Thursday, 22 September 2016 13:31

Alberta Needs to Rethink French Curriculum

Commentary by Salim Valji in Edmonton

Memorizing adjectives and pronouns did little more than create a resentment for having to learn French in the first place. Meanwhile, speaking the language took a backseat.

The sentiment above is true for many students who grew up learning French in Alberta, including myself. Lessons often consist of listing the gender pronoun (le, la, les) of nouns, and writing simple, declarative sentences.

Entire classes would be spent learning, relearning and being tested on memorization techniques like DR MRS VANDERTRAMP. Homework was more of the same … verb charts, fill-in-the-blanks and vocabulary.

See a trend here?

Throughout elementary and junior high, the method was always memorize first, ask questions later. Speaking French was never a priority until high school and accent training was seldom mentioned.

Learning to hate French

I queried my friends on social media: I was not alone. 

“My experience was terrible as well! I took French for eight years and can't speak a word if it,” one friend wrote. “It was all memorizing nouns and watching videos. It's such a beautiful language. I really wish they had taught it better. I’d love to know it.”

Another added: “I learned more German in four months than I did French in eight years in school. I think using an online program like Duolingo and setting goals might help. Also, so many BS tests on conjugating verbs made me hate French.”

The most profound comment came from someone somewhat older who said that like hundreds of others, she hated going to French class as a student. It speaks of a system that doesn’t know how to educate its students on Canada’s other official language.

Moving to a bilingual setting

When I was 20, I moved to Montreal. Despite taking French courses for 13 years, I was completely unprepared to live and work in a bilingual environment. It took me minutes to form short phrases, my vocabulary was extremely limited and I barely understood what was being said to me.

My perspective changed even further when I moved to France to work as an English Language Assistant at a high school in the Parisien suburbs. Alberta, and the rest of Canada, can learn much from how the French teach second languages.

From my first sessions with 12-year-old students, I could tell that they already spoke better English than I did French. Their sentences were clear, vocabulary strong and they knew how to express ideas.

Communication of ideas is what my role was focused on. I’d take groups of 10 to 12 students to my classroom, and, in my authentically Albertan accent, speak English to them. Often times, the lessons were planned with their English teacher, based on what they were learning in class.

The topics we talked about included the civil rights movement, the lives of historic figures like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and differences between North American and European culture.

Sometimes, I’d pose an open-ended question on the whiteboard and cross my fingers hoping that my students would pipe up.  That method usually led to great, enjoyable conversations —like the time where we spent an entire class talking about the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and how Robin Scherbatsky embodies certain Canadian stereotypes.

My students would speak their ideas and I’d correct them in real time. I was always amazed at how well they could speak about complex subjects in English.

The two most common mistakes they made were not pronouncing the h sound for words like “home” and “happy,” and saying “the” as zee or “there” as zerre. Beyond the simple correcting of grammar, my students received a language education I never had as a student … speaking and writing with someone fluent in the other language.

They learned to understand my accent. They questioned my usage of certain vocabulary and mimicked how I said things.

Need for spontaneity

So much of communication is situational and spontaneous: Where an event took place, what the score was, why someone was late for something.

The method of memorization forces students to retrieve information they retained and disposed of years ago. It also fosters a distaste of learning the language — the second anything becomes a chore, it becomes something we detest. It’s impossible to expect students, in the middle of conversation to recall what they were force-fed in some classroom years back.

It’s understandable that revamping the province’s French curriculum may not be high on Alberta Education’s priority list. Opportunities to speak the language organically are extremely limited—less than 25 000 of the province’s 3.6 million people identify French as the language the speak most often at home.

That being said, we need a conversation about whether the memorize-at-all-costs approach should be retired. Right now, that approach is leading Alberta students to despise — as opposed to appreciate — the French language.

Salim Valji is a media professional based in Montreal, Quebec. He is originally from Edmonton and has worked in Paris and New York City. 

Published in Education
Monday, 08 August 2016 15:45

‘We are Just as Safe as a Year Ago’

by Our National Correspondent

Recent terror attacks in Europe have unnerved Canadians and many wonder which nation or what out-of-the-way tourist spot may be the next venue for a suicide bomber. New Canadian Media asked two experts on the evolution of terrorism, Amarnath Amarasingham and Phil Gurski, to give us their latest threat perceptions.

This interview was conducted by e-mail. 

NCM: Do recent attacks in western Europe, including some involving refugees, and the anti-immigrant sentiment stoked by Brexit alter your views on the threat faced by Canada?

PHIL: The terrorist threat to Canada is not more significant now than it was a year ago (i.e. during the Paris attacks – see Ralph Goodale’s statement). The recent events in France and Germany do not have a direct bearing on what may happen in Canada: that is why the Canadian government does not tend to raise the level in the aftermath of overseas attacks. The level is set based on intelligence and relates directly to the threat to this country.

 

AMAR: Having said that, I do think many people are worried about copycat attacks, especially by individuals who are already inspired by the ISIS (Islamic State) or AQ (Al Qaeda) message. As we saw in Europe in July, several attacks happened almost back to back. This is often not a coincidence, but involves individuals who see other attacks and are inspired to launch their own. Or, more operationally speaking, see a law enforcement crack down around the corner and speed up their own plans.

 

NCM: As you know, Canada is at the forefront of resetting refugees caught in the Syrian quagmire. Do recent events give you pause?

PHIL: With respect to the refugee issue, my guess would be that the small number of attacks tied to refugees in Europe would not play into the threat to Canada. The situations in Europe and Canada are starkly different. Europe was faced with an onslaught of millions of refugees whom they were not able to screen: hence it was possible for those with ties to terrorist groups to mingle with legitimate refugees. Canada took in far fewer and these were carefully vetted by CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and CBSA. (Canadian Border Services Agency). While it is possible that an extremist would be able to get through, it is less likely. Here is a link to my blogs on the refugee issue here and here. Canada has never had the same scale of anti-immigrant lunacy we are seeing in the wake of Brexit and I do not think we ever will – at least not in the near future.  Canadians are largely pro-immigration – we have been raised that way.

