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2013 Blog Archive

My archived blog articles for 2013 are below. You can also click the respective links for my current blog articles, my featured blog articles, and my complete blog archives.

To Fire from Ice
16 March 2013, 12h01 EDT (GMT-4)

Flickr Facebook

Flickr and Facebook
Click the logos for my photoblogs from the Championships

Despite all appearances to the contrary in the Ottawa Valley, spring is upon us, and that can only mean one thing. Unfortunately, that one thing is not a respite from -10ºC temperatures, deep snow, or thick ice sheets across my fields. It is the arrival of the Asian Tent Pegging Championships.

A 2500 year-old cavalry sport of horse, sword, lance, and reckless abandon, Tent Pegging has nothing to do with tents and relatively little to do with pegs, and is better known in the New World as Equestrian Skill-at-Arms.

The 2013 Asian Championships will be held in the heat of India, just outside Delhi in the city of Gurgaon, and I am deeply honoured to be riding once more for UNICEF Team Canada.

While at the Championships, I intend to post regular updates and photographs to my Flickr album and to my Facebook page.

It will be - as always - a great privilege to ride in competition with some of the finest military equestrians in the world, and I will do my utmost to represent our country with honour.

Thatcher's Verdict on the Liberal Party of Canada
12 April 2013, 08h31 EDT (GMT-4)

Globe and Mail newspaper

The Globe and Mail
Click the logo for the original newspaper web page

Although the newspaper correctly identified me as Executive Director of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, I wrote the article below in a personal capacity.

* * *

My one conversation with Margaret Thatcher began with a chill in the air, and ended with our host mopping his brow. We were all polite, but there were daggers behind the smiles and venom coiled around the courtesy.

I had previously served as president of my university’s student government, during a year dominated by an intensely bitter struggle with Thatcher’s successors. During those difficult days, my most stalwart ally had been Roy Jenkins, my university’s Chancellor and Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. We met a year later in the gilded halls of the Palace of Westminster to reminisce over our battles, which had left the Conservative government humbled and the Secretary of State for Education dismissed from Cabinet.

It was then that Thatcher glided by.

Learning that I am Canadian, she took a moment to speak glowingly of Brian Mulroney’s foreign policies, and to express regret at his departure from office. I was unable to share her enthusiasm.

“Surely, only a very, very foolish person indeed would fail to see that Mr Mulroney raised your country’s standing on the international stage,” she said, in tones that dared me to declare my membership in the ranks of the fools.

We held each other’s gaze for a moment.

“I think Canadians certainly feel a great sense of pride that he made Canada a leader in the international fight against Apartheid,” I replied. “He stood up for human freedom, while others who had uttered its rhetoric stood aside.”

Thatcher relished the opportunity to give voice to her self-assurance. “To be a leader is to make difficult decisions. I was able to do so because there are things I believe in, things I am prepared to sacrifice for, things I am willing to be unpopular for,” she replied. “If only your Liberal Party could say the same.”

The news of Thatcher’s death, coming days before the Liberal Party of Canada chooses its new leader, brought her verdict back to me.

There is no denying that the Liberal Party’s long association with power made it a magnet for individuals drawn to power rather than to public service, a tool of Liberals of convenience rather than Liberals of conviction. The question that will confront its next leader is not whether the Liberal Party can rebuild its fabled political machine into one capable of waging an effective campaign; it is whether it can rediscover its ideals and return as a party deserving of our country’s trust.

If it is to have any hope of doing so, it will need to find the courage to resist the lure of comforting self-deceptions and the seduction of recent polls.

The party’s decline at successive elections was not due to some lapse in judgment by a rueful electorate that yearns to repent at the next opportunity. It was not a want of resources that can be remedied by a new crop of bagmen or ward heelers. It was not an absence of messianic personalities whose charisma could substitute for grassroots renewal.

The Liberal Party instead received a calculated rebuke from Canadians against the divisions and hubris they saw gnawing at it. It was dismissed by an electorate who concluded that the Liberal Party was no longer willing or able to deliver liberal policies or governance.

