December 12, 2014

Fred Bass (Vancouver Monthly Meeting) in RCMP wagon on Burnaby Mountain, Nov 27, 2014

Fred Bass (Vancouver Monthly Meeting) in RCMP wagon on Burnaby Mountain, Nov 27, 2014

We write to express our support for, and solidarity with, those working on Burnaby Mountain to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Quakers are good citizens who seek lawful ways to promote changes within society and to make known our concerns. However, as a last resort, those Friends who are led to do so may choose nonviolent civil disobedience after much discernment.
Canadian Friends Service Committee has considered the issues at stake and found unity with the actions taken by Indigenous peoples (including our partners, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs), Friends, and other concerned citizens. We thank them for their commitment to nonviolent witness for the health of our beautiful and increasingly fragile home, the earth. We thank them for their concern for future generations.
We write as a national body engaging in Friends’ peace and justice work in Canada, because we know that this is not a set of problems which only affect the residents of BC. The best evidence suggests that this pipeline’s expansion, by tripling the volume of diluted bitumen shipped from Alberta’s tar sands through the existing Trans Mountain pipeline route, would have detrimental impacts on the climate and health of our entire planet.
Decisions made today will affect all of us in the future. That climate change impacts were not considered by Canada’s National Energy Board in its approval of this project is unacceptable. It is in the public interest that the Federal Government effectively address climate change. An equally critical reason why this project should not go ahead at this time is that Kinder Morgan and the Government of Canada have failed to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Indigenous peoples whose unceded territories would be impacted.
Friends from several countries joined together in June to express our sense of the urgent need for action on climate change [1]. We know that Canada can and must immediately invest in creating more sustainable communities by using cleaner and more renewable energy. We have the creative potential to change directions. We must move away from practices which appear poised to harm the long-term wellbeing of so many for limited short-term gain. NASA scientist James Hansen has warned that releasing the carbon contained in Alberta’s tar sands alone is likely to mean “game over” for efforts to maintain a stable climate within just a few decades [2]. Given the extraordinarily severe challenges facing us, we find the nonviolent direct actions of Friends in keeping with Quaker faith and witness on climate change and human rights. These acts are motivated by a sincere concern, in line with our Testimonies of Peace, Simplicity, Community, Equality, Integrity, and Unity with Creation.
in Friendship and with gratitude for the efforts toward a better future,
Lana Robinson
Clerk, Canadian Friends Service Committee
End Notes:
[2] The Guardian, “Tar sands exploitation would mean game over for climate, warns leading scientist”, May 19, 2013


December 11, 2014

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December 10, 2014

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister,
We are a range of organizations across Canada from many different backgrounds, including faith groups, human rights organizations, legal groups, women’s equality organizations, ethno-cultural groups, trade unions and many more. We are writing this Open Letter to you today – International Human Rights Day as well as the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – to urge that Canada take a long overdue step in addressing the continuing grim and harrowing crisis of torture around the world.
In December 2002, the United Nations adopted an important treaty focused on preventing torture, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Twelve years later, Canada has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol, despite having made promises to the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 and 2009 to consider doing so. We are calling on you to commit to take that step without any further delay. It is time for Canada to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
We are writing to you directly Prime Minister Harper because this involves a number of different government departments, including Foreign Affairs, Public Safety, Heritage and Justice. As such, your leadership is required. We are also writing to you directly because progress towards Canadian ratification has been stalled for a number of years. Again your leadership is required.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue CC-BY

