This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Male Mind, Female Body : Remedy?

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Still from short film BOY
"I just want to do what's best for Max. And sometimes that's tough love."
"I have no animosity toward Sarah on this issue. I think we both believe we are doing the right thing. And I believe we both have Max's best interest in mind."
"I thought it was a long process and nothing drastic was going to really happen, at least without consent."
"You don't just jump them into things they can't change back. When she's 18 and she does it, I'll support her 100 percent."
"What if?"
Clark, father of daughter/son (identities withheld)

"I have a male brain that doesn't match up with the body I'm in. It's like being trapped in a cage."
"It just kind of clicked right away [after watching YouTube video "Boy" while in Grade 7]."
"Even if I'm open with who I am, I'm still insecure."
Max, 14, Grade 9, Surrey, British Columbia

"I didn't quite understand transgenderism myself, didn't know if I fully believed in it. But having gone through the experience, I've gone through with my son I fully believe that yes, it is very possible that transgenderism does exist and there are people wandering around feeling excruciatingly uncomfortable in their own skin."
"If this [testosterone injections] is what alleviates my child experiencing this dysphoria, I'd rather move forward. ... If it happens to have side effects down the road, we're OK to handle that -- at least our child would still be alive."
"I don't want it on my conscience knowing that if this is all it took to alleviate that dysphoria from my child then why didn't we follow through with it?
Sarah, Max's mother

"Max's health care team has concluded that he possesses sufficient maturity and intelligence to be capable of consenting to his own medical care, notwithstanding the fact that he is only 14 years old. Furthermore, the team agrees that the proposed course of treatment is in his best interests."
"Under these circumstances we are of the view that it is ultimately up to Max to give or withhold consent to is own medical care; neither you nor his mother can make this decision for him."
Letter to Clark, Max's father, from B.C. Children's Hospital

"I have seen in some circumstances  ,,, where young people have had health care delayed and denied because everybody wasn't on board. One parent is supportive, and one is not, and nothing happens. That can be a problem. If the clinicians, the psychologists, the endocrinologists, the family doctor, if all of them have done the assessment and have determined that this is medically necessary, then it's important to actually pay attention to the expertise."
Elizabeth Aaewye, professor, UBC school of nursing 
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Some enterprising researcher who may have doubts about the new open and accepting attitude of medical professionals toward accepting a child's confident assertion that they are not in fact, a girl despite having been born female, or a boy, identified as such at birth -- but in reality a member of the opposite sex yearning to be recognized as such and anxious to be given medical treatment to make the physical transformation to match their psychological belief -- should begin interviewing women of all ages to ask whether such gender-identification confusion ever resonated with them.

It would, without doubt, be recognized that a good proportion of girls in their early years fantasized being a boy, imagining how much freedom it would confer upon them to do things that boys do so effortlessly and so physically well coordinated, in rebellion against the cultural confines they struggle against as girls. The same would be true for many boys who resent the expectation that they will do
manly things and behave in a manner that fails to suit their personalities, imagining that pressure would be relieved if they were girls instead.

Children are suggestible, hugely so, and their imaginations can run rampant into fanciful territory. We are a species never quite satisfied with who and what we are, seeking to portray ourselves differently to reflect what we would prefer, and at the same time we are attention-seekers, wanting to stand out in the crowd, generally to be admired, even if it takes a leap at non-conformity in rebellion to do so; we see ourselves as individualists so often, entitled to insist on having things our way. Who is it that can claim with complete confidence that children are not in fact gender-confused psychologically and briefly as part of maturation?

The general scientific, medical consensus seems now to have succumbed to the confidence in belief of a biological mismatch between ego/personality and birth presentation in gender. This is not now seen as a type of brief psychosis, but rather a biological error in need of intervention by medical science to remediate an error that nature produced. And if this doesn't represent a confusion of medical arrogance and layman effort to salve an emotional conundrum afflicting a steadily increasing group of people for whom transgenderism has become an escape from their reality in life, what else is it?

Max, all of 14, born a girl, feels she is a boy and insists she must live out her life as a male. Her/his mind is settled on self as male and all that is now wanting is to convince her father just as he was successful in convincing his mother, and undergoing treatment to transform his voice, his physique and confer upon him the male characteristics that she so fervently wishes to acquire. All the medical personnel consulted agree with that candidacy, as does mother Sarah, but father Clark is the holdout. The parents are separated, with joint custody and a provision in the custody agreement that both must agree on any issues of substance.