AMAR: Canadians are certainly pro-immigration, but I think it’s within bounds. As we saw with the last election, most Canadians (and polls confirm this) make a distinction between immigrants and refugees. They see the latter as somehow illegitimate, as people who milk the system, as people who are potentially dangerous and so on. And as we also saw with the last election, when attacks happen abroad, like the Paris attacks, where one of the attackers was rumored to have traveled on a fake passport through migrant networks, it does have an effect here. This happens even though it was one person, and, as Phil says, we are separated from these conflict zones by large bodies of water, which allows us to choose who we let in very carefully.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Canadians] see [refugees] as somehow illegitimate, as people who milk the system, as people who are potentially dangerous and so on.[/quote]

NCM: Phil has previously written about radicalization being an "idiosyncratic" process: there is perhaps no pre-determined pathway. Does that make the challenge of dealing with radicalization an impossible task?

PHIL: It is not “impossible” to deal with radicalisation to violence even if the process is idiosyncratic.  The inputs are unique to every person: the outputs (or the signs) are usually quite obvious to those who know what to look for (see my book The Threat from Within for a fuller discussion). I am no longer privy to the “chatter” about Canada.  

AMAR: I agree with most of that, but there’s a difference between whether groups “out there” hate us and whether we are making our citizens feel included and welcome. On the one hand, there is no real evidence that increased inclusion prevents radicalization to violence. In fact, I’ve interviewed fighters who still love the country they grew up in, never experienced racism, etc. They left to fight in Syria because they saw it as a religious obligation to defend fellow Muslims. 

NCM: What's the latest "chatter" about Canada? Are we in the crosshairs of the various terrorist groups or are we less so because of our humanitarian and empathetic response to the refugee crises? 

PHIL: I am no longer privy to the “chatter” about Canada.  In a weird way, Amar is closer to this now than I am. It must be said, however, that there never was much “chatter” about Canada when I was with CSIS or CSE (Communications Security Establishment).  We have never been a primary target of any Islamist terrorist group.  This is not to say we can down tools and lower our vigilance but we will never garner the same attention as the US, the UK, France or others.

AMAR: We are certainly on the radar. Canada often shows up in speeches by ISIS spokesman Adnani, and in some of the jihadist Twitter and Telegram platforms. The question is whether “chatter” constitutes a real threat and something we should put our resources into protecting against. A good example are these “kill lists” that often get published by pro-ISIS hacking groups online. These lists are published in fairly obscure, by mainstream standards, jihadi platforms and the only people who often know about them are people like me and Phil, who have nothing better to do than to watch this stuff. A recent kill list had thousands of names for example. So, yes, we should be vigilant, but we should also be careful not to over-react. 

NCM: Lastly, are we more safe or less safe as a result of the change in government in Ottawa last fall? The Liberals have made "inclusion" a big part of their narrative, including immigrant and refugee inclusion. Does that bode well to minimize the risk of terrorism and radicalization?

PHIL: If you look at the latest Dabiq (#16), you see a section (page 30) where IS tells us why it hates us.  Whether we have a Conservative or Liberal (or even NDP!) government is irrelevant.  Terrorist groups like IS have a laundry list of grievances against everyone and they don’t take the time to read about our more “inclusive” society and change their view.  We are, to put it simply, an enemy because of who and what we are and the likelihood that this will change is next to nil. Still, it must be stressed that we are relatively safe in Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Whether we have a Conservative or Liberal (or even NDP!) government is irrelevant.[/quote]

AMAR: Phil is right that for some of these groups, the bar for inclusion is quite high – like some of these “Sharia4Belgium” type groups who don’t feel “included” unless they are living under Sharia Law. It’s not a level of inclusion that people in the West are ever going to accept. On the other hand, I think we in Canada are indeed doing something right, even if we can’t really put our finger on what that might be. The challenge is to not screw it up. 

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield).

Amarnath Amarasingam is a Fellow at The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism and tweets at @AmarAmarasingam 

Published in Top Stories

by Alexander Tesar

For more than a year, Canadian CF-18s have been striking ISIS targets with laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.

Airstrikes began in Iraq in November 2014, but the Conservatives voted to expand the fight into Syria last March. In total, Operation Impact has conducted 1,750 sorties so far. The Liberals made an election promise to end Canada’s bombing campaign early, arguing that we should send personnel to train local troops instead.

But then terrorists attacked Paris last month, killing 132 people and injuring hundreds more. There has since been discussion in Europe and the U.S. about invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty — the article that enshrines “collective defense,” where an attack against one ally is considered an attack on them all.

But does a terrorist incident qualify as an “attack,” and could Canada be forced into escalating a war against its will?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][C]ould Canada be forced into escalating a war against its will?[/quote]

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was founded on April 4, 1949 to combat the expanding Soviet Union.

At the time, countries throughout Europe saw the Soviet Union as a threat to their sovereignty — the previous year had seen a coup in Czechoslovakia, civil war in Greece, and an attempt to starve West Berlin into submission.

Article 5 was meant to give the agreement teeth. Especially for smaller, weaker countries, a military alliance with the United States promised protection from marauding communists within and without.

But the Cold War eventually thawed out. The first and only country to ever invoke Article 5 is none other than the United States, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In response, NATO scrambled the jets and began Operation Eagle Assist. Crew from 13 countries flew 360 surveillance missions over U.S. airspace, patrolling the skies for eight months. Some of NATO’s naval forces were also sent to the Mediterranean to fight terrorism — an operation that has lasted almost 15 years and is still going on to this day.

Article 5 deliberately vague 

Canada sent soldiers to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, but Article 5 did not compel them to do so.

That’s because Article 5, despite its impressive rhetoric, can’t really compel anyone to do anything. The wording is deliberately vague. Though many today associate the U.S. with bloated battles in exotic locales, it once shunned all conflicts beyond its borders; the stars and stripes arrived late to both the First and Second World Wars.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Article 5, despite its impressive rhetoric, can’t really compel anyone to do anything.[/quote] 

According to their constitution, only Congress can actually declare war, and politicians in 1949 were justifiably concerned that a mutual-defence treaty could draw them into a fight they didn’t pick — over the previous 50 years, Europe had developed a habit of spontaneously exploding into armed conflict.

