'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

September 28, 2011

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face

Chain The Dogma

Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face

She was handcuffed at the time, photos show her bruised and swollen face

by Perry Bulwer

I am being facetious with that title, of course, but this is no laughing matter. A 17 year old Aboriginal teen in Williams Lake, British Columbia who alleges, with supporting evidence and in the context of racist police misconduct in that town, that she was punched at least 6 times while handcuffed in the back of a police car, may be the one to face criminal assault charges rather than the police officer who committed the brutal assault.

 Jamie Haller

She had turned to the police for protection, but instead needed protection from the police. So far, we have photos showing how the police protected her by beating her, (see the video)  but no photos or any other evidence that has been made public of the harm or potential harm caused to the police officer she allegedly assaulted by force or threat. For all we know, she may have been merely blowing bubbles his way, which in Canada is enough to get you arrested for assault. Or the police could be lying, which wouldn't be the first time.

British Columbia differs from other jurisdictions in Canada in that it is not the police who formally lay criminal charges.  Instead, the police provide a report of the alleged crime to Crown council (prosecutors) who review the case and decide whether charges are warranted. Thus the title to this post, since as far as I know there have not yet been assault charges laid against anyone involved. But there should be and they should not be against Jamie but the police officer, unless he was acting in self defense. However, it is difficult at this point to see how punching a girl in the face several times could be an appropriate self defense response when she was handcuffed in the back of a police car and posing no danger to anyone in that situation.  But as usual in cases of police misconduct, it is the police who are investigating the police, whereas it ought to be an independent agency that investigates crimes allegedly committed by police officers, as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association calls for.

In the same news feed that alerted me to this case was another news report on the RCMP, this one concerning their soon to expire contract for services in British Columbia. The Federal government has given the Province an ultimatum to settle the negotiations and renew the contract or else it will withdraw the RCMP services. Perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad thing, given the attitude many RCMP officers seem to have towards the very citizens they are supposed to serve and protect. The only problem is that there is no guarantee any replacement force would be any better, because the problem with most police forces is not a few bad apples, but with systemic problems related to police recruitment, training, culture and oversight.

UPDATE  October 6, 2011

News stories of police brutality often turn out worse than first reported after a bit of investigating. The CBC reported yesterday that the RCMP officer who assaulted Jamie Haller, the aboriginal teen in the article above, had previously faced a disciplinary hearing for disgraceful conduct. He was reprimanded and fined five days' pay, so you might assume the incident was not too serious. You would be wrong.

Three years ago, Const. Andy Yung was part of a security detail at an international summit meeting of defence ministers in Banff, Alberta. While off duty Yung got drunk, got into a phone argument with an ex-girlfriend, and fired his gun into the ceiling of his hotel room. No one was killed or injured, but they easily could have been. Yung carelessly endangered the lives of others, yet his punishment was the equivalent of telling him what a bad boy he was and denying him his allowance for a week. Boys will boys, after all.

If that had been anyone other than a police officer, however, there almost certainly would have been criminal charges laid for reckless use of a firearm. Section 86 of the Criminal Code of Canada sets out the crime of careless use of a firearm and the prescribed punishment. Last I checked, the Criminal Code still applies to the police. While police officers ought to be held to a higher standard than other citizens, because of the special powers they have, they are often not even held up to the same standard as regular citizens, but are able to skirt the law through internal disciplinary processes. Recklessly firing his gun through a hotel room ceiling into the room above, especially considering he was drunk, ought to have been a massive red flag for Const. Yung's superiors and enough to have him removed from the RCMP,  or at the very least put him behind a desk for the rest of his career. He obviously had substance abuse and anger management problems, and a seriously bad attitude towards women. The RCMP brass failed in their duty to protect the public from an unstable constable, and Jamie Haller had to suffer as a result of their neglectful oversight, which supports the original conclusion I made in this post:  the problem with most police forces is not a few bad apples, but with systemic problems related to police recruitment, training, culture and oversight.

Criminal Code

Careless use of firearm, etc.

 (1) Every person commits an offence who, without lawful excuse, uses, carries, handles, ships, transports or stores a firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device or any ammunition or prohibited ammunition in a careless manner or without reasonable precautions for the safety of other persons.

Contravention of storage regulations, etc.
(2) Every person commits an offence who contravenes a regulation made under paragraph 117(h) of the Firearms Actrespecting the storage, handling, transportation, shipping, display, advertising and mail-order sales of firearms and restricted weapons.

(3) Every person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (2)
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment
(i) in the case of a first offence, for a term not exceeding two years, and
(ii) in the case of a second or subsequent offence, for a term not exceeding five years; or
(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

UPDATE  MAY 12 2012

<b>Williams Lake mountie pleads not guilty to assault</b>

By Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune
Published: May 02, 2012

Const. Andy Yung has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault, following a Sept. 10, 2011 incident when 17-year-old Jamie Haller was alleged to have sustained injuries while in Williams Lake RCMP custody.

The plea was entered this morning, May 2, in Williams Lake Provincial Court.

The next court date is set for May 16 at 1:30 p.m., at which time trial dates are expected to be fixed.

Both Crown and defence have requested a trial time of five days.


<b>Week-long trial dates set for court case involving Williams Lake mountie</b>

By Monica Lamb-Yorski - Williams Lake Tribune

Published: May 17, 2012

The trial dates have been set for the assault case involving Const. Andy Yung, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault, following a Sept. 10, 2011 incident when 17-year-old Jamie Haller was alleged to have sustained injuries while in the custody of Williams Lake RCMP.

