Thursday, December 31, 2015

We're Drowning in Thirst

The time has come to pack another year away into memory and 2015 once again proved that humanity seems to be on a course of self-destruction more than anything else. The United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon had summed up this quickly passing year into two rather appropriate words as “breakthrough and horror.”

As people gather together to celebrate 2015's passing into history and prepare to welcome in the new year, most thoughts are on the events that had personal impact. Few will raise a glass to remember the horrific events in Paris, nor will any think of environmental concerns for the future. That does not in any way diminish the celebration nor is it a condemnation of decent folks, it is simply human nature. In today's world life is not always easy and many of us, myself included, are thankful for what we have.

Perhaps that very trait of humanity's nature is what Ban-Ki Moon refers to as “horror.” After all if one's cup is full and thirst is kept at bay then little else really matters. Yet we live on this planet as a collective, not as solitary or single individuals. Our actions carry with them consequences that have a lasting effect on all others around us.

This past year brought with it the horrendous sadness of the monstrosity of indiscriminate violence against innocent victims. Paris was the centre of a murderous attack on humanity as a whole and not only on Parisians. Although the footprint of terror and the followers of an insane doctrine did not only imprint themselves in France, innocent lives were taken in the United States, more in Africa, and in other countries.

Violence once again had been the cause of a massive outpouring of locals from countries in Africa and the Middle East. Again innocent victims find no choice but to run and look for refuge in foreign lands. Many of those who flee their own countries do so at great risk, and compassion is also a human trait, yet compassion has consequences in time as does any other action, both good and bad.

True consequences are unavoidable but do average people in any country, whether it be Canada, the US, or anywhere else, see that these events affect them in some way? Amongst the tragic events there were more positive and uplifting examples of the human spirit. After all Ban-Ki Moon did not just speak of horror, he also saw breakthrough in 2015.

The United Nations brought together representatives from 196 nations to discuss a global issue which has the potential to touch every corner of our planet. There are those who see little merit in environmental issues, others claim that nothing has really changed and that alarmists push the idea of doom and gloom. Thankfully reality was not ignored and the Paris Climate Conference, COP21, on how to control CO² emissions fought through volumes of rhetoric to find an agreement for the future of this planet.

Few can deny that carbon emissions affect Climate Change. Millions of vehicles all around the world release huge amounts of CO² gases. The use of traditional methods of production, in particular the use of coal in power plants, adds massive stress in our atmosphere and serious effects on Climate Change. In Paris, negotiations found themselves bogged down not on how to reduce the carbon emissions but on what levels of reduction would be acceptable.

Climate Change is not a new concept, it has those who warn of the potential gloom the world faces, and it has those who deny its legitimacy. The battle between the two sides has lasted many years. Al Gore, at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, predicted that the Arctic ice caps could completely disappear in 2014. Media found itself displaying photos of polar bears trying to get on a floating ice cap the size of a coffee table. Those images stayed in the minds and memories of many.

James Taylor, a senior fellow for environment policy at the Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment and Climate News at Forbes, published an article on May 19th 2015. Its title 'Updated NASA Data: Global Warming Not Causing Any Polar Ice Retreat,' states; “Updated data from NASA satellite instruments reveal the Earth's polar ice caps have not receded at all since the satellite instruments began measuring the ice caps in 1979. Beginning in 2005, however, polar ice modestly receded for several years. By 2012 polar sea ice had receded by approximately 10 percent from 1979 measurements. Total polar ice area – factoring in both sea and land ice – had receded by much less than 10 percent.”

In this article James Taylor acknowledges Al Gore's prediction of the disappearing ice caps. Al Gore in his presentation of December 14th 2009 refers to a number of scientific individuals to prove his point. At the same time James Taylor refers to NASA satellite instruments and data. Still, there was not a more surprising convert to the side of Climate Change warriors than Pope Francis. On September 25th 2015, Pope Francis delivered a wide ranging address to world leaders at the UN General Assembly, urging global action to protect the environment. He produced the Papal Encyclical – Laudato Si, defining Climate Change as a principle challenge facing humanity and a moral issue.

The Paris Agreement of the reduction of Climate Change represents a consensus by the 196 nations attending that we face this task together. The agreement will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries, which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Such parties will need to sign the agreement in New York between April 22nd 2016 and April 21st 2017, and also adopt it within their own legal systems.

Reduction in global greenhouse emissions tends to be a rather open statement. How do we actually achieve this? No one sees the end of oil production in the near future. Simply look at the demand with the ever increasing number of vehicles on the roads each year. Average individuals will not reduce the use of their vehicles, and although electric vehicles are an alternative how feasible are they in the short future? Can ordinary people afford to change from their standard vehicle to a new electric one? Once that thought begins to germinate the question of charging stations then arises.

At the Paris Conference one major topic centered around renewable energy production. There are many countries who have made forecasts to reduce their carbon emissions. Some nations such as France have achieved almost 90 percent of its electricity production from zero carbon sources, including nuclear, hydroelectric and wind, whilst still providing a high standard of living. France is not alone, as Finland and Sweden have also found equal success in a shift to renewable energy production.

Other countries such as China have announced renewable energy targets. China plans to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 20 percent by 2030. Japan announced that it plans to increase its energy mix to 22 to 24 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Is optimism enough? The disaster with a methane gas leak in the Porter Ranch community in Los Angeles throws more questions into the mix. Southern California Gas Company only plans to plug the leak in the next three or four months, which began releasing methane gas into the atmosphere on October 23rd 2015. This leak has been releasing 62 million cubic feet of gas per day and has forced the relocation of 2600 local residents. Methane gas is as detrimental to Climate Change as CO², and this leak will affect California's predictions of reduction of gas emissions.

In the end was the United Nations Climate Change Conference simply a gathering of politicians full of promises, or was it a glimmer of hope for the future? Maybe a recap of 2016 will give us the answer. In the meantime, as we prepare to welcome a new year each one of us remembers the events of our lives, the support of family and friends, and most of all the hope that our future is better, or at least not worse than the past and that darkness does not hit us all.

Happy New Year to all of Mayorgate's readers.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Australian Rhino Project, can it be the answer?

It has been often said that humanity is capable of great achievements, but also monstrous destruction. We share this planet with other living creatures; those who fly through our skies, others who walk the same soil we do, and still those who inhabit the waters. As the dominant creature gifted with reasoning and intelligence, it is expected that we would protect those other living creatures from pointless destruction. That is where the theory ends, with only one exception.