So when it came time to negotiate, the U.S. insisted that collective defence did not mean an automatic declaration of war. Instead, each country would assist with “such action as it deem[ed] necessary, including the use of armed force.” The countries that needed the most protection were not in a position to dictate terms, and the terms have not changed since then.

So, what will Canada do if France or another NATO country invokes Article 5? Basically, whatever it wants.

Although France is well within its rights to invoke the article — the only precedent for using it is, after all, a terrorist attack — it does not specify any action that must be taken beyond aiding the country in question.

Trudeau’s commitment to train local forces, while probably less effective than airstrikes, fulfills Canada’s treaty obligations. Whether it fulfills public opinion remains to be seen.


Alexander Tesar is a Krembil Fellow at The Walrus.

Re-published in partnership with The Walrus

 

Published in Commentary

by Susan Korah in Ottawa

Swiss-born Muslim academic and author Tariq Ramadan told an Ottawa audience that governments and the public should recognize the equal dignity of all human beings, regardless of whether they are citizens of Paris, Beirut, or any other place.

At a public lecture on November 22, Ramadan said the principle behind “Je suis Paris” should be applied with equal consistency to all victims of terror attacks. The recent attacks in Beirut, Mali and other places outside the Western world got nowhere near the same level of attention and expressions of sympathy that the November 13 shootings and bombings in Paris generated, he added.

Ramadan was the featured speaker at an event organized by the Montreal-based Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a non-governmental organization that advocates for justice and human rights in the storm centre of many of the world’s conflicts.

Not religion, but perception

Invited to speak about refugees, wars and the fears and fanaticism of our age, Ramadan spent much of his hour-long address deconstructing the roots of the problem, which he firmly denied was a “clash of civilizations” or religions.

“It is a matter of the geo-strategic and economic interests of the governments and transnational corporations involved in this,” he said, adding that it was a “clash of perceptions” rather than of religions.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Where there is no justice, there is no peace.[/quote]

He commented that religion is used by Middle Eastern leaders as an instrument to manipulate Muslims, while their Western counterparts use “values” such as “democracy,” “human rights” and the “liberation of women” for the same purpose to secure the support of a secular public.

Ramadan said this has resulted in the current destabilization of the Middle East, with  lethal consequences for the entire world – such as terror attacks, the curtailment of civil liberties in the name of security and the deaths of thousands of refugees as they try to flee across borders.  

Ramadan emphasized that the blame for the “mess,” as he described it, must be shared equally by Western governments for their aggressive, militaristic foreign policies, and by their allies, the corrupt regimes of many Middle Eastern countries whose economic interests are aligned with those of the West.

“Where there is no justice, there is no peace,” he said, pointing out that the American government’s unconditional support of Israel has ignored the rights of Palestinians, and this has incensed Muslims everywhere, causing some of them to become radicalized.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We (Muslims) too have a responsibility in this clash of perceptions and need to be self-critical.” [/quote]

Violating the dignity of Palestinans is not often covered in the media, he said, adding that the protection of Israel has resulted in so much conflict that it has had consequences for ordinary American and French citizens.

For example, the Patriot Act in the U.S. has diminished the civil liberties of Americans, and the French government is doing the same thing in the name of security.

“Thanks, Canada, for not choosing the worst of these measures,” he said, and complimented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees. “About 2,800 migrants died in the Mediterranean within three years, but we didn’t react until we saw a photo of Aylan Kurdi,” he said, referring to the image of the three-year-old Kurdish refugee boy, who drowned last September.

Cautioning people against “indulging in emotional politics,” he advised Muslims living in the Western world to speak up against violations of human dignity everywhere. “Don’t indulge in victimhood,” he warned.

“We (Muslims) too have a responsibility in this clash of perceptions and need to be self-critical,” he stated, adding there is no unity within the Muslim diaspora, and no space for intellectual discussion.

He noted that Muslims from various countries tend to isolate themselves from one another, even if they live in the Western world.

“We need unity, not uniformity, so don’t import your divisions from your home countries,” he said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Because of recent events in Paris, I feel that people are not so welcoming of refugees as in the past.”[/quote]

Canadians’ fears and concerns

Asked for her reaction to Ramadan’s speech and if she had any of her own fears and concerns about the fallout from the Middle Eastern conflict, Patricia Jean, office manager of CJPME and a relatively recent convert to Islam, said: “As a veiled Canadian, I am concerned about the reactions of other Canadians to Muslims. Because of recent events in Paris, I feel that people are not so welcoming of refugees as in the past.”

Kamiliya Akkouche, a student of International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa, said: “I agree that people should not react in an emotional way, and should address their fears by holding to account all the governments in the West and in the Middle East that are responsible.”

Kenya-born Sarah Onyango, a resident of Gatineau and host of the radio program Afrika Revisited, commented: “Kenya has received the world’s refugees, and my concern is not that refugees are coming to Canada but that we don’t have the resources to support their integration, and their communities will become breeding grounds of frustration and alienation. This will result in some of them becoming radicalized.”

Vicky Smallman, a community activist, stated that she would not want to see political parties and campaigns exploit the racism that lies under the surface. “I don’t want to see any group targeted,” she said. 

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Politics

by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa 

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne made a broad appeal for acceptance at a visit to an Ottawa mosque for Friday prayers last week.

Wynne stopped by the Ottawa Muslim Association’s mosque with Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi, and addressed the violent Paris attacks two weeks ago, saying it is “now more important than ever” to show compassion towards others.

“It’s our responsibility as Canadians to make sure we guard against the fear and we resist blame that can lead to racism and to hatred. At these moments it’s extremely important we reinforce our Canadian values that are [inclusive] and based in compassion.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s our responsibility as Canadians to make sure we resist blame that can lead to racism and to hatred."[/quote]

She said the Paris attacks were an act of terrorism not borne of religion “because religion has no place for hate.”

Wynne said she met Thursday night with the young Muslim woman from her own Toronto riding who was physically attacked and called a terrorist.