Yung will appear in court on Nov. 7 for a pre-trial conference with a judge regarding the confirmed trial dates of Jan. 21-25, 2013.


UPDATE: APRIL 22,  2013

[note: this result is typical of the kind of systemic injustice Indigenous people in Canada face everyday]

B.C. Mountie cleared of assault of First Nations teen

Const. Andy Yung acted reasonably during arrest of Jamie Haller: judge

CBC News April 22, 2013

A Williams Lake RCMP officer who punched a First Nations teen in the face has been acquitted of an assault charge.

On Monday, the judge ruled Const. Andy Yung acted reasonably during the arrest of 18-year-old Jamie Haller in 2011.

Haller's mother, Martina Jeff, was expecting a different result.

"It's been a hard, long, year and a half. We thought we were going to get justice. And everything just didn't go the way we thought it was going to go. It affected Jamie, it took a lot out of her," Jeff said.

During the trial, Yung admitted that he punched Haller in the face while she was handcuffed in the back seat of his police cruiser, but said he did so because she was drunk and agitated and had wrapped her legs around his head.

Haller testified that the officer punched her more than six times, but the judge found her testimony to be inconsistent and evasive.

"What means most to me at the end of the day here is that the judge, in his careful deliberation, chose to accept the evidence of constable Yung,” said Insp. Warren Brown, head of the Williams Lake RCMP detachment.

“And that tells me that the evidence provided by Const. Yung was truthful, and regardless of the decision, that would be my biggest concern."

Yung has been on desk-duty since the charges were laid.

Brown says it is too soon to say whether or not the RCMP will conduct an internal review, or if Yung will return to active duty in Williams Lake.

Const. Yung has been in trouble before.

In 2008, while providing security at an international summit in Banff, he was involved in a drunken telephone conversation with his ex-girlfriend when he fired his service gun into the ceiling of his hotel room.

Yung was later cited for disgraceful conduct and docked five days pay.


UPDATE: August 27, 2014 

Jamie Haller has now filed a civil suit against the city and three RCMP officers, including one who was acquitted of an assault charge. See the report posted August 27 2014 in the Comments Section below.

Related Articles On This Blog:

Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel?

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid

September 26, 2011

Book by former Missionaries of Charity nun describes abuse in cult of Mother Teresa

Chain The Dogma

Book by former Missionaries of Charity nun describes abuse in cult of Mother Teresa

by Perry Bulwer

I just read a short review of a new book, An Unquenchable Thirst, by a former nun, Mary Johnson, in Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order who describes experiences commonly found in many religious cults. The reviewer highlights just a few of the "dozens of uncomfortable moments the former nun recalls", yet in just those examples it is easy to identify several cult characteristics.

Recalling just one of those moments, the reviewer says it "exemplifies the degree to which she saw life around her as one of repression, repercussions and guilt", which could be a description of life in any number of cults and sects. Dozens more examples drive home the point that life in Mother Teresa's order was not an ideal but an ordeal. Certainly, anyone joining that order knew what they were getting into. Serving God by living in poverty to help the poor (and as Christopher Hitchens wrote, to keep them poor) was part of the idealism they signed up for. What they didn't sign up for was the spiritual, emotional and verbal abuse from "superiors who became drunk with power, whose normal mode of communication was to shout and invent irrational accusations against those below them." If I didn't know better, I would think that was a description of David Miscavige  or David Berg, leaders of Scientology  and The Family International, respectively.

Most cult survivors are familiar with that or similar kinds of abuse from their former spiritual leaders as well as with the inability to directly confront that abuse when it occurred. "Because arguing back was considered a sin against humility, even the most irrational charges could not be countered properly for fear of appearing to be proud or arrogant." I experienced that personally many times in The Family International  previously known as the Children of God,  earning a reputation as a trouble maker for daring to question or criticize leaders. I was punished with spiritual threats, demotions, forced separation from loved ones and internal exile many times by leaders of that cult who are still deceiving, manipulating, exploiting and abusing people as they have always done. But if it was so abusive, why did you stay so long, I can hear you ask?

That is a question commonly put to cult survivors, and one the above reviewer asked of Johnson, expressing his incomprehension that anyone could stay in such an abusive environment for 20 years. Her response is right on the mark: "We'd always been told you are here because God has called you, so the worst thing you could do is leave." Allured by what she considered the radical nature of Mother Teresa's order, which often attracts people to cults, she had joined out of a conviction that God was calling her to that extreme mission. A religious conviction of that nature is far stronger than any secular calling and more difficult to abandon because to do so is to disobey and disappoint God, so it is not surprising that people who have not experienced that cannot understand why one would stay in an abusive environment. When a person is indoctrinated to think that God has a special mission for them, it is extremely difficult to walk away from that, even if they are being abused.

Spousal abuse, mostly perpetrated against women, is a secular example (though often with religious, patriarchal roots) that helps some people understand why abused religious cult members stay in the group or only leave after many years. It seems unthinkable that any woman would stay with a husband that beats, humiliates, threatens or otherwise abuses her, yet it happens all too frequently. When the same question is put to battered spouses as is put to cult survivors, asking why they did not just leave their abusers, the answers they give are strikingly similar to the ones given by former cult members. This list of reasons on a support website for battered women explains why many do not leave their spouses  and can easily be applied to cult members. The following video makes the same point.

Set Yourself Free - Is religion a form of abuse?

