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Updates: Abousfian Abdelrazik, CUPE vs. Israel, and Wildfires Down Under

February 25, 2009

I happened to be in a self-critical mood the other day, and it occurred to me that I haven’t been very good at follow-up in my Canada’s World blogging. I’ve tended to write about events in progress, give my opinion, and then move on without ever going back to look at further developments. Accordingly, I thought I’d devote this post to quick updates on three of the things I’ve written about over the past few months.

1. Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Sudanese-born Canadian citizen who ended up stranded in his native country after being temporarily detained there as a terror suspect, is still stranded. When I wrote about his situation last September, the Harper government seemed determined to put as many obstacles as possible in the way of his return to Canada. Now they’ve added another condition – they’ve decided that they won’t take the fairly normal consular step of giving him emergency travel documents unless he can present a fully paid airline ticket beforehand. The clever part is that he can’t afford a ticket, and anyone who gives him money for one could get into trouble for aiding a suspected terrorist! In my humble opinion the government’s treatment of Abdelrazik is getting ridiculous. I can sympathise with the general objective of keeping suspected Islamic extremists out of Canada, but the underhanded tactics being employed in this case are disgraceful.

2. During the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip, CUPE Ontario threatened to call for an academic boycott of Israel after the bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza. Union leader Sid Ryan originally wanted all Israeli academics effectively barred from Ontario campuses unless they had explicitly condemned their country’s assault on Gaza. Last weekend a “committee of CUPE university workers” voted on the matter, and passed a kinder, gentler resolution that merely encourages a boycott of Israeli universities, not individual academics, whose research contributes to weapons programmes. Even this strikes me as a nasty and unwarranted gesture towards a country that is merely fighting its own corner, and it’s hard to see how territorial squabbles in the Middle East are any of CUPE’s business anyway.

3. Finally, the wildfires in the Australian state of Victoria are still blazing, and the death toll is now over 200. Predictably, the role of global warming in causing the fires has emerged as a point of debate, with an article in the Financial Post predictably (and implausibly, of course) downplaying any possible link. As I said in my original post, it may be impossible to blame any individual heat wave or outbreak of fire on global warming, but the phenomenon definitely makes such catastrophes more likely. Arwen Birch, an Australian living in Toronto, has written a firsthand account of how the Australian climate has become hotter and drier, and therefore deadlier, over his lifetime. Every Canadian ought to read it.

Corwin

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. nmboudin permalink
    February 28, 2009 11:53 am

    Hi Cor,
    I like that you did a follow up post. In such a ephemeral information world, public memory is short, and I often feel my full appreciation of the events is truncated.

    The CUPE committee is trying to append fault by means of some abstract association of shared nationality with a state that they disagree with. That they attempt to make pariahs of those in the profession of academia, a discipline that is supposed to be the bastion of free exchange of ideas and critical thought process is disturbing. Sadly, this gives a misleading perception of the worthy institution that is the labour movement, which at its best, is characterized by dialogue and open negotiation.

    • corsullivan permalink*
      March 1, 2009 11:17 am

      Glad you liked the idea of a follow-up post – I wasn’t quite sure how this would be received.

      I’m honestly not sure what you mean by “an abstract association of shared nationality”, but I can certainly agree that CUPE’s Israel-bashing does not reflect the labour movement at its best (and I’d say the same, personally, if they were energetically bashing Hamas or Hezbollah). The frustrating thing is that unions have an important job to do in looking after the interests of their members, and in maintaining balance and fairness in the economy in general. Arguing over the rights and wrongs of conflicts that are very remote from Canada is a pointless, self-indulgent distraction.

  2. canworldjon permalink*
    February 26, 2009 5:51 pm

    Re: CUPE. Seriously, would not the union’s political and social capital be better spent addressing members’ concerns about the depressed state of Canada’s economy? And what does it mean for a university’s research to “benefit the nation’s military”… any kind of scientific research has the potential to benefit national defense in any number of ways.

    Punishing and suppressing the institutions of ideas is the not the way to battle the institutions of war.

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