The News Rundown
- Operation Nanook might sound like something you have not heard before but it has been a summer Arctic Military exercise since 2007.
- The exercise is both practical in aiming to train our troops for northern operations but it’s also a signal that we are prepared to defend our arctic sovereignty.
- What’s different this year is that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is overseeing the exercise alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- This is the first time Trudeau has observed Operation Nanook.
- Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the yearly Arctic visit was something that was overseen by the government and as such received media attention both domestically and abroad.
- In 2016, the new Prime Minister Trudeau skipped the event instead heading to China as a signal that the government was shifting to more non-military concerns.
- This year though the war in Ukraine has pushed our involvement with NATO to the top of the discussion again and sharing a border with Russia up north means that the Arctic is as important as ever.
- Defence analysts have been suggesting countries, including Canada, increase defence spending to 2% of GDP quickly and start taking NATO commitments seriously.
- The 2% GDP spending mark is what the international alliance requests in order for all countries to be defence ready, but few of NATO countries hit that benchmark.
- Those same defence analysts are also said to be encouraging Canada to step up more when it comes to Arctic security.
- There are questions when it comes to how Canada will step up. The visit is good but if it’s not paired with actual material upgrades, the impact is going to be less than desired.
- Earlier this year in June, the government committed an additional $4.9b on NORAD over the next few years.
- The government has also committed to an overall investment in northern and continental defence that exceeds $40b over two decades.
- The catch though as we detailed before on Western Context is that there’s no clear decision of where the money will be spent except for $15b on infrastructure upgrades.
- The reason aside from the current war in Ukraine as to why the Arctic is important is because with the effects of climate change, the Arctic will open up.
- In a different world there's an option for strategic partnership of all Arctic nations, but today we have to face facts and realize that the Arctic is very important defensively.
- Other goals going forward in working with the US is a commitment to modernize North America’s early warning system.
- These types of discussions have started up and prior to 2014, there were regular meetings from Canada and the five other Arctic nations, a group that included Russia until they were suspended in 2014.
- Canada’s radar stations are cold war era built in the 1980s that need to be upgraded.
- Elinor Sloan, an expert on North American defence and security from Carleton University also says that the navy needs upgrades too in the form of modern submarines, maritime surveillance aircraft, and icebreakers.
- Since February, the Canadian government has started moving on this and reactivating some initiatives launched by the Harper government as well.
- The problem though as has been discussed before is that it will be several years before the needed changes work their way into the system due to how our procurement system works.
- This story should have got much wider coverage than it did, because of the importance of it.
- Most people don’t realize that if we head straight north we run into the Nordic countries or Russia.
- It’s for that reason that Arctic defence is so important.
- Anyone who has had to access healthcare in Canada recently has likely not had the best experience, mainly due to the overcrowded and overworked hospitals, along with the growing number of people who do not have their own family doctor. Many doctors choose not to open their own practices up nowadays, due to rising operational business expenses and stagnant wages. Can we really blame someone for not wanting to take a huge pay cut for doing more work?
- This is a problem that has been starting to spiral out of control for decades now, but nothing has been done about this decline of access to healthcare and increase of barriers for family practices and patients alike. Now with the dark times of the past few years, the problems were exacerbated even further until they reached a breaking point.
- In BC, the province that has the greatest percentage of seniors, as well as the highest average cost of living, this problem has been felt much harder than other parts of Canada. The BC government seems to recognize this, but has not really taken concrete steps to addressing the problem at its core. Instead, this week they have announced a band-aid solution costing $118M that will not really solve the problem beyond a few months.
- Health Minister Adrian Dix and Doctors of BC president Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh announced that the provincial government and Doctors of BC is providing $118 million in short-term funding to help provide stability to struggling family doctors. The funds will be allocated to support family doctors and medical clinics with operational business costs. The program will begin on Oct. 1 and will only be available for four months, ending on Jan. 31, 2023. Dix said he will also announce a new compensation model for family doctors in the fall and hopes that will encourage more doctors to choose family practices.
- Doctors of BC is an association of 14,000 physicians, residents and medical students in the province. Its representatives have been meeting with Dix for months to develop solutions to a number of challenges, including soaring overhead costs, stagnant wages and the fee-for-service model. The new funding includes $75 million from the B.C. Ministry of Health and $43 million from the General Practices Services Committee, a collaborative committee co-chaired by the ministry and Doctors of BC that was established through the physician master agreement.