There are a few other examples of cult characteristics in that short review I am referring to (imagine how many are in the actual book). Johnson points out that what she experienced in Mother Teresa's order is not typical of other women's religious orders, thus setting it apart from the norm. She gives the example of social isolation, even within the order. The radicalism that initially attracted her to the order ultimately led her to leave it. "As I lived it out, I realized that sort of radical draw also brought these drawbacks where people didn't have any way of pursuing any form of pleasure or relaxation," she said. While other orders allow members to keep in contact with their families, friends and engage with the outside world, Johnson says, “We weren’t even allowed to be friends with each other. All our contacts were cut off.” That is very typical of cults, and a common theme in cult survivor's stories. It is one more reason why it is so difficult to leave. When you burn all your bridges behind you, or they are burned for you, or you were born in a cult and never knew those bridges even existed, it makes it far more difficult to escape the abuse and find your way back to normal.

Although Johnson is able to identify most of the issues behind the abuse she suffered at the hands of her superiors, she seems unable to place ultimate blame where it belongs, on Mother Teresa. She is "careful not to sully Mother Teresa" in the book and attended her beatification ceremony in 2003. But even that is typical of some religious abuse survivors. They are willing to blame the persons who directly abused them, but hesitate to blame those with ultimate authority, whether it is the leader of their order, cult, church, or even God. After all, if God called Johnson to serve him in Mother Teresa's order, then why did God not protect her from the abuse she obviously suffered? It is as if they have accepted the common excuse made by religious leaders that the abuse is the result of a few bad apples, whereas the real cause is the structures, systems and dogmas of religion. Mother Teresa was no saint, yet Johnson still seems to think she is. Perhaps she has not read the reports of how Mother Teresa ignored the abuses perpetrated by her Jesuit adviser, one of the most notorious abusers in the Catholic church. Here are a few excerpts from some articles I've archived on the subject.

San Francisco Weekly - May 25, 2011
Let Him Prey: High-Ranking Jesuits Helped Keep Pedophile Priest Hidden
By Peter Jamison
The conservative Catholic family lived on a quiet cul-de-sac in Walnut Creek and took pains to observe the traditions of a church racked by social change. Their lives appeared driven by the famous motivational phrase of Saint Ignatius, "Ad majorem Dei gloriam" — for the greater glory of God. It was the same motto that ostensibly guided the Jesuit priest, Donald McGuire, to whom they turned for spiritual guidance.
Then, in 1993, they learned that McGuire had done unthinkable things with their 16-year-old son, Charles, who traveled with him as his personal assistant. The boy and the priest had allegedly looked at pornographic magazines, masturbated, and taken showers together. The family took this devastating news to an esteemed San Francisco priest, Joseph Fessio, who, like McGuire, had once been a teacher at the University of San Francisco.
Fessio runs the Ignatius Press, a Catholic publishing house based in the Sunset District that is the primary English-language publisher of the pope's writings. He and McGuire shared a reputation for doctrinal orthodoxy. McGuire, for his part, was a cleric of worldwide renown, functioning as adviser and confessor to Mother Teresa. [see related article links below] While family members considered reporting the abuse to secular authorities, Fessio urged them to stay quiet until he could confer with Jesuit higher-ups.
Confronted with the allegations, McGuire, a famously manipulative man known both for his charm and periodic rages, denied Charles's accusations or made excuses. His Jesuit bosses in Chicago, where McGuire was technically based, ordered him to undergo a residential treatment program at a psychiatric hospital for priests. In about seven months, McGuire was released and returned to active ministry. He continued to prey on other children for the next nine years.

New York Times - March 28, 2011
Suit Says Jesuits Ignored Warnings About Priest
The case has been acutely troublesome for the Jesuits, an order known for its scholarship and its elite high schools and universities. Father McGuire was by all accounts a mesmerizing teacher, and after he was barred by some Jesuit schools in the 1960s and 1970s for suspicious behavior, including having students share his bedroom, he went on to became a popular leader of eight-day spiritual retreats around the country and the world.
For about two decades, starting in the early 1980s, he was a spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa, who put him in charge of retreats for the nuns in her worldwide order, Missionaries of Charity. Several times each year, in India, the United States, Russia and other countries, he led retreats for the sisters.
In these travels he routinely took along a teenage boy as an assistant, saying he needed help administering his diabetes treatment. In complaints voiced by some parents and priests at the time, and in later depositions, those assistants said their duties often included sleeping in the same bed as Father McGuire, showering and reading pornography together, providing intimate massages and watching him masturbate.

SF Weekly - July 27, 2009

For He Has Sinned

A new lawsuit sheds light on the San Francisco years of Mother Teresa's spiritual adviser – who is also one of the Jesuit order's most notorious convicted pedophiles.

by Peter Jamison
Kevin McGuire said his uncle's time as a professor in San Francisco, and his later trips to the Bay Area and around the world, were encouraged by superiors as a "pass-the-trash" strategy to keep the predator priest far from his home base. "USF was a place where the Chicago Province sent Father McGuire to get him the hell out of their hair," he said. "That's why this guy was allowed to roam around the country. They wanted him everywhere but Chicago."
And he said that while there's no evidence Mother Teresa herself was consciously covering up for the priest whose piety she admired, the nun, who died in 1997, should have known something wasn't right.
"I think Mother Teresa had plenty of evidence in front of her that something was wrong," Kevin McGuire said. "When you see Father McGuire seven to nine times a year at your retreat houses or nunneries around the world, and he's constantly with teenage boys who are essentially his slaves, and to have these boys in your bedroom — yeah, I think that's plenty of notice to anyone with oxygen in your brain. I don't care how holy you think your confessor is. Something's wrong."


Perry Bulwer July 11, 2012

A few months ago, I had an email conversation with Mary Johnson, the former nun and author of the book reviewed in this blog article.

