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The war in Ukraine could force Canada to shed its self-image as a peacekeeper – CBC News

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Over the past three decades or more, Canada has suffered from a deep identity crisis whenever it has been confronted with the messy, brutal foreign wars raging in far-flung parts of this troubled globe.

The overwhelming brutality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the Liberal government in recent weeks to confront some thorny questions. What does a peacekeeping nation do when there’s no peace to keep?

And what do you do when faced with a nuclear-armed adversary whose default reflex is to wage war?

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  • What questions do you have about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca

For decades, Canada has clung to a perception of itself as a peacekeeping nation. Experts say the war of aggression launched by President Vladimir Putin marks a return to the kind of conflicts not seen since the end of the Second World War.

That uncomfortable conundrum will come into even sharper focus later this week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Brussels to meet with other NATO leaders on Thursday. There they’ll be asked to consider some decidedly non-peacekeeping scenarios in support of keeping Ukraine in the war — with an eye to confronting Russia over the long-term.

Their aim will be to keep the West out of the war in Ukraine and avoid a direct confrontation with Russia. It’s as much an exercise in organizing deterrence as it is about putting some steel into the spine of NATO allies.

It may be generous to say the Liberal government has been reluctant to embrace anything that looks like a hard-edged military solution. Canada was among the last countries to agree to ship arms to Ukraine, despite months of consideration.

A man removes a shredded curtain inside a school damaged by Russian bombs in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Rodrigo Abd/The Associated Press)

The Trudeau government has steadfastly refused to indicate clearly whether it will raise defence spending in response to the threat, preferring mushy platitudes to clear targets.

It has not committed firmly to purchasing equipment and covering critical gaps in the Canadian military inventory in the near term. It also has presented economic sanctions as the ultimate weapon for defeating Russia.

During Trudeau’s recent tour of European capitals, he gave a speech in Berlin that neatly captured his government’s reluctance.

“I think for a lot of citizens, they said, well, Russia just invaded militarily Ukraine, surely if you want to stand for Ukrainians, the response has to be military,” Trudeau said.

“Well, actually, we have more and better tools than that now. The power we have that we have built up over the past 75 years of unprecedented peace and stability around the world means that we have the tools to damage the Putin regime far more effectively than we ever could with tanks and missiles.”

There are strains of old arguments in Trudeau’s remarks.

From ‘strategic bombing’ to sanctions

During the Second World War, there were those who argued Germany and Japan could be brought to their knees through strategic bombing — by flattening factories to undermine the enemy’s ability to fight, much in the way sanctions are meant to rob Putin of the means to pay for his war.

Those people claimed victory could be achieved without the wholesale sacrifice of armies. It didn’t turn out that way, of course. The Axis powers had to be driven out on the ground in much the same way that Ukraine has — for the moment — checked Russia’s bloody advance.

One hundred and nine empty strollers are placed outside the Lviv city council to highlight the number of children killed in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

Matthew Schmidt, a national security expert at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, said sometimes we just don’t want to see the obvious nature of war.

Had the Ukrainians not been so effective in their defence — and had the Russians not been so “shockingly incompetent” — the war would have been over by now, he said.

There are lessons the Ukrainians have learned over the years about dealing with Russia that may be just sinking in for western leaders like Trudeau, Schmidt said.

“I think they understand Putin in a different way than we do. They understand that Western-style deterrence isn’t going to work with him,” he said.

Wishful thinking

That reluctance to shed the peacekeeping aura was echoed this week when Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told a CTV interviewer that Canada is “not a military power” — that the country “is good at convening and making sure that diplomacy is happening.”

Schmidt said both Trudeau and Joly reflect the best ideals of the West — but they may be out of step with the moment.

“I think it is naive about Putin and how he makes decisions,” he said. “I think it is aspirational of what we in the West want the world to be, and what it absolutely can be, but not in all instances, and maybe not yet.”

Dominique Arel, chair of Ukrainian studies at the University of Ottawa, said he believes the horrors faced by civilians in eastern Europe right now — coupled with events such as Friday’s pro-war rally in a packed stadium in Moscow — bring with them echoes of the 1930s.

“Nuremberg,” he said, referring to the torch-lit rallies held in Nazi Germany. 

A resident walks with a child past a Russian tank in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Friday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Back then, Arel said, many people in the West didn’t want to acknowledge what was going on in Europe. He predicts that as Canadians are overwhelmed by images of bombed theatres and murdered children, there will be a shift “in the Canadian identity” which has for decades viewed peacekeeping as the country’s primary reason for going abroad.

The world has changed, Arel said.

