Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My Personal Swearing-in Ceremony, October 19th, 2013

As I read about the swearing-in of the new City Councilors I am reminded of my personal swearing ceremony which I experienced on 4th Street SW during a lovely Saturday while enjoying the 4th Street BRZ Block Party.

It was a beautiful afternoon on October 19th; I was spending the day with my grandson, family and friends and took the opportunity to walk 4th Street, closed down for the Block Party.

We were walking north on 4th just passing 22nd Avenue, where we live, when I was passed by the then candidate for Ward 8, Evan Woolley, now the newly elected Councilor for Ward 8 having been sworn in last Monday.

Mr. Woolley knew I was a John Mar supporter, having worked closely with John on the flood recovery. He approached from behind and when he passed and recognized me he turned with an obvious rage in demeanor and voice and shouted, "Lovett, you f*#king piece of s*#t, you better hope I win or else!"

To say the least, I was taken aback. Hardly the expected behavior of a person seeking elected office to use such expletives and in such a public venue, we were shocked.

I requested an apology immediately and having not received said apology I feel the need to publicize the behavior because we should not be subject to this for any reason. Furthermore, I am a resident in Ward 8 and have been since moving to Calgary in 1982. I am 64 years of age and would not allow my children to behave like that.

I am still waiting for an apology, now it needs to be public.

The always patient Donn Lovett (403 402 8332. in case Mr. Woolley has forgotten how to contact me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Mulroney Conservatives created and the Harper Conservatives exacerbate high drug costs for all Canadians

Successive Conservative Governments in Canada have created protections for drug company patents that have and will result in skyrocketing health-care costs in Canada. I believe everyone can agree that costs of drugs are one of the major expenses that drive the cost of health-care in Canada.

On September 4th, 1984 Brian Mulroney became the Prime Minister of Canada with the largest majority in Canadian history. In the spring of 1985 he met then US President Ronald Reagan in Quebec City, in what has come to be known as the ‘Shamrock Summit’.

The Shamrock Summit was so-named because of the Irish background of the two leaders, and due to the meeting being held on St. Patrick's Day, the event is considered a major political-cultural episode in Canada, mostly on the basis of the perceived symbolism of the summit. It was also a prelude to Mulroney's efforts to create far closer links between Canada and the United States, culminating in the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

Commentator Eric Kierans observed that "The general impression you get, is that our prime minister invited his boss home for dinner." Canadian historian Jack Granatstein said that this "public display of sucking up to Reagan may have been the single most demeaning moment in the entire political history of Canada's relations with the United States."

Further adding to the controversy was Mulroney's insistence that he greet the President upon his arrival, and not Jeanne Sauvé, the then Governor General of Canada. This was perceived in the media as evidence of suspicions that Mulroney was slowly elevating the stature of his office, giving it more presidential trappings and aura.

Reagan came to the Summit with an agenda, he wanted Canada to impose patent drug legislation giving drug manufacturers more extensive protection, thereby limiting generic drug manufacturers and creating more expensive drug costs for Canadians. Reagan wanted this protection because he was being hammered in Washington by the pharmaceutical lobby to get Canada in line over a fear of the Europeans adopting what the lobbyists considered to be lax Canadian protections for their drug company clients.

The multinational drug industry was strongly opposed to compulsory licensing, despite any evidence that its economic position had been harmed. Restoration of patent protection for drugs was one of the key U.S. demands during free-trade negotiations between Canada and the United States in 1985-1987. The result was Bill C-22, which gave new drugs protection from compulsory licensing for seven to ten years.

Previously, in response to high drug prices, the Liberal Government of the day, headed by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, amended the country's patent act in 1969 to allow for compulsory licensing to import pharmaceuticals. As a result of the legislation, by 1983 drug costs in Canada were over $200 million lower than they would otherwise have been.

For a chronological report on patent drug legislation in Canada, I refer you to;

Now we have the Harper Conservatives announcing a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) that everyone believes will exacerbate the high costs of drugs for all Canadians.

As explained by the media, drug companies will now receive an extra two years for their patents, "meaning lower cost generics won’t be available as early in Canada".

According to; the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Health Coalition have been urging the federal government to remove drug policies from the deal.

"The two non-governmental agencies released a poll conducted by Ipsos Reid that shows high support for a Canada-EU free trade deal were it not for the issue of pharmaceutical drug costs. It said 69 percent of Canadians opposed to a deal that would lengthen patent protections for brand name drugs," notes a 2011 report by the online magazine.

"The agencies also cited a 2011 University of Toronto study that found lengthening patent terms for drugs in Canada would increase the cost of public and private drug plans in Canada by at least $2.8 billion. The extra costs come from delaying the introduction of cheaper generic drugs by 3.5 years.”

All of the evidence suggests that the patent protection introduced by the Mulroney Conservatives and now extended by the Harper Conservatives has and will have a very negative affect on the pockets of all Canadians, but more importantly on the incomes of Middle Class and lower income Canadians.

I encourage your comments.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ryan Alexander Lovett, by his mother, Tamara

You can take what you want to send to whomever.

