Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ottawa

Iran Issues Travel Warning on Canada

Well, this story is fairly ironic. The satirical geniuses over at the Iranian Foreign Ministry have reportedly just advised Iranian citizens to avoid the country of Canada, claiming that it’s a hotbed of human rights abuses and corrupt courts.

The travel warning alleges that Canada’s rampant “Islamophobia” and violence have deprived Muslims of their political and legal rights:

IRI’s Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

It’s pretty laughable to think of Iran scolding any country for human rights abuses. But when the country is Canada, it just reaches another level of absurdity. What makes Iran’s ridiculous statement a bit more sobering, however, is the still-vivid memory of the murder of Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed at the hands of her Iranian jailers in 2003. The story consumed Canada for years and serves as just one example of the true human rights abuses committed regularly by the Iranian government.

Well, this story is fairly ironic. The satirical geniuses over at the Iranian Foreign Ministry have reportedly just advised Iranian citizens to avoid the country of Canada, claiming that it’s a hotbed of human rights abuses and corrupt courts.

The travel warning alleges that Canada’s rampant “Islamophobia” and violence have deprived Muslims of their political and legal rights:

IRI’s Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

It’s pretty laughable to think of Iran scolding any country for human rights abuses. But when the country is Canada, it just reaches another level of absurdity. What makes Iran’s ridiculous statement a bit more sobering, however, is the still-vivid memory of the murder of Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed at the hands of her Iranian jailers in 2003. The story consumed Canada for years and serves as just one example of the true human rights abuses committed regularly by the Iranian government.

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Re: Iran Strike, Out

Yesterday, I pointed out that the Obama administration seems to have taken the military option off the table regarding Iran. Hillary Clinton’s recent comments in Qatar leave little room for any other interpretation. How striking, then, to see the comparative hawkishness of our neighbor to the north:

An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada, junior foreign minister Peter Kent says, suggesting that pre-emptive action may be needed against Iran.

“Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada,” said Kent, minister of state for foreign affairs (Americas).

Kent made the comments in an interview with the news site Shalom Life, based in Greater Toronto.

Discussing the nuclear ambitions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kent said Ottawa favours further sanctions against Iran but only in “concert with other countries.

“It may soon be time to intensify the sanctions and to broaden those sanctions into other areas … which we hope would discourage Iran from its current course.

“I think the realization that it’s a dangerous situation that has been there for some time. It’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious pre-emptive action.”

He said military action, while a long shot, is still on the table.

What a strange time indeed that finds the U.S. trailing Canada (and France) in its boldness toward a near-nuclear Iran.

Yesterday, I pointed out that the Obama administration seems to have taken the military option off the table regarding Iran. Hillary Clinton’s recent comments in Qatar leave little room for any other interpretation. How striking, then, to see the comparative hawkishness of our neighbor to the north:

An attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada, junior foreign minister Peter Kent says, suggesting that pre-emptive action may be needed against Iran.

“Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper has made it quite clear for some time now and has regularly stated that an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada,” said Kent, minister of state for foreign affairs (Americas).

Kent made the comments in an interview with the news site Shalom Life, based in Greater Toronto.

Discussing the nuclear ambitions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kent said Ottawa favours further sanctions against Iran but only in “concert with other countries.

“It may soon be time to intensify the sanctions and to broaden those sanctions into other areas … which we hope would discourage Iran from its current course.

“I think the realization that it’s a dangerous situation that has been there for some time. It’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of how long we can wait without taking more serious pre-emptive action.”

He said military action, while a long shot, is still on the table.

What a strange time indeed that finds the U.S. trailing Canada (and France) in its boldness toward a near-nuclear Iran.

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Scaring Them Already

Much of Barack Obama’s foreign policy doctrine hinges on the notion that he will be able to “repair” the image other nations now have of America. This line, which his supporters continue to iterate, is that a “new face“–one that looks different, and behind which sits a brain with a great understanding of others–will allow America to fix its PR problems abroad. However, if recent newspaper articles from outside the U.S. are any indication, Obama’s platform on trade signals that his presidency might not successfully accomplish this much-vaunted task.

Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that “The British foreign secretary has sent a warning to the Democratic presidential hopefuls that the UK is concerned by their campaign-trail attacks on free trade.”