“It’s a very hard and cold realization that in the era of war of aggression … you have to basically provide the means for states, including the Canadian state … to withstand aggression,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Canadians have to entirely give up who they are as a people, he added.

“It’s not that Canada has to advocate for a military solution to conflicts as such. Of course not,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s always about the political solution, but in order to get to a political solution, the military component now, unfortunately, has to be much more serious than it was before.”

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St-Onge urges provinces to accelerate efforts to make sports safer for athletes

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Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge says ending abuse in sports will require complaints processes that include provincial-level athletes, not just national ones.

St-Onge and provincial sports ministers will meet during the Canada Games in mid-February where their agenda will include the ongoing effort to address widespread allegations of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in sports.

She says she asked the provincial ministers at an August meeting to look at joining the new federal sport integrity process or creating their own.

The national sports integrity commissioner can only investigate allegations of abuse from athletes at the national level.

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But St-Onge says the vast majority of athletes aren’t in that category and only Quebec has its own sports integrity office capable of receiving and investigating complaints.

The national sport integrity office officially began its work last June and has since received 48 complaints from athletes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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Justice is a Privilege Reserved for the Few

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History is full of examples showing us that Justice is a privilege reserved for the few, the wealthy, politically and financially connected, in fact, those of the right colour or race depending on where and when this justice was to be dealt with. Justice must be earnt, and it expends a colossal cost. What do I mean?

When a justice system demands proof of your innocence, while viewing the accused as guilty until that proof surfaces, the system of justice seems to be blind to all but those with the ability to hire known lawyers and a defense team to point out any misunderstandings that arise. A Black Man with many priors stands before a judge, accused of violent crimes. Will such a man have the ability to raise money to get out of jail and hire a powerful legal team? If he is a financially well-off man perhaps, but if he is an “Average Joe”, the justice system swallows him up, incarcerating him while he waits for his trial, and possible conviction. While the justice system is supposed to be blind to financial, sexist, and racial coding, the statistics show White men often walk, and Black-Hispanic and men of color often do not. Don’t think so?

America’s Justice system has a huge penal population, well into the millions of citizens in public and private prisons across the land. According to Scientific America, 71% of those imprisoned are not white. So do you think these men and women got there because of their choices or did the system help to decide that while whites can be either excused, rehabilitated or found not endangering the greater society, “the others” are threats to the nation’s security and population?

White privilege is still prevalent within our system, with financial privilege a close second.

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The World was white, but now its really black(non-white)
Justice for all is never achieved, just verbatim.
What can justice do for the lowly man
while jails fill and are built anew continually?

When you are seen as an outsider always,
and the precious few escape societies’ hungry grasp.
Justice for all is the cry we all hear these days,
While the policeman stamps your future out at last.

Martin L says the Black Persons going to win this war,
and a war of attrition it truly has been.
Justice is a privileged and socially mobile thing,
leaving the many to pray to the spirit of Tyre Nichols,
asking what the hell can we do???

I walked through an airport recently with no problem and no questioning. Customs and border officers were busy getting into the face of many non-white travelers. To this very day, a non-white person flying anywhere with a long beard, and dressed like a Muslim could get you unwelcomed trouble. Being different will always create difficulties. Being out of your place in another financial-ethnic society will be a challenge. Race, financial and political privilege will forever be with us. The powerful will always be able to dance around the justice system’s rules and regulations. Why? Well, the justice system is an exclusive club, filled with lawyers and police. The administrators and enforcers of the system. Some other form of the judicial system is needed, with a firm root in community equality. Can our Justice System be truly blind to all influencers, but the laws of the land? Can victims of crime receive true justice, retribution in kind for the offenses carried out by criminals against them?

” In the final analysis, true justice is not a matter of courts and law books, but of a commitment in each of us to liberty and mutual respect”(Jimmy Carter). Mutual respect of all actors in the play known as the Justice System, influenced, manipulated, and written by lawyers and academics. God help us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario
skaszab@yahoo.ca

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By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis

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British Columbia’s chief coroner released overdose figures for 2022, showing 2,272 residents died from toxic drugs last year. Lisa Lapointe says drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.

Here are some of the numbers connected to the overdose crisis:

189: Average number of deaths per month last year.

6.2: Average deaths per day.

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At least 11,171: Deaths attributed to drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.

70: Percentage of the dead between 30 and 59 years old.

79: Percentage of those who died who were male.

65: Children and youth who have died in the last two years.

82: Percentage of the deaths where the toxic opioid fentanyl was involved.

73,000: People in B.C. who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.

8.8: The rate that First Nations women are dying, is a multiple of the general population’s rate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2023.

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