“I could feel the fear that is in that household because she was attacked outside her children's school. She was born in Toronto.”

“That kind of hatred is what we have to guard against at this moment in our history,” Wynne said.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Naqvi said the Premier’s visit to the mosque sends “a very strong message that we as Ontarians stand together.”[/quote]

Defeat hatred with love

There were several other acts recently in the province, including one on a Peterborough mosque that was burnt down. That incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime.

“Only love is going to defeat hatred,” she said.

Naqvi said that in the face of acts of violence and hate, the Premier’s visit to the mosque sends “a very strong message that we as Ontarians stand together.”

On welcoming Syrian refugees, Wynne said “that humanitarian crisis calls on us to demonstrate who we are in the world.”

The province aims to resettle some 10,000 refugees by end of 2016.

Federal Cabinet Ministers said today they would announce details of the refugee plan on Tuesday.


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Top Stories

by Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario

The online reaction to the horrific events in Paris of November 13 has been a wake-up call for those of us who work in the immigration, race relations and multiculturalism sector.

We thought our work was creating citizens who respect those of different cultures and religions. I believe it has, but lying just under the surface is a minority of people looking for opportunities to vent.

The reporting from Paris has given licence to bigots to take to their computers and demonstrate to the world how ill-informed they are. Even those who should know better, such as the Conservative Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, have joined the fray. In the U.S., Republican governors plan to suspend the acceptance of new Syrian refugees.

Their rant is essentially this:  put a halt to the Syrian refugees coming to North America because there may be terrorists among them. And, by the way, all Muslims are terrorists.

Seriously, people?

Confusing issues

The refugees are trying to escape the violence, not create it. Their country is torn by a civil war, made even more complicated by the presence of Islamic State (ISIS), which consists of gangs of thugs who think, in their twisted minds, that what they are doing is in the name of Islam.

In Peterborough, Ontario, the Paris tragedy gave licence to someone to firebomb a mosque. The community, to its credit, has demonstrated its solidarity with its Muslim citizens.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Immigrants and refugees create jobs and their sons and daughters may be our business, cultural and political leaders of tomorrow. Canada is a nation of immigrants.[/quote]

In my city of North Bay, Ontario, an innocuous news article on BayToday.ca November 16 about the status of Syrian refugee families coming to our city brought out the haters with online comments.

Here’s the best one, without alternation to correct for grammatical errors:  “Cannot even believe this. Once these people come over you can be sure I'll be pulling my kids out of school that's for sure. Nowhere (sic) in North Bay let alone Canada will be safe anymore.”

Indeed. Beware of a six-year-old struggling to fit in and learn English.

Overblown rhetoric

The paranoia spread by our previous federal government obviously resonated with some all too willing to believe there is a terrorist hiding behind every tree.

Even some of the educated people I know are questioning why Canada should be accepting Syrian refugees, as though the Paris tragedy and the Syrian refugee crisis are related events. They are not.

Yes, a Syrian passport was found near the remains of one of the terrorists. It may have been his, it may have been someone else’s, or it may have been a forgery.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We need refugees and immigrants in Canada. In Northern Ontario, many cities and towns are looking at declining populations.[/quote]

In any case, the refugees coming to Canada are not those who risked their lives on leaky boats to get to Greece, and then trekked on through country after country to get to Germany. The ones coming to North Bay have been living in Lebanon and have been vetted by the United Nations Refugee Agency and by Canadian immigration officials on the ground.

We are looking at very large families—not single men in their 20s.

Community outpouring

The dozens of people in North Bay and area who have donated $45,000 to date to sponsor refugee families remain committed, despite the backlash. A farming couple from outside the city brought in $1,000 cash and an offer to provide free fresh meat to the families every week.  A hair stylist has offered free haircuts for a year.

There are many good people in our community who don’t bother responding to racist online commentary. They feel it is better to ignore it, rather than fan the flames. In my view, however, there comes a point when you have to call them on it, and we reached that point.

For all you haters, this is directed to you. Stop watching the screaming talking heads on Fox News and CNN and get your news from our good Canadian TV networks. Better yet, pick up a reliable newspaper like the Globe and Mail (and visit this digital platform, NCM).

Informing yourself takes a little more effort than reading your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Do some serious reading before you get on your computer and click the Send button.

We need refugees and immigrants in Canada. In Northern Ontario, many cities and towns are looking at declining populations. Immigrants and refugees create jobs and their sons and daughters may be our business, cultural and political leaders of tomorrow. Canada is a nation of immigrants.

And, for those in Peterborough who firebombed the mosque. You should sit down and have a cup of tea with your new Member of Parliament. She was named to the Trudeau cabinet as Minister of Democratic Institutions. Her name is Maryam Monsef. She came to Canada as a refugee from Afghanistan. She is Muslim.


Don Curry is the Executive Director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, Co-Chair of the North Bay Newcomer Network Local Immigration Partnership Initiative, Timmins Local Immigration Partnership and northern region board member for OCASI. He is also a board member of Pathways to Prosperity, a national immigration research organization.

{module NCM Blurb}

Published in Commentary

by Michael Harris in Ottawa

In politics as in life, you always meet the devil on a curve.

For Justin Trudeau, mass murder in Paris is his trial by ordeal as prime minister. It didn’t take very long. At the end of the month, Paris was supposed to be the glittering venue where a new, young prime minister, and an impressive delegation, would announce to the world that the old Canada is back. No more fossil awards, no more climate change denial on behalf of oil companies or the Koch Brothers, no more corporate-driven “facts” on the environment, no more beating the war drums. Canada was not shaking its finger at the world anymore, but offering an embrace.

It was the Canada the world knew — collegial and multilateral, not bullying and unilateral. Or at least that was the script until the City of Lights became a charnel house.

Changing script

Events in Paris threaten to turn the Trudeau debut and the climate change summit into a sub-plot. One of the reasons behind Trudeau’s landslide victory on last month was his promise to withdraw from the bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria while still remaining in the U.S. led coalition but in a different role.

One of the first things Trudeau did after winning the election was to inform U.S. President Barack Obama of his decision to get out of the bombing business. Judging by the polls, Canadians approved. A whopping 75 per cent said that they were happy with the outcome of the election — though no specific question was asked about bringing back the jets.