Amid signs that the UK is troubled by calls from Barack Obama for measures such as trade tariffs on China, [UK foreign secretary David] Miliband said: “American internationalism has been a feature of all periods of global progress . . . It’s absolutely clear that the world needs an America that’s engaged with the global trading system in a very fundamental, very committed way . . . The problem is not too much trade, the problem is too little trade. That is our position as a British government, and it will be articulated clearly and consistently.”

This sentiment, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried to quell in his recent visit to America, was previously expounded upon in other British media:

[Gordon Brown’s] most difficult meetings were expected to be with Obama and Clinton, rather than McCain. The two Democrats are at odds with Brown on what he regards as the most important issue on the agenda during his US trip: trade.

Brown, like McCain and the US president, George Bush, is a passionate advocate of free trade, while Clinton and Obama have been trying outbid one another on the campaign trail in proposing protectionist measures.

The Australian maintains a reticent attitude towards Obama’s stance on trade:

A new mood is already evident in the US, for example, where Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been trying to outdo one another on the need to protect American jobs.

Likewise, Canada’s National Post, in a recent editorial, decried the presumptive nominee’s (at that time, still undecided) anti-trade rhetoric:

It is not yet time, though, to play hardball. For now, Ottawa should concentrate on gently making American legislators and voters aware that good ole reliable, stable, friendly Canada is their #1 energy partner.

That way, if an anti-NAFTA Democrat wins the presidency next fall, she or he will have a harder time painting Canada as a threat to Americans’ lifestyle and jobs.

Of course, it is hard to determine whether Obama is actually serious about suppressing free trade. Regardless, other nations seem to view his candidacy with particular skepticism on this issue. Sounds like Old Politics to me.

Much of Barack Obama’s foreign policy doctrine hinges on the notion that he will be able to “repair” the image other nations now have of America. This line, which his supporters continue to iterate, is that a “new face“–one that looks different, and behind which sits a brain with a great understanding of others–will allow America to fix its PR problems abroad. However, if recent newspaper articles from outside the U.S. are any indication, Obama’s platform on trade signals that his presidency might not successfully accomplish this much-vaunted task.

Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that “The British foreign secretary has sent a warning to the Democratic presidential hopefuls that the UK is concerned by their campaign-trail attacks on free trade.”

Amid signs that the UK is troubled by calls from Barack Obama for measures such as trade tariffs on China, [UK foreign secretary David] Miliband said: “American internationalism has been a feature of all periods of global progress . . . It’s absolutely clear that the world needs an America that’s engaged with the global trading system in a very fundamental, very committed way . . . The problem is not too much trade, the problem is too little trade. That is our position as a British government, and it will be articulated clearly and consistently.”

This sentiment, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried to quell in his recent visit to America, was previously expounded upon in other British media:

[Gordon Brown’s] most difficult meetings were expected to be with Obama and Clinton, rather than McCain. The two Democrats are at odds with Brown on what he regards as the most important issue on the agenda during his US trip: trade.

Brown, like McCain and the US president, George Bush, is a passionate advocate of free trade, while Clinton and Obama have been trying outbid one another on the campaign trail in proposing protectionist measures.

The Australian maintains a reticent attitude towards Obama’s stance on trade:

A new mood is already evident in the US, for example, where Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been trying to outdo one another on the need to protect American jobs.

Likewise, Canada’s National Post, in a recent editorial, decried the presumptive nominee’s (at that time, still undecided) anti-trade rhetoric:

It is not yet time, though, to play hardball. For now, Ottawa should concentrate on gently making American legislators and voters aware that good ole reliable, stable, friendly Canada is their #1 energy partner.

That way, if an anti-NAFTA Democrat wins the presidency next fall, she or he will have a harder time painting Canada as a threat to Americans’ lifestyle and jobs.

Of course, it is hard to determine whether Obama is actually serious about suppressing free trade. Regardless, other nations seem to view his candidacy with particular skepticism on this issue. Sounds like Old Politics to me.

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A Canadian Course in Torture

Canada has put Israel and the U.S. on an official list of countries where prisoners are at risk of being tortured. Here’s Reuters with the best part: “CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.” A course on torture awareness sounds like something from the 07’/08′ Columbia University course catalogue. According to this course, interrogation techniques such as “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation” are considered torture. Then again this is the country that considers critical media commentary a violation of human rights.