Through the decades human development has brought about industrialisation and urbanisation, gradually polluting this planet and affecting all life on it. As an intelligent species we are capable of turning this damage around, of developing alternatives which will not force us to surrender the comforts that we are so used to. Then why can't we find a way to stop the slaughter of creatures that we share our Earth with? Why should we speak of the extinction of a species simply because of greed driven by an insane demand?

The rhino is marching towards extinction in the wild as the slaughter of this magnificent beast continues to rise each year. Poaching is not simply a nuisance, it is an epidemic as lethal as the Black Death that gripped Europe in ancient times. Images of savagely butchered rhinos increase almost on a daily basis, and the threat of penalties for poaching if caught are not a real deterrent.

photo courtesy of The Australian Rhino Project

In 2010 recorded rhino deaths from poaching was 333, which rose to 1215 in 2014, an increase of almost 400% in four years. Penalties for poaching are not deterring the poachers, not when the bounty for a well shaped and intact horn is between $750,000 to $1 million. Rhino horn brings in more per ounce than cocaine or even gold. Those who do the actual slaughter do not see such huge profits, they are paid only a tiny percentage, but to the Africans it is still more than what they can earn working for a year, making it a risk worth taking.

True there are those who believe that saving the rhino is of great national importance. At this rate rhino deaths will overtake births between 2016 and 2018, and extinction of this magnificent beast will be ensured. Local rangers patrol the vast lands of Kruger National Park in South Africa but the land is both tough and massive in its breadth. Another effort to save the rhino has been under way, by moving rhino into Northern Botswana at the edge of the Okavango Delta.

This project has serious merit, yet the Okavango Delta region is not a fenced area, leaving the rhino open to poachers. The Kruger National Park has its own rangers and government support yet it is one of the main killing fields of rhino. Northern Botswana has the same potential; it is simply a different location.

In Australia an alternative project has been launched that provides a truly safe location for the rhino from poaching regardless of how high the price for the horn climbs. The Australian Rhino Project was formed by two men, Ray Dearlove and Allan Davies, with one focused goal in mind; to establish breeding herds of white and black rhino in Australia as an insurance population for the two species facing the threat of extinction.

Ray Dearlove was born and educated in South Africa and emigrated to Australia in 1987, yet his love and link to his homeland never left him. In May 2013 he was contacted by a group of people in South Africa concerned with the increasing slaughter of the rhino and the very real fear of their extinction in the wild. Dearlove found himself faced with an incredible idea; to establish a breeding herd of both white and black rhino in Australia. He decided to take this idea further by contacting a long time friend, Allan Davies.

Davies is an Australian-born businessman with some 40 years experience in the Australian and international coal industry. He is a registered mine manager in South Africa, and together with his wife Lyn Davies, joined Ray and Margaret Dearlove in an adventure to save the rhino from extinction.

Dearlove and Davies contacted Professor David Emery, Pro-Dean and Professor of Parasitology with the Veterinary Faculty at the University of Syndey. Together with Jackie Dalton, Development Officer at the Veterinary Foundation from the University of Sydney, it was decided that the Taronga Conservation Society of Australia had to be part of this project for any real chance of success.

Taronga's experience was to be the key; its black rhino program at its Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, some five hours from Sydney, has bred more animals than anywhere else outside of Africa. At the same time, Davies secured the approval of the South African authorities, and in December 2013 the Australian Rhino Project was launched.

The plan is to bring 80 rhinos to Australia, developing a breeding herd as insurance against extinction. Once, or if, the situation stabilises the rhinos and its prodigy will be put back into the wild, and not only in South Africa. It is a monstrous task costing approximately $8 million. The cost for one rhino is one hundred thousand dollars, with the bulk of the cost going to air transportation.

Ray Dearlove, Co-founder The Australian Rhino Project

Upon touchdown in Australia, Ray Dearlove told Mayorgate, “The rhinos will go into quarantine (as per the Australian government's laws), thereafter the rhinos will move to one of several locations, for fairly obvious reasons these locations will not be disclosed. All movement of endangered species is governed by CITES [the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] – to which we adhere to the letter.

Mayorgate asked Dearlove why was he doing this, what was he going to get from it? His response was clear. “Alexander this is a personal passion. I am not paid by anyone. I do this because I believe that if I or you or others don't do something about it, who will? We cannot let these animals become extinct on our watch.

Indeed the question is, who will? WWF-South Africa announced in 2010 the first World Rhino Day, an idea that germinated in the mind and heart of Lisa Jane Campbell of Chishakwe Ranch in Zimbabwe. A Global March Against Extinction was held in London on October 3rd and 4th this year, focusing on both elephants and rhinos. But awareness is not needed here in the West, the demand for tusks and horns stream from China and Vietnam. Memorandums of Understanding have been signed between China and South Africa, yet the slaughter continues. It is not only the rhino that poachers butcher; the elephant population has dropped from 109,051 in 2009 to 43,330 in 2014.

Recent news of a 66-year old Chinese woman with ties to the Chinese and Tanzanian elite, Yang Feng Glan, arrested in Dares Salaam, Tanzania for smuggling 700 tusks brings only shock and revulsion. Corruption is an important key behind the smuggling which supplies an insane demand – no MOU can pierce through that.

Rhino horn is used by the Vietnamese and Chinese because they believe it will help a man with an erection and will wipe away a hangover. Yet the horn is nothing but keratin, and for this the slaughter of rhinos has increased from 333 to 1215 in just four years.

Will an MOU or a march through the streets of London stop a man like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe? For his 91st birthday, he fed his guests a young elephant, buffaloes, sables, impalas and more, while a lion and crocodile were slaughtered, stuffed and presented to him as gifts. This indifference to life is beyond alarming.

It is undeniable that there are brave individuals like Ray Dearlove and Allan Davies, who believe that we cannot simply sit back and do nothing. Rangers in the Kruger National Park, together with people like Chris Palmer, risk their lives to stop poachers. Yet the slaughter continues, fueled by a demand based on nothing more than superstition, a demand that will not slow down for the foreseeable future.

The time has come for real and constructive action before it is too late. The Australian Rhino Project in its September 2015 newsletter finished with these words from Ray Dearlove: “Not for one moment do we suggest that our proposal to build this breeding herd in Australia is the answer, rather it is but one strand in a complex strategy in the fight against the poaching of these iconic animals. We leave you with one thought. Please do not think that extinction in the wild 'won't happen'. Just a few weeks ago we were informed that the Sumatran Rhino became extinct in the wild in Malaysia.”