In place of the bombs, Trudeau offered three other ways Canada could contribute to the coalition effort: take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end; increase humanitarian aid to those displaced by the bitter civil war; and to train Kurds in Northern Iraq so that they could defeat the terrorists who have annexed other peoples’ lands to create their self-declared caliphate.

With 129 dead in Paris, the French president cancelling his trip to the G-20 summit in Turkey, and the far right French leader Marine Le Pen demanding the “annihilation” of ISIS, Trudeau will be under tremendous pressure to reverse his decision to bring home the F-18s.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he prime minister’s pledge to re-settle 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end will soon be portrayed as a dangerous and irresponsible opening of Canada’s borders.[/quote]

Doubtless, there will also be a concerted push for his new government to leave more of the police-state legislation, C-51, in place.

Finally, the prime minister’s pledge to re-settle 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end will soon be portrayed as a dangerous and irresponsible opening of Canada’s borders, particularly if it can be confirmed that one of the Paris attackers was a refugee who held a Syrian passport.

I note that Godfrey’s Zombies over at the Post are already playing the stale Islamophobia card left over from the Harper years by suggesting that the horror of Paris calls into question a lot of his new direction in foreign policy and national security. It’s all designed to make Trudeau’s knees jerk.

Scrutiny expected of new defence minister  

In the wake of Paris, the Conservatives also have another potent attack line into the Trudeau government when parliament reconvenes on December 3 — Canada’s “Badass” new minister of defence, Harjit Sajjan.

Just two days before the Paris attacks, Sajjan was widely quoted as saying Canadians needn’t fear ISIS. The entire quote, which included “ISIS is a threat, no doubt about that. Should we fear it? No. The Canadian population should have full confidence in all the security services to keep us safe,” will not likely get wide citation. Don’t expect to see those nuances repeated by the likes of Rona Ambrose or Jason Kenney when they rise to ask questions on their first day as the official opposition.

Nor is Sajjan’s vulnerability limited to his poorly timed, but nonetheless true, declaration about ISIS. Sajjan’s military past, filled with honours and awards for courage and ingenuity, also has a potential dark side.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Sajjan might find himself in an untenable position if the Trudeau government decides to call an inquiry into an old ghost of the Harper years — the Afghan Detainee scandal.[/quote]

According to a new piece written for NOW Magazine, Sajjan might find himself in an untenable position if the Trudeau government decides to call an inquiry into an old ghost of the Harper years — the Afghan Detainee scandal.

Why are the folks over at the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives asking for a public inquiry into this issue? For starters, because it has never been resolved.

Despite the parliamentary testimony of diplomat Richard Colvin, the Harper government smothered every investigation into whether Canadian forces had committed war crimes by turning detainees over to Afghan authorities who then tortured them. Only 4,000 out of 40,000 documents Harper was ordered to hand over by the Speaker of the House of Commons were ever produced. That is called unfinished business.

But there is another reason. The Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating a new case to determine if Canadian soldiers abused and terrorized detainees at their Kandahar base.

Accordingly, the Rideau Institute is asking for a judicial commission of inquiry into the detainee affair “into the actions of Canadian officials, including ministers of the crown…” The head of the Rideau Institute, Peggy Mason, a former UN diplomat, says that if Justin Trudeau is truly committed to transparency and accountability, this is the file to prove it on.

That might be uncomfortable for Trudeau’s choice as minister of defence. Everyone knows that Harjit Sajjan was a high-level intelligence officer who participated in combat operations during his multiple tours in Afghanistan which began in 2006. There have been published reports that Sajjan gathered intelligence that led to the killing or capture of 1,500 suspected members of the Taliban.

But here’s the catch for Trudeau. The former Major Sajjan was the Canadian “intelligence liaison” to one of the most corrupt and abusive local authorities in Afghanistan — the Governor of Kandahar, the infamous and corrupt Asadullah Khalid.

Khalid had something unusual for a man who had everything: his own dungeon in Ghazni province. It has been reported that he regularly tortured people there for money and for information. Khalid went on to head up Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS).

During his Parliamentary testimony, diplomat Richard Colvin said Khalid was well-known back in the day for his human rights abuses.

The question is this: in his capacity as intelligence liaison to such a man as Khalid, did Sajjan pass on intelligence information to his superiors that was obtained by torture? Did he know all along that what Richard Colvin laid bare to the world was true?

At the time of this writing, the author of the NOW magazine piece, Matthew Behrens, had been told by DND officials that Sajjan was too busy for an interview.

Trudeau needs to do what he said he would

It is the Big Leagues and they pitch fast. Justin Trudeau’s honeymoon may be over in jig-time.

So what should he do? Submit to all the pressure to admit that ‘Harper’s way’ was the right way? My unsolicited and very likely unwanted advice is to keep faith with Canadians and do what you said you were going to do. And that will mean saying a few things that are tough to declare, but need more than ever to be said — including that bombing in the Middle East is not the answer to that region’s massive problems.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Justin Trudeau needs to have the courage of the convictions that got him elected.[/quote]

Andrew Bacevich wrote in the Boston Globe about waging a “pitiless war” against ISIS, which French government leaders have threatened in response to the atrocities in Paris:

“It’s not as if the outside world hasn’t already given pitiless war a try. The Soviet Union spent all of the 1980s attempting to pacify Afghanistan and succeeded only in killing a million or so Afghans while creating an incubator for Islamic radicalism. Beginning in 2003, the United States attempted something similar in Iraq and ended up producing similarly destabilizing results. By the time the U.S. troops withdrew in 2011, something like 200,000 Iraqis had died, most of them civilians. Today Iraq teeters on the brink of disintegration.”

I like the poem by Karma Ezara Parikh. She wrote: “It’s not Paris we should be praying for, it’s the world.” This came from a woman who is a better historian than the hired guns over at the Post and most of the Western media.