Last month I attended a parents gathering at the children’s hospital where they held their yearly memorial for parents who have ‘lost’ their children. And suddenly I am looking at a picture of my happy boy and another wave of emotion starts to run over me.  Just over 3 months ago my child died in my arms. StrepA has a 50% mortality rate. I ended up on the losing side. My world was shattered. There is no vernacular to describe how I ‘feel’…except to gauge my inner/outer energy and consider whether or not to engage…sometimes I am not able to give and sometimes I am compelled to move as Ryan’s energy inspires me onwards and upwards instead of completing shutting down.  ‘Feeling’ has taken on a whole new meaning… there is no ‘letting go’…what do I do? How do I feel?
At the children’s hospital service a father spoke to the group. Last year a little boy named Hayden drowned at Sylvan Lake. This father was sharing with us his experience sometime after the accident  of how, when he was playing with his other child, he came to the awareness that we who have lost a loved one know: ‘that moment when you are not thinking/grieving over your loss’ which is then followed by instant sadness as your memory engages…however at this moment the father felt Haydon’s ‘presence’ and in his mind’s eye was shown an open door in front of him and an open door behind him…Haydon’s message to his father was simple; walking through the open door in front of you doesn’t close the door behind you.  Moving on doesn’t have to feel like you are losing all over again. I started to feel a sense of peace in that moment.
I am thankful that the father chose to share that story as it also helps to illustrate what I experience on a moment to moment basis.  The constant ‘signs’ or ‘messages’ or whatever you would call them, coincidences or serendipitous encounters, magical moments and connections, are too many to deny…Ryan was present and showing me, and the people who bore witness, that there is more to ‘reality’ than what we will allow ourselves to consider and what we are capable of denying ourselves.  I have had the human experience of losing something that was once a part of me…I didn’t know that was on my ‘list’ of things to do while visiting Earth…somehow I missed that part of the in-flight manual.  And now I was learning how to come to terms with this.
Consider how Ryan made you feel and act.  Everything I did was for him and his brother’s future …a win-win for all; building community through freedom of expression and sustainable actions. Except I have learned the hardest way that not everyone plays fair and apathy rules apathetically.   Ryan was on an adventure and knew what he was in for when he came through…and now he is a Rainbow Warrior guiding each of us.  He naturally engaged with all he met as equals and was all inclusive. And he wants me to relay the most important message of peace which will truly heal this planet:
WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED WITH THE TOILET, CLOSE THE TOILET COMPLETELY – EVERYONE – 2 things will happen:  1.   minimize poo/pee particles when flushing;   2.   close the UP/DOWN debate once and for all!  And yes folks, we had this conversation last year…he said, rightly so, that we should close the toilet completely. Then there is no question and the air doesn’t smell.  My little baby, our little buddy – see you on the other side!
There will be a pot-luck celebration in Ryan’s honour at Cliff Bungalow Community Centre Saturday June 15 from 2-4pm.  If you would like to offer up a tribute in Ryan’s name please consider the following:
1. Ryan was a 2nd year Beaver Scout at the 18th Unit.  He loved going and never missed a week! We collected bottles to fundraise for Scout activities and the Veterans Food Bank. Your support would be greatly appreciated to help continue his legacy.
2. Ryan was an artist. He spent his formative years hanging in some infamous galleries around town.  He would want you to consider supporting local galleries Art Spot, Motion Gallery, Gorilla House and Art Point.
3. Ryan was a gardener. He knew what it took to grow nutritious food although getting him to eat some of it was a challenge!  Take the time to learn about growing your own food and what is happening to the global food chain. Ryan’s good friend Mac has a dad who started Grow Calgary. Support local sustainable initiatives.
4. A friend set up the “Ryan Lovett Scholarship for Painting” at ACAD.
Blessing to each of you and thank you for being a part of our lives. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Calgary’s Shark Fin Bylaw 45M2012 Needs to be Abandoned

My Asian friend immigrated to Calgary 48 years ago on May 2nd to join her father. She always told everyone how much she enjoyed her City and her Community. She considered herself living in harmony all these years.

That all changed July 16th, 2012 when Council passed a motion to draft a bylaw banning the possession, distribution and consumption of shark fin and shark fin products in the City of Calgary. This was followed October 15th, 2012 with Council passing first reading of the above-noted bylaw without prior and proper consultation with the affected citizens; the Chinese Community in Calgary and Calgarians in general.  This action was in opposition to the City of Calgary policy, CS009, Engage Policy, dated May 28th, 2003.

Engage Policy Statement
The City of Calgary (Council and Administration) recognizes that decisions are improved by engaging citizens and other stakeholder groups where appropriate, and is committed to transparent and inclusive processes that are responsive and accountable, and within the Corporations ability to finance and resource.
The City of Calgary assigns a high priority to appropriately informing and involving citizens and other stakeholders early on and throughout the process, where the decision(s) impact their lives.

