Tag Archives: UAE

Canada joins a rare club of repressive states

The list of oppressive countries legislating the wearing of masks keeps growing: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now … Canada.

Rioters in Vancouver

Last month, we reported on Saudi Arabia banning the Guy Fawkes masks popularized by the movie V for Vendetta, which have been a staple of populist protests from Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring, and now the Taksim Square protests in Turkey. The Canadian ban is a bit different — but just as strange.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, makes it illegal to wear a mask in Canada “during a riot or unlawful assembly.” (Because apparently Canadian laws against rioting aren’t dissuasive enough?) Those caught wearing masks during riots could spend up to six months in jail, not including additional charges for rioting; masked miscreants caught “inciting” a riot face a potential 10-year sentence. CBC reports that “exceptions can be made if someone can prove they have a ‘lawful excuse’ for covering their face such as religious or medical reasons.”

Does that include dust masks to prevent getting sick at crowded, dirty protests? Balaclavas so protesters don’t freeze on cold Canadian nights? Handkerchiefs to stave off the inhalation of tear gas? Do fake beards, like the one worn by the Canadian student above, count as masks? That’s unclear, and will be left up to law enforcement officers’ judgment. “In policing that’s always the challenge — we’re required to use our discretion and judgment in every situation,” Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association and Vancouver Police Union, told CBC.

Not only are the terms of the new law loosely defined, but the legislation may be redundant. Critics of the bill point out that there is already a Canadian law on the books prohibiting wearing a disguise “with intent to commit an indictable offense.” But Canadian law enforcement officials counter that the law’s original purpose — it was aimed at incidences of armed robbery — have made it difficult to apply to rioters.

“We can all rest easier tonight knowing our communities have been safer with [the bill’s] passage,” the law’s sponsor, Member of Parliament Blake Richards, told reporters.

So, if you’re planning on rioting in Canada, remember the old “only break one law at a time” rule and don’t wear a mask. Or hope that the law goes unenforced — like that mask ban in Saudi Arabia.

Even Foreign Policy is making fun of us now.

Harper’s Diplomacy

Scott Taylor talks about the problems with Harper’s Camp Mirage diplomacy

For one thing, the location of Camp Mirage was always a closely protected secret. This was not done out of fear that terrorists would overrun the Canadian base, but rather to lessen the impact on the host nation regarding relations with its neighbouring states.

The United Arab Emirates remains a conservative Muslim state surrounded by many fundamentalist Arab countries that see the NATO intervention in Afghanistan as a Western war against Islam.

Further complicating matters is the fact that, since coming to power in 2006, the Harper government has publicly decreed, at every opportunity, its unwavering, unilateral support for Israel. For better or for worse, that is the path the Conservatives have chosen to follow, so it seems incredibly hypocritical that Harper would still expect an Arab nation to provide us the use of an airbase for nine years — for free.

In his exclusive interview, Harper also claimed that this experience has been a valuable learning opportunity for himself and his government.

"What this teaches us in (the) future and when we’re looking at other options is: Don’t get in a place where somebody’s going to try and use it to leverage some unrelated issue."

(Second note to Harper: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.)

I’m not hearing anyone suggest an alternate payment option for all the services and access our military had to the Emirates’ airbase during the past nine years.

Surely, as a good ally, Canada will pony up the back rent!

I’m positive that, if such negotiations were initiated in good faith, to settle our account amicably, those Canadian officials seeking a new staging base in the region would find their job a whole lot easier.