Parikh knew that the day before the attacks in Paris, ISIS had killed 43 people and wounded 239 more in an attack at an open air market in Beirut. She remembered that 19 were recently killed and 33 injured by an ISIS suicide bomber in Baghdad, who struck at a funeral in a mosque. One hundred more were killed by ISIS last month in Ankara, Turkey. The world yawned. Paris was another matter.

President Obama said this: "This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.” He offered no official statement after Beirut.

The West has been bombing Muslim countries in the Middle East since 1980 and all it has done is to give the world Al Qaeda on steroids and chaos not only in the Middle East, but also in the western democracies who seem to think that that they can send their war machine into the Middle East without domestic consequences. President Obama himself has said that U.S. foreign policy created ISIS.

Justin Trudeau needs to have the courage of the convictions that got him elected. When it comes to the so-called War on Terror, the Harper approach was part of the problem, not the answer.


Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His new book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, is a number one best-seller and has been shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Literary Award for English-language non-fiction.

Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Commentary
Sunday, 15 November 2015 20:30

Paris Attacks: Requiem for the Nameless

by Hadani Ditmars in Vancouver, British Columbia

As friends in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad reach out to tell me they are safe after recent attacks by Islamic State (IS), a myriad of thoughts and images run through my mind. Huge obscenities and small graces alike.

I think of the billions of dollars that Dick Cheney and his cohorts made on the back of an illegal invasion and occupation that spawned its own counter-barbarism that unleashed itself on three nations this past week.

I think of the shy Iraqi altar boy with a sweet smile I photographed on Christmas Eve in Baghdad in 1998, three days after the Desert Fox bombing by (U.S.) President Bill Clinton.

I think of the massacre of Algerians by French police in 1961 – technically the worst in Paris since World War II. And of the romantic postcard vision of Paris vs. the reality that France is currently the fourth biggest arms exporter in the world with Saudi Arabia its biggest client.

Luxury of security

I think of my friends living in war zones and am reminded of the luxury of security here in Canada and the open-heartedness of those preparing for the arrival of refugees.

And I remember the time I spent living in Paris in the early 90’s. Then, in between writing about Algerian intellectuals fleeing FIS, metro bombings and the cinema of the banlieue, I earned my keep singing on weekends in le Marais – not far from one of the six attacks on Friday.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I am] reminded of the luxury of security here in Canada and the open-heartedness of those preparing for the arrival of refugees.[/quote]

Under the old archways of Place des Vosges, I would sing flamenco incantations – often accompanied by a Senegalese pal who chimed in African rhythms  (until he got deported back to Dakar). I would also play gypsy songs from war-torn Bosnia and of course — as a patriotic Canadian — the songs of Leonard Cohen.

I think of some now … music as a balm for my soul — and for all our broken hearts — the same songs I sang with friends in Beirut and in Baghdad and Sarajevo that helped stave off the darkness and somehow reach the emotional truth of our war-torn world. As a Palestinian singer from Sabreen once told me, “We have tried every kind of resistance … now all that is left is to sing.”

I remember songs like Stories of the Street “All these hunters who are shrieking now oh do they speak for us?”)

When Love Calls You By Your Name – “Between the newsreel and your tiny pain”

There is a War – “why don't you come on back to the war, let's all get even”

And of course the Partisan song Cohen sang of the French resistance – “through the graves the wind is blowing, through the graves the wind is blowing, freedom soon will come.”

Compassion for all

I also remember the (Chilean nueva cancion) Victor Jara songs I used to sing – especially right now - El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (the Right to Live in Peace)

These songs are full of struggle and despair but also of hope – from a time when the Vietnam War raged and atrocities ran rampant. They still lift the human spirit and speak to universal values.

I sing them now silently in remembrance of all this week’s victims, and wonder why this new barbarism can’t spawn once again — instead of more hate — a mass movement of peace, justice and solidarity.

I hope that – like the refugee crisis that has affected so many nations – this fresh new barbarism will be an opportunity for the human family to transcend petty tribalisms and unite in protest and calls for peace, dignity and compassion for all.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I sing them now silently in remembrance of all this week’s victims, and wonder why this new barbarism can’t spawn once again — instead of more hate — a mass movement of peace, justice and solidarity.[/quote]

Each generation has its horrors and counter-responses. The recent Remembrance or Veterans Day – before it was co-opted for glorification of the military – was a day initiated to refuse war and violence.

Admittedly, compassion is often very selective and culturally determined and really is about who we identify with — mostly. It's quite an art to transcend that. But I hope by now, we are up to the challenge.

And so as the names of the dead in Paris are slowly, terribly revealed on 24-hour news channels around the world, I say a prayer for them, but also for the nameless in less televisual climes. Those who had the misfortune of being blown up on their way to work, taking their kids to school, shopping in the market, while going to church or praying in a mosque, in some remote corner of a Baghdad suburb, where journalists dare not dine.

I say a prayer for Beirutis, who have lived this so many times before; a prayer for innocent Palestinian families, burned to death by settlers with American passports; a prayer for all the Kenyans, killed in terrorist attacks, who also had names and hopes and families. A prayer for the Rohingyan widows and orphans and those murdered in the name of democracy. A prayer for Yemenis whose wedding parties are routinely bombed to no great alarm.

A prayer for all the Syrians who experience scenes like those in Paris every day and as they flee, are conflated with the very terror they run from. A prayer for us all who struggle to make this life one of meaning and dignity.

May we all sing a Requiem together as one human family, and pierce the darkness with our tears of light.


Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No Fly Zone and is working on a new book about ancient sites in Iraq. She has been reporting from the Middle East for two decades and is also a singer and musician. 

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Published in Commentary
Thursday, 05 February 2015 21:17

Boko Haram: Where is the Global Outcry?

by Maryam Mirza (@MsMMirza) in Ottawa

#JeSuisCharlie

#IAmBaga

Both powerful hashtags. Both ways for people all around the world to express public outcry over the mass killings of people in France and Nigeria respectively. But, only one garnered millions of social media posts. The question that many people have taken to the Twitter verse with is: why? According to one Canadian expert, it has a lot to do with the mainstream media’s need to present a contrast between the forces of good and evil.