Why the City should abandon bylaw 45M2012.
  1. Alberta’s Municipal Government Act lists three municipal purposes: to provide good government, to provide necessary and desirable facilities and services, and to develop and maintain safe communities.  The proposed shark fin ban is related to none of these purposes and is therefore ultra vires, literally "beyond the powers".
  2. Should the City proceed and enact the ban despite lacking the jurisdiction, there is a legal precedent to overturn the bylaw.  The City of Toronto’s bylaw banning the sale and distribution of shark fins was ruled ultra vires by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in November, 2012, Eng v. Toronto (City), 2012 ONSC 6818 (CanLII). The Ontario Court reached its decision to strike down the Toronto ban without examining whether the Province of Ontario has constitutional jurisdiction over sharks.
  3. Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 divides jurisdiction over all matters between the federal and provincial governments.  The provinces are not given authority over sharks and shark fisheries; that jurisdiction rests with the federal government.  The federal government is signatory to international conventions and has enacted legislation regarding sharks and shark fisheries.  The actions of the federal government have demonstrated that it has jurisdiction to legislate over this issue and that it has not abandoned its jurisdiction, Statement from Bob Dechert, MP dated August, 2011.
  4. Canada has sustainable shark management plans in place with strong enforcement regimes to ensure that ‘finning’ does not occur in Canadian fisheries and Canadian waters.  Harvests are carefully managed to ensure conservation.  Canada maintains the first and only shark fishery in the world to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, Statement from Mr. Randy Kamp, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, February 11th, 2013 debate on Bill C380.
a)      The act of finning has been prohibited in Canada since 1994.
b)      In 2007, Canada released its National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of sharks (NPOA sharks) within the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
c)      As a Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES), Canada has a legal obligation to prevent the import of products from shark species that are listed as endangered, MP Costas Menegakis applauds defeat of Bill C-380, March 23rd, 2013.
d)       As of July, 2012, "85% of the top 26 shark fishing nations have adopted or are adopting NPOA sharks.
  1. Many viewed the ban of shark fin soup as an attack on Chinese Culture.  All Canadians should have the right to consume a culturally important food provided it is obtained legally and from species that are not endangered. Therefore the fins must come from sharks that are harvested legally and free from the cruel practice of ‘finning’, Lawrence MacAulay, Liberal MP for Cardigan, PEI, February 11th, 2013 debate on Bill C380.
  2. China set a zero growth rate for fishing production in its territorial waters in 1999, the aim is to restore and maintain fishery resources, including shark stocks, Document from FAO; Shark Utilization in China, Shark Fishery Management and Regulation in China.
  3. Finally, the major harvest or capture of sharks is from what’s referred to as bycatch, 60% of all sharks caught are as a by-product of fishing practises such as those used in the Tuna fishery. If we are serious about shark conservation, let’s look at fishing methods, etc…

In summary,  I would like to say that the best method of thinking globally and acting locally is to support the federal government to further their efforts to promote the sustainable management and conservation of sharks through international organizations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Regional Fisheries Management bodies such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and continue to use their influence in these forums to encourage shark fishing nations to follow Canada's example and prohibit the practice of shark ‘finning’.

I hereby request Calgary City Council to abandon the proposed bylaw M452012.  I want to restore the harmony to the life of my friend.

Donn Lovett
President, Donn Lovett Agency, Partner in Research on Investments and ‘pro bono’ adviser to the Coalition for Transparent and Accountable Governance (CTAG).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Time to re-visit A Canadian on Iraq from 2003

Peace Activism: An individual Journey
Canada and a Canadian’s involvement in the Iraq conflict
Donn Lovett
“one drop in the ocean, but each drop can swell the tide”
Judy Small