The irony is that the fundamental tenets of liberalism remain as resonant with Canadians today as during the Liberal Party’s salad days. It is why, in an effort to capitalise on its electoral successes, the NDP continues to try to strip the word “socialist” from its constitution. It is why the Conservative Party leader describes himself as a “classical liberal”. And it is why genuine liberalism has nothing to do with a compromise between the extremes of other parties.

The ideals of liberalism are founded upon a single article of faith: that liberty is the highest political good, and that as a result, the first duty of government is to seek the greatest liberty for the one that is compatible with liberty for all.

It insists that every right is balanced by a corresponding responsibility. It holds that election to office is not a licence to rule, but a contract to serve.

It believes in the equal dignity of all citizens and in equality of opportunity, but it rejects equality of outcome, insisting instead that people of unequal talent and industry should be allowed to reap as they sow.

It celebrates individual initiative and looks towards a vision of society as a meritocracy, and expects those who benefit the most from society to bear proportionately the greatest responsibility towards society.

Ultimately, liberalism holds that a nation is bound together by a social contract, because the interests of each individual are inextricably linked to the well being of every other member of society, making prosperity and social justice inseparable. Liberals know that in the long term, we will succeed or fail as a people, not just as individuals.

If it is to redeem itself, the Liberal Party must treat the upcoming leadership election as a means towards an end, and not an end in itself.

It is an opportunity to begin building a national institution on a foundation of genuine democratic accountability, rather than the rule of one person. It is a chance to start articulating a liberal vision for Canada in a world that Laurier could not have imagined. It is an invitation to offer tangible policies that speak to the values that define us as Canadians.

At the end of our conversation, Thatcher offered me a laugh that conveyed mockery rather than mirth. “Young man,” she said, “what you believe in is liberalism. Semantics aside, it is unrelated to your Liberal Party.”

After it has elected a new leader, the Liberal Party of Canada will have only two years to prove her wrong.

A Witness to Triumphs and Terrors
19 May 2013, 23h45 AST (GMT+5)

The Huffington Post Canada The Hagia Sophia

The Huffington Post - The Hagia Sophia
Click logo for original article - Click photo for full image

Over the course of the coming year, much of my focus at the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) will be on work with international institutions to locate, freeze, and ultimately restore to the Syrian people assets stolen from them by the Assad regime. Our objective is to starve the regime of the resources it has been using to perpetuate the conflict, and to thereby help bring the war to an earlier conclusion.

The work will require me to travel quite extensively, and I plan to write a series of personal vignettes on the people, places, and customs I encounter, which will be published by the Huffington Post.

I wrote my first article of the series during a brief moment of contemplation between intense discussions in Istanbul.

* * *

Recently, work took me to Istanbul to meet with the Syrian resistance. We discussed options for the international community to help bring an end to the Syrian war, by destroying the financial networks that enable the Assad regime to purchase weapons and finance assaults against civilians.

As we pored over accounts of massacres, a clawing despair seemed to grip us, and it became difficult to hold on to any sense of perspective.

One afternoon, I decided to clear my mind and pay a brief visit to the Hagia Sophia, the monumental edifice in the ancient heart of the city. The “Holy Wisdom” is almost 1500 years old, and is - at least in my amateur opinion - the single greatest masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.

Its history is intertwined with the history of civilisation itself, and it has outlasted both the highest triumphs and the lowest terrors nations have known.

It became the centre of the state religion, Orthodox Catholicism, as the Western Roman Empire declined and the Eastern Roman Empire arose. It was converted into an imperial mosque a thousand years later, when the Eastern Roman Empire was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. It was secularised into a museum almost five hundred years later, after the First World War delivered the deathblow to the decaying Ottoman Empire.

It is difficult to conceive of how much change this building has survived, or how important it remained even as the world order ebbed and flowed around it.

Today, it bears the accumulated fingerprints of its Christian, Muslim, and secular eras. Images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary gaze down upon enormous discs bearing the names of Allah and the Prophet Mohammad, all hovering over a vast chamber where the modern Turkish state has banned any religious activity.

It also has an unmistakable air of faded grandeur. The ancient mosaics are crumbling, and the rim of its colossal dome now traces a worryingly oblong path atop its walls.

Its history is intertwined with the history of civilisation itself, and it has outlasted both the highest triumphs and the lowest terrors nations have known.

For one-and-a-half millennia, millions of people of different faiths passed through the Hagia Sophia, giving thanks for their joys or seeking solace for their miseries, hoping or fearing that the world would never change. Yet, all the while, the Hagia Sophia has remained a silent witness to the fact that world has done nothing but change.

It is a comfort for everyone struggling to change any part of the world for the better.

Fighting Corruption as a Crime Against Humanity
01 December 2013, 11h00 EST (GMT-5)

The Huffington Post Canada The United Nations

The Huffington Post - The United Nations
Click logo for original article - Click photo for UNCAC agenda

Last week, I was in Panama, leading the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption delegation at the United Nations UNCAC Conference of States Parties. My article in the Huffington Post (below) describes our efforts to employ international law to combat the most serious forms of corruption. The results were potentially historic: our global community of legislators unanimously supported our recommendation to declare grand corruption a Crime Against Humanity. It was a good week.

* * *

Every year, corruption kills as many as 140 000 children worldwide, by depriving them of medical care, food, and water.

Yet, far too often, the perpetrators of the most outrageous acts of corruption are able to use their illicit wealth and power to pervert the very laws and institutions that should call them to account. As a result, the worst offenders are the least likely to face domestic justice.

In such cases, when national authorities are unwilling or unable to act, the international community has a responsibility to step forward.

In February, seven hundred parliamentarians from across the world came together in Manila, and voted unanimously to seek to establish “grand corruption” as a crime at international law, to enable international institutions to pursue, apprehend, prosecute, judge, and ultimately sentence the guilty.

Our alliance of parliamentarians believes that there are some forms of corruption so grave, whose effects on human life, human dignity, and human rights are so catastrophic, that they should shock the conscience of the international community and mobilise the will of nations to act across borders.

To give effect to this belief, we presented four options to the global community of parliamentarians at this week’s Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption, being held in Panama City. Each option has its advantages and its disadvantages, and each strikes a different balance between the ideal and the possible.

The first option is to expand the ability of national courts to assert universal jurisdiction over grand corruption. The doctrine of universality asserts that some crimes are so egregious that they are an affront to all humanity and are therefore prosecutable by any state, irrespective of where the crime was committed and irrespective of the accused’s nationality or place of residence. The Spanish courts’ indictment of the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet demonstrated universal jurisdiction’s powerful reach; their inability to bring him to trial exposed the doctrine’s frequently feeble grasp.

The second option is to make use of existing regional courts in Africa, Europe, and Latin America to prosecute grand corruption. Regional courts tend to enjoy greater credibility and standing in their subscribing states than do global institutions; they also tend to be derided for a timorous unwillingness to apply the powers at their disposal.

The third option is to argue for an expansive interpretation of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and to deem grand corruption to be a Crime Against Humanity. The symbolism of the ICC as a global court of last resort and ultimate justice has captured public imagination; the reality of its resources and its record have never soared to equal heights.

The fourth option is a series of legal innovations, involving both criminal and civil instruments, many of which focus on undoing damages to victims rather than on punishing wrongdoers. Making victims whole is one of the key objectives of any system of justice, but victims are unlikely to feel that justice has been served while their victimisers walk free.

Each option is imperfect, but in an imperfect world, success must be measured not by our ability to attain perfection, but instead by our ability to make tomorrow better than yesterday.

The response of the world’s legislators and governments to these options will help decide how our global alliance of parliamentarians will move forward against grand corruption. The journey will be long; the path will be hard. But we would never reach the end if we allowed ourselves to be cowed by the start.

The world is littered with women and men who feed on the misery of entire societies, who have grown fat in their spoils and comfortable in their impunity, sheltering behind national jurisdictions and national institutions that they have been able to twist to their benefit.

But there is a higher law. There is a deeper justice. And we have a responsibility to stand up for it.

The Summit of Caribbean Parliamentarians
06 December 2013, 08h30 AST (GMT-4)

Nations of the Caribbean Common Market

The Caribbean Common Market
Click logo for the CARICOM secretariat

Yesterday, I spoke at the opening ceremonies of the Summit of Caribbean Parliamentarians, in Trinidad and Tobago. My address to the parliamentarians is below.

The Summit was convened by the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) to help legislators from across the Caribbean Common Market disrupt regional narco-terrorist networks, thwart international money laundering, and enforce the UN Convention Against Corruption.

* * *

Your Excellencies, honourable President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, honourable legislators, distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends:

I should like to begin by thanking each of you for doing us the honour of attending our Anti-Corruption Summit of Caribbean Parliamentarians.

Each of you has been invited to this summit because you are one of your nation’s recognised leaders, and because through your public responsibilities and personal examples, it is in your power to change your country and to change the world. We are grateful for your willingness to spend the next two days working together to change the world for the better, by combatting domestic and transnational corruption.

In addition to having an absurdly long name, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, or GOPAC, is a worldwide alliance of parliamentarians working together to combat corruption, strengthen good government, and uphold the rule of law. Headquartered in Canada, GOPAC has 49 national chapters spread across every inhabited region of the world.

Our members come from different cultures, speak different languages, profess different faiths, and support different political parties. And at election time, many of them work very hard to destroy one another’s political careers.

But we are united by a common conviction: that corruption is one of the greatest threats to the wellbeing of nations and to the rights of all mankind, and that it is the responsibility of parliamentarians, as the representatives and the servants of the people, to be the people’s sword and shield in the fight against corruption.

The full impact of corruption almost defies understanding.

Money laundering is now the world’s third largest industry, by total economic value.

For every dollar that the developing world receives in international aid, it loses ten dollars to corruption.

Corruption kills 140 000 children every year, by depriving them of food, water, and medical care.

Corruption is the disgrace of our age, and a rebuke to the entire human race.

But we are here today because corruption poses additional, particular challenges for the nations of the cultural and geographic Caribbean, challenges that we believe only the peoples of the Caribbean can face together and overcome together.

As a global organisation, GOPAC is conscious that every region of the world is unique. My own sense is that across the Caribbean, the struggle against corruption is a struggle in which our shared history has been both our greatest weakness and our greatest strength.

There is no denying that the legacy of colonial policies of divide and conquer, of divide and rule, is a poison that has seeped deep into each of our nations. It courses through racial and religious divisions in our societies, in social structures based on isolation and disempowerment, and ultimately, in political tactics grounded in patronage and plunder.

However, while historic colonialism may help explain modern corruption, it certainly does not excuse it, because we have a choice.

Apartheid gave us some of colonialism’s worst crimes, yet the choice of people of conscience to stand against Apartheid gave us both Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, and Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress.

We are all shaped by history, but as leaders in our respective societies, we can refuse to be prisoners of history. We can define ourselves through the choices we make today, rather than allow ourselves to be defined by the choices made by others in the distant past.

There is also no denying that the colonial inheritance of democratic institutions has been our truest guarantor of the public trust. The supremacy of parliament has given us what no other political systems in the world possess: the absolute prerogative of a vigilant, relentless, and fearless community of parliamentarians to stand between our leaders and the levers of power. The corrupt use of government authority is impossible in a parliamentary democracy, if parliamentarians collectively say “no”.

All of us are here today, because we have chosen to say no.

Throughout the next two days, our discussions will focus on developing and applying laws, regulations, and international instruments to combat money laundering and to enforce the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. We are delighted to have the assistance of some of the world’s most sought-after experts to support our discussions.

Just as importantly, however, is that we will have a chance to join hands and join forces in our shared fight against corruption, across party lines and across national boundaries.

The path is hard, the journey is long, and those who fight against us are powerful and ruthless. But all of us in GOPAC’s worldwide alliance of Parliamentarians commit to fighting with you and for you, every step of the way.



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