I based my comments in this blog article solely on the Toronto newspaper article. I owe an apology to Mary for some assumptions I made about her and her current perspectives on Mother Teresa in the last paragraph of my article, just before I quoted from three newspaper accounts. I made those assumptions based on the reporter's perspective, which may not have accurately portrayed her position, so I am sorry if I made any inaccurate statement about her. After communicating with her, I realize there is almost no difference between our positions on these matters.

Mary has an impressive website and works to help other women writers to tell their stories. See: http://www.maryjohnson.co/ and  http://aroomofherownfoundation.org/weneedyou.php

What prompted me to write this apology note now is the article posted in the comments below on July 11, 2012 titled:

"Abuses At Legion Of Christ-Run High School, Immaculate Conception Academy In Rhode Island"

Here is Mary's version of The Apostles Creed found at: http://www.maryjohnson.co/humanist/

I don’t believe in God, an imaginary father with almighty power.

I don’t believe in heaven; I do believe in earth.

I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era,

That he was conceived in the way of all human beings, that he was born of a woman called Mary, that he had a following large enough to trouble the authorities of his day, that it’s very difficult to separate what he actually said and did from what people would later say he said and did, that odds are good that he was a more than decent man.

I believe that this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate; that he was crucified, died and was buried, that there were no souls in hell waiting for him to set them free, that his death was in no way redemptive, that crucifixion has to be hell enough for any person.

I believe that when Jesus died, he remained dead. He did not ascend into an imaginary heaven, nor does he sit at the right or left hand of God, an imaginary father.

I do not believe that Jesus judges human beings. It seems to me that far too much judging goes on in his name, and that most of us try to do the best we can with the lives we’ve been given and that all of us fall short of the unreachable ideals we sometimes set for ourselves, that we ought to be kinder to ourselves.

I do not believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise.

I believe that the church is a human institution that still has much to learn about the humane exercise of power and authority.

I believe that each human being is connected with every other human being by bonds we do not often perceive, that what we do matters because our deeds affect beings animate and inanimate, for better or for worse.

I believe that justice and mercy are both essential and that forgiveness is often one of the deepest kindnesses we can extend to others and to ourselves, but that it should not be offered indiscriminately.

I believe that when we’re dead, we’re dead, and that while we, for a brief stretch of years, breathe upon this planet, we experience mysteries we ought not pretend to understand, though one day human beings will understand them better than we do now. I believe that we should affirm as true only those things we know with reasonable certainty, according to rigorous standards of history and science, that to cede our intellect to religious tradition is to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who benefit from our credulity. I believe in the value of helping others and nurturing ourselves so that we can live lives as full as they can be. Amen.


Mother Teresa failed to protect teen boys from her spiritual adviser, the Jesuit order's most notorious convicted pedophile

Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children

Nuns among worst perpetrators of horrific violence and sex abuse in Jesuit-run schools and missions on Indian reservations

Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"

Jesuits pay record settlement for decades of psychological abuse and rape of over 450 Native American children

Abuse was common in religious orders

Oregon Jesuit province files for bankruptcy

$50 million for Alaskan abuse plaintiffs

Diocese of Fairbanks launches multistate search for possible sexual assault victims

Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations

Canadian Indian residential school hearings identify thousands of abusers including some students who were also abused

Survivors of Indian residential schools need to tell their stories to restore self-worth after trauma of abuse

A brief history of Canadian residential schools designed to indoctrinate and assimilate aboriginal children

Canadian Truth Commission investigates fate of thousands of aboriginal children who died in mysterious circumstances

Canadian residential school Truth Commission begins to address over a century of child abuse, thousands of children still missing

‘Apology? What apology?' Church’s attempt at reconciliation not enough, says counsellor

Church-run Canadian residential schools denied human rights to all aboriginal children in their custody

'This Is How They Tortured Me' [book review]

Mothers of a Native Hell

Fugitive priest hiding in Belgium and Lourdes, France sent back to Canadian territory Nunavut to face sex abuse charges

Canadian priest convicted of pedophilia, wanted by Interpol for 15 years, surrenders in Belgium but authorities let him go

Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools - but doesn't apologize

When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals?

Edmonton mural celebrates Catholic bishop's role in the horrific abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools

Lawsuit claims, but Seattle U. president denies, that he knew of priest's abuse

Prosecuting the Pope for Crimes Against Humanity

Are Priests Their Brother's Keeper? A Catholic Morality Tale

Vatican more upset by Catholic Prime Minister's criticisms than clergy sex crimes against children

Philadelphia archbishop resigns due to old age, not for failing to protect children

Catholic child protection policies are merely public relations ploys

Best city in the world honours man who protected notorious Catholic child abuser

The Catholic Church and The Family International: popes and prophets who protect pedophiles

What the Pope should have said in his Easter sermon: "I did it. I was wrong. The buck stops here."

September 23, 2011

Can Tourism Help Change North Korea Like It Changed China?

Chain The Dogma

Can Tourism Help Change North Korea Like It Changed China?

 by Perry Bulwer

Speaking of governments spying on citizens, which the Canadian government is trying to do as explained in the previous entry on this blog, it seems that North Korea is now trying to lure tourists to the hermit nation. That news brought back memories of the time I tried to visit that closed country in the mid 1980s. I was living in Beijing at the time, teaching English during the 1985-86 school year, and although I knew that North Korea did not allow tourists in I decided to try anyway. I was out riding my bike one day when I passed the North Korean embassy, so out of curiosity I went inside to see what I could find out. It was a very eerie experience. The gate to the compound was open and no one prevented me from entering the main building. There was no sign of life anywhere, and in the sterile, nearly empty greeting room no receptionist or guard greeted me, but I had a strong feeling that I was being watched.