Clark and Sarah must jointly exercise "all parental responsibilities" inclusive of "giving, refusing or withdrawing consent to medical, dental and other health-related treatments for the child", reads their legal document. Despite which the B.C. Children's Hospital invokes the B.C. Infants Act to insist that as long as a health care provider is satisfied a child understands the nature, consequences, benefits and risks of the proposed treatment and concludes that the treatment is in the child's best interests the right to consent "belongs to the child alone".

Max was assessed a half dozen times over a period of several months starting in Grade 8, by a clinical psychologist. When those sessions ended, the psychologist considered Max a good candidate for testosterone therapy, for Max demonstrated to the psychologist a "long-lasting and intense pattern of gender non-conformity or gender dysphoria" among other issues related to the matter at hand. Sarah and Max went to the B.C. Children's Hospital's gender clinic, reputed to be one of the busiest in North America.

They met with a medical team that included a paediatric endocrinologist, a social worker and a nurse. All described the treatment that Max would undergo. On a three-page "informal consent form", the risks of testosterone therapy were laid out. The "treatment  in young adolescents is a newer development, the long-term effects of which are not fully known". Testosterone use would lead to permanent changes; a lower-pitched voice, facial hair and thicker hair on arms, legs and torso, that would prevail even should treatment be stopped.

Testosterone treatment could lead as well to an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. "It is not known", according to the consent form, what the effects of testosterone are on fertility. "You may or may not be able to get pregnant in the future". Max, said his mother, was definitely not undergoing some "phase". Staff at the hospital were prepared to initiate injections that very day, but Sarah felt it incumbent upon her to advise Max's father who was shocked at the swiftness of the conclusion.

He refused his assent on the basis of the information on the form. A court hearing has ensued. Clark's lawyer speaking for his client advised they take the position that Max not be rushed into treatment, that no injections should commence until such time as both parents agree to consent, or Max turns 18, or the court orders treatment to proceed. The judge, in hearing the details felt he had never encountered a case quite like this before in his career.

He was not aware whether provincial law recognizing Max's rights to give informed consent trumps family law and the parents' joint responsibilities in care of their child as per their separation agreement.

Related image
Still from short film BOY

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Addicton 'Disease' Leading to Theft, Professional Betrayal

"[The care home had a duty to accommodate the nurse's unquestioned diagnosis of severe opioid use of disorder and  mild to moderate sedative-hypnotic use of disorder, a disease that left her with] a complete inability or a diminished capacity [to resist the urge to feed her addiction]."
"[Two addiction experts testified addiction is viewed as a health condition and that] to view [addictions] as bad habits stigmatizes these conditions and makes it harder for people to get help."
Labour Arbitrator Larry Steinberg

"[Addiction is not a disease but more like a bad habit though it is] acknowledged that this was a minority view in the psychiatric profession and that it was contrary, for example to the DSM-5 [manual of psychiatry]."
Lawrie Reznek, professor of psychiatry, University of Toronto

"[Addiction is a result of] the motivated repetition of the same thoughts and behaviours until they become habitual."
"[Addiction is not a disease, but rather a] developmental cascade [as in a form of learning]."
Marc Lewis, Canadian neuroscientist, author

"The ability to make some choices[about drug use] does not negate the trial judge's findings that addiction is a disease in which the central feature is impaired control over the use of the addictive substance."
Supreme Court of Canada
An ampoule of morphine
The issue of nurses addicted to narcotics who have, through the course of their employment stolen painkillers for their personal use is not rare. One nurse took painkillers from an elderly terminal cancer patient whose well-being she was in charge of. The nurse was convicted of theft, had a five-month suspension imposed, and resigned after the College stated she had shamed the profession. Yet another nurse had stolen medication from a dying teen and was stripped of her nursing license, then was  sent to prison for 18 months on conviction of theft, drug charges, breach of trust and impaired driving.

In 2016, a nurse employed at a long-term care facility in Waterloo, Ontario came across one of her nursing peers holding in her mouth an ampule of Hydromorphone painkiller which she had injected herself with. This was part of the evidence, that nurse DS had been stealing opioids for her own use and in the process falsifying medical records to conceal her thefts, over the past several years. The 50-year-old nurse denied, when confronted by the nursing home management, the charges against her.

Finally she admitted that she had acted as charged after she had become addicted to painkillers when she was being treated for a kidney condition. Sunnyside Nursing Home fired her for gross misconduct and theft. The nurse, identified only by her initials, testified at a subsequent labour hearing that she had entered residential rehabilitation that weaned her off her addiction. Her nursing license was reinstated with a series of conditions, among them that she have no access to controlled substances and be at all times supervised.