Can anyone willingly allow these creatures to be wiped off the face of this Earth and not want to do something to save them?

No man, woman or child can remain blind or untouched by the suffering captured in the still eyes of a slain rhino. Equally there is no human being as a guardian of a tear drop of compassion who can become deaf to the cries of loss emanating from a baby rhino cub. In our hands, we have the power to change all of this.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The horsemen cross the Steppes of Ukraine

Power is an aphrodisiac that few men and women are able to control, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin has been intimate with its allure since his early days with the KGB. Still, the West believes that democracy, or at least their style of democracy, can be forced onto the people of Eastern Europe. America leads this crusade not only in Eastern Europe but just as feverishly in the Middle East, all too often with disastrous results both in the loss of innocent lives and that of simple dollars and cents.

The current conflict between Russia and Ukraine is embedded as deeply in the history of the region as it is in the lust for domination by Russia over its surrounding neighbours. Vladimir Putin still believes in the same maniacal aspirations of Stalin and of the great Russian state, although unlike Stalin, he is an astute businessman with weaponry at his disposal that Stalin could never comprehend. This is not to say that Putin has completely abandoned the military might of Russia's army, with its tanks and well trained troops. There have been rumours of Russian soldiers fighting in the self-proclaimed People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Russia has denied direct military involvement and claims to only protect Russian citizens and its border with Ukraine.

Today, the West is faced with a stand-off against Russia over the issue of Ukraine. Sanctions imposed by the US and its allies have had some effect on the Russian economy, with the ruble collapsing against the US dollar 50 to 1, though it is not all due to the sanctions, as Russia has suffered heavily with the massive drop in oil prices. Russia's economy heading into a recession, Putin knows how to keep the minds of average Russians diverted from such a mess. He has simply given the people an issue of protecting fellow Russians against threat and persecution.

Crimea was annexed by Russia in March of 2014 and the Ukrainian conflict found world headlines. Putin was simply able to point out that Nikita Khrushchev had made a grave error in 1954 when he transferred the Crimean Oblast to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Today, with its population being fifty percent Russian and the fact that Russia parks its mighty Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, it was only natural that Crimea needed to return to the arms of Mother Russia.

In response to the annexation, the EU and the US raised the stakes with their sanctions against some of the powerful elite around Putin. Major oil firms Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft were targeted; Bank Rossiya, Gazprombank and Sberbank have found themselves on the EU and US blacklists, as well as some of Putin's inner circle. Yuri Kovalchuk and Nikolai Shamalov found themselves blacklisted, while Arkady Rotenberg, Sergei Chemezov and Vyacheslav Volodin all face travel bans and western asset freezes.

Among all the frenzy of threat and counter-threat regarding sanctions, it is still questionable who is hurting more, Russia or the EU. The EU's trade with Russia simply outweighs that of the US, and in 2012 was worth almost 270 billion euros. Although Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to support the Obama-led ideology of sanctions as punishment, the German economy is facing serious problems with the loss of business with Russia, as German exports to Russia in 2013 totaled 38 billion euros – the highest of all EU members. With summer drawing to an end Germany has to consider the fact that more than thirty percent of its oil and gas is imported from Russia. Russia has retaliated with an embargo on food imports from the EU, US, Canada, and Australia.

Vladimir Putin is not simply an out of control thug who is trying to push some socialist ideology down the throats of his neighbours. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Putin, who had been stationed in East Germany, retired from the KGB with the rank of Colonel. Attaching himself to Anatoly Sobchak, then Mayor of Leningrad, Putin's political rise was nothing more than meteoric. In 1998 Putin moved to Moscow; this time he found himself as head of management under Boris Yeltsin's administration. Yeltsin dismissed his Prime Minister in August 1999, promoting Putin to the position, and in December that year Yeltsin resigned as President of Russia, appointing Vladimir Putin as acting President. From a retired Colonel in the KGB to President of Russia in eight years makes Putin an astute, calculating tactician and a very cunning opponent, whose motivations are always well disguised regardless of what is heard publicly.

In 2010, Russia set on a new international course with the formation of the BRICS group of prominent emerging economies, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Now they have agreed on the formation of the New Development Bank, whose goal is to provide funds for infrastructure projects in member nations, and aside from this lofty ideal, it will be able to challenge both the IMF and World Bank with their influence on international politics. For decades the IMF and World Bank have been able to hold a mortgage on nations and therefore interfere with their domestic politics. The members of the BRICS group make up forty percent of the world's population and wield a combined economy of approximately $16 trillion. This figure will grow as each member nation launches further with development programs and economic growth. Each of the BRICS member nations have an equal share and voting power with no one nation given the power of veto. In addition to international finance, Vladimir Putin has been developing greater inroads into the EU and their need for Russian gas.

The Blue Stream is a major trans-Black Sea gas pipeline that carries natural gas from Russia to Turkey; gas began to flow in February 2003. Russia proposed to build another pipeline called the South Stream but the EU passed the Third Energy Package, which stated Russia could not own and control pipelines on EU territory. Putin's response was to cancel the project in December 2014 and file a lawsuit against the EU with the World Trade Organisation.

Now Russia has put into development a new pipeline from the Black Sea to Turkey called the Turkish Stream. The first line of pipe is expected to be completed by December 2016, providing gas to a relay station in Greece and massive economic potential for that country. At the same time, Greece has been given an invitation to join the BRICS nations and a possible pre-payment of $10 billion on future gas production. Such an injection of cash would allow Greece to revert back to the drachma, dropping the euro and providing the first substantial crack in European unity. Although Greece accepted an 86 billion euro bailout recently, it was Putin's attempt at manipulation that should not be taken lightly.

Putin understands world politics and understands that time is needed to achieve all his apparent goals. He has been able to hold on to power in Russia for some fourteen years and is not likely ready to relinquish it. The Russian people have supported Putin mainly because he brought a change to their lives with a growing economy, better jobs and better pay. Real opposition does not exist in Russia and treatment of any dissent is swift and harsh.