It was fall, 1962.  I was 13 years old and the world was on the brink of a nuclear war.  This time the given reason was the deployment of missiles in Cuba by the Russians.  Something, apparently, the United States disagreed with. I remember those days as if they occurred last week.  I spent six months of my life in constant stress.  If I slept, I had nightmares about nuclear war.  While awake I constantly thought of nuclear war and the destruction that would result, including my death.  I remember the federal Canadian Government Organization called the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO), telling me that in the event of a nuclear attack while I was at school, I should hide under my desk.  Remember, I was 13 and even at that age, I knew that “under the desk” was where they would find the vapour from the nuclear explosion.  Provided of course, there was someone around to look for the vapour.
I remember one particular Monday evening.  I know it was Monday because I delivered the Star Weekly magazine on that day.  It was September in Winnipeg and after 6:00 p.m. when the sun was setting and the street getting dark.  Suddenly the air was filled with the unprecedented sound of air raid sirens.  I panicked and running to the first house I could find, pounded on the door.  The man who met me immediately recognized my problem, tried to answer my stream of questions quickly and attempted to calm me.  He put me in front of his television to show me that the sirens were part of what the EMO referred to as a “mock nuclear attack”, and I should not be afraid.  How dare my government do this to a 13-year-old child?  They staged a “mock nuclear attack”, sounding air raid sirens without warning.  I knew I had to do something to prevent a complete personal collapse.  I sought people with whom I could discuss these issues and who were already doing something about the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  I joined a peace movement and learned what “one person can do”.
Also, vivid in my memory was the fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis was solved, not because one country attacked another, but rather as an outcome of dialogue.  Yes, the Russians sent ships and the Americans countered with more ships, but ultimately dialogue prevented a war and the United Nations was involved in the solution.  This message that I received from the events of 1962 still resonates today.  That is, that dialogue is still the best way to solve disputes and the United Nations Organization is needed more than ever.
My activism carried me through high school and the Viet Nam War.  The point is my activism was born out of these events and the tumultuous 60’s.  In 1981 I found myself living in Baghdad and working for a Canadian company called Canron.  We were providing water pipe and fittings to Iraq for the supply of drinking water.  The Iraqi regime had decreed that everyone in Iraq would have clean drinking water and properly treated sewage.  As a Canadian company we were doing millions of dollars of trade in Iraq and I was sent to administer the contracts.  My experience living among the people of Iraq and interacting with them was one of respect, kindness and honesty.  When the Gulf War broke out and the U.S. talked about collateral damage for the first time, I thought of my Iraqis friends, and so I saw the war from a different perspective than did most North Americans.
I followed the events in Iraq and learned about the effect of the embargo on the people of Iraq and in particular to increased infant mortality.  My daughter was born in December of 1990 and, being a ‘stay at home father’, I was deeply involved in raising my child and – readily empathized with those Iraqis who were losing their children at an alarming rate. Reports of the rise in infant mortality rate and deaths of civilians were stalled by the U.S. and U.K. at the United Nations.  They blocked reports coming from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.  Finally, the information could no longer be hidden and the “Oil-For-Food” programme was initiated in an attempt to alleviate the hunger to which years of embargo had subjected the Iraqi people.
We learned that during the 1991 Gulf War the U.S. led bombing raids that attacked every hospital, every water treatment plant, every wastewater plant, most schools and every major intersection in downtown Baghdad in order to destroy the water distribution and sewer collection systems.  All attacks against civilian infrastructure are in direct violation of the UN Charter and must be considered war crimes. A good friend of mine, Denis Halliday, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq said the following We are in the process of destroying an entire society.  It is as simple and terrifying as that.  It is illegal and immoral.”
The World Health Organization (WHO), reported that “Pre-1990 Iraq reflects the health status of a modern developing society, in which the wealth it obtained from exporting its main commodity, oil, contributed to improving the quality of life of the Iraqi people, which then (1988/1989), was already at a relatively ‘satisfactory’ level, with indications of a trend for further improvement.” UNICEF reported that, “The Government of Iraq made sizable investments in the education sector from the mid-1970’s until 1990. Educational policy included provision for scholarships, research facilities and medical support for students. By 1989 the combined primary and secondary enrollment stood at 75% (slightly above the average for all developing countries at 70%). Illiteracy had been reduced to 20% by 1987. Education accounted for over 5% of the state budget above developing countries of 3.8%.”
After the imposition of sanctions in 1991 we know that:
  1. 1.5 million Iraqi civilians have died since 1991 as a direct result of the sanctions.
  2. 600,000 of the dead were children under 5 years of age according to UNICEF reports and substantiated by the Red Cross. A recent UN report stated that the infant mortality rate in Iraq is 133.  This means that for every 1,000 children born, 133 will not reach the age of 5.  By comparison, Canada’s infant mortality rate is less than four.
  3. The number of malnourished children has increased over 300% since 1991.
  4. Maternal mortality rates have more than doubled during this period of the sanctions and 70% of Iraqi women suffer from anemia. 
  5. Unemployment has soared under the sanctions, as has inflation. The average civilian salary, for example, is CAD$3.60 per month.
  6. An estimated 800 tonnes of depleted uranium contained in ammunitions were used by the allied forces in the Gulf War. Cancer rates in Iraq have increased five-fold since the Gulf War. Childhood leukemia in Iraq has the highest rate in the world.
These undeniable facts lead me to travel to Iraq to view first hand the devastation to the Iraqi civilian population and the complete destruction of the civilian infrastructure and the civilian economy.  I could no longer stand by and let the crimes continue, crimes to which the Canadian government was a partner.  Tacit approval of the unjust conditions to which Iraqis were subjected was tantamount to direct involvement in the destruction.
I began to contact people I thought could give me information to help me develop a plan of action to assist the people of Iraq.  The first was Denis Halliday.  I remembered reading a statement that Mr. Halliday had made after he resigned his position with the UN in protest over U.S. interference in the relief operations in Iraq.  He said, “I can find no legitimate justification for sustaining economic sanctions under these circumstances.  To do so in my view is to disregard the high principles of the United Nation’s Charter, the Convention of Human Rights, the very moral leadership and the credibility of the United Nations itself.”
Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Denis J. Halliday, an Irish national, to the post of United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, at the Assistant Secretary-General level on September 1, 1997. Halliday served as such until the end of September 1998.  During this period, the Security Council Resolution 986 “Oil for Food” Programme, introduced in 1996/97 to assist the people of Iraq under the Economic Sanctions imposed and sustained by the Security Council, was more than doubled in terms of oil revenues allowed.  This enabled the introduction of a multi-sectored approach, albeit modest, to the problems of resolving malnutrition and child mortality.  Mr. Halliday resigned from the post in Iraq, and from the United Nations as a whole, on October 31, 1998, after serving the Organization for 34 years.
