Category Archives: Media

Power and its “Way of Doing Things”

What should we do when the main legislative branch of government is routinely breaking the law?


In early February, the Victoria Times Colonist published a series of investigative articles by Louise Dickson, Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw which upset and impressed me. But in the end, I wondered if even they really understood the significance of their discoveries.

The reporters went incognito to ten courthouses across Vancouver Island and the lower mainland. They asked to see basic information like court transcripts, records of charges and unsealed warrants—documents anyone should be able to easily obtain in any democratic society where courts are open and all are equal before the law.

What they found was Kafka-esque. Almost without exception, the clerks, supervisors and Justice of the Peace employees of the BC Ministry of Attorney General’s Court Services Branch frequently made arbitrary decisions controlling access, cited non-existent regulations, and engaged in blatant contraventions of the law. Continue reading

The Problem with Thinking Charitably

Sometimes charities don’t educate us about the broader political context, and we prefer it that way.


What’s a good charity? Malalai Joya gave an interesting answer.

Joya is the female politician dubiously ousted from the male-dominated Afghan Parliament in 2007. She was promoting her book, A Woman Among Warlords, last November at the University of Victoria. An audience member asked if a particular Afghan charity was worth supporting. Joya didn’t know the charity, but dispensed general advice: Examine the charity’s political positions.

Essentially, Joya argued, if the charity isn’t protesting the NATO military occupation of Afghanistan, then it’s likely not empowering ordinary Afghans so much as furthering the agendas of foreign powers.

Joya’s not alone in recognizing broader political context as crucial to evaluating charitable activities. The World Bank notoriously provides “aid” benefiting multinationals and rich nations more than the poor. And though many donors are unaware, international charities run from political right to left, and often take sides. For example, OXFAM provided aid in Eritrea throughout the region’s two-decade independence struggle, while CARE didn’t start helping in Eritrea until its 2000 peace accord with Ethiopia.

I was still pondering this when Canadian media’s December outpouring of heartstring-plucking human interest features began. Continue reading

All Cabinet Records Erased–Pardon?!

No filing system is perfect. Especially when it might reveal a huge scandal for the provincial Liberal government.


I’m hoping much of this is already ancient news to you. But based on the relatively subdued way BC’s mainstream media has been covering the story as Focus is going to print, I’m not counting on it.

You should have heard about it, though, because the story reveals a whole new depth of corruption in our provincial government for which it is literally difficult to find words.

In 2003, the BC legislature was raided by the RCMP, amidst accusations of bribery, leaks of confidential information, and links to organized crime during the Liberal’s BC Rail privatization.

What’s happened since? Various charges were laid against ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk and communications aide Aneal Basi. Then, we went through two re-elections of the BC Liberals with essentially nothing happening. The government has stalled defence requests for information so much the case hasn’t even made it to trial yet and media interest has dissipated. Continue reading

Is it Time to Put the Mounties Out to Pasture?

Policing expert Paul Palango, author of a new book on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, argues we need to revamp the dysfunctional organization–or get rid of the RCMP altogether.


Over the past few years, RCMP controversies have been in the news constantly. The extent of lying revealed during the inquiry into the tasering and death of Robert Dziekanski has been mind-boggling. High-ranking RCMP officials embezzled millions from the force’s retirement funds. The RCMP Commissioner misled Parliament about what politicians knew about Maher Arar. During a recent botched drug bust, an RCMP dog dragged a Surrey man to officers who kicked and stomped on him, even after the man had apparently pointed out they had the wrong apartment number. A long-awaited RCMP investigation found no fault with its officers, even after Ian Bush was arrested outside a hockey arena for jokingly giving a false name and, 20 minutes later, was dead in a jail cell from a bullet to the back of the head.

disperseThe debacles keep coming. Yet, somehow, the RCMP remains unassailable. Aside from the replacement of the Commissioner for his prominent lying, why have officers been subjected to only token reprimands or transfers? Why haven’t RCMP leaders or politicians emerged to be held accountable? Is it time to revamp an organization seemingly permeated with poor training, weak supervision, corruption and dysfunctionality? Should BC avoid renewing its contract with the RCMP in 2012, and instead create a provincial police force like it had until 1950? Paul Palango explores these questions in his recently-published book, Dispersing the Fog: Inside the Secret World of Ottawa and the RCMP (Key Porter, 2008). Continue reading