A decision was handed down by the labour arbitrator that hinged on the issue of whether addiction is a medical disease. That arbitrator held that it is and ordered the regional Municipality of Waterloo to restore DS to her job at the nursing home and that she be compensated financially for unfair dismissal. That compensation to include general damages for "injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect". Obviously that the nurse had herself of her own volition through her choices caused 'injury' to her dignity and self-respect, was not entertained by the arbitrator.

She was -- according to his acceptance of the now-prevailing view that addiction is a disease that overcomes one's self-agency -- accorded the respect of the injured, not the ignominy earned by someone who, tasked by her profession to ease the suffering of the ill and the elderly, made the decision to avail herself of the medications used to offer them relief from their suffering and pain. The care home had argued that DS had been fired not because of her addiction but for theft and record falsification, abuse of residents and breach of trust.

The arbitrator stuck to his definition of the situation, that the nurse had been discriminated against unfairly because her actions represented symptoms of addiction disease. And as such it is clearly discriminatory to fire someone because they suffer from the effects of a disease. Addiction, argued, neuroscientist and recovered addict Marc Lewis whose book The Biology of Desire, where he argues addiction is more similar to racism than to cancer; more like violence or domestic abuse than cystic fibrosis and that to consider addiction a disease is wrong for it is actually a "very bad habit".

The reward for such a very bad habit is a return to duty, but the nursing home must be prepared to accommodate a health professional whose qualifications come with the proviso that she must be denied access to narcotics and monitored at all times, so how, one might logically wonder, would she be enabled to fulfill her obligations to the vulnerable patients, many of whom suffer from advanced dementia.

Her incapacity for independent work in an environment requiring such, means that constant supervision will take time and attention away from patients; in whose best interests is such an adjudication made?
Toronto Sun files

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Who, Us? Do What?!!

"You can't have that. [No recent major repairs to older treatment plants; rusting equipment). It's just not right. I think something else has to be put in play. It just can't go on like this."
"Most of the stuff that are put into play are Band-Aid solutions. You just keep on going through the same cycle."
"And that goes on year after year after year after year."
Chief David Masakayash, Mishkeegogamang First Nation

Indigenous Services, in addressing a new water treatment plant at the Mishkeegogamang First Nation where recurring potable water advisories have been issued and then rescinded on its two remote reserves, each with its own water treatment plant, addresses the efficacy of the newer of the two plants where two short water advisories were issued in the past year, and the older plant had been under an advisory from May to December by pointing out that in one instance equipment failure was involved but at issue was "irregular water quality monitoring by the community".
Slate Falls First Nation, about 550 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont.. celebrated the opening of its new water treatment plant on March 7. (Brett Purdy / CBC)

The community in northwestern Ontario at Slate Falls was where a new water treatment plant was being inaugurated for the community. The federal government had pledged it would eliminate all long-term drinking-water advisories by March 2021 on First Nation reserves. Formerly the 200 residents of Slate Falls had, since 2004, been under a long-term boil-water advisory. Water was obtained from 11 separate pump houses, all of which had been under individual advisories.

Slate Falls First Nation has a population of about 300 and is about 550 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont. (Google)

Indigenous services lifted all 11 advisories when the new plant was operational. "Today is a big day to make changes to our lifestyle and we are very excited to finally be able to drink water right from the tap", happily exulted Chief Lorraine Crane that day in March last year. It took all of 17 days for Slate Falls to return to a drinking-water advisory. It seems that Slate Falls' water operators failed to test the water in the weeks following the plant opening; little oversight to properly monitor the water resulted.

This recurring problem of fixes, new installations, lifting of water advisories, neglect in monitoring, and return to water advisories appears to plague many such First Nations communities. Reminiscent of First Nations' problems with fires on reserves taking the lives of children. Fire-fighting equipment including fire trucks when provided to the communities appear to have few within the community prepared to 'volunteer' to learn how to use the equipment. The response when fires erupt is predictably poor.

There is an estimated 19 First Nations that account for 32 of the 78 long-term water advisories lifted to date, which experience short-term advisories affecting part of their communities; an ongoing event following hard on long-term advisories, according to Indigenous Services. Such advisories have been issued in main for operational reasons: equipment malfunction, inadequate disinfection or system maintenance primarily, conditions which last a short time, but some that drag on for months.

Road in Neskantaga First Nation. (CBC News)

That old adage that the more you do for people, the less they will do for themselves, and resent the need to cooperate and participate in their own well-being since they assume they will always be looked after by outside sources has some resonance here. As far as First Nations leaders are concerned the reasons that drinking-water advisories pop up is "Band-Aid solutions" to plants that fail to operate smoothly. A lack of resources to ensure qualified water operators dedicate themselves to the matter at hand.