After running the "Oil for Food" program, which uses Iraqi oil revenues to distribute basic food rations and medical aid to Iraqi civilians, Halliday turned his attention to spreading the word about sanctions-related suffering. I contacted Mr. Halliday in late 1999 and invited him to Canada.  We met in Ottawa for a series of lectures and I took him to the House of Commons to meet the Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Bill Graham.  I wanted him to ask Mr. Graham to hold hearings on Iraq at the Standing Committee.  Graham agreed immediately and the hearing was scheduled for March 2000.  I arranged for Mr. Halliday and Mr. Arthur Millholland the president of Oilexco, the only Canadian company participating in the “Oil-for-Food” programme, to come to Ottawa as witnesses to the Committee.  The Hearings lasted for three days, culminating in Report #5, “Resolution on Iraq”, which was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons on April 12th, 2000.
Report #5, which was unanimously supported by the 18 Members of Parliament sitting on the Committee and representing all five political parties, called for a de-linking of sanctions.  This meant the removal of economic sanctions but leaving military sanctions in place.  It further called for an opening of dialogue between Canada and Iraq.  The deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Tariq Aziz, accepted Report #5, as a good basis to resolve the situation in Iraq.  It was suggested that the Secretary General of the United Nations might use that report as a basis for breaking the impasse on getting proper humanitarian relief to Iraq.
Report #5 was rejected outright by the then Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, and it died without being taken to the UN.  The main reason given by senior advisors to Axworthy, at a meeting that I attended, were as follows.  “While we recognize the destruction to the people of Iraq, we cannot do anything to upset the U.S. Administration because they will beat us up on trade.”  One of the senior advisors was a medical doctor who had visited Iraq and seen first hand the difficulties being experienced by the people of Iraq.
This resulted in two important outcomes for me.  I met Madame Colleen Beaumier, the Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, and I discovered that Lloyd Axworthy would not act if it meant confronting the United States.
I invited Madame Beaumier to come to New York to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Tariq Aziz.  She agreed and the meeting was arranged for September 2000 at the Iraq Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.  We discussed Report #5 as a basis to solving the economic embargo on Iraq while agreeing that at this stage the military embargo had to remain in place.  The meeting was cordial and it was the first time that parliamentarians from Canada and Iraq had met since the Gulf War.  By now Canada had closed its embassy in Baghdad even though Iraq maintained a Charge d’Affaire in Ottawa. The action now became one of getting individual MPs to endorse Report #5, in an attempt to get a majority of the 301 MPs to sign a letter addressed to the Prime Minister (and copied to the Foreign Minister) demanding that Canada accept the results of the Report drafted by the Standing Committee assigned the task of advising the Foreign Minister.  We received unanimous support from the Bloq Quebecois, the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservatives, while individual members of both the Liberal Party and the Alliance Party, led by Dr. Keith Martin agreed to endorse the Report.  We had the support of 127 members when Parliament was dissolved on October 22nd, 2000 and an election called.  This nullified our efforts until after the election.
A new parliament was elected in November 2000 and we restarted our efforts to get Report #5 accepted by the Canadian Government.  However, we now faced a new resistance.  John Manley was appointed to the position of Foreign Minister and he took an even closer stance with Washington.  During Manley’s tenure Canada moved as close to Washington as Canada had ever been. This caused individual MPs in the Liberal ranks to distance themselves from any initiative that may confront the U.S.  We also witnessed a hardening of a pro-American position with the Alliance Party, under their new leader, Stockwell Day.  Although we still held the support of the Bloq, the NDP and the Tories, getting majority support was becoming increasingly more difficult.  This, combined with the election of the neo-conservative Bush Administration, made the matter of getting a resolution of the Iraqi sanctions almost impossible.  It became clear to me that removal of sanctions could not happen without the return of the weapons inspectors and a resolution on the question of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), which became the buzzword of the Bush White House.
At this time the Bush White House had little or no interest in foreign relations.  It seemed hunkered down in an isolationist mentality until the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001.  The ensuing “War on Terrorism” set a course for Bush and his neo-conservative cohorts that continue to affect the world in a seriously negative way. The appetite for war, demonstrated by Bush after the September attack, provoked me to call a meeting of international diplomats and interested individuals, to meet in New York to see what we could do to dampen the US enthusiasm for war.  I contacted Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, both former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq at the Assistant Secretary-General level.  I contacted Scott Ritter, the former US Marine Major and head of the UN weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991 through 1998.  I also asked the former Foreign Minister of Canada, Lloyd Axworthy to join us, along with the president of the Canadian oil company, Oilexco, Arthur Millholland.  Lloyd Axworthy had had a change of heart since leaving Ottawa and wanted to see what could be done to ease the pressure on Iraqi civilians.  All agreed and a meeting was arranged for the end of November 2001 in New York, ironically held at the Republican Women’s Center.  Mr. von Sponeck could not join us but was in contact via phone and email.
Although several ideas were discussed, it became clear that the return of the weapons inspectors was the only way out of the impasse.  It was thought that Canada could play a role, given that it had an outstanding reputation at the UN and was not an imperialist nation. Iraq might accept recommendations coming from there.  However, John Manley was still Foreign Minister in Canada and not predisposed to anything that may confront the U.S.  We decided to continue discussions and to formulate a plan that could be discussed between Canada, Iraq and the UN.
Lloyd Axworthy agreed to discuss our meeting with Louise Frechette, a Canadian and the Deputy Secretary General of the UN, and with Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, whom he was to meet with at dinner while he was in New York and Washington.  Conversations within the group continued over the last part of 2001 and into 2002.
In January of 2002, Prime Minister Chrétien appointed Bill Graham as the new Canadian Foreign Minister and hopes for a more sovereign Canadian position with regard to the USA gave us a reason to quicken our attempts to get the weapons inspectors back into Iraq.  By this time Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck were now concentrating their efforts in Europe.  Arthur Millholland was in the UK and busy with his business efforts.  Lloyd Axworthy became busy with his UBC institute.  It was left to Scott Ritter and I, to continue the discussions started in New York in the fall of 2001.
Scott Ritter arranged to meet with the Labour Party in the UK and the French Government to discuss the return of the inspectors.  I began to build support in Ottawa with MPs with whom we could work.  Notably, Madame Francine Lalonde of the Bloq, Dr. Keith Martin of the Alliance, Joe Clark of the Conservatives and Alexa McDonough of the NDP were contacted and they agreed to keep in touch with the initiative.  Madame Lalonde became quite active and was a strong source of support.  I was in constant contact with Madame Colleen Beaumier who gave us access to the Liberal caucus.