Putin's democracy puts up with public demonstrations only for the West to see, when in reality the government of Russia acts no differently than in Stalin's time. Alexei Navalny has been an outspoken critic of the Putin government and its massive corruption. He had led protests with tens of thousands marching in the streets of Moscow three years ago. Since then, Alexei Navalny has faced charges of embezzlement and was sentenced to house arrest. Navalny's popularity has not waned and only finds support growing with accusations against Putin's government that the charges were a farce only aimed to silence him. In December 2014, Oleg Navalny, the brother of Alexei, was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for the same embezzlement. European officials saw this ruling as a politically motivated act to suppress any real opposition. Alexei Navalny has openly stated that the decision to jail his brother Oleg was simply an act of terror aimed to silence him.

Regardless of the opinions of European or any Western officials, Putin's Russia will continue on its course. Domestic politics will never be affected by the weak pressures exerted by the West. Whether it is the Navalny brothers or Pussy Riot, dissent will be crushed in the traditional way.

As the West continues on its illusionary course of economic sanctions, the death toll in Ukraine has risen well over 7000. Ceasefire agreements do not appear to hold as both sides are willing to breach those agreements with little or no provocation. Rebels in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, who the West argues are armed and supplemented by Russian troops, are claiming to be fighting for heir to freedom from Ukrainian forces. Both of those regions have very large populations of Russians, with Russian being both their predominate language.

If the premise of democracy is the right to choose one's own government then the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Luhansk and Donetsk should be recognised. On the other hand can the Ukrainian government permit the splintering of their country through manipulation by another nation? These questions are not easy to answer when outside interference is thrown in the midst of all the rhetoric. The world, led by US President Obama, has decided to punish Putin's Russia over accusations of manipulation and interference. Yet it is the US who has interfered in domestic politics of nations since the '50s with the Bay of Pigs, and US-led coalitions have openly invaded countries under a guise equivalent to the Crusades. Defending democracy, and more recently, stamping out terrorism have been their catch cries and no one has objected.

Can anyone underestimate Vladimir Putin? The answer is a definite no. The world as a union has seen the result of inaction before, who can forget the British Prime Minister Chamberlain's comments after his meeting with Adolf Hitler, and his Peace for Our Time speech? In Ukraine it is hard to deny that Russia has armed the rebels and has provided manpower in this battle. At the same time the West claims justification in their economic stranglehold through sanctions, stating that it only wants Russia to remain neutral and maybe only cheer from the sidelines. Amongst all the posturing and accusations, the most disturbing aspect of this situation is how willing all the players are at sacrificing the pawns. Images of a woman in tears standing in front of her home, demolished by bombs in a struggle she doesn't fully comprehend tell the true story.

Since the struggle began more than 7000 innocent lives had been lost, while ceasefire violations continually provide obstacles to reaching a solution. In reality the West has no control over what is going to happen in Ukraine. Proposals to tighten sanctions only provide a greater opportunity for bullying. Both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions will eventually pull away from Ukraine, and if a supposed ceasefire holds it will only be temporary.

Democracy in Eastern Europe must find its own flavour and not be forced onto people who had only known struggle for centuries. The US acts like an arrogant child chastising its parents for not being 'tech-savvy,' forgetting how much the parents really know. Ukraine has had centuries of struggle and occupation to live through, from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth through to roving hoards of Tartars and even its own Cossacks. Eventually when Stalin's Russia occupied Ukraine, instead of peace its people had to survive the chlodomor, or the 'hunger-extermination', with estimates ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 million killed. During World War II many Ukrainians fought on the German side in fear of Russian occupation. Relative peace came during Khrushchev's time but now the horror of death and uncertainty has risen again.

Neither Russia nor the West has a right to interfere in Ukraine's domestic politics, yet it is clear both will do so. Vladimir Putin is a dangerous individual to underestimate. He is clever and cunning; the strong, decisive leader that average Russians want. Though it is the people of Ukraine who are caught in the middle of this international head-butting. It is time for them to decide the direction their country should travel in. Sanctions have hurt the EU as much, if not more, than they have hurt Russia, and the resolve to continue them will crumble in the end. At the same time no one will go to war over Ukraine, leaving only Ukrainians to decide what the answer to all of this may be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Brian McMullan Finally Under Oath

Brian McMullan occupied the position of Mayor of the City of St. Catharines for two terms, from 2006 through to 2014. He decided not to fight for re-election in 2014 and left his position under a cloud of questions. During his term in office censorship was a key to his survival. The main local newspaper, The Standard, had its senior reporter Marlene Bergsma lie in print during then Mayor Brian McMullan's 2010 re-election campaign. Later, reporter Grant LaFleche ignored all the details of a failed attempt at intimidation by Brian McMullan of a fellow Niagara Regional Councillor, Andy Petrowski. Grant LaFleche was present at the courthouse, spoke with Brian McMullan's lawyer, and still did not find anything that was of public interest. Now this farce finally comes to an end and Brian McMullan's lawyer, Christopher Bittle, of Lancaster, Brooks and Welch has filed for a court date in an attempt to shut down the truth, even though McMullan is no longer in office.

On April 14th 2015, the Superior Court of Justice issued a Notice of Trial between Brian McMullan and Alexander Davidoff, publisher of Mayorgate, set for July 7th and 8th 2015, in Small Claims Courtroom #2. Finally, Brian McMullan will be put under oath; no political language to maneuver with in answering questions which had demanded attention for a long time.

In Canada there is still a belief in the unbias principles of law that truth and equality will prevail. Canada as a society had to deal with issues surrounding the current Bill C-51 and diminishing rights to freedom of speech, but as Canadians we have been able to do so in open public debate. This in itself is testimony to the strength of our democratic foundation. Brian McMullan has used the law as a thug uses a club to threaten and intimidate into silence what is the truth. Now at his own hands he has provided the one forum which he cannot silence or bully.

It has been a long road. In 2011 Brian McMullan used Christopher Bittle and the law firm Lancaster, Brooks and Welch to issue a threat. Mayorgate's response was clear and simple: the threat was made public and the evidence equally public. Brian McMullan, Christopher Bittle, and Lancaster, Brooks & Welch LLP backed off.

Our democracy is based on a principle of freedom of speech. The Supreme Court of Canada not only confirmed this most treasured principle but went further to enhance the protection of our freedom particularly as it relates to journalists and what is to be considered fair comment. In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its judgement in the WIC Radio Ltd & Simpson case, and then again in 2009 with another case, Grant v Torstar Corp, changing the landscape of libel and slander actions. Even though defence against such legal action had been dramatically strengthened, SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) are still a weapon of harassment and intimidation.