- In an internal memo to Doctors of BC members, Dosanjh said the funds will add up to $27,000 on average, per physician for the four-month period. Clinics could receive about $17,000 per physician. She said she expects a new payment model to be in place by the end of next January.
- Dix said: “Ensuring British Columbians get the ongoing primary care they need means supporting B.C.͛s family doctors in the ways that help them provide the quality care patients rely on. Rising operational costs are affecting their ability to provide patient care, and we’ve been working closely with Doctors of BC to find solutions. This interim stabilization funding to family doctors is a key action in supporting their care to patients as we work to finalize a long-term solution this fall.”
- The funding is available to family doctors who provide ongoing services to patients and pay overhead costs. Primary care clinics, including walk-in clinics, committing to remaining open and maintaining consistent clinic hours can also apply for funding on behalf of the clinic and its doctors. About 3,480 family doctors who have their own practices and 1,100 family doctors working in walk-in clinics are expected to receive funds, representing more than 70 per cent of family doctors working in B.C.
- Dosanjh said: “This is an important first step to help doctors keep their practices open for patients over a four-month period until we have a longer-term solution to the very real problems in primary care. There is still hard work ahead of us to achieve a new payment model that recognizes the pressures of rising business costs and that recognizes the value of family physicians and the time and complexity of providing longitudinal patient care. We want to ensure that everyone has a family doctor who can provide them with the quality care they need and deserve.”
- In the meantime, pharmacists in BC are asking the provincial government to allow them to prescribe drugs in order to alleviate pressure on the health care system. The BC Pharmacy Association has suggested to the government its pharmacists could take on prescribing authority for a range of self-diagnosable, limited conditions. Currently, pharmacists in British Columbia cannot prescribe medications but can do some renewals. If a prescription is more than a year old, it cannot be renewed and a doctor must review it.
- The British Columbia Pharmacy Association stated in a submission to the province’s budget consultation: “We firmly believe there remains untapped potential for community pharmacists to respond to the needs that remain in finding more primary care for British Columbians. What we propose is not new or revolutionary. Rather we are recommending B.C. move forward with an increased scope of practice for pharmacists.”
- The argument from the pharmacy association is that shifting the power of prescriptions would allow doctors to focus on caring for patients and not administrative work. There are currently nearly one million British Columbians without a family doctor.
- People’s Pharmacy in Colwood pharmacist Yoshi Ito said: “I think it may be one of the solutions, to alleviate some of the pressure on the healthcare system, some provinces are doing it already. It would relieve some stress, maybe a lot, [because] family doctors are over capacity. As pharmacists we know the medical history of our patients.”
- While either this solution or the BC government's short term financial boost will not fix things long term, it is hoped that it will get the ball rolling and that the BC government will be able to follow up with something in the fall that will better address the underlying issues of the healthcare problem in BC.
- It will not be fixed overnight, but it won't be fixed at all if the right steps aren't taken. It's going to be expensive, and take a long time, but the system is redeemable. However, it needs to be fixed before it gets even worse and the breaking point is reached, not just for the hospitals, clinics, and doctors but also for the patients. If we can't access healthcare, then that is a huge black mark on Canada's record.
- The immigration system of Canada is back in focus, first it may have been due to illegal border crossers or delays getting passports serviced.
- Today though visa delays are putting a damper on the start of the school year.
- Some schools estimate that 40-50% of their international students have not received study permits.
- The end result is that some students will have to defer their studies or study remotely.
- Our educational institutions are worried because this introduces those delays into their system and puts planning for classrooms, support staff, and academic faculty in question.
- The universities by and large are also worried that the delay could erode Canada’s reputation as a world destination to study which has become a competitive international market.
- Now the question, how big is the backlog?
- 180,000 study permits with classes set to begin very soon.
- The Indian High Commission in Ottawa, who represents India as the second largest country in the world and the country who is the biggest single source of foreign students issued an advisory on the topic to Indian nationals.
- It gets interesting because they say they have fielded numerous complaints to the government but it’s still progressing very slowly.
- There are about 230,000 Indian students who will be studying in Canada and they put about $4b into the Canadian economy.
- Some students have been waiting since May for their permits and have started questioning whether Canada was the right choice.