Meanwhile, I developed a relationship with Robert Fry, the senior advisor to Bill Graham, the Foreign Minister, as well as with Chris Hull and Graeme McIntyre from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT).  Through Robert Fry we could get access to the Foreign Minister if the matter was significant enough.  At this point we were feeling quite encouraged and I asked the Standing Committee to meet with Scott Ritter to discuss the return of weapons inspectors.  Thanks to the efforts of Madame Lalonde and Dr. Martin the Committee agreed to meet with Scott Ritter and Denis Halliday in early June 2002.
The meeting with the Standing Committee was very successful.  Scott Ritter was able to convey the importance of getting the weapons inspectors back into Iraq as a necessary step to getting the economic sanctions removed.  There was a sense from the meeting that Canada could play a role once the inspectors had returned.  Scott Ritter and I then met with Madame Lalonde to develop a document entitled “The Honest Broker”.   The thrust of this document was to ask Iraq to agree first to the return of the weapons’ inspectors and then to permit Canada, South Africa and Belgium to help mitigate any difficulties that might arise between Iraq and the UN as a consequence of the inspections.  These countries would not interfere with the inspectors themselves because they recognized that the U.S. would not tolerate any interference with the inspection process.  However, situations might have arisen requiring some form of reconciliation between the UN and Iraq during the inspections. Canada was chosen because it is the major trading partner of the U.S. with a close historical, political and geographical relationship.  South Africa was chosen to represent the non-aligned nations and Belgium because of its membership in NATO and the EU.
In August 2002, Scott Ritter went to South Africa to meet with the Tariq Aziz of Iraq, Mr. Pahad, the Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa, and the Belgium Foreign Minister.  During these meetings it was agreed that Scott would go to Baghdad to address the Iraq National Assembly on September 8th, and during the presentation would discuss the return of the inspectors.  South Africa and Belgium agreed to cooperate with Canada, if Canada would take the lead on the “honest broker” initiative.
Meanwhile back in Canada, I stayed in touch with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to ensure that, at the very least, Canada would continue to support the UN and not support US unilateral actions.  On two occasions in July and August of 2002, in direct phone conversations with Prime Minister Chrétien, I was assured that Canada would keep supporting the UN.  On August 9th, 2002 at a meeting with Bush in Detroit, Mr. Chrétien reiterated Canada’s support for a UN resolution to the Iraq situation.  At the same time I had met with Minister Graham, who also assured me that Canada would stay with a UN resolution.  To this day they have maintained that position and I believe that Canadians should be very proud of these actions of our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, in the face of the tremendous pressure from the Americans to support their unilateral actions.  I was in the Canadian House of Commons on March 17th, 2003 when the Prime Minister announced that Canada would not support the US war on Iraq.  This was one of the bravest things our Prime Minister has ever done.
Scott Ritter met with the Iraq National Assembly on September 8th, 2002 and told them in no uncertain words that they had to allow the inspectors to return and that there was no room for negotiations on this matter.  Further, they had to advise the UN that they would accept the inspectors before the U.S. was able to get a resolution before the UN that they would not be able to deal with.  Iraq accepted what Scott had to say and dispatched Foreign Minister Sabri to New York for September 14th.
While this was being organized and unfolding, Bush was dragged kicking and screaming to the UN on September 12th.  This happened through the efforts of a number of countries including Canada and the UK.  He appeared at the UN because there was virtually no support for U.S. actions against Iraq and Bush felt that the U.S. could beat the UN into submission.  The timing worked out for Iraq who had agreed to come to New York for September 14th and, through a series of negotiations in New York that I was involved in, made its proposal to the UN through Kofi Annan on September 16th, 2002.  The proposal allowed for a return of weapons inspectors to Iraq with no conditions attached.  The negotiations were finalized in November 2002 and that way was paved for Hans Blix to return to Iraq after 4 years without inspections.
The return of the inspectors neutralized the U.S. demand that Iraq disarm.  However, it soon became apparent that the U.S. was not interested in a disarmed Iraq, but rather wanted control of the country for several reasons, not least of which was Iraqi oil and the fact that in their war on terrorism they had not been able to find Osama bin Laden.  The U.S. then moved to the language of “regime change” and the world began to respond to their actions, culminating in the mass rallies held worldwide on February 15th, 2003.  Tens of millions of people protested the U.S. position including 1.5 million people in London, who opposed Tony Blair’s pro-U.S. stance and 1 million people in Rome, who opposed their government’s support for the U.S.  Spain saw hundreds of thousands of people in Madrid and Barcelona protesting the Spanish government’s support of Bush.  As a result, the U.S. changed its rhetoric from “regime change” to “liberation of the Iraqi people and a change in human rights”.
In January 2003 I organized a parliamentary delegation to go to Iraq with the knowledge of Prime Minister Chrétien and Foreign Minister Graham.  Madame Colleen Beaumier and her able assistant, Natalie Jewett joined me on the trip.  In Baghdad we met with the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Tariq Aziz, the Foreign Minister, Mr. Naji Sabri, the Iraq Trade Minister, Communications and Transportation Minister, Deputy Agriculture Minister and the Deputy Speaker of the Iraq National Assembly accompanied by several members of the Assembly. The purpose of the trip was to convey to Iraq the Canadian position with regard to disarmament and to receive any message that Iraq wanted put before our government.  The Iraqis asked one thing and that was for Canada to maintain its position in support of the UN.
We arrived back in Canada on January 29th, 2003 and worked non-stop to try and reach agreement on an initiative that would prevent the U.S. from invading.  This involved a two stage proposal.  Initially there was the six point s for piece plan that was developed through the efforts of Scott Ritter and the Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa, Mr. Pahad and was an extension of the Canadian initiative that was being discussed by the non permanent members of the UN Security Council in February 2003.  After the attack by the US and the UK a modification of that plan which was now being sponsored by the Vatican was tabled.  Both of these proposals had been somewhat agreed to by Iraq and involved Disarmament, Human Rights, Democracy, Diplomacy, Economy and of course Peace.  These initiatives are attached to this paper for review.  But as the entire world now understands the U.S. and the UK were not interested in a peaceful solution to Iraq.
The point of this article is to let people know that anyone can make a difference.  Although we failed in our attempt to prevent the U.S. from invading Iraq we accomplished great things during the past few years.  Canada did not change its position and support the US/UK war.  Canada maintained its support for the UN.  We met with several governments around the world and we felt we influenced their decisions.  And we must not forget the events of February 15th, 2003 when the world stood up in the largest support for peace ever experienced.
My 23 year old daughter, Shanda traveled to Iraq in 1999 as part of an international women’s conference.  While in Iraq she visited several schools and talked to children about the sanctions.  She was invited to meet with Madame Aline Chrétien and in December 1999 had a 90 minute audience with Madame Chrétien to discuss her experience in Iraq.  More recently, my 12 year old daughter, Kate visited the Iraqi Embassy in Ottawa 2 weeks ago to have a tea with the Iraqi Charge.  My daughters have become anti-war activists in there own right.  I cannot forget the undying support I receive from my wife, Nora Stewart.  Nora is an engineer and a senior partner in a large energy evaluation firm in Calgary.  Without her absolute support I would not be able to accomplish anything.
Our responsibility now is to ensure that the US does not become the judge, jury and executioner for the world.  We shall overcome.

