even death, before the error is noted;
  • Restriction from return to Canada – Once an individual is deported out of the country, they would be ineligible to apply to return to Canada for a specific amount of time;
  • Ineligibility for permanent residence for five years – this means a refugee claimant to Canada would be eligible for citizenship nine years (!!!) after first setting foot in the country;
  • Ineligibility for family reunification for five years – Due to ineligibility for permanent residence, refugee claimants found to be UN Convention refugees will consequently be ineligible to bring their families to Canada;
  • Significant social costs – trauma in detention for children under 16 years old, trauma for adults, an alienation from the Canadian public, criminalization of the idea of refugee claims in Canadian society
  • Significant financial costs – up to $90,000 per detainee per year, construction of new and expansion of old detention centres, significant costs for expedited processing times.

There is still time left for you to let your Member of Parliament know about your concerns regarding the bill. This bill will not just change the way refugee claimants are treated in Canada, it will also erode Canada’s tradition of opening doors to those who are most vulnerable. It remains to be seen whether the federal government will listen to the criticism from many groups across Canada, or whether it will simply move forward with the legislation, paving the way for countless court challenges.

The Interim Federal Health Program cut to health care provision for newly arrived refugees is not part of this bill, although that change will radically and negatively affect the way in which refugees integrate in this country. Doctors in Canada have been vocal. More Canadians need to do the same, to express their views on the possibility of this discriminatory, unacceptable, un-Canadian bill becoming a law.

A few words to a dear average, quiet Canadian

Dear average Canadian,

you have been quiet for a while. I have been worried. So many issues, so little time – so it always goes, but you used to say something. What happened? What changed? I’ve been worried as of late because you are not as vocal as you used to be, especially when it came to important issues that affected many Canadians. Even when you weren’t personally affected, you spoke out because when one of us is affected, all of us are affected.

A couple of days ago, I began to think that there never was a time when Canadians had more rights, and yet, never a time when we were so silent, and I began to wonder: Why, my dear average Canadian, have you been quiet? Is it one of those days, weeks, months, years, when you just want to bury your head under your pillow and ignore whatever others say? I know the feeling, I’ve had that problem before, but usually only for a day – fine, i may have ignored everyone around me for as long as a week, I admit, but you’ve been very quiet for a long time, my dear average Canadian. I am concerned.

I am concerned because so much is happening to our country, you are pretending it’s not, or you don’t even know about it, and I am worried.

You are not a character in a Camus novel, so you can tell me how you feel – it’s ok, we are free to express our opinion, although I know you’ve recently been concerned about that too, especially in Quebec, where I’m currently visiting and noticing how you are increasingly secretive about your views on the student right to protest, my dear average Canadian. It’s as if you were ashamed of protecting rights, my friend. I just spent two weeks visiting you in Vancouver, in Winnipeg, and now, in Montreal, before heading home to St. John’s, and everywhere I went, I saw you avoiding ways of expressing your opinion, be it through protests, demonstrations, letters to the editor, kind of like Lindsay Lohan when she is avoiding the paparazzi in public, only you looked a little classier, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you still ran not to be seen much in public.

I’m afraid that by the time you wake up from your long slumber and stand up the way you used to stand up not so long ago, this will not be the same country you remember. I’m worried that the longer you keep quiet, the more power you will give to the views of those who, in your absence, claim to know what you want.

People (generic term, I know, but I promise they are real) tell me that this is just a pendulum swing, that all will be well again, but I don’t have a lifetime to wait for another swing – the clock seems to have started acting peculiarly, and you don’t seem to be concerned about that, so I pretend we are moving forward, because the clock is always supposed to be moving forward, but really, I am astounded at the sight of the clock dials moving backwards at the speed of light.

I say something about this, yell it out, pour it out there, but it’s like you don’t hear me, or perhaps, more sadly, you don’t trust me. Perhaps think I am just an attention seeker, that I’m lonely and that I’m trying to make a big deal out of something insignificant. You also tell me it’s impossible for the clock to move backward, so you just bury your head deeper under your pillow, and I am stuck with the backward-moving clock, the pendulum stuck on one side – it’s an unusual clock, I agree, but not for the same reasons you mention.

I remember the time when the clock didn’t miss a beat – no, scratch that: it did miss a beat, or many, but you used to speak out, and you used to say something, and it used to make a difference. Miraculously, the clock would start to work. You used to move the dials forward when they began to move backward, and you used to believe me when I said that something strange was happening.

I know that some of you average Canadians, and especially my baby boomer average Canadian, will say that Canadians have always been quiet, but I’ve read about your rebel generation, don’t worry – you’ve made things happen that many people considered impossible, like bringing healthcare to all Canadians, making Canada a language that truly respects diversity, bringing Canada to the world, recognizing the bleak times in our history. But I want to ask you to think about today and tell me what exciting things we are doing today that you contributed to making happen in your generation. I am told that I will pay the price of your generation’s expensive lifestyle – At least help me get there by guiding me along the way, not by just going back to bed and sleeping. Bears only hibernate for short periods of time.

Yesterday, a friend remarked that you are smug – a couple of years ago, I would have disagreed with this, I would have said that no, being modest and down to earth defined you, oh dear average Canadian, but how can I know if this is true now unless you come out and tell me that you, the average Canadian, are proud of the Canada you live in – the Canada that protects everyone’s human rights, including the rights of refugees, protesters, Aboriginal, Indigenous people; the environment; vulnerable people, wherever they may find themselves in the world. I don’t see you speaking out with great pride anymore, but you also don’t speak out against the radical change.

My dear average Canadian, I miss your stamina, your energy, your ability to inspire me and the world, your honesty and your concern for other average Canadians. I don’t know why you’re keeping quiet, but I hope it is because you are preparing to scream from the top of your lungs – I just hope that when you do it, it won’t be too late, and that you will still recognize our dear Canada.

From one average Canadian to another – wake up, it’s time.