I had grown accustomed to being spied on as a foreigner living in a communist country. My activities were monitored constantly, both in the apartment complex for foreign workers I lived in and in my classrooms, where there was always a Communist Youth League member in attendance ostensibly as a student, but who was always more educationally advanced than the others. China had only recently re-opened to the outside world after the Communist Party had closed it off under Mao Zedong's regime, and was still suspicious of outsiders. Deng Xiaoping changed that policy in 1978 by moving towards a capitalist free market system, and promoting foreign trade and investment. A necessary consequence of that was the opening of the country to tourists. Although some tourism was allowed in modern China as early as the 1950s, it was extremely controlled and not in any way an open market. After 1978, however, that began to slowly change.

In 1983, I was living in Macau, which was still a Portuguese colony at the time before it was handed over to China in 1999. Tourists had been allowed entry into China for a few years by then, but only in group tours. As China progressed and overcame some of its fears of  'spiritual pollution' from the outside world, it began to loosen travel restrictions for individuals. I was among the first to travel solo as a tourist there during that period, but the government was still wary. When I applied for a day visit visa to test the waters, officials told me that I was required to hire a car and driver from them to cross the border, even though I could have taken a city bus or taxi and walked across. Perhaps that was a mere money grab, but I suspect it was more likely that they too were testing the waters for solo tourists. Whatever the case, I have never crossed a border so easily, not even the Canadian-U.S. one where border guards are as paranoid and suspicious as any Chinese ones I encountered. Crossing into China from Macau, my driver flashed his credentials, I showed my passport and that was it. We drove straight through without delay, passing two large groups of tourists disembarking from their buses to pass the security and customs checks.

I made another week long solo trip to China in 1984, taking the train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou (Canton), and then on to Shanghai. I then returned to China in 1985, as I mentioned, but over 25 years later it is a very different place today. It is almost unrecognizable from the China I knew back then, and all that progress, initiated by Deng Xiaoping's open door policy, has greatly improved the lives of most citizens. I see things occurring in China today that were forbidden or impossible when I lived there. I had never imagined for a moment that that openness could possibly bring all those positive changes to a country that had been so closed to the outside. Similarly, looking at North Korea today, it is extremely difficult to imagine the same type of progress occurring there. When I was in that greeting room of its Beijing embassy back in 1986, I waited for about 20 minutes before anyone came out to talk with me. Actually, they didn't talk with me. A surly man entered the room without speaking a word. I said I would like to travel to his country and asked how to apply for a visa. If he spoke English, he didn't let on, and only replied in Korean, which I don't understand. It was obvious he was not going to give me any information, seemed irritated I was there and wanted me to leave, so I did. Until now, I never thought the hermit nation would ever leave its shell and open up to the world. Perhaps that is about to change with this new desire to court foreign tourists. I'm not holding my breath, but if China could change so drastically there is hope for North Korea too. For its people's sake, I hope that change comes soon.

September 17, 2011

Stop Online Spying

The Canadian government is trying to ram through an anti-Internet set of electronic surveillance laws that will invade your privacy and cost you money. The plan is to force every phone and Internet provider to surrender our personal information to "authorities" without a warrant.

This bizarre legislation will create Internet surveillance that is:
  • Warrantless: A range of "authorities" will have the ability to invade the private lives of law-abiding Canadians and our families using wired Internet and mobile devices, without a warrant or any justification.
  • Invasive and Dangerous: The laws leave our personal and financial information less secure and more susceptible to cybercrime.
  • Costly: Internet services providers may be forced to install millions of dollars worth of spying technology and the cost will be passed down to YOU.

Sign the petition at: http://stopspying.ca 


Article 12 presents a sharp look at the current state of privacy and debates around the rights and desires of individuals, governments, terrorism and the increasing accessibility and use of surveillance.

The film is a thought-provoking exposé on our current obsession with voyeurism, surveillance technologies, power and control. Starting from our own private spying habits, Article 12 examines how vulnerable and exposed we have become in our relationship to each other and as a society and talks about those who are gaining from this condition. The film uses the twelfth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to chart the current state of privacy around the world, arguing that without the right to privacy no other human right can truly be exercised. The film brings together the world’s leading academics, philosophers, cultural figures and technologists to highlight the devastating potency of surveillance and the dangers of public and individual complicity, and presents a growing movement fighting for the upkeep of our right to privacy.

Article 12 confronts these issues head-on to provide a powerful wake-up call as we sleepwalk into a worldwide surveillance society.

Related articles on this blog:

Constitutional expert says beware of coming Canadian police state

September 16, 2011

Prosecuting the Pope for Crimes Against Humanity

Chain The Dogma

Prosecuting the Pope for Crimes Against Humanity

If the systemic rape and abuse of children is not a crime against humanity, then what is?

by Perry Bulwer

A complaint recently filed  with the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking it to investigate crimes against humanity by Pope Benedict and three top Vatican officials faces some hurdles, but as a last resort it is a creative legal strategy. As Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which initiated the complaint, stated:

We have tried everything we could think of to get them to stop and they won’t. If the Pope wanted to, he could take dramatic action at any time that would help protect children today and in the future, and he refuses to take the action.

Catholic apologists will take issue with that statement and insist the Pope personally, and the church in general, has taken action to protect children, but considering the actions taken in the U.S. and Ireland in that regard they are clearly insufficient, ineffectual, and undermined by the deception of bishops and directives from the Vatican. Long before Benedict became Pope,  he was well aware, as was his predecessor John Paul II,  that clergy sex crimes against children was an on-going problem for decades. But instead of doing the moral thing to protect children by exposing and reporting crimes by priests, Vatican policies were intended to protect the church by covering up abuses and transferring criminal priests to other parishes or countries, which led to many more children needlessly abused because of that institutional neglect and deception. That is the basis of the complaint to the ICC, as explained by Pam Spees, attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),  which filed the complaint along with SNAP:

The Vatican officials charged in this case are responsible for rape and other sexual violence and for the physical and psychological torture of victims around the world both through command responsibility and through direct cover up of crimes. They should be brought to trial like any other officials guilty of crimes against humanity.

However, given some of the legal obstacles the complaint must overcome before the ICC agrees to take on the case, Spees "conceded she was “not hopeful” the court would launch an investigation." That does not mean the complaint has no chance. There are various arguments that can be made to overcome some of the obstacles that might prevent the ICC from taking the case. Herman van der Wilt, professor of international law at Amsterdam University, identified two reasons why he thought the complaint does not stand much chance: crimes against humanity must be perpetrated by a State or state-like organization, and the ICC has no mandate to investigate crimes committed before July 1, 2002.

As a professor of international law, van der Wilt is probably smarter and more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, but it seems to me that the Holy See, which "refers to the composite of the authority, jurisdiction, and sovereignty vested in the Pope and his advisers to direct the worldwide Roman Catholic Church", does have international recognition as a sovereign state.

So too does Vatican City,  which meets all eight criteria  used to define an independent country. By that definition, Vatican City is also a sovereign State,  so either way the systemic crimes against children within the Church do qualify as crimes against humanity committed by a State, so I'm not really sure what the professor was thinking on that issue.

As for the obstacle of time, the fact that many of those crimes occurred before the ICC's mandate began in 2002 is a tougher one to overcome, but not impossible. Civil statutory time limitations for initiating sexual abuse claims  have worked mostly to protect the Catholic church from lawsuits, while denying victims justice. However, courts have sometimes suspended those time limitations temporarily in some jurisdictions to allow victims to sue within a specified period, or ruled them invalid in the case of some individuals with special circumstances. I am not suggesting the ICC has a mechanism for overcoming its prohibition against investigating crimes prior to 2002, just that clever arguments can be made to overcome that prohibition.

The scandal in Philadelphia  comes to mind as an example of how clergy crimes that occurred before 2002 could still be investigated by the ICC, indirectly. A grand jury report details how the Philadelphia Archdiocese allowed 37 priests credibly accused of child abuse to remain in ministry, and failed to inform the local and national review boards set up by the U.S. bishops to help keep them accountable. The head of the Philadelphia review board, Ana Maria Catanzaro,  said the archdiocese pre-screened which cases they reviewed, hiding problem priests, because it was more concerned about lawsuits and liability than protecting children. Although many of the crimes committed by those 37 priests occurred before 2002, the cover-up and neglect by Cardinals and Bishops continued long past 2002. In my opinion, the prohibition against pre-2002 investigations can be overcome with that or similar arguments. Besides, there are many cases after 2002 that the ICC could investigate.

The covering up of crimes by Bishops and Cardinals is a fairly straightforward argument to make with plenty of evidence to back it up. Certainly, the 20,000 pages of documents CCR lawyers submitted to the ICC to support their complaint contain some of that evidence. The other basis of the complaint is that the Pope and the other officials named in it had command responsibility, meaning that they are responsible for the crimes of their subordinates. Command responsibility has been used mostly in war crimes cases, since it is usually applied to organized groups like military, para-military or police units where there is an obvious chain of command. However, command responsibility can also be applied to a civilian state organization and the CCR lawyers have done an excellent job making the case that the Pope and the other church leaders are responsible for the systemic crimes against humanity committed by priests around the world. If you are not convinced, I urge you to read the full complaint and decide based on the evidence of horrific crimes provided within it whether or not you agree with Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's U.S. lawyer who called the complaint a “ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes.” That is typical of statements by Catholic spokespersons and apologists, whether lawyers, church officials, or laypersons. But what is more ludicrous, abuse survivors and advocates fighting anyway they can to protect children and hold perpetrators and their enablers accountable to civil and criminal law, or spokespersons for a church that claims to be the moral authority for the world denigrating those survivors of horrific spiritual and physical abuse by priests, who represented God to them, as nothing more than publicity seekers? 
The Catholic Church and The Family International: popes and prophets who protect pedophiles

What the Pope should have said in his Easter sermon: "I did it. I was wrong. The buck stops here."

September 13, 2011

The Order of British Columbia is Out of Order

Chain The Dogma

The Order of British Columbia is Out of Order

by Perry Bulwer

The Order of British Columbia (the Order)  is an honour awarded yearly by an advisory council administered under Provincial legislation. The purpose of the award is "... to recognize persons who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of British Columbia or elsewhere."

I don't usually give much thought to this award when it is announced, but a controversial appointee made me and many others  pay attention this year. I'm referring to the former Premier, Gordon Campbell,  who was convicted of drunk driving near the beginning of his tenure, which ended with him resigning in disgrace this year with a voter approval rating of just 9%,  making him the all time least popular Provincial Premier in Canada.

 Mug shot of Gordon Campbell in Hawaii after arrest for drunk driving

Many people objecting to Campbell's appointment base their arguments on a misunderstanding of the legislation, on the timing of the appointment or of its apparently political nature. But I think those arguments miss the main point, which is that Campbell simply does not deserve the honour, now or ever. Some people misread the legislation and thought Campbell was ineligible for the Order this year because he was nominated while still holding office. The first rule of statutory interpretation is to take the words in the legislation in their literal and plain sense as in a dictionary. Adjudicators first assess the common understanding of words and phrases, and in the case of the Order of British Columbia the Provincial Symbols and Honours Act states in section 17 (2):

A person who is an elected federal, provincial or municipal representative is not eligible to be appointed a member of the Order while that person remains in office.