Prologue – September 2003
A great deal has happened vis a vis Iraq since this paper was written in April of 2003.  For our part a large group of activists and academics traveled to Northern Cyprus on April 25th and met at the Eastern Mediterranean University to discuss what to do next.  Out of those discussions came the dream of Dr. Tareq Ismael to build the International University of Baghdad (IUB).  The initial proposal was developed in Cyprus and it was decided that the initiative should be a Canadian sponsored initiative.
The IUB would begin as a “virtual university”, meaning that the project will begin to get underway in terms of establishing programs, international connections, and so forth, even before it would acquire a physical presence in Iraq.  Once established, however, it will be a graduate-focused institution and would compliment post-secondary education in Iraq, rather than compete in the post-Ba’ath environment.  Not only will the university spearhead needed educational programs, but it will also make available a wealth of educated individuals capable of filling the “brain-drain” that resulted from the years of war, militarization and sanctions.  Before the U.S. and British-led attack on Iraq, there were 10 universities in the country, but the quality of education provided at these universities was in decline as there was not enough funding available to run these institutions properly, principally due to the UN Security Council sanctions and the choices made by the previous Iraqi government to focus predominantly on militarization.  Vast numbers of university professors and professionals, such as doctors and engineers, left the country in the 1990s as a result of the dramatic decline in social services.  Now, largely due to the destruction and looting incurred in the recent war and its aftermath, none of the universities in Iraq remain fully functional.  This is a predicament that urgently requires attention, as access to education has always been instrumental in developing a lively and independent civil environment.
The established universities in Iraq will benefit greatly from an internationally-focused and graduate-centred educational facility in their country. The IUB will be able to draw students from all over the world to study in Iraq, alongside Iraqi citizens, creating a constructive dialogue that is capable of transcending the simplicities of international conflict scenarios.  The breadth of experiences possessed by the international students will enhance the resources and connections that Iraqi citizens themselves would have, fostering greater civil society through an ever increasing independence from governmental contacts.  At the same time, the unique experiences of the Iraqi students – historically, politically, economically and culturally – along with the potential revival of a “cosmopolitan” Baghdad, will serve to enrich the international students who would be studying at the IUB.
The planning committee has already garnered a great deal of international recognition for this project, including support from individuals such as Betty Williams, the Irish Nobel laureate, and Jordan's Prince el-Hassan Bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein, who is acting as the chairman of the board of trustees.  Furthermore, IUB advocates include Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chrétien; along with Edward Broadbent, former leader of NDP; Richard Falk, professor of international law (Emeritus) at Princeton University; and John Polanyi, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry and professor of chemistry at the University of Toronto.
With the help of other supporters, the IUB planning committee is also currently working to urge Nelson Mandela, former South African President, to become a member of the university’s board of trustees.
At this crucial time when many Iraqis see any outside involvement as largely negative and tied to an “occupation”, and relate to the international environment in terms of “conflict”, the reconstruction of Iraqi educational infrastructure through this project and others will help to provide an example for the positive possibilities of international cooperationCanada is in a unique position to spearhead such a project and should seize the opportunity to foster positive development in Iraq and advance our traditional role as a peacemaker in the international environment.
While in Ottawa over the past few months we have had meetings with several MPs, Senators, DFAIT, CIDA and potential partner agencies such as the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
To summarize the rationale we presented in Ottawa for why Canada should lead this initiative:
1.      Canada has had a long-standing relationship with the Middle East and in particular with Iraq.  Prior to the Gulf War of 1991, Canada was one of Iraq’s primary trading partners, and the Canadian Wheat Board was the largest supplier of wheat to Iraq.
2.      Canada is considered a non-imperialistic actor in the region.  We have not had the expansionist policies of France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
3.      Canada has had a reputation as a Middle Power and a peacemaker in world affairs.
4.      The stance that Canada took in the recent Gulf War of not supporting unilateral US action has reinforced Canada’s image in world affairs.
5.      Canada can exercise a tremendous amount of influence in Iraq and the region by taking these kinds of initiatives.
The question most often asked by the people we meet is “What can we do to help with the project?”
You may contact me at  I look forward to hearing from all of you and your personal journeys.