“In the Nigerian case that dichotomy is not clear-cut,” said Dr. Tope Oriola, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, during an event held recently at Carleton University titled “Boko Haram in Nigeria: A Critical Roundtable”. “There are really no good guys. There are only bad guys and less bad guys. And so how do you pick sides? How do you frame what is going on in terms of the chaos there?”

Oriola, joined by Carleton University professors Dr. Pius Adesanmi and Dr. Nduka Otiona, aimed to provide context to the lack of mainstream coverage and understanding of Boko Haram, an extremist group that has claimed over 5,000 lives in northern Nigeria since its emergence in 2002. Perhaps the under reporting of this more than decade long turmoil was most apparent in the aftermath of the killings in Paris at the beginning of this year – claiming the lives of 12 journalists at the Charlie Hebdo publication – which received considerably more media attention.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]In both instances, radicals with similar ideologies attacked the cities, however, the global reaction to each was quite different.[/quote]

At the same time the world, and the media, was fixated on Paris, Boko Haram made its way through Baga, a city in northeast Nigeria, murdering 2,000 people in what Amnesty International described as the “deadliest massacre” in the group’s history. The attack began on January 3 (Hebdo shooting happened on the 7th), lasting almost an entire week as the extremist organization ploughed through the city, leaving a trail of bodies behind and displacing thousands of people from their homes.

In both instances, radicals with similar ideologies attacked the cities, however, the global reaction to each was quite different.

Forty world leaders marched in Paris. Protests were held in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Hashtags trended globally. The world expressed outrage over the events. However, the attention to the massacre of women and children in Baga, Nigeria paled in comparison. The panel presented various theories as to why this was. 

[youtube height="315" width="560"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qETzz5kBNmU&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Watch a clip from "Boko Haram in Nigeria: A Critical Roundtable" held by Carleton University's Institute of African Studies.

Video Shot & Edited By: Maryam Mirza

Media Power

According to Oriola, the shooting in Paris held importance because of its unusualness. The frequency of the attacks by Boko Haram has reduced its level of extraordinariness, in turn, reducing the news value of what is going on, despite the shock of the recent mass killings.  If what happened at Charlie Hebdo were to occur often in France, it would become stale news as well. The sheer volume, Oriola argued, is difficult to keep up with.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It is epic displacement of priority to focus on under-representation of Boko Haram incidents in the world media rather than finding solutions to the problem.” - Dr. Tope Oriola[/quote]

Further to that though, is the role of the colonial mentality in the coverage of the tragedies in France and Nigeria. The colonizing country validates the worth of the colonized subject, he explained. In order for the world to pay attention, the countries that hold media power – the west – need to deem it important enough. The hegemony of global media lies quite obviously in the hands of the west, in turn influencing the coverage of certain issues over others, Oriola explained, though he pointed out that he does not believe this is driven by racism.

“Valuing the lives of Nigerians begins with ensuring provision of security, a decent living standard, education and other basic infrastructure,” he added. “It is epic displacement of priority to focus on under-representation of Boko Haram incidents in the world media rather than finding solutions to the problem.”

Oriola’s last argument shifted the perspective of Boko Haram from being an international responsibility, to being, first and foremost, a national one. The emergence of Boko Haram didn’t happen overnight. After its establishment in 2002, it existed as a local organization for a few years until mobilizing in 2009, seeking support from partners across the Sahel, growing and strengthening in numbers since that time. This brings into question why this extremist group hasn’t been dealt with before becoming a threat to national security.

A Country Divided

Adesanmi explained the issue as being rooted in a lack, or “absence of national or regional will.” Many of Boko Haram’s young recruits come from northern Nigeria, where the region suffers from a lack of socioeconomic benefits that the south or the rest of the country enjoy.

Understanding the longstanding disconnect between the northern region and the rest of the country and its residents helps to contextualize the lack of concern and response to Boko Haram, Adesanmi said. The lack of a unified, national identity, in a sense, leads the rest of the country and the government to become disengaged with the pressing issue of Boko Haram.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Boko Haram or no Boko Haram – there is no regional sense of feeling. The absence of a national will and the absence of a regional will combine to exacerbate the absence of a political will." - Dr. Pius Adesanmi[/quote]

Adesanmi also argued that the lack of regional will and the divide between Anglophone and Francophone countries within West Africa are both issues in this conflict. Take, for example, Yayi Boni, president of the West African nation, Benin. In a photo that went viral online, he was seen weeping over the killings of Charlie Hebdo staff, and on the day he flew out of Cotonou to France, Boko Haram killed 2,000 West Africans. Yet, as of now, he has still not released a statement about the Baga massacre.

“Is there a pan-Nigerian structure of feeling, of ownership, of this crisis in a fundamental sense?” asked Adesanmi. “Boko Haram or no Boko Haram – there is no regional sense of feeling. The absence of a national will and the absence of a regional will combine to exacerbate the absence of a political will. All three of these should be taken into consideration when discussing Boko Haram.”

As Boko Haram continues to strengthen and claim lives, the issue is hardly black and white. According to Adesanmi the discussion must be had regionally as well as internationally. As he explained, understanding the circumstances that created this extremist group, the vulnerable area of northern Nigeria exploited by Boko Haram, and the disconnect between the people of northern Nigeria and the rest of the world lie is crucial in this discussion.

“The inability to comprehend the character of the group is at the core of stopping Boko Haram,” said Otiono. “This delay in understanding Boko Haram is related to the delay in containing it too.”

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Published in Top Stories

by Hadani Ditmars (@HadaniDitmars) in Vancouver

As the Academy Award nominations briefly usurp global terror headlines, I recall how watching events unfold in Paris last week was a somewhat cinematic experience.

More often than not, it was a bad B movie. Images of a femme fatale terrorist Hayat Boumeddiene – alternately a Bond girl in bikini turned fantasy villain in niqab and cross bow (cross bow!? really?) – were surreal at best, grotesque at worst.

There were some definite Hollywood moments – including the police stand offs, the hostage taking and even a few unlikely heroes, like the Muslim worker at the kosher deli who saved his fellow citizens by hiding them in a freezer.

It was a thriller of a movie that kept much of the “free world” glued to CNN and culminated with a march that saw world leaders – many of them perpetrators of gross violations of freedom of expression in their own countries – link arms in solidarity with the victims of the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

And it was myopic in the extreme – what about Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, the 17 Palestinian journalists killed by Israeli forces during the attack on Gaza last year that killed over 2,100 people, the Palestinian cartoonist recently released from prison who was critical of both Hamas and Netanyahu, or the journalists locked in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s new gulags in Cairo? And what about the hundreds of Iraqi journalists (including cartoonists) murdered since the invasion in 2003 (Iraq has consistently been the most dangerous country for journalist for years), unmourned by the world at large, or their Syrian colleagues caught in a half-decade-long nightmare fuelled by proxy militias funded by international players?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][H]ow was it that the Kouachi brothers just happened to conveniently leave their ID lying around for the police to discover? Or, that they had apparently been on the radar of French intelligence for years?[/quote]

Of course, we’ve come to accept myopia from Hollywood. But even by the usual standards, there were more than a few cracks in this narrative, not to mention some thin plotlines.

How was it possible that the killers of the cartoonists, the Kouachi brothers – linked to kosher deli hostage taker Amedy Coulibaly by a dodgy video broadcast to the world after the attack – were working in tandem with a rival jihadist group? The Kouachi brothers claimed to represent al-Qaeda in Yemen, while Coulibaly claimed to be with Islamic State (IS) – two factions currently at each other’s throats in Syria.

And how was it that the Kouachi brothers just happened to conveniently leave their ID lying around for the police to discover? Or, that they had apparently been on the radar of French intelligence for years? Or, that police killed them all before due process might determine whom they were working for and why. Or, that the head of the local police investigation happened to kill himself a few days after the attack? It all began to resemble an Islamist version of Three Days of the Condor meets The Battle of Algiers.

Emotional truth in film

My cinematic lens on the scenario can be blamed on the fact that I watched it all unfold whilst attending the Palm Springs International Film Festival, mainly on the flat screen television in my mid-century modernist hotel room deep in the desert. But just as on September 11, 2001, when I found myself in the middle of a cultural festival in Jordan celebrating East meets West (we all carried on, trancelike, with a scheduled performance of Sufi chanting at the Citadel), there was something oddly comforting about sitting in a darkened theatre with strangers watching world cinema.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]...After so much of [journalism] has been compromised by official stenography and disinformation campaigns, perhaps the emotional truth of cinema is more reliable.[/quote]

Discerning what is real and what isn’t used to be a job for journalists. But after so much of that profession has been compromised by official stenography and disinformation campaigns, perhaps the emotional truth of cinema is more reliable.

When I lived in Paris from 1994 to ’96, and wrote about cinema for Sight and Sound magazine, it was the era of cinema de banlieue and of films like Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine  and Malik Chibane’s Douce France that celebrated suburban anti-heroes, many from immigrant backgrounds, and many of whom were becoming radicalized.

It was also the era of FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), when hundreds of Algerian intellectuals fled death threats from an Islamist group many claim was actually fed by the regime, and faced the same very real racism that 10 per cent of France’s population deals with every day.

Echoes of Ferguson

Selma, which opened the Palm Springs Film Festival and was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, with its compelling chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965, seemed uncanny in its post Ferguson timing. Particularly with its depiction of the live broadcast of state troopers beating peaceful black protestors as a key turning point in the struggle – a timely reminder of the power of the image.

Dancing Arabs, an Israeli film by Eran Riklis based on two novels by Palestinian writer Sayed Kashua, spoke to the civil rights of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, some 20 per cent of the population whose struggle resonates in some ways with that of North African youth in France. The film’s protagonist, a young man who must assume the identity of his dying Israeli classmate in order to keep a job and a tenuous place in society, reminded me of the francization of minorities in France and the intolerance of “difference” vs. the more Anglo-Saxon idea of “multiculturalism” (where you have community representatives who keep tabs on people for the authorities, as was explained to me by a young maghrebin organizer in Paris, who kept a low profile to avoid police harassment).

Timbuktu, a sublime piece of cinema about the Islamist take over of Mali in 2012 by Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako – nominated for an Oscar – offered a nuanced, lyrical approach to the whole issue of extremism and intolerance. Through a series of powerful images, ranging from a group of schoolboys playing a phantom game of soccer with no football (banned as “un-Islamic”) to a Malian musician being whipped for her art and singing through her tears, to a former follies bergeres dancer turned local mad woman standing tall and proud in a ragged costume blocking a jeep full of armed men, in gorgeous defiance, the film showed how foreign the jihadi culture is to traditional Malian, Sufi influenced Islam.

Just as foreign as Wahhabist extremism is to kids from French ghettos whose parents emigrated from the Maghreb. Just as foreign as IS is to traditional Iraqi culture: “Who are these people?” an Iraqi friend asked recently, “they don’t even speak Arabic.” And just as foreign as the National Security Agency (NSA) is to the U.S. constitution.

Cry from the heart

In my fantasy Hollywood ending to the march in Paris, all those world leaders linking arms will spend the next several years visiting widows and orphans in Iraq and Syria and Gaza and the dispossessed in inner-city ghettos from Detroit to Marseilles, consoling and offering their heartfelt apologies to the relatives of drone strike victims in Yemen and Pakistan, of journalists murdered in less telegenic climes and the victims of warlordism in Afghanistan and of torture and extraordinary rendition. In my dream, Je Suis Charlie will become a global cri de coeur for actual liberté, egalité and fraternité.

In the meantime, celluloid dreams aside, we still have culture as a form of self-defence, and as a reminder of what’s real. Just as the final image of Timbuktu – a jihadist secretly practising a beautiful, fragile dance of his own creation – suggests: Peut-être je ne suis pas Charlie, mais certainment je suis humaine.


Hadani Ditmars is the author of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: a Woman's Journey Through Iraq, a past editor at New Internationalist, and has been reporting from the Middle East for two decades. A fifth generation Canadian of mixed ancestry, she lived in Paris in the 90's and wrote for Sight and Sound and The Independent. Her next book is a political travelogue of ancient sites in Iraq.

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Published in Arts & Culture
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