It refers clearly to the appointment, not the nomination. Because of the confusion over that point, however, the Chief Justice of British Columbia, who is also the chairperson of the advisory council, issued a very brief clarification. He did not need to rely on any legal reasoning or citation because of that rule of interpretation. He simply wrote, without further explanation: “The nomination package for Mr. Campbell was received on March 10, 2011. Mr. Campbell was appointed to the Order of British Columbia on Sept. 2, 2011. At that time, he was not an elected MLA.”

Although Campbell was clearly eligible on that basis, some still object over the timing of the nomination. Campbell's tenure as Premier did not officially end until March 14, 2011, yet the nomination package for him was received by the advisory council on March 10, 2011. He had made public comments a few months earlier that he would be stepping down, still, the rush to nominate him is well out of order. Campbell is only the second of 35 B.C. Premiers to be appointed to the Order. The only other one, Bill Bennett, was not appointed until many years after he left office. So why the rush to anoint, I mean appoint, Campbell, especially given his mixed record? It smacks of political bias, which is another argument being made against the appointment.

Political columnist, Bill Tieleman,  points out that "... most members [of the advisory council]  have political or governmental connections to the former Campbell government." He goes on to highlight the political chicanery, scandals and corruption that occurred not only under Campbell's government, but involved two other persons receiving the Order this year who also are strongly connected to Campbell. Ken Dobell, Campbell's own former deputy minister who unethically deceived the citizens of British Columbia, and David Emerson, who notoriously and unethically deceived voters by switching federal political parties just days after being elected. As Tieleman writes: "... honouring Campbell, Emerson and Dobell is merely the latest manifestation of this entire province being out of order." Even if there was no actual political bias in the selection of appointees for the Order this year, there is certainly the appearance of bias. Either way, the prestige of the Order has been seriously diminished by the appointment of corrupt politicians, which casts a shadow over those ordinary citizens who were deservedly appointed over the years.

Although Tieleman, one of Campbell's most vociferous critics, complains of the hastiness and overtly political appearance of appointing Campbell to the Order, he does note that, "Regardless of Campbell's failings, he has made a long contribution to public service as a Vancouver councillor, mayor, MLA and premier." That may be accurate, but is a long contribution to public service enough on its own to be appointed to the Order? According to the legislation, appointees must "... have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of British Columbia or elsewhere." There is no doubt that Campbell has greatly benefited personally from his public service, but has his long public service benefited the people of B.C.? It all depends on who you ask.

It is difficult to imagine any poor person agreeing that Campbell's public service has benefited them. British Columbia has the lowest minimum wage in Canada, and for seven straight years had the worst child poverty rates in Canada, all thanks to Campbell's policies. Shortly after he took office, he began to wage a war, not against poverty, but against poor people. His government tightened the rules for social welfare eligibility, denying benefits to thousands of people and putting thousands of disabled people already receiving benefits through the unnecessary stress of requalifying. I know, because I've seen the fears and tears up close. Meanwhile, as Campbell increased corporate welfare for his business friends, poverty and homelessness increased.

Go ahead, ask those many thousands of British Columbia children who live in poverty thanks to Gordon Campbell if they think he deserves to be appointed to the Order, or if he deserves his appointment to the prestigious, cushy, lucrative post of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Ask the thousands of homeless and almost homeless people in B.C. what they think of the fact that Campbell will receive a government pension of around $100,000 on top of the nearly $200,000 plus free home and personal servants he will receive as Commissioner to the UK.  On the other hand, a single disabled person in B.C. receives only around $11,000 a year, (non-disabled get far less) with the housing portion of that amounting to just $375 a month. It is nearly impossible to find decent accommodation anywhere in the province for that amount. That means everyone receiving social assistance must either spend part of the money meant for food and other essentials to get a decent place to live, or live in sub-standard housing. Some choose or are forced to live on the street.

Instead of reducing poverty in B.C., Gordon Campbell's policies directly increased poverty causing untold misery for the very people he supposedly was serving. With service like that he shouldn't get a lucrative tip, like double-dipping into taxpayers pockets. I suppose the advisory council considers that serving with distinction and excelling in his field of endeavour. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the status quo regarding poverty in British Columbia costs the government between 8 and 9 billion dollars a year, whereas a comprehensive poverty-reduction plan would cost between 3 and 4 billion dollars. So, not only did Campbell cause great harm to many thousands of poor people and their children, his neglect of those citizens cost the taxpayers of B.C. several billions of dollars each year he was Premier.

The advisory council who appointed Campbell to the Order ignored the facts of his dismal failure to help the most vulnerable citizens and lift them out of poverty during his public service, which in turn would have benefited all citizens. That ignorance gives credence to the claims of political bias in the appointment. But the council was not alone in rewarding Campbell despite his war against the poor. So too did the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, who appointed Campbell to his UK post. That is really no surprise since Harper also ignores the poor. Around four million Canadians, including more than one in seven children,  live in poverty yet the Harper government recently refused to accept the evidence-based recommendations of a Parliamentary committee to develop and implement a poverty-reduction plan.  One in seven Canadian children  in poverty amounts to over one million poor children. It is a national disgrace for one of the richest countries in the world, yet Prime Minister Harper shows more compassion and concern for the welfare of cats  than children. His official website  demonstrates that clearly. The home page under Family Center provides information on how to foster or adopt pets, but nowhere can you find any concern for the welfare of a million children suffering the indignity of poverty.