SLAPP suits are a simple thing: they are tools of intimidation and harassment used to silence not only freedom of speech but also the free flow of information. As children we are taught to ask questions when there is anything that puzzles us and never feel embarrassed to do so. As adults we are simply encouraged to shut up. Asking questions may be natural to us human beings but they become a bother to some and can definitely be dangerous to the one asking them. Journalists thrive on asking questions and providing commentary which stimulates discussion, which then stimulates more questions. If this cycle was not considered dangerous or uncomfortable by some there would be no SLAPP-sters.

Brian McMullan is a SLAPP-ster, Christopher Bittle is a SLAPP-ster but only small time, as this action was filed in the Small Claims Court. The whole concept of the judicial system is designed so that its lowest tier, Small Claims Division, provides for speedy resolution of grievances. McMullan's Notice of Action was first served on July 7th 2014, that is almost a year ago, or at least would be a year at trial date. As a matter of fact it would turn out to be an anniversary gift and this time I, as publisher of Mayorgate, would say “it's what I've always wanted” and mean every word of it.

As a step towards potential resolution of a claim and prior to a trial, both parties are required to appear at a mandatory settlement conference, in this case it was set for December 9th 2014. Originally the settlement conference was set by the court for October 20th but Christopher Bittle found conflict with his schedule. A mandatory settlement conference requires that both the plaintiff and defendant appear, but on December 9th there was no sign of Brian McMullan. No reason was given, but then McMullan's contempt for the law had surfaced more than once in the past, and as the defendant it was within the Rules of Civil Procedure to demand an adjournment till such time that McMullan appeared in person. I had no intention to settle anything, even though Christopher Bittle's demands were greatly reduced on behalf of his client, unless McMullan withdrew his action in full. This settlement conference ended with a statement by Bittle that a trial date would be applied for by his client.

It took months, in actuality over four months, before the application for trial was filed. No sooner had a trial date been set by the courts that an email arrived from Christoper Bittle's assistant. Once again there were problems with schedules and an adjournment was requested, this time to late August depending on the judge.

A trial will finally open the doors to truth being released. Christopher Bittle bragged that he was going to have many of the documents in my Statement of Defence dismissed; apparently the volume of material had frightened him. Maybe he forgot that it was his client who opened Pandora's Box with his accusations and under law I have the right to ask questions on everything that he brought up in his Statement of Claim and Notice of Action.

The SLAPP-ing began on July 7th 2014 with McMullan's Notice of Action. In this Notice of Action Christoper Bittle claimed, “The above noted allegations are false and are presented as fact without any evidence of support.” Full evidence of support lies in the hundreds of pages of the defence statement and the questions about to be raised at trial relating to the evidence, where answers will be given under oath. Bittle claimed further, “You have alleged the following conduct on the part of Mr. McMullan that is false.” Again Bittle, on behalf of his client called me a liar. Finally this claim by Bittle, “Your articles wrongly state an allegation of an affair as truth and use that as a basis to malign Mr. McMullan's character. These allegations are untrue.” Again calling me and my website, Mayorgate, a liar.

According to the Rules of Civil Procedure, once an action begins with a Notice of Action, regardless of what tier in the court system, nothing changes in that action. In October 2014, Brian McMullan had the full divorce file sealed from public access. Sealing a divorce file is not an easy thing particularly as there are no small children involved. McMullan himself was only a mayor, a public servant and nothing more. What were the grounds which McMullan had presented to have the seal enforced? The actual divorce filing by Mrs. McMullan was made public on the internet, was that disclosed to the judge before a decision was handed down?

The tag team of McMullan and Bittle made the accusation in their Notice of Action that the allegation of an affair between Brian McMullan and former Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman was false. This accusation was made even after the copies of a divorce filing was made available publicly on Mayorgate. Everything that is in the sealed divorce file is potential evidence for my defence and will be unsealed.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario had placed a heavy evidentiary burden on litigants who seek non-publication and sealing orders, M.E.H v Russell Williams 2012 ON CA 35 (Doherty, Armstrong, Hoy, SSA). In addition, the Supreme Court of Canada requires an applicant to prove both necessity and proportionality. R v Mentuck (2001) 3.5. C.R. 442. 2001 SCC 76 at para 32.

A publication ban of court proceedings should only be ordered when:

a) such an order is necessary in order to prevent a serious risk to the proper administration of justice because reasonably alternative measures will not prevent the risk; and

b) the statutory effects of the publication ban outweigh the deleterious effects on the rights and interests of the parties and the public, including the effects on the right to free expression, the right of the accused to a fair and public trial, and the efficiency of the administration of justice.”

At the end of it all Richard G. Dearden a partner with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Ottawa had summarised the whole issue of seals on court records with, “The Court of Appeal for Ontario has affirmed that family law proceedings are not different from any other type of civil proceeding. Openness is the rule. Secrecy is the exception. Litigants have an extremely high evidentiary threshold to overcome to obtain any secrecy regarding Court proceedings and records filed in Court files.

In this case what had McMullan, Mr. or Mrs., provided to the Motion Judge that satisfied the Dagenais/Mentuck test for obtaining non-publication or sealing orders, as set by the Supreme Court of Canada, or the heavy evidentiary burden imposed by the Court of Appeal for Ontario? Now the question of proper administration of justice faces the demands of absolute openness of all potential evidence in order to present a fair and proper defence against accusations made by Brian McMullan.

In this case there is no question of media hounding the poor thing, wanting to publish personal or embarrassing details; McMullan had and still has absolute control over what is published by the only real newspaper here. Censorship had been the key to the two terms in office for Brian McMullan and can be easily proven, even to a panel of judges. The McMullans do not have any small children and as far as emotional embarrassment is concerned, that is not enough to seal any documents. Divorces happen every day for all kinds of reasons, so what makes the McMullan divorce a national secret?

Fear is the only possible motivator, but fear of what? It is not of 'the media,' so is it fear of Mayorgate? Does the divorce prove that McMullan lied in court documents? Do the divorce files prove that the threat and harassment of Mayorgate was planned and calculated? It will now be up to the Court of Appeal of Ontario to decide if this seal is going to remain. The administration of justice will not be blocked and evidence removed from the accused by this sealing order. Christopher Bittle may find conflict with his schedule as far as a trial date is concerned and no objection has been raised against an adjournment, but there will be no trial till the divorce file is unsealed and made available for open review by the accused in this SLAPP suit. Brian McMullan has only one other choice – withdraw his action against Mayorgate.