In Slate Falls the new plant built to serve up to 380 people came with a cost of $11.6 million, but it seems that no internal responsibility for maintenance and vigilance is being assumed. When Indigenous Services Canada was notified of a water main break in the distribution system it also was made aware that the community's water operators were not monitoring for bacteria since the plant opened irrespective of federal and provincial requirements that testing of E.coli and total coliform bacteria be undertaken weekly.

A memorandum was circulated highlighting "concerns related to water operator training", along with a lack of oversight. The tribal council operator was responsible for five communities and travelled to Slate Falls once a month. The environmental health officer was tasked to oversee 11 communities, visiting once every three months. Before the unexpected short-term drinking-water advisory was lifted the regional operator and the environmental health officer visited the community "to reinforce previous training".

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Revelations of Canada's Latest Known ISIL Prize

"I was captured by them [Kurdish forces] after attacking one of their points and entering into a gun battle with them."
"After they called me to surrender, I surrendered myself."
"The soldiers [Islamic state fighters] are not fighting open so much, but rather are restricting themselves to small groups and are resorting to tunnels and trenches and so on."
Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad, Islamic State terrorist, former Toronto resident
A man identifying himself as Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad, a Canadian from Toronto, was captured during a firefight with the Syrian Democratic Forces. Screen grab

"From the first time I heard the Flames of War videos, the dude's voice sounded distinctly Canadian, and distinctly like people I grew up with in Toronto."
"He [childhood friend of the terrorist] asked if I could send him the full video. After watching the video, he said it is the same person who grew up with him and also mentioned that he was the voice behind much of the English language ISIS releases since around 2014. If you compare the voice of that to Flames of War, I'd say it's pretty identical."
"It just goes to show that many Canadians may not have been strictly fighters but important players in the ISIS media structure, and that some Canadian fighters were considered important enough to travel with ISIS leadership to the final pockets of control in Syria."
Amarnath Amarasingam, senior Research Fellow, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, University of Waterloo
"It is very difficult work when you're talking about collecting evidence in a foreign theatre of war."
"That said, even travelling abroad for terrorist purposes is illegal."
Scott Bardsley, spokesman, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Canada
A firefight last Sunday between the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of militias led by the Kurdish YPG and supported by the U.S. -- and Islamic State fighters netted the capture of a number of ISIL members. Among them a man purporting to be from Toronto. His Kurdish interrogator questioned him in Arabic, and the man who identified himself as Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad responded in perfect Arabic in a short video released to the public by the YPG.

That short video was followed by a much longer one of 12 minutes with Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad speaking perfect English with an obvious Canadian accent, where he described his time living among and fighting with the Islamic State. He spoke of leaving Canada in 2013 to fight with Islamic State. He was present for its surprise and swift expansion into both Syria and Iraq as it acquired the territory it called the Islamic State Caliphate.

Thousands of Islamic State fighters yet remain in the territory still held in eastern Syria by the Islamic State, a much-diminished territory but still one they dominate as can be evidenced by their latest attack in Syria targeting U.S. troops, and killing four American along with sixteen other people in Manbij yesterday. Mohammad spoke of increasing airstrikes and drone attacks taking their toll on his enclave in eastern Syria.

The release of the video inspired some feverish examination and comparison to video and audio recordings distributed by ISIL in the years they were establishing their vast territorial caliphate. There is a stark similarity between this YPG prisoner's voice and the voice of the narrator who had been the ISIL propagandist and even physical resemblance has been established to link this man with the notorious Islamic State narrator of the 51-minute-long propaganda video that horrified the world at the height of Islamic State's infamous onslaught on the geography and their proud display of human depravity.
A scene from ISIL propaganda video Flames of War. There is some belief that the masked narrator is captured Canadian Mohammad Abdullah Mohammad. File
In 2014, the video shows a masked man speaking before a black ISIL flag while behind him men are seen digging a long pit in the background as they are identified as Syrian government soldiers, "digging their own graves", according to the narrator. "The flames of war are only beginning to intensify. The fight has just begun", he continues, waving a gun as he speaks, alternating in his narration from English to Arabic and back again. Cutting to an ISIL firing squad, the armed men including the narrator fire, as the prisoners tumble into the pit, dead.

A year later, an English-language audio recording surfaced to claim another victorious exploit for Islamic State in the November 13, 2015 Bataclan concert hall devastation where well co-ordinated gun and bomb attacks killed 130 people, wounding another 494 others. Once again that audio recording sounded similarly familiar with its narrator's familiar Canadian inflections. Recently, Amarasingam had visited captured Canadian ISIL fighters in a Syrian prison.

In his interviews with them he questioned whether they knew if the Islamic State narrator was Canadian. Among the prisoners one confirmed that a Canadian whose battlefield name was Abu Ridwan al-Kanadi was the narrator. Information since received from that close friend of the captured man confirmed he is indeed the person known as Abu Ridwan. That childhood friend explained he recognized the same man, confirming him to be the voice of ISIL's English-language media.

The very same man who in the first video with the Syrian prisoners who were shot after they dug their own graves, was part of the firing squad who ended those soldiers' lives. The killer's old friend recalled how as children Mohammad was given the nickname Abu Ridwan. All this background information should be viewed as irrefutable evidence of war crimes committed by a Canadian citizen now being held by the YPG in Syria.

Yet as far as a spokesman for the office of Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety is concerned, it is Canada's national security agencies tasked to track down evidence identifying Canadians who have taken part in terrorism to enable Canada to charge and convict them for the commission of crimes abroad. Can Canadians then safely assume that their national security agencies are busy interrogating this Canadian for his distinguished role in aiding the Islamic State to terrorize the world community?

An image grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV on Wednesday shows US troops gathered at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images Two US soldiers, a defence department civilian official and contractor were killed, US Central Command confirms

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Canada and Saudi Arabia : Contrasting Tales

"In order for this guy to leave Canada without a passport, it had to be facilitated by the Saudi government, or some government, and there's no reason to believe that any other government would put themselves in this position."
"It's intriguing to me as to why the Saudi government would put up bail and then facilitate his departure from Canada before he had an opportunity to complete the criminal process. This is a foreign government interfering with the criminal process."
Veteran immigration lawyer, Lee Cohen, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi had $37,500 of his bail posted by the Saudi Arabian embassy last year in relation to the alleged sexual assault, assault and forcible confinement of the woman between Aug. 1, 2015, and March 26, 2017 in Cape Breton.Facebook

A Saudi man charged with sexually assaulting a Cape Breton woman the 28-year-old man is no longer in Canada after having bail in the sum of $37,500 posted for him by the Saudi Arabian embassy last year. Charged with sexual assault, assault and forcible confinement of the woman -- whose name is protected -- between August 2015 and March 2017, the province's prosecution service says Mohammed Zaraibi Alzoabi has absconded. The bail funding was duly forfeited when the man failed to appear in court last Monday.

This Saudi national also faces separate charges of dangerous driving and assault with a car in an incident involving a Cape Breton man that occurred in December of 2015. According to a court document the sheriff attempted on December 8 to track the man down. David Iannetti, his lawyer informed the sheriff that Alzoabi "fled the country some time ago", despite that police had seized his passport. Without a passport it should be impossible to leave the country, yet the impossible occurred, but not without suspicion.

The most conceivable way open to Alzoabi enabling him to leave the country without his passport in hand would logically be if the Saudi embassy saw fit to issue him with travel documents, since airlines boarding passengers without government-issued permission or a passport face heavy fines. The Saudi embassy appears disinterested in committing itself to anything resembling an explanation but it would seem that this kind of occurrence is not unique to Canada, in the Kingdom's interference in the laws of other countries.

A recent report in the Oregonian newspaper detailed last year's flight of Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a community college student in Portland, Oregon who jumped bail in the hit-and-run death of a 15-year-old Portland girl, in an apparent similarity to the illegal exit of Alzoabi from Canada evading trial and subsequent penalty for serious criminal acts. In the Oregon case, the malefactor was monitored with a GPS bracelet which had been cut to enable Noorah to leave the U.S. weeks before his trial date.

That same Oregonian reported the results of its own investigation in revealing at least five other criminal cases involving Saudi nationals who managed to disappear before facing trial or completing a state jail sentence. For all the good it will do, Cape Breton Regional Police issued a warrant for Alzoabi's arrest for failing to appear for his trial. Saudi males, it appears, have the complete protection of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia irrespective of any criminal acts they may be involved in abroad.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, pauses as she addresses the media during a press conference in Toronto, Canada, on January 15, 2019.
Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images

In contrast, Canada responded to a social media campaign launched by a female Saudi teen who managed to separate herself from her family while on a holiday in Kuwait when she flew to Bangkok, Thailand, and from there appealed to the international community through Twitter for help in establishing herself elsewhere where she might live a 'normal' life far from Saudi Arabia's male guardianship social-political culture victimizing its female citizens. Now, 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, rejecting Islam, is prepared to make a new life for herself as a self-aware woman under her own agency.