The Order of British Columbia is awarded to any British Columbian (or former long-term resident) who has demonstrated outstanding achievement, excellence or distinction in any field. However, there does not appear to be any consideration of the moral and ethical standing of a nominee. At least no such consideration is set out in the legislation, and no relevant question is asked on the nomination form. If such things are considered, they are left to the discretion of the advisory council, chaired by the Chief Justice of the Province. Apparently, no one on the council objected to the facts surrounding the immoral, unethical, and at times illegal actions of Campbell, Emerson and Dobell. Nor did they see the apparent irony of appointing a homelessness activist in the same year as Campbell who helped create much of that homelessness. Of the fourteen people appointed to the Order of British Columbia this year,  only the three conservative politicians on the list had the ability to both benefit and harm the people of British Columbia. It is hard to see, for example, how Karen O'Shannacery of Vancouver, a tireless advocate for homeless people who was also appointed to the Order this year, could cause any harm to British Columbians in the way that Gordon Campbell and his political and corporate cronies did.

If ordinary citizens of British Columbia, not corrupt political, legal, or corporate elitists, could choose appointees to the Order, it is possible that they would still select Gordon Campbell, but I think it would be for the following reason.

UPDATE October 7, 2011

The induction ceremony for the Order of B.C. took place on October 4, and guess who didn't show up. Gordon Campbell not only didn't attend the ceremony, he refused to explain his absence. What does this mean? Does Campbell recognize that he doesn't deserve the honour, has declined his induction into the Order, and will return any medal or benefit that accompanies the award? Or does Campbell's absence and silence indicate he recognizes the controversy over his appointment, and fears attending the ceremony would do more to reignite that controversy than simply ignoring it would? If the reason he couldn't attend was a matter of an unavoidable scheduling conflict, then why didn't he simply instruct his office staff to respond with that excuse to inquiries? Whatever this snub and silence means, it is typical of how Campbell governed, so considering the source I suppose it is a  response we should have expected.

September 6, 2011

Violating the Sanctity of Scriptures

Chain The Dogma 

Violating the Sanctity of Scriptures

by Perry Bulwer

The Second Global Conference on World’s Religions After Sept. 11 is taking place tomorrow in Montreal. The organizer, Arvind Sharma, a professor of comparative religion at McGill University, says the purpose of the conference  "... is to bring together the various religions of the world in an ecumenical spirit to address the many issues facing the world today, in the hope that this will help all of us become better human beings." According to the Montreal Gazette, Sharma

... says the goal is to debate how religions can contribute to peace in the world. He is also hoping to have the participants adopt three resolutions, including one which says that violating the sanctity of the scripture of any religion amounts to violating the sanctity of all religions.

The conference speakers are hardly representative of all religions in the world,  but even if they were it is highly unlikely this particular group of god frauds can make any useful contributions to world peace and the betterment of humans based on religion. The Gazette article cited above includes a photo of the Dalai Lama, one of the speakers, praying for and blessing a river in Washington. Just what we need to make us better humans and achieve world peace: a religious leader who believes he is the reincarnation of his predecessor, whose worldview has been totally formed within the framework of a spiritual fantasy world, who prays for and blesses rivers.

Another spiritual con artist  speaking at the conference is Deepak Chopra. Here are a few of the extraordinary, supernatural claims he makes without backing them up with extraordinary evidence:

That a person is a field of vibrating energy, information and intelligence connected to the entire cosmos.

That this view is substantiated by Ayruvedic medicine of ancient India as well as theories of quantum physics.

That all organs of the body are built up from a specific sequence of vibrations, and that when organs are sick they are vibrating improperly.

That certain herbs and aromas, when applied, can help restore proper vibrations to malfunctioning liver, heart, stomach, etc.

That certain gems and crystals can rejuvenate human skin.

That good thoughts can heal the body and reverse the aging process.

That people can levitate and that he, while sitting and meditating, has flown a distance of four feet.

That one can know God at seven different levels corresponding to physical and psychological reactions in the brain, and that miracles, including visits by angels and reincarnated relatives, occur when a person leaves the material level of existence and intersects a "transitional" level called the "quantum domain."

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the conference speakers really can have meaningful discussions that further world peace, all of their efforts will be completely undermined and wasted if they adopt the resolution proposed by Sharma, which proposes to prohibit blasphemy.  That seems to be what he means by "violating the sanctity of the scripture of any religion". Whatever Sharma means by that, it is simply ridiculous for him to claim that it amounts to violating all religions. Obviously, not all religions can be true because many contradict each other, which means at least some are false, though I think they all are. Given that fact, it is necessary for some people to question, doubt and criticize religious scriptures as they search for religious truth. That is a futile search, in my opinion, but for those inclined to search the freedom to question and criticize is necessary. However, there will always be believers who are offended by such criticisms of their scriptures, so Sharma's solution appears to be to deny everyone the right to criticize all religious scriptures, even the most blatantly fraudulent and fictional ones such as the Bible, the Book of Mormon or the writings of Scientology founder, Ron Hubbard.

On the conference website, Sharma's message invites attendees "to explore the more positive possibilities of the religious dimension". Apparently, he wants to ignore the negative possibilities of the religious dimension, and so his resolution to prohibit free speech as it relates to religious scriptures. But any debate or discussion on the possibilities of religion fostering world peace is a meaningless, one-sided conversation if it does not allow or acknowledge any criticism of the doctrines found in the scriptures of various religions that foster bigotry and war.