As a final attempt to request documentation that should be available for public inspection, on June 16th 2015, I went to the Family Law Division Enquiry Counter in the St. Catharines Courthouse. Prior to making my approach I researched the Public Prosecution Service of Canada website to understand what is required to be filed in an application for a sealing order. It stated that “an application for a sealing order must be accompanied by appropriate supporting documents, a) a notice of application; b) an affidavit in support, disclosing sufficient reasons why the order should be made and the conditions sought in the order; c) a draft order.

My request was simple, to review the Sealing Order as handed down by the Judge with all its conditions and reasoning. First I spoke to the Information Services Lawyer, Gary Bracken, who confirmed that I would be within my right to make this request. He was told that I had been refused by the staff on the enquiry counter before. This was hard for him to believe, so he walked over to the counter with me. At the time, the judge was speaking with two women in the back of the office; Mr. Bracken confirmed that this was her court. One woman at the counter got up to leave and refused to speak to me, the second said that as the file was sealed, the Order was sealed. She refused any attempt at requesting a review of the Order and went so far as to say that the Order would not have anything in it that I was looking for! Gary Bracken, was shocked and said that they “were protecting or covering their butts.” Who have these enquiry staff got to be afraid of, or why? Who were they willing to lie for?

The Court of Appeal for Ontario will unseal this file and this insane breach of procedure will end. Every word of what happened on June 16th 2015 can be proven and all the details will be sent to the Minister for the Attorney General of Ontario. McMullan's legacy will be brought to an end in a courtroom, the rest is his choice.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Year Five, What A Riot!

Dictionaries provide a rather cold view on what an anniversary is, simply explaining it as an event which occurred on the same date a previous year. Many a husband had found himself sleeping on the couch of one for simply having such a similar view. On the other hand, an anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate with pride the achievements of a past year and look forward to a new year filled with aspirations and confidence. After all, the past provided experience to expand, knowledge to grow and understanding to deepen, all that you do.

June broke out of the starting gates with an Ontario Provincial election. Locally in St. Catharines, the hometown of Mayorgate, incumbent Jim Bradley only had what may have been considered as comic relief for potential opposition. MPP Jim Bradley was the eventual winner for the Ontario Liberals as expected, and his opponents faded back to their pre-election routines. Former Niagara Regional Councillor Debbie Zimmerman objected to the article Degradation of Public Office which exposed the divorce filed by Mrs. Patricia McMullan. Zimmerman sued Mayorgate claiming she had been defamed and to date this issue is floating somewhere in legal limbo.

Any free society finds itself torn between the principle of privacy and the open access to information. All the provinces in Canada have Privacy Commissioners and all levels of government establish some type of privacy information officers, yet the line between what should be kept private and what information should be made freely available continues to rage. A greater problem arises when privacy officers themselves show bias, raising serious questions of objectivity as had been done in the article titled Privacy vs FOI.

July brought a bigger surprise from former St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan, in the form of a legal threat. Back in 2011 Brian McMullan had his lawyer Christopher Bittle of Lancaster, Brooks and Welch LLP., issue a Notice of Action. After Mayorgate's response nothing more was heard from the McMullan/Bittle tag team. Now in July 2014 Christopher Bittle of Lancaster, Brooks and Welch LLP. issued another threat in the form of a Notice of Action. Brian McMullan Opens Pandora's Box will in time become his epitaph. This time McMullan found the courage or simple arrogant stupidity to file a Statement of Claim and Mayorgate has three lawsuits on the go.

Traditional media with its political alliances has lost a great deal of trust from the public. A new world has opened with the growth of the internet and particularly with bloggers. Unlike the journalists of old who are paid by a media giant with political bias, bloggers are free from such influence. Mayorgate itself began life in opposition to the self imposed censorship which had taken absolute control in the Niagara Region. Now Mayorgate has the honour of fighting three lawsuits designed to shut down freedom of speech, to shut down discussion and to keep silent any facts which would be public interest.

Several months were spent on preparing Affidavits of Documents, Motions of Record, and traversing Examinations for Discovery relating to the lawsuit by the Board of Directors of the Paderewski Society Home. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Rachel Slingerland of Martens Lingard LLP had tried to circumvent the Rules of Civil Procedure, particularly in relation to who would be examined during the Examination for Discovery. After weeks of ridiculous posturing Slingerland lost a Motion Hearing brought against her and the examinations were able to finally proceed. It was an interesting process which provided evidence given under oath which was invaluable.

In addition to the legal hoops which needed attention with the Paderewski action, Brian McMullan and the publisher of Mayorgate were ordered into a mandatory settlement conference for December 9th 2014. No settlement was reached even though McMullan's demands had been somewhat reduced to a new level. Mayorgate will not shake hands with an individual who is afraid of the truth and keeps deceit as a pet on a leash.

Municipal elections were scheduled for October 2014 and in preparation, Mayorgate sought out various forms of advertising. In the end, outdoor advertising was considered most appropriate and a local company called OMG Niagara was contacted. Contracts were signed, monies paid but no advertising appeared. Gary Dingwall owned and operated OMG Niagara; he left an obscene telephone message, and later sold off OMG and disappeared. Maryorgate's cheeky monkeys were left standing by the side of the road asking, “was it something we said?”

Mayorgate's roots have always been in the Niagara area covering issues often left in the cold by local media. Over the years such topics as flooding in a neighbourhood which left damaged homes, or a double amputee who was not able to safely maneuver his wheelchair into his bathroom, had caught the attention of Mayorgate and its readers. A terrible incident which left a young 22 year old with potentially life long implications brought back this fire and set the juices boiling again.

The world we live in had not changed much since December's article Looking Forward, Looking Back. At the end of that article a brief and possibly flitting wish for a better year ahead was in reality only a dream. Paris and January 7th brought a new horror with an explosion of violence aimed once again at innocent and defenceless victims.

Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in Paris found itself the target of Muslim extremists and twelve of its cartoonist/journalists were butchered. Terror is a weapon of cowards and its victims nearly always innocent and defenceless, people who have no chance of survival. No innocent victim of terror can be discounted as insignificant yet the world's reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks was astounding. This time governments around the world reacted with political measures that can only destroy the most treasured foundation of democracy. France tabled its Bill on Intelligence, Canada Bill 51, both claiming to strengthen the protection of its people against terrorists by reducing its own people's rights and freedoms.