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi had $37,500 of his bail posted by the Saudi Arabian embassy last year in relation to the alleged sexual assault.
Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi had $37,500 of his bail posted by the Saudi Arabian embassy last year in relation to the alleged sexual assault.  (David Kawai / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

China's Ultimatum

"Sending the case back for retrial gives China the opportunity to threaten death and to drag out that threat for as long as necessary."
"[If that's its intention] China has moved from merely detaining Canadians as hostages to actually threatening -- subtly, to be sure -- to kill a Canadian who would otherwise not have been executed if it does not get what it wants."
Donald Clarke, professor, expert on Chinese legal system, George Washington University

"Unless there is some dramatic turn of events, this is marching toward execution in the not-too-distant future."
"This is the most severe sentence allowed under Chinese law. It is death, with execution [after] crossing the T's and dotting the I's."
Margaret Lewis, law professor, Chinese legal system expert, Seton Hall University, New Jersey 

"I think people around the world are horrified by this case because it’s such an incredibly crass, politicized and really grotesque response to a diplomatic spat."
"It is a profoundly politicized system that we generally believe can’t possibly deliver on fair trial rights or real justice."
Sophie Richardson, China director, Human Rights Watch

Quietly working its way through Chinese courts for years, the case against Robert Schellenberg, a native of British Columbia, held on charges of being part of a plan to smuggle 220 kilograms of methanphetamines from the port city of Dallian to Australia has suddenly been accelerated. It took four years for his case to be heard, and the outcome was a prison sentence of fifteen years. He immediately set in motion an appeal of his sentence in the hope it might be reduced. In so doing suddenly bringing attention to the fact that China had a Canadian accused of a criminal offence so grave it warranted a death sentence.

Mr. Schellenberg was aghast at his 15-year sentence for a crime he claims he was never involved in. Reason, he felt, would prevail, and his harsh sentence reduced considerably, on appeal. But fate had other plans, landing him squarely in a controversial diplomatic row between Canada and China when Huawei's chief financial officer was arrested in Vancouver for extradition to the United States on a warrant for her apprehension. She is now out on bail, awaiting a final decision on extradition, but two other Canadians doing business in China have been arrested, accused of threats to China's national security.

Unlike Meng Wanzhou's December arrest in Canada where she was handled with kid gloves, allowed a lawyer, given bail and is living in one of her luxury homes in Vancouver, the two Canadian businessmen will remain incarcerated under conditions described as typical of Chinese psychological and emotional deprivation torture. Mr. Schellenberg will not be as fortunate. A Chinese court set aside his appeal and ordered a retrial. A one-day retrial was followed an  hour later by a guilty verdict and death sentence. This is China playing furious hardball.
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. File photo
Meng Wanzhou is the daughter of Huawei's founder   Reuters

China is among a handful of countries for whom drug trafficking merits execution. And the Communist Party dictatorship sees fit to put to death more offenders of Chinese law than any other country with similar laws but lacking its immense population base. An estimated 20 foreigners have been given the death penalty for drug trafficking, and executed. The irony is that Canada finds itself in a really hard place, with its neighbour and largest trading partner sharing most of its own social and political and legal values on one hand, and the world's most populous nation with its own rules of law and politics unlike those of any democracy on the other.

It is, however, a trading giant surpassing even the United States in the scope of its business ties and trade potential for any country that signs a free trade deal with it. Which is exactly what the Liberal government of Canada has been attempting to do for the past few years, bedazzled by the economic prospects with future trade ties and prepared to overlook human rights violations as an inconvenience to achieving an end. It is now another type of end that beckons a Canadian citizen as a furious China accuses Canada of illegal apprehension of a Chinese citizen.

Of Mr. Schellenberg, Justice Neill Brown noted in 2011 in Chilliwack, British Columbia, as he sentenced him to two years in prison: "He is either going to cure himself of his addiction and reform himself and turn off the path that he has been on or he is not. I should caution you. Do not ever underestimate the seriousness of this kind of an offence." The offence? drug trafficking and impaired-driving convictions from 2003 to 2012. It appears he learned nothing, made no effort to change his values and his addiction, and now faces grim consequences.
"The Canadian government really needs to issue advice to its citizens, not for any possible danger in travelling to China, but to warn them against involving in such grave crime as drug trafficking,"
"[Prime Minister Trudeau should] respect the rule of law, respect China’s judicial sovereignty, correct mistakes and stop making irresponsible remarks [and release Meng Wangzou]."
"[China] remains open to and welcomes people from all countries, including from Canada [as long as they obey the law]. The facts have proven that China is a safe place."
Hua Chunying, spokesperson, Chinese Foreign Ministry
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg (centre) listens during his retrial in Dalian's court. Photo: 14 January 2019

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Tawdry Headline Grabbing Spectacle : Liberal Special

"I'm Rahaf Mohmed, formally seeking a refugee status to any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family [sic]."
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, Twitter, January 6

"Ultimately it boiled down to an issue of timing in the end."
"Canada was able to guarantee and certify that they could handle this quite swiftly, and that's why Rahaf was brought to Canada."
Lauren La Rose, spokesperson, UNHCR Canada

"We believe very strongly that women's rights are human rights. The oppression of women is not a problem that can be resolved in a day. But rather than cursing the darkness, we really believe -- I believe -- in lighting a single candle."
"And where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that's a good thing to do."
Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister
Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun
Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, centre, stands with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, right, as she arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on Saturday, January 12, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Well, that was quite the whirlwind of a young woman's plight that entered the public scene through a few Twitter posts by an anxious teen. Her appeal for attention and help to resolve her runaway dilemma was hugely successful. That she's a Saudi national, where women and girls are strictly chaperoned in public and only recently been permitted to drive vehicles captured a lot of attention to begin with. She comes from a culture where women traditionally wear black chadors covering their bodies, niqabs covering all but their eyes. Saudi women cannot travel abroad without their male guardians' permission, nor open bank accounts.

Critics of the Kingdom and its governance can quickly find their way into notorious prison interiors. As did Raif Badawi, a blogger critical of the human rights record of his native country. For which assault against his nation's reputation he was consigned to a long imprisonment and a punishment of 1,000 lashes for good measure. The first lashes administered to him several years ago almost killed the frail young man. He still languishes in a Saudi prison as his wife agitates for his release from her home in Quebec, as a Canadian citizen.

It was his wife, in fact, Ensaf Haidar, who was one of the first to draw attention to the plight of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, alerting her many Twitter followers, picking up momentum on a campaign to have the girl protected so she wouldn't be forced to return against her will to Saudi Arabia and to her family which she claims have abused her and whom she claims to fear might kill her for repudiating Islam and running off to the West. Ms. Haidar took it upon herself to contact the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, urging Canada to give Ms. Alqunun haven.

And what a splendid opportunity that turned out to be for the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, the prime minister who defends illegal entry to Canada as a boon for Canadian employers having difficulty finding enough workers to fill various employment categories. Trudeau has described illegal migrants entering Canada outside official ports of entry as prospective citizens, making light of their illegal entry. Canada has a robust policy of accepting an average of a quarter-million immigrants yearly.

The process however, is geared toward benefiting Canada with the presence of educated people capable of finding a place for themselves in society among an evolving, highly-educated workforce. There are more university graduates in Canada than any other developed country of the world. Canada is a country whose backbone is that of immigration and always has been. But those who wish to emigrate from a country of birth to Canada must do so fairly, through established legal channels.

Canada hasn't shirked in accepting its ration as a developed country of refugees. The situation with this young Saudi woman seeking haven has been a heaven-sent opportunity for Trudeau and his Liberals; once again touting their bona fides as 'feminists', supporters of women's rights and prepared where other countries hesitate, to clasp a fearful young woman to the Liberal bosom. The photo opportunity to greet the entry of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun into Canada on a flight from Seoul was irresistible.

So there was the Minister of Global Affairs (Foreign Affairs) not too busy to grab the opportunity to gush with self-importance, greet the new arrival at the airport, to take her under the concerned wing of a Minister of the Crown, to espouse in the process the commitment of the (Liberal) Government of Canada to women's rights and defence of the vulnerable, all the while ensuring that upstarts like Ensaf Haidar and journalist Tarek Fatah, both of whom had mounted media campaigns for the young woman's rescue, were kept a distance from Chrystia Freeland's prize.