Photo Credit: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue CC-BY

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture establishes national and international systems for inspecting detention centres, all with an eye to identifying and exposing the conditions that permit and encourage torture to take place. It seeks to pierce the shroud of secrecy that allows torture to continue at such alarming rates around the world. Amnesty International has documented torture in 141 countries in the last five years.
Seventy-six countries have ratified and thus legally bound themselves to the Optional Protocol since it was adopted by the UN in December 2002. Another 19 have taken the symbolic but important first step of signing the Optional Protocol, for a total of 95 states. The list includes many of Canada’s closest allies. Six states have ratified in 2014, including two just last month.
Once Canada becomes a party to the Optional Protocol we will be able to credibly and forcefully press other countries to follow suit – countries where torture is rampant and where there are inadequate or nonexistent laws and institutions for preventing torture and monitoring detention facilities. The international community urgently needs Canada to be party to the Optional Protocol to assist in the vital effort of more universally realizing its great promise of torture prevention. Canada cannot play that role from the sidelines.
Ratification of the Optional Protocol will also strengthen oversight of detention centres in Canada in a manner that brings consistency across the country, ensuring greater coherence between detention centres that are operated by the federal government and those that are operated by provincial and territorial governments. It will also bring scrutiny to detention centres that are currently not subject to independent oversight, such as immigration detention centres operated by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Torture and ill-treatment are not rampant in Canadian detention centres and there are some complaint processes already in place. Nevertheless, the improved oversight provided through the Optional Protocol will further strengthen efforts to guard against abuses that do occur.
We are writing to you with this urgent plea today, in particular because International Human Rights Day is a day that marks important advances in the development of international human rights laws. It was on this dayin 1948 that the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, launching the international human rights system. Also on this day thirty years ago on 10 December 1984, the UN adopted the ground-breaking UN Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Canada was a strong champion of and played a key role in the adoption of the Convention against Torture.
Three decades later 156 countries have ratified the Convention and bound themselves to its comprehensive framework governing the absolute and unequivocal prohibition against torture. Another ten states have taken the first step of signing the Convention. But despite having support from 166 governments, torture continues to be widespread around the world. That is why it is of such urgent importance for the Convention’s Optional Protocol, with its focus on torture prevention, to gain wider international support. We are looking to Canada to play a lead role in that effort.
Canada needs to ratify the Optional Protocol for the fundamentally important reason that preventing torture anywhere and everywhere, globally, is of concern to Canadians. As the multicultural diversity of Canada continues to grow it is a particularly serious preoccupation for the increasing number of Canadians who worry about the safety of family and friends who live in other countries where the risk of torture and ill-treatment is very high.
Canada needs to ratify the Optional Protocol as well because in an increasingly inter-connected world, more and more Canadians have experienced or have been at serious risk of being tortured in a growing list of countries – countries without the oversight and monitoring that would help prevent torture in the first place. That list includes China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria, none of which have yet signed or ratified the Optional Protocol. Canadian ratification would strengthen our ability to press those countries to ratify and open their detention centres to increased scrutiny. That would help to prevent torture and to keep Canadians safe.
Prime Minister, when your government stood for election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 you pledged to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol if elected. Canada was elected and served a three year term but did not ratify.When Canada’s human rights record was reviewed for the first time under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process in 2009 your government again promised to consider ratifying the Optional Protocol, in response from recommendations to do so from many other governments. Again that did not happen.
We were disappointed, therefore, that when Canada was reviewed for the second time under the Universal Periodic Review, in 2013, the government simply stated that there are no plans to ratify at this time, despite the fact that this was one of the most frequently repeated recommendations directed at Canada, often from close allies.
Prime Minister, your officials have done the work to lay the ground for Canada to ratify. They have identified changes that might be needed to Canadian law, policy or practice. None are daunting; all are feasible. It is time to engage provincial and territorial governments in a discussion and bring them on board so that ratification can go ahead expeditiously. It is about leadership. It is about political will. And as the world marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention against Torture against a tragic and disappointing backdrop of a continuing worldwide torture crisis; it is about stepping up and getting it done.
We look forward to news that Canada has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture before the 31st anniversary of the Convention comes around on 10 December 2015. We urge you to commit to that goal.
Alex Neve
Secretary General
Amnesty International Canada (English branch)
Béatrice Vaugrante
Directrice Générale
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Regional Chief Cameron Alexis and
Regional Chief Morley Googoo
Assembly of First Nations
Pascal Paradis
Directeur général
Avocats sans frontières Canada
Carmen Cheung
Senior Counsel
British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
Carole Samdup
Executive Director
Canada Tibet Committee
Leilani Farha
Executive Director
Canada without Poverty
Kim Pate
Executive Director
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS)
Mitchell Goldberg
Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
David Robinson
Executive Director
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Mulugeta Abai
Executive Director
Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
Sukanya Pillay
Executive Director and General Counsel
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Julia Sánchez
Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Loly Rico
Canadian Council for Refugees
Lana Robinson
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Hassan Yussuff
Canadian Labour Congress
Brittany Twiss
Executive Director
Canadian Lawyers Abroad
Christine Jones
Canadian Peace Alliance
David Poopalapillai
National Spokesperson
Canadian Tamil Congress
Joe Gunn
Executive Director
Citizens for Public Justice
Rick Goldman
Committee to Aid Refugees
Maude Barlow
National Chairperson
Council of Canadians
Ian Hamilton
Executive Director
Alice Huynh
Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group
Joanna Kerr
Executive Director
Greenpeace Canada
Roy Culpeper
Group of 78
Sarah Hipworth
Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
Jasmine Herlt
Human Rights Watch Canada
Roch Tassé
National Coordinator
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Kevin Malseed
Program Manager
Inter Pares
Jennifer Henry
Executive Director
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Steven Sagle
Law Union of Ontario
Betty Plewes
The McLeod Group
Ihsaan Gardee
Executive Director
National Council of Canadian Muslims
James Clancy
National President
National Union of Public and General Employees
Claudette Dumont-Smith
Executive Director
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Katrina Pacey
Executive Director
Pivot Legal Society
Peggy Mason
Rideau Institute on International Affairs.
Sr. Veronica O’Reilly csj
Congregational Leader
Congregation of the Sisters of
St. Joseph in Canada
Debbie Hill-Corrigan
Executive Director
Sojourn House
Urgyen Badheytsang
National Director
Students for a Free Tibet Canada
Jerry Dias
National President
Kate White
President & CEO
United Nations Association in Canada
Patti Talbot
Acting Executive Minister
Church in Mission Unit
The United Church of Canada
Fannie Lafontaine et Julia Grignon
Co-directrices, Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire
Université Laval
Professor John Packer
Director, Human Rights Research and
Education Centre
University of Ottawa
Renu J. Mandhane
Director, International Human Rights Program
University of TorontoFaculty of Law
Kayum Masimov
Uyghur Canadian Society
Kasari Govender
Executive Director
West Coast LEAF
Diane O’Reggio
Executive Director
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Hon. Warren Allmand
World Federalist Movement – Canada
Download in PDF. More Public Statements

December 2, 2014

Simple. Easily accessible. These are not things you might associate with synthetic biology (SB), a complicated and rapidly exploding industry combining biology, engineering and computer science in a way some call “genetic engineering on steroids”. But, responding to a request from Friends at Canadian Yearly Meeting in August, CFSC has produced a short update on SB headlines from 2014. It is both easy to understand and full of information well worth being aware of!

International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. Photo credit: iGEM Foundation/Justin Knight CC-BY

International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. Photo credit: iGEM Foundation/Justin Knight CC-BY

SB has massive ethical, ecological, spiritual and economic implications and you shouldn’t need a PhD in biology to have a voice on these issues. We hope you will read and share this brief update and consider discussing it with a study group. If you have questions or comments about synthetic biology we’d be happy to hear from you.
Download the 2014 update on synthetic biology.
Find out more about synthetic biology.

November 24, 2014

Canadian Friends Service Committee is among the 160 organizations which have come together to remind the Government of Canada of the critical importance of social assistance to many refugee claimants, and the damaging effects which sections 172 and 173 of the omnibus Budget Bill C-43 are likely to have. Our joint open letter is below. A petition has also been started which you may wish to sign.

Refugee detention centre - Rexdale, Ontario

Refugee detention centre – Rexdale, Ontario

The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Open Letter: Budget Bill Restricts Access to Social Assistance for Refugee Claimants
Dear Minister,
As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion of sections 172 and 173 in your recently introduced omnibus Budget Bill C-43. These sections amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.
Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.
To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive.
A Federal Court recently described your government’s denial of healthcare to refugee claimants as “cruel and unusual”. It is disturbing to see another initiative in Parliament that seems to be using legislation to threaten the well-being of migrants attempting to navigate Canada’s immigration system.
Fleeing persecution places tremendous stress and burden on families seeking refugee status in Canada. Some of these families suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that can make finding and holding a job difficult without appropriate health care. Work permits take time to be approved and issued, which leaves people with no source of income for months on end. In the interim, access to social assistance is vital to sustain and rebuild lives. Without that source of support, many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families, putting further pressure on already overburdened charities and shelters. We know that poverty leads to poor health outcomes including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. We also know that denying basic social benefits, particularly to refugees, contravenes the spirit and letter of numerous international human rights obligations that are binding on Canada, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It is unacceptable for our government to implement policies that worsen people’s health and deny their fundamental human rights.
We are also concerned that such a significant legislative change is being included in an omnibus Budget Bill, after being introduced as a Private Members Bill. These are inappropriate processes to deal with such a critical issue as access to basic social benefits. This is particularly the case since these provisions will have far reaching negative consequences for the health, income security, stability, and successful settlement of very vulnerable people who have come to Canada seeking shelter from war and persecution.
Our organizations call on you to withdraw sections 172 and 173 from Bill C-43. We will be making this Open Letter public and will continue to raise this issue with you, your MP colleagues, and the general public.
Access Alliance Community Health Centre

Access Empowerment Council

Action Plus Brome Missisquoi

Action Réfugiés Montréal

Amnesty International Canada (English speaking)

Anglican Diocese of Niagara

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Arts and Science Students’ Union

Association of Ontario Health Centres, Adrianna Tetley, Chief Executive Officer

Association of Ontario Midwives

Association pour la défense des droits sociaux Québec métropolitain (ADDS QM)

Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto

BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Bridges Community Health Centre

Campaign 2000: end child and family poverty in Canada

Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits

Canadian Alliance of Community Health Centre Associations

Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law

Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers

Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW)

Canadian Council for Refugees, Loly Rico, President

Canadian Council for Social Development (CCSD)

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care

Canadian Federation of University Women

Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Canadian Health Coalition

Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH)

Canadian Romani Alliance

Carrefour d’aide aux nouveaux arrivants (CANA)

Central Toronto Community Health Centres

Centre d’Action socio-communautaire de Montréal (CASCM)

Centre de recherche d’emploi de l’est

Centre des femmes d’ici et d’ailleurs

Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples

Centre francophone de Toronto

Centre justice et foi

Champlain Community Health Centre Executive Directors’ Network, Jack McCarthy, Chair, ED of Somerset West CHC

Church of the Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, Toronto

Citizens for Public Justice

Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)

Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa

Colour of Poverty / Colour of Change Network

Comité d’aide aux réfugiés

Comité des Personnes Assisteés Sociales de Pointe-Saint-Charles Montréal

Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment

Common Frontiers

Community Advocacy & Legal Centre

Community Legal Assistance Sarnia

Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN), Richard Lavigne, directeur général

Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA)

Council of Canadians

Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter

FCJ Refugee Centre

Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes

Femmes du monde à Côte-des-Neiges

Flemingdon Community Legal Services

Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec

Groupe-Ressource du Plateau Mont-Royal

Hamilton Community Legal Clinic

Health For All

Health Providers Against Poverty

HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)

HOPE (Hamilton)

Immigrant and Refugee Support Centre

Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO)

Injured Workers Action for Justice

Injured Workers’ Consultants (IWC)

Inner City Health Associates

In-School & Library Settlement Services

Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group

Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC)

Interim Place

Interprofessional Medical and Allied Groups for Improving Neighbourhood Environment (IMAGINE Clinic)

Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Service

Jewish – Refugee Action Network (JRAN)

John Howard Society of Toronto

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services

Kinbrace Community Society

Kingston Community Legal Clinic

Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic


La Clé sur la Porte

La Maison

Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network

Le Centre Afrika

le Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU)

Le Regroupement des assistées sociales et assistés sociaux du Témiscouata (Rasst)

Legal Assistance of Windsor

Ligue des droits et libertés

L’R des centres de femmes du Québec, Carolle Mathieu, présidente

Matthew House, Toronto

Mennonite Central Committee Canada

Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support

Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto

Mississauga Community Legal Clinic

Multicultural Women and Seniors Services Association (MWSSA)

National Council of Women of Canada

Neighbourhood Legal Services – London

ODSP Action Coalition

Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), James Ryan, President

Ottawa Sanctuary City Network

Parkdale Community Legal Services

Pathway to Potential, Adam Vasey, Director

Presbyterian Church in Canada, Life and Mission Agency, The Rev. Dr. Richard W. Fee, General Secretary

Project Genesis, Michael Chervin, Executive Director

Provincial Council of Women of Ontario

Public Health Students’ Association, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Rainbow Refugee

Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario

Refugee Support Group of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)

Regroupement des assistées sociales et assistés sociaux du Témiscouata

Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec

Regroupement des cuisines collectives du Québec (RCCQ)

Réseau d’intervention auprès des personnes ayant subi la violence organisée (RIVO)

Romero House, Joseph Schmidt, President of the Board of Directors

Sanctuary Coalition

Scarborough Community Legal Services (SCLS)

SDG Legal Clinic

Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office, Kingston, Ontario

Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, Office for Systemic Justice, Sue Wilson, Director

Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)

Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo

Social Planning Council of Sudbury, Janet Gasparini

Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Edmonton Central Council

Sojourn House

South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

South Ottawa Community Legal Services

South Riverdale Community Health Centre

Student Christian Movement

Students Against Bill C-585

Students for Medicare

Sudbury Community Legal Clinic

Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec, Lucie Martineau, présidente générale

Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)

The Redwood

Toronto Christian Resource Centre

Toronto Public Health

United Church of Canada, Church in Mission Unit, Michael Blair, Executive Minister

United Church of Canada, Justice and Global Justice Team, Toronto Southeast Presbytery

University of Toronto Medical Society

University of Toronto Medical Students for Refugee Care

University of Toronto Students’ Union

Voices from the Street

Welcome Home Refugee Housing Community, Sharon Schmidt, Director

Wellesley Institute

West End Legal Services of Ottawa

West Neighbourhood House

West Scarborough Community Legal Services

Woman Abuse Council of Toronto

Women Speak Out

Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

Working for Change

World Renew