Guantanamo Bay (where prisoners tend to gain weight) is specifically mentioned. It should be noted that suspects held at Gitmo live in conditions far superior to the those of the men and women on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Conservative Canadian politicians are understandably humiliated: “A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. ‘The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,’ he said.”

Nor does it reflect the views or policies of this one.

Canada has put Israel and the U.S. on an official list of countries where prisoners are at risk of being tortured. Here’s Reuters with the best part: “CTV said the document was part of a course on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats to help them determine whether prisoners they visited abroad had been mistreated.” A course on torture awareness sounds like something from the 07’/08′ Columbia University course catalogue. According to this course, interrogation techniques such as “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation” are considered torture. Then again this is the country that considers critical media commentary a violation of human rights.

Guantanamo Bay (where prisoners tend to gain weight) is specifically mentioned. It should be noted that suspects held at Gitmo live in conditions far superior to the those of the men and women on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Conservative Canadian politicians are understandably humiliated: “A spokesman for Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier tried to distance Ottawa from the document. ‘The training manual is not a policy document and does not reflect the views or policies of this government,’ he said.”

Nor does it reflect the views or policies of this one.

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Old Gould

The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) would have celebrated his 75th birthday on September 25, had he not died of an untimely stroke on October 4, 25 years ago. These two anniversaries have sufficed for a great deal of worldwide hoopla, from the naming in his honor of a plaza in his native Toronto, to a commemorative envelope issued by the Canadian post office. Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Civilization is offering a major exhibit, “Glenn Gould: The Sounds of Genius,” which runs through August 10, 2008. Sony/BMG, Gould’s longtime record company, is reissuing an 80-CD “complete original jacket” box set as an import. This offers a good occasion for an evaluation of Gould’s contribution, not a “re-performance” of “The Goldberg Variations”—which, in any event, already has been attempted, as I described in a previous post for contentions.

Setting aside the endless stories of his personal eccentricity and hypochondria, Gould’s musicianship could be brilliant when bizarreness did not intrude, making him the Bobby Fischer of classical music (before Fischer’s latest, definitive dip into darkness). Although Gould is unmistakably linked with Bach, whom he played with a jittery, edgy verve, he claimed to prefer the music of Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625), and indeed, his CD of Gibbons and other English masters like William Byrd has an entrancing dignity and poise absent from many of his other recordings. Gould’s very lack of empyrean calm may have helped in the modern romantic repertoire, and he was an invigoratingly dramatic performer of Prokofiev and Scriabin, as well as of Richard Strauss. Franz Liszt’s piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies, long dismissed as arid, were rediscovered with unsurpassed dazzle by Gould. In neo-classical works by Paul Hindemith, which can seem all too Apollonian in other hands, Gould’s storm and stress add contemporary, improvisational skittishness, also ideal for chamber works by Francis Poulenc and Dmitry Shostakovich.

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The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) would have celebrated his 75th birthday on September 25, had he not died of an untimely stroke on October 4, 25 years ago. These two anniversaries have sufficed for a great deal of worldwide hoopla, from the naming in his honor of a plaza in his native Toronto, to a commemorative envelope issued by the Canadian post office. Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Civilization is offering a major exhibit, “Glenn Gould: The Sounds of Genius,” which runs through August 10, 2008. Sony/BMG, Gould’s longtime record company, is reissuing an 80-CD “complete original jacket” box set as an import. This offers a good occasion for an evaluation of Gould’s contribution, not a “re-performance” of “The Goldberg Variations”—which, in any event, already has been attempted, as I described in a previous post for contentions.

Setting aside the endless stories of his personal eccentricity and hypochondria, Gould’s musicianship could be brilliant when bizarreness did not intrude, making him the Bobby Fischer of classical music (before Fischer’s latest, definitive dip into darkness). Although Gould is unmistakably linked with Bach, whom he played with a jittery, edgy verve, he claimed to prefer the music of Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625), and indeed, his CD of Gibbons and other English masters like William Byrd has an entrancing dignity and poise absent from many of his other recordings. Gould’s very lack of empyrean calm may have helped in the modern romantic repertoire, and he was an invigoratingly dramatic performer of Prokofiev and Scriabin, as well as of Richard Strauss. Franz Liszt’s piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies, long dismissed as arid, were rediscovered with unsurpassed dazzle by Gould. In neo-classical works by Paul Hindemith, which can seem all too Apollonian in other hands, Gould’s storm and stress add contemporary, improvisational skittishness, also ideal for chamber works by Francis Poulenc and Dmitry Shostakovich.