The internet provided the forum that gave birth to Mayorgate, now once again it provided the vehicle which allowed Mayorgate to interview French citizens after the Charlie Hebdo terror attack. Though this is not the first time Mayorgate was able to connect directly with people at the center of a story. Previously Mayorgate spoke with Chris Palmer, an Aussie who is on the ground in Africa fighting poachers to protect our incredible and beautiful beasts. Palmer's personal comments and photos opened a different aspect to the horror of this slaughter and a war we appear to be losing. This time comments from French residents who lived through such a tumultuous period in Paris brought a different perspective to news headlines.

Mayorgate will continue to provide articles that spawn thought and discussion. No legal threat with SLAPP suits will succeed to silence the freedom of speech, even though the cheeky monkeys of Mayorgate had to draw out the riot shields for protection. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo's Aftermath

The world woke to a new horror at the hands of terrorists on January 7th 2015. Warriors of Muhammad, with their faces covered and wielding automatic weapons, stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. These Warriors of Muhammad slaughtered 12 innocent people, journalists who poked fun at everyone, not only Muslims and their fanatical doctrines. No one escaped the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, no religion or politician. Its circulation was a mere 30,000 which in itself was a demonstrator that the mainstream audience rejected Charlie Hebdo's sense of humour. Still, it is the basic foundation of a free society to permit freedom of speech and expression even when it is against the general flow of acceptance.

Terrorists often claim that their acts are justified as they stand against an enemy wielding greater power. Yet the taking of innocent lives is never justified, regardless of what the struggle may be. In Paris there was no formidable enemy; only journalists and cartoonists. If any weapon was to be claimed to have been wielded it was a pencil.

Innocent blood was spilled in the name of a religion that sees no need for tolerance or acceptance of others. No justification can exist for such an act, not even among moderate Muslims. This barbarous act of terror brought about an outcry of revulsion from around the globe, as politicians joined hands to walk the streets of Paris and journalists everywhere declared that they will not be silenced by the threat of terror. Survivors at Charlie Hebdo declared that they were preparing their next issue in defiance and in honour of their comrades who had been taken from them.

As human beings we raise our voices in the face of a tragic or particularly violent act, as much in gratitude that we were not the victims as in defiance to the terror. In Paris, the terrorists attacked a symbol of free speech; the victims were not villagers in Africa, they were journalists. At the time of the event it did not matter whether anyone agreed with the style of journalism at Charlie Hebdo, the simple fact that journalists were mercilessly butchered meant our combined freedoms were attacked.

Hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in Paris and around the world gathered to raise signs declaring that they were all 'Charlie'. A gathering of international political figures willing to hold hands and walk the streets of Paris in apparent support of journalistic freedom became headline news in every corner of the globe. But what was the real motivation behind such a public showing of detente between these world leaders?

Journalists have faced bullets and artillery fire lighting the night skies to bring stories and photographs that have stayed in our memories for generations. In recent years it has not been war that has extinguished such endevours: it has been the need to silence truth and fact. Torture, threat and coercion have been tools to both terrorise and control journalistic freedom. In North America, the use of SLAPP suits, Strategic Lawsuit(s) Against Public Participation, have taken the place of guns and torture. America itself woke up to reports of journalists being threatened by police officers during coverage of the racial tension in Ferguson, Missouri.

Regardless of which single or combination of acts aimed to silence free speech one was to examine, none had brought such an outpouring of public sentiment. Charlie Hebdo was never a part of the mainstream media; co-founder Henri Roussel had criticised the direction it had taken and in turn was condemned by Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo's lawyer. Still, the massacre of these twelve cartoonists and journalists brought Parisians together. It brought a promise from France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls that the fight against terrorism and jihadism shall be a long battle.

The attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo was France's equivalent of the bombing of New York's World Trade Center. Granted, the scale and number of innocent casualties were not the same, but the shock on a nation was equal.

It had been possible to get direct reaction from French citizens through social media. Cherif Bouargue, living in Le Havre, Normandy, explained how the people of France were affected by January 7th, “for the beginning sorry for my english. You first have to know what kind of newspaper was Charlie Hebdo. It was very satiric and a few people read it. The illustrators were really talented. The 7th January sound like a storm, it was so unbelievable it look so like a movie. I'm living at Le Havre in Normandie. Its about 200km from Paris. I went to the Place de la Republique in Paris on the 7 January. I meet two friend of mine. The people were like a boxer which is near the KO, but everybody was taking strength from his neighbour. “Je Suis Charlie” was an obvious fact even for people who had never read it.”

Amelie Dufaut, an artist from La Rochelle, France, said “my friends called me in the morning to tell me, I was like shocked. I think there is no word to describe what I felt on the moment, I was touched and feeling attacked in my liberty cause those were great and smart guys who got killed for “no” real reasons!” Amelie went on to say, “when I got back to France, one week after the event, there were still some kind of unity between people but it is terrible to say but it faded away days after days. Now back to normal, like really normal, no difference with before the events kinda sad!”

French men and women had survived the shock and terror of January 7th and continued on with their daily routines. Family and friends of the innocent victims of this terror will grieve much longer and carry the pain of their loss forever. Charlie Hebdo as a publication had gone from an obscure satirical newspaper to a print run in the millions and awards bestowed for its 'courage'. Yet France will never be the same after these events.

Article 1 of the French National Assembly states, “France shall be an indivisible, secular Democratic and Social Republic. It shall assure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.” Since the events of January 7th, the French government has tabled the Bill on Intelligence, a bill that gives intelligence agencies new and frightening powers.

Edward Snowden, who leaked to the world how America had spied not only on its own citizens but that of the whole world, once said “It's in times of panic that we lose rights.” In America the World Trade Center bombing brought massive hysteria across the country. Within this climate of fear came aberrations with the Patriot Act, Homeland Security and Guantanamo Bay. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) found that it was not only Edward Snowden who was an enemy, but also truth itself with the release of a report on the methods of torture employed by the CIA at Guantanamo Bay.