Rahaf Mohammed, formerly Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, poses at COSTI offices on College St. in Toronto on Jan. 14, 2019.
Rahaf Mohammed, formerly Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, poses at COSTI (Immigrant Services) offices on College St. in Toronto on Jan. 14, 2019.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Freely Enterprising The System

"There are kickbacks. Let's be blunt -- that's what they are."
"Regardless of whether the physician thinks they're independent, they're no longer independent."
Bryn Williams-Jones, bioethics professor University of Montreal 

"There's rent and there's staffing and payroll and insurance, and all the other things that go into running the business."
"There needs to be a way to have a sustainable business ... and it doesn't appear the governments are providing adequate funding."
Barry Fishman, CEO, Vivo Canada, chain clinics

"There is still a doctor who has to make an assessment of the patient."
"He has to demonstrate you have an actual need for the medicine."
Jordan Sinclair, Vice-President, Canopy Growth cannabis firm
Many Canadians still seem to want a health professional’s help getting marijuana treatment, and the medical cannabis system remains popular. Getty Images

Access to marijuana has been liberalized freely. Last October cannabis legalization took effect. Users of recreational cannabis may now access their drug of preference, or preferential strain of that drug, to their heart's content. Admittedly, there are still logistics to be settled, but when everything is finally in order and entrepreneurs have been duly certified by all the provinces and territories enabling them to open their storefronts with sufficient merchandise to satisfy their clients' needs no constraints to access will exist.

Yet, despite the freedom to simply acquire their recreational cannabis when and where they feel like it, many consumers seem to want to have their need for marijuana validated by a medical certificate. And it is in that area where licensed producers of medical cannabis pay out millions to cannabis clinics countrywide in 'appreciation' when 'patients' register their marijuana prescriptions with the companies. Call that 'referral fees' or call the practise 'education grants'; in plain language they're kickbacks.

The practise of expressing such appreciation surfaced several years back as a sometime thing with a whiff of controversy, one that has since become the norm, a routine part of the business of entrepreneurial pot, twinning commerce and medicine with cannabis. "LP revenue provides the highest margin of all the company's revenue streams", according to a document filed with regulators by Sunniva Inc., which owns both Natural Health Services clinics and a pot producer.

A routine has been established that a producer pays a clinic fifteen to twenty percent of the cost of each dose of cannabis a patient buys over time when someone files their prescription with them. Health-policy and medical ethics experts claim these payments compromise health professionals' focus of placing a patient's interests first, the system in place compelling the health professional to recommend to the patient a specific company he is connected with in his capacity as clinical adviser.

As far as the operators are concerned, payments represent enabling funding of intensive counselling offered to patients. Without those payments funding the counselling services it would fall to the patients to pay for them. Merely having contracts with multiple producers shouldn't be construed as encouraging favouritism toward anyone, it is insisted, all of whom pay back a percentage of business conducted in an interlinked service to clients.
The growing facility of MedReleaf in Markham, Ont.. Nathan Denette/CP

Perhaps it can be best construed as serving clients who feel the need to receive marijuana 'authorizations' post-medical assessment. And the best interests of the clients are served in a seamless transaction beginning with the medical assessment leading to the prescription and the finalization of guiding the client toward a provider. To that end, these specialty clinics assess patients, issue authorizations for marijuana, and assist the patient to access the goods through registering their prescriptions with a certain producer who just happens to be one of those the facility contracts with.

If this pricks anyone's ethical conscience, it's just the way the industry has developed its protocol. In 2015 the then-CEO of a major British Columbia-based cannabis company complained about the morality of doctors and clinics demanding referral fees claiming the practise "taints the whole industry", and going so far as to withdraw from a trade group, in protest. That company is now under a different leadership.

Executives of other companies, however, feel the payments, now standard practise, have a practical purpose; to fund the care clinics provide where appointments can last up to an hour's duration. Vivo Cannabis mentions in one corporate filing that it receives "educational grants" from producers, stressing the while that patient educators are not knowledgeable about contracts with the companies, hence proffer objective recommendations.

According to Mr. Fishman of Vivo Cannabis, while clinics do get income from provincial fees paid to doctors, the most significant revenue relates to producer payments. And those payments can become substantial financial supports for the clinics. Of the $1.2 million in revenue brought in by the Canada House chain of cannabis clinics in a three-month period, a mere $100,000 represented profit not linked to producer fees.

Medical-patient referral payments represented roughly 50 percent of the $3.5 million in sales and marketing costs in another three-month period for pot producer MedReleaf, according to a recent report from parent company Aurora Cannabis which also owns the Canvas Rx chain of clinics and where another of its documents shows revenues jumping by $1.8 million in fiscal 2018 attributed to a surge in producer fees.

"You have this clear conflict of interest in place: the more you prescribe, the more you get", pointed out Marc-Andre Gagnon, a health-policy professor at Carleton University. "In principle, this is simply unacceptable."

For some clinics payments from licensed producers represent the bulk of their income.  Getty Images

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