Some readers may be allergic to the Second Vienna School, but Gould was one of the rare pianists (like Italy’s Maurizio Pollini, who played Arnold Schoenberg’s works with genuine love. A 1960’s meeting with violinist Yehudi Menuhin in the Schoenberg “Phantasy,” has a feeling of affection (tied to Gould’s admiration for Menuhin) unmatched in the discography. A gentler version of Schoenberg’s modernist investigations came from the Norwegian composer Fartein Valen (1887– 1952). Gould found spooky poetry in Valen’s work, too.

All of these achievements are essential elements of Gould’s artistry, and those who love—or dismiss—Gould based on his Bach recordings alone are missing the forest for the trees. Some who admire Gould’s Bach have missed his obsessively intense recording of Johann Sebastian’s “Art of Fugue” on the organ. Yes, Gould’s “Goldberg Variations” from 1955 and 1981 are both remarkable, but they are not the summa of all things Gouldian. Yes, there are bad recordings by Gould, like his Mozart sonatas (music he despised) or his famously ungainly 1962 Brahms’s First Piano Concerto with Leonard Bernstein. Yet the best of Gould is splendid indeed.

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Hello, Dalai!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.

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Cold(er) War

Yesterday, a submersible lowered a titanium Russian flag onto the Arctic seabed, near the North Pole, at a depth of almost 14,000 feet. Canada immediately mocked Moscow’s stunt. “This isn’t the 15th century,” said Ottawa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay. “You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say ‘We’re claiming this territory.’ ”

International law permits Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Norway, the nations with coastlines inside the Arctic Circle, to enforce 200-mile exclusive economic zones north of their shores. The Kremlin, however, claims a bigger zone that includes the seabed under the North Pole. It maintains that the Lomonosov Ridge, which runs under the Pole, forms part of Siberia’s continental shelf. Canada and Denmark maintain competing claims to the same ridge. (Why do so many nations want the Ridge? Because a receding polar cap may someday make drilling for hydrocarbons there feasible.)

Russia is not the only nation to make outsized claims on continental shelves. China, for instance, believes it has rights to a good portion of Japan’s coastline. China also maintains claims on the continental shelves of the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam (as well as the entire South China Sea).

The United States is party to few economic-zone disputes. Nonetheless, it is the final guarantor of the international system. As such, it should be taking a greater interest in making sure that claims are settled peacefully—and that the rights of free passage are protected—whether or not the Senate sees fit to ratify the controversial Law of the Sea Convention, as the Bush administration wants it to do. And the first item on our agenda should be to talk openly and pointedly to Beijing and Moscow about their grand claims and methods of bolstering them.

Yesterday, a submersible lowered a titanium Russian flag onto the Arctic seabed, near the North Pole, at a depth of almost 14,000 feet. Canada immediately mocked Moscow’s stunt. “This isn’t the 15th century,” said Ottawa’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay. “You can’t go around the world and just plant flags and say ‘We’re claiming this territory.’ ”

International law permits Russia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, and Norway, the nations with coastlines inside the Arctic Circle, to enforce 200-mile exclusive economic zones north of their shores. The Kremlin, however, claims a bigger zone that includes the seabed under the North Pole. It maintains that the Lomonosov Ridge, which runs under the Pole, forms part of Siberia’s continental shelf. Canada and Denmark maintain competing claims to the same ridge. (Why do so many nations want the Ridge? Because a receding polar cap may someday make drilling for hydrocarbons there feasible.)

Russia is not the only nation to make outsized claims on continental shelves. China, for instance, believes it has rights to a good portion of Japan’s coastline. China also maintains claims on the continental shelves of the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam (as well as the entire South China Sea).

The United States is party to few economic-zone disputes. Nonetheless, it is the final guarantor of the international system. As such, it should be taking a greater interest in making sure that claims are settled peacefully—and that the rights of free passage are protected—whether or not the Senate sees fit to ratify the controversial Law of the Sea Convention, as the Bush administration wants it to do. And the first item on our agenda should be to talk openly and pointedly to Beijing and Moscow about their grand claims and methods of bolstering them.

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