Monday, February 18, 2013

12th Annual Rocky Mountain Burns Dinner

I am remiss in thanking those who organized, welcomed and entertained me on Janaury 19th, 2013.  The event was held at the Lougheed House, a brilliant site and the food was spectacular.

The evning began with drinks, of course, it's celebrating Robbie Burns.  We were piped in by Dan Lidgren and welcomed to supper by Mark Boulay. We then had a scotch tasting, my favourite, the 12 year old Glenfarclas.  By the end of the evening it was a challenge to determine what I was drinking.

Following the scotch tasting Scott Matson said the Selkirk Grace.

The Selkirk Grace, is a prayer said afore eatin that's attreebute tae Robert Burns:

"In connection with the poet's visit to the seat of the Earl of Selkirk, it is stated by Cunningham, that at one of the meals there, Burns was asked to say Grace, and he delivered what is usually styled 'The Selkirk Grace'":

Some Folk hae meat that canna eat,
And some can eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be Thanket!

Following the First Remove - Cook-a-Leekie Soup we were entertained with a beatiful rendition of 'The Flower of Scotland' sung by Ben Robinson.

Then came the Second Remove - Herb Salad and Bison Cakes.

Now it was time for the address to the haggis by the almost sober and nearly standing Bruce Cameron.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm : 
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace 
As lang's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill, 
Your hurdies like a distant hill, 
Your pin wad help to mend a mill 
In time o'need, 
While thro' your pores the dews distil 
Like amber bead. 

His knife see rustic Labour dight, 
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight, 
Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 
Like ony ditch; 
And then, O what a glorious sight, 
Warm-reekin', rich! 

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive: 
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive, 
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve 
Are bent like drums; 
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive, 
Bethankit! hums. 

Is there that owre his French ragout 
Or olio that wad staw a sow, 
Or fricassee wad make her spew 
Wi' perfect sconner, 
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view 
On sic a dinner? 

Poor devil! see him owre his trash, 
As feckless as wither'd rash, 
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash; 
His nieve a nit; 
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash, 
O how unfit! 

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed, 
The trembling earth resounds his tread. 
Clap in his walie nieve a blade, 
He'll mak it whissle; 
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned, 
Like taps o' thrissle. 

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care, 
And dish them out their bill o' fare, 
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware 
That jaups in luggies; 
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer 
Gie her a haggis!

After stumbling to his seat having carefully cut himself with the cerimonial knife during the address we began the Third Remove - Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Demi-Glaze servved with Vegetables (Yum!).

Followed by Ben Robinson singing 'Scotland Forever', not a dry eye in the room.

Rising once again, Bruce Cameron gave a moving Immortal Memeory.

The Immortal Memory is the main speech of the Robbie Burns evening to underline the reasons why Burns Memory is, and should be, immortal. It should bring out points as to why he is relevant in our times and society. It should help people understand what Burns said and encourage them to apply Burns principles and values to their own lives and to society around them resolving to improve both. It should persuade them to re-examine their country's nationhood, preserve it, and make it a force for good among their fellow nations. It should be a personal tribute.

We had a dessert of fresh Raspberry Cranachan Trifle and of course, whiskey cream and Jeff Robinson closed the formal part of the evning with the Toast to the Lassies.

This was originally a short speech given by a male guest in thanks to the women who had
prepared the meal. However, nowadays it is much more wide-ranging and generally
covers the male speaker's view on women. It is normally amusing but not offensive. The men drink a toast to the women's health.

The formal part being completed, we proceeded to have various forms of scotch tasting in bars around the City,

God help us all!