- According to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s spokeswoman, the department blames travel restrictions, reduced capacity, and other factors related to COVID-19.
- There has also been a 55% spike in study permit applications in the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2019.
- At the end of 2021, Canadian colleges, universities, and other schools hosted about 621,000 international students, which is a 135% increase from 2010.
- Anyone who has looked at the budget lines or even just tuition breakdowns for any university will know that foreign students are a major source of income since funding to the institutions is often limited.
- In terms of the students waiting, no one really knows how many have not received permits, but at UBC, 500 of 4,000 international students are waiting for an answer from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.
- The goal is to have a study permit approved in 12 weeks but one advocate looking into the system says that 40% of students are waiting longer than 12 weeks.
- Our allies like the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand are processing their visas faster which undermines the Canadian competitive edge.
- More countries are being looked at for foreign education including China which supplies 17% of our foreign students but is also starting to become an international destination.
- Visa processing times are the main stumbling block in getting these applications processed and as a result need an answer from Minister Sean Fraser and the Trudeau government.
- Once again we are in a boat where the government is slowly but surely causing problems throughout the country that need to be addressed and can only be addressed by the government.
- A bizarre news item has emerged that shone a spotlight on the federal government's funding of an anti-racism initiative that appears to have been partially run by an apparent anti-Semite. The project, run by the Community Media Advocacy Centre, was meant to build an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting.
- Instead, vile tweets from the now privated Twitter account of Laith Marouf, a senior consultant on the project, show a deep history of hatred for Jewish people. One tweet read: “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, a.k.a. the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of thier (sic) Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”
- CMAC, which describes itself as a non-profit organization supporting self-determination in media through research, relationship-building, advocacy and learning, has not responded to requests for comment. Marouf declined requests to comment. His lawyer has drawn a distinction between his client's tweets about people he calls “Jewish white supremacists” and Jews in general, saying Marouf harbours no animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group.
- Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen ordered the funding for the CMAC, which received more than $133,000 from the Heritage Department, to be suspended. Hussen said antisemitism has no place in this country and went further: “We have provided notice to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) that their funding has been cut and their project has been suspended. We call on CMAC, an organization claiming to fight racism and hate in Canada to answer to how they came to hire Laith Marouf, and how they plan on rectifying the situation given the nature of his antisemitic and xenophobic comments.”
- And yet, In April, Hussen was quoted alongside Marouf in a news release announcing the project, titled “Building an Anti-Racism Strategy for Canadian Broadcasting: Conversation & Convergence.” The project included consultative events around Canada, some of which have already taken place, such as at the University of British Columbia (UBC) earlier in May.
- Hussen’s personal endorsement was featured in a press release issued by Marouf’s own Community Media Advocacy Centre. In the April 14 statement, Marouf spoke of his federally funded, cross-Canada tour to deliver “anti-racism” seminars to Canadian broadcasters, and thanked Hussen’s department for “the trust imposed in us.” A direct quote by Hussen said “our government is proud to contribute to the initiative.”
- Mark Goldberg, a telecommunications consultant, said he followed Marouf on Twitter and took screenshots of his tweets before complaining to the social-media network. Goldberg said Twitter locked Marouf's account as well as a subsequent one he set up. Twitter declined a request for comment.
- In one of Goldberg's screenshots, a tweet posted to Marouf's account commented on the death of former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell: “Colin Powell, the Jamaican house-slave of the Empire who extinguished the lives of millions of people with his lies, died a painful death unable to breath (sic). If there was any good that came from this pandemic, it would be his death on the birthday of the prophet of Islam,” it said.
- Another screencapped tweet said: “I have a motto: Life is too short for shoes with laces, or for entertaining Jewish White Supremacists with anything but a bullet to the head.” Yet another read: “lol, I think Frogs have much less IQ than 77, and French is an ugly language.” He also referred to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the head of an “Apartheid” colony.
- In a blog post issued at the time of the Hussen-Marouf statement, Goldberg accused Ottawa of “purveying hate on the public dime.” Goldberg has also noted that it’s not the first time that Marouf has been able to collect federal grants for “anti-racism” training. Even without accounting for Marouf’s social media history, by the time Canadian Heritage put Marouf on its payroll he had already spent more than two decades as a professional activist with a lengthy and public track record of calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.