'Truth Seekers' in the name of freedom and for the purpose of protecting the American way of life, dehumanised individuals in the most barbaric and horrendous fashion. Dick Cheney, former Vice President of the United States, publicly said that he would do it all over again and even more. This report describing the actions of the CIA found public airing and comment, but quickly died. None of the individuals who committed the torture would ever face any consequence while the American public are more interested in the economy and baseball. After the release of the torture report, Ines Pohl, editor-in-chief of the often satirical German newspaper Die Tageszeitug said, “This report is the proof of how a country can be misled when it becomes ruled by fear.” ( by Lauren McCauley, January 14th, 2015 'Days After Free Speech Rally France Arrests 54 People for Offensive Speech')

French Prime Minister Valls claimed that “this is not a French Patriot Act. Under this new law, surveillance will be the jurisdiction of the administration without a judge's approval. The Bill on Intelligence will also provide previously unheard of power to the Prime Minister to authorise any form of monitoring without judicial oversight. Mass surveillance is no longer a fictional bogeyman, the 'ISMI Catcher' spy devices will be permitted to be used in so-called 'exceptional cases'. These devices are able to blanket a specific area and capture all types of phone, internet or text messaging conversations. In addition to the surveillance, spy agencies will be permitted by this bill to hack computers and other devices, again without any judicial control.

Human Rights organisations such as Privacy International, Amnesty International, the International Federation of Human Rights, the League of Human Rights, and Reporters Without Borders have expressed serious concerns about this Bill on Intelligence. Only a few months after the huge Unity March, people gathered in protest in the streets of Paris, displaying their fears of losing their rights to freedom and privacy. France now faces the greatest threat to its freedom and democracy but it's not from terrorists.

America established the Patriot Act after the 911 bombings, resulting in the CIA torture camps and a new rationale in its government which permits anything as long as it's in the name of security. Canada has also decided to follow as a dance partner in this conga line pulsating to a beat of security in the face of world terrorism. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had introduced Bill C-51, or the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, a “proposed legislation to amend over a dozen Canadian laws, including the Criminal Code, to permit Canadian government agencies to share information about individuals with ease, and broadens the mandate of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).” (Wikipedia – Bill C-51 41st Canadian Parliament, 2nd Session)

In Canada there was nothing equivalent to the horror of the World Trade Center bombing, nor was there anything like the events surrounding Charlie Hebdo. There is a statement by Defense Minister Jason Kenney, “I think it's obvious that the attacks in October were at least inspired by the insane vision of ISIS... a genocidal terrorist organization that has explicitly, and on several occasions, said that it's targeting Canada.” The first attack Kenney referred to was on October 20th 2014. Martin Couture-Rouleau deliberately rammed a car at two Canadian soldiers at a shopping mall in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. On October 22nd 2014 a shooting at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario by Michael Lehaf-Bibeau left a Canadian soldier dead as well as the suspect. In addition, the RCMP had claimed that between 2013 and 2014 there were 12 “threat-to-VIP” incidents, yet the RCMP had not provided any details as to what kind of threats or who were these 'very important people.'

After all the debates and even demonstrations against Bill C-51, it is the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association's (BCCLA) condensed analysis that puts the whole thing into perspective. The BCCLA provided 8 clear and simple points which break down the over 60 pages of the Anti-Terrorism Act. They are as follows:

1. Bill C-51 drastically expands the definition of 'security'.

2. It gives the government too much discretion to pick and choose which individuals and groups to target for further scrutiny.

3. It criminalises speech acts that have no connection to acts of violence.

4. It will severely chill freedom of speech.

5. Canada's no-fly list would become a secret list compiled with secret evidence, only reviewable through court proceedings that may also be secret.

6. It will allow government institutions like Health Canada and the Canadian Revenue Agency to share information about you with the RCMP.

7. Canada already has a troubling regime of preventative arrest and detention; Bill C-51 proposes to make it even worse.

8. It would give CSIS the power to act like a police force, while still allowing it to operate secretly as an intelligence gathering service.

(posted on March 11, 2015. By Alyssa Stryker, BCCLA Caseworker, and Carmen Cheung, BCCLA Senior Counsel)

Protests against Bill C-51 had been wide ranging with 100 law professors who had written against it. Thomas Mulcair, leader of the federal NDP Party said, “Canadians should not have to choose between security and their rights.” Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada stated that she had “a number of concerns with the proposed legislation” and wants it “scrapped entirely.” In addition, four former Prime Ministers; Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Joe Clark and John Turner, had published a joint statement that in part said “serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security.” Others who signed the statement were five former Supreme Court Justices, seven former Liberal Solicitor Generals and Ministers of Justice.

Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, said on February 14th , 2015, “It was only a few months ago that I stood in this very room to address Canadians in the wake of the shootings here on Parliament Hill. The horrific events in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa will not soon be forgotten, nor should they be. They were cowardly acts, unarmed men were murdered in cold blood at close range. These attacks on both our military and our most cherished democratic symbols were designed to frighten us. They were meant to embed within our minds an image of terror. They were meant to make us think differently about our surroundings and fellow citizens.”

Whether it was the horror of the World Trade Center bombings in New York, the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, or a lone, home-grown, mentally disturbed individual in Canada, freedom had taken one step closer each time to George Orwell's vision. Fear had become the rule of law, with supposed security as the main criteria over democracy. Rhetoric like that of Justin Trudeau is meant to perpetuate fear when only inspiration can be pointed to, rather than any concrete evidence.

German magazine Der Spiegel published an article by journalist Christoph Reuter on the apparent secret blueprint hidden within the actions of the Islamic State. The Haji Bakr documents were given to Der Spiegel by an individual wishing to stay anonymous, fearing the Islamic State's death squads. Amongst all this fear and reaction from western nations to the terrorist threat, a nagging question begs to be acknowledged. Is it possible that a master plan exists which uses Islamic fanatics to keep the western powers occupied while a more sinister and dangerous scenario unfolds?

Both Der Spiegel's article and another on Vox raise serious questions on just how much do our analysts and government leaders really understand or know about what could be the real threat to our freedom and security. Are our governments more interested in Patriot Acts, Bills on Intelligence and Anti-Terrorism Acts for their own reasons and blindly ignoring 'the bigger picture?' Our world began to change after September 11th, and Charlie added to the hysteria. We should not allow the memory of all these innocent victims of terror to become soiled for political machinations.

Turning back to the statement by Cherif Bouargue of Le Havre, Normandy, “The way is that the government is making a sort of 'French Patriot Act' but we don't know really what's inside the law. Everything is sinking on a big wave of informations and desinformations. From a long time people are not interested by this, we are feed with stupidities on TV and now it's more important to know the name of the last bimbo on a reality show than knowing how they are going to take your data. I'm sad of that! Has said Benjamin Franklin; “Those who abandon an essential freedom for a small and temporary safety do not deserve either the freedom or the safety.” So that's what will happen us. The way they want to fight this problem is not the good for me.