Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
On January 7, a group of students from the local branch of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) organized a peaceful protest outside of the Alberta Legislature, calling for Canada to support closing Guantanamo and bringing child soldier Omar Khadr home.
I took part in a similar rally around two years ago, at Churchill Square.
Like many of the causes with which I am involved, this seems to be one that is very divisive. I am going to list the arguments that I have been encountering, and explain the rationale behind the perspective that Guantanamo should be closed and Omar Khadr should be be brought back to Canada for a fair trial.
Omar Khadr is a terrorist.
When someone is on our side, that person is a war hero; when they are on the other side, that person is a terrorist. One nation's terrorist is another nation's freedom fighter. Omar Khadr was a child soldier in a war (an illegal and unjust war, at that), and in a war, people get killed (which is one reason me and my cohorts protest against it). If Khadr's actions were criminal, he should be tried, then possibly convicted and sentenced. Instead, he has been languishing in a prison for ten years, without a trial.
Excuse me - he pleaded guilty.
What choice did he have? Since his own country, Canada, would not take him back to try him here, it was probably the only way Khadr and his lawyers felt he would ever see the light of day.
His whole family is a bunch of terrorists.
See my original point. Assuming this is true, it only supports the need for Khadr to be tried in Canada as a Canadian. Likely, at his young age he was under the influence of his family for whatever actions he committed.
He was old enough to know what he was doing.
He was a young teenager. Young teens can be open to influence and easily manipulated. A fourteen year old in Canada who commits murder is usually tried as a child (yes, a murder charge can be bumped up to adult court, but even still, he would not have been imprisoned indefinitely and subject to torture).
Do you think the majority of Canadians agree with your view?
I honestly don't know - I have never conducted a poll. However, that is irrelevant. How the nation conducts itself in this situation is the difference between a government that has a foreign policy that simply follows the lead of the US, or one that holds up values of international law and justice. You see, the use of torture against prisoners of war is illegal. It is also ineffective. A person will say anything to make the torture stop. So, a confession acquired through the use of torture is invalid, as far as I am concerned.
As well, Canada is the only country who has not taken back a citizen from Guantanamo. All of the other countries have taken back their nationals and dealt with them on their home turfs. I see no compelling reason why Canada should act any differently.
I know these are controversial issues and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Nor am I saying that Khadr is innocent of any wrong-doing. What I and my cohorts are saying is that the way the Canadian government has done one of its citizens a disservice and by doing so, has tarnished Canada's image to the world.
Here is my full set of photos from the event.
A video of highlights from most of the speakers:
The short march around the Legislature pool:
Thursday, January 05, 2012
A new piece of public art was unveiled in Edmonton in November. It is a sculpture that honours those in the city who live their lives without adequate housing. Located just north of City Hall on 99 Street, it was created by local sculptures Keith Turnbull and Ritchie Velthuis. I finally got a chance to go and photograph the sculpture this week.
The cost of the sculpture was $40,000 - a price tag that made some cringe. They questioned the use of public funds in this manner, expressing doubt that such a piece of art can actually help the homeless.
While it is true that the agencies and shelters who help the homeless (and those at risk) are often underfunded, a piece of public art such as this tribute has its place.
First of all, it raises awareness of the issue. It is a visually striking reminder to anyone who sees it, that there are those in this affluent city who live either without adequate shelter or who are on the margins and one step away from such a fate. As well, people with direct experience of homelessness took part in the creation of the sculpture. Tiles designed and made by these people are featured prominently - and, they were paid for their contributions.
A memorial for men and women who have lost their lives as a direct result of not having a home is usually held in January. However, according to one of the organizers, this year the date is yet to be determined. The hope is to have the memorial outside at the sculpture.
Public art has been viewed with some skepticism lately, due to the unveiling of the Talus Dome on Fox Drive, which cost $600,000, was made by an artist in L.A., and which most people can't seem to figure out. However, sometimes the price is justified. The homeless memorial sculpture has value that goes beyond money.