- Goldberg had been writing about Marouf’s zany interpretation of anti-racist activism for at least a year, but it wasn’t until his observations were amplified by Quillette editor and former National Post columnist Jonathan Kay that thousands of Canadians became aware of the person the Canadian government had contracted to teach others about prejudice. Yet it still took more than a week – and one false start with a vague statement from Hussen about his ministry looking to “rectify” the matter – before the government announced that CMAC’s funding would be cut and its project suspended.
- In 2001, Marouf was barred from Concordia University after he was twice caught spraying anti-Israel graffiti on university property, including the phrase “Israel is a racist State.” When confronted by campus security, Marouf was involved in an altercation in which a “death threat was uttered and two security guards were slightly injured,” according to a Concordia statement at the time.
- The next year, Marouf was a noted organizer of a riot outside Concordia University that prevented an on-campus talk by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A Globe and Mail account from the time said Marouf was a Syrian national whose father had diplomatic immunity in Canada. As recently as November, Marouf was still boasting of breaking a window at the riot.
- In 2013, Marouf was suspended as executive director of CUTV, a Montreal student-run television station, amid accusations that he had plunged the station into “crisis” due to his “dictatorial” leadership. “It drove a lot of people away. A lot of people did not feel comfortable working in the space around him,” CUTV board member William Ray told The Link at the time.
- And Marouf’s views were certainly not disguised even when delivering the anti-racism talks for which Ottawa had hired him. At a May 14 talk in Vancouver, Marouf spent the first two minutes acknowledging the support of Heritage Canada, telling listeners that the media was governed by “colonialism and racism” and launching into an extended condemnation of “the Zionist apartheid regime,” before accusing Israel of waging a decades-long campaign of “genocide.”
- At the same time he was issuing joint statements with Hussen, Marouf was accusing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of leading a “Nazi-Zionist” alliance that had conspired for war with Russia in order to bolster Israel with increased Jewish immigration.
- As recently as July 6 — with his cross-Canada anti-racism tour already underway — Marouf was posting photos of himself giving the middle finger at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., with the wish that it contained a “few million” more names. Despite working in the anti-racism sector, Marouf seemed to be unaware that he was disparaging a monument bearing the names of more than 7,000 mostly conscripted Black men.
- With all this history out there, it's clear that someone did not do their due diligence when hiring this deeply hateful man for an anti-racism initiative. The CMAC was certainly not doing their job, and the Heritage Ministry wasn't doing theirs when giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to this group. Hussen deflecting blame to CMAC is also characteristic of Trudeau's government, where everyone is to blame but themselves.
- For a government that has made self-flagellation a matter of routine – that declared itself complicit in Indigenous genocide and rarely shies away from an opportunity to apologize for a past injustice – its cabinet ministers seem awfully shy to take responsibility now. Perhaps that’s because this is something that can be blamed on this government specifically – a government that accidentally gave an apparent frothing anti-Semite permission to lecture Canadian broadcasters on racism.
- The expectations for this government are not high. A reasonable response from Hussen would be for him to come out and explain that the Heritage Ministry did not do its due diligence in this case, but that it is developing specific protocols, which will soon be publicly disclosed, to vet grant recipients. But such a response could only be expected of a government actually interested in accountability.
- We all know that the Trudeau government is only interested in the veneer of accountability, and not actually being accountable. When you understand that, it's easy to see how Hussen thrusted the blame on an organization that apparently hoodwinked the feeble Ministry of Heritage – with its billion-dollar budget and more than 1,800 employees. It's yet another incompetent misstep in social policy for the Trudeau government. One wonders just how many more chances Canadians will be willing to accept and put up with.
Quote of the Week
“We have provided notice to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) that their funding has been cut and their project has been suspended. We call on CMAC, an organization claiming to fight racism and hate in Canada to answer to how they came to hire Laith Marouf, and how they plan on rectifying the situation given the nature of his antisemitic and xenophobic comments.” - Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen, distancing himself from an anti-racism initiative that he personally endorsed.
Word of the Week
Anti-Racism - the policy or practice of opposing racism, racial prejudice and systemic racism, while promoting racial tolerance.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: System Overload
Teaser: Russia’s actions show how important Canada’s Arctic is, BC spends $118M to support family doctors, and half of international students are still waiting for their visas. Also, an anti-semite is hired by the Trudeau government to preach anti-racism.
Recorded Date: August 27, 2022
Release Date: August 28, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes