Monday, March 12, 2007

****Kevin's coming home! ****

This is fantastic news!!!

"Family detained in U.S. granted permit to enter Canada"
An Iranian couple and their nine-year-old Canadian son who have been held in a Texas detention centre have been given temporary residency permits to enter Canada.

A spokesman for Immigration and Citizenship Minister Diane Finley said Monday the minister granted the permit because it was in the best interest of the boy.
Please stop by Annamarie's site to thank her & liberal catnip and all of the others who wrote to their MPs, Peter Mackay & Diane Finley!

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

But will there be cake?

Full text of the evite:
Host: Condoleezza Rice
Location: ?, Baghdad
Dr. Condoleezza Rice is pleased to invite you to a Neighbors Meeting!
Official Statement:
The United States and the Iraqi government are launching a new diplomatic initiative to invite Iran and Syria to a "neighbors meeting" on stabilizing Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday. "We hope that all governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region"..."I am pleased to announce that we are also supporting the Iraqis in a new diplomatic offensive: to build greater support, both within the region and beyond, for peace and prosperity in Iraq," Rice said, adding that U.S. and Iraqi officials agree that success in Iraq "requires the positive support of Iraq's neighbors."
(Associated Press, 2:29 p.m. ET Feb 27, 2007)
Join Dr. Rice for a productive day of smiling and waving [to] her adoring fans in the State Dept. press corps. Hope ya can make it!
Love, Condi.
While her would love to join in the festivities, he must send his regrets. He wants you to rest assured, however, that there will be cake! *wink* Oh yes, there will be cake.
Did I remember to wink? Sorry, these contact lenses are killing me!
So Condi got her wish: the "Neighbors Meeting" came and went on Saturday. And yes, Iran and Syria were represented at the meeting table.What on earth did they discuss?
And did they have cake? I have to know!
Do me a favour: think back to the 1980s for a moment. Consider the following Time magazine piece from November 1986, at the height of the Iran-Contra scandal:
The tale sounded really too bizarre to be believed. The U.S. conniving at arms shipments to Iran? Sending a secret mission to palaver with the mullahs? Trying to keep the whole thing from Congress and most of the U.S. Government? And all over Iran, of all places! The country that held Americans hostage for 444 days beginning in 1979, the land whose fanatical leader, Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, has never ceased to denounce America as the "Great Satan," the state widely suspected to this very day of fomenting terrorist attacks against Americans.

Yet there is no question that it happened. Initially in the perhaps illusory hope of gaining influence with a post-Khomeini government in Iran, but eventually also as an inducement for Iranian help in winning freedom for U.S. hostages held by Muslim zealots in Lebanon, the Reagan Administration approved clandestine shipments of military equipment -- ammunition, spare parts for tanks and jet fighters -- to Iran through Israel.

As long as the deep secret was kept -- even from most of the U.S. intelligence community -- the maneuver in one sense worked. Iran apparently leaned on Lebanese terrorists to set free three American hostages, the latest of whom, David Jacobsen, flew home to the U.S. last week for a Rose Garden meeting with Ronald Reagan. But once the broad outlines of the incredible story became known, the consequences were dire. The Administration appeared to have violated at least the spirit, and possibly the letter, of a long succession of U.S. laws that are intended to stop any arms transfers, direct ( or indirect, to Iran. Washington looked to be sabotaging its own efforts to organize a worldwide embargo against arms sales to Iran, and hypocritically flouting its incessant admonitions to friends and allies not to negotiate with terrorists for the release of their captives.

[...] In a speech to the Iranian parliament last Tuesday, [the speaker of the Iranian parliament] Rafsanjani confirmed [US National Security Adviser] McFarlane's visit but added some wildly improbable embellishments. According to Rafsanjani, McFarlane and four unnamed American companions arrived in Tehran with Irish passports and posing as the flight crew of a plane carrying military equipment that Iran had purchased from international arms dealers. They brought with them, said Rafsanjani, gifts of a Bible autographed by President Reagan, a cake shaped like a key intended to symbolize an opening to better relations between the U.S. and Iran, and an unspecified number of Colt pistols to be distributed to Iranian officials. Rafsanjani insisted that he ordered the Americans kept under virtual house arrest in their hotel rooms, refused to let them see anyone and expelled them from Iran after five days. They were furious, Rafsanjani reported. He quoted McFarlane as saying, "You are nuts. We have come to solve your problems, but this is how you treat us. If I went to Russia to buy furs, Gorbachev would come to see me three times a day."
Of course, Ollie North strongly denied the use of cake at the meetings with the Iranians, but this "key cake" story has become so ingrained in Iran-Contra lore that it's hard to shake it off as purely apocryphal.
Alas, we may never find the "smoking spatula."

{picnic/reunion theme provided by; Condi boots pic provided by skdadl}

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Canadian child continues to suffer in a Texas prison

Kevin's health is deteriorating quite rapidly. And his family's request for temporary residency in Canada is just sitting on Finley's desk! This clearly has to end!

Via Annamarie at Verbena-19:

US Government Affirms Risk to 9-Year-old Kevin Yourdkhani’s Family if deported to Iran From Texas Jail

Family’s Canadian Supporters Urge Immigration Minister to Immediately grant Temporary Residence Permit to End 5-Week Jail Ordeal

TORONTO, MARCH 9, 2007 — The Canadian lawyer for 9-Year-old Kevin Yourdkhani — a Canadian citizen currently detained over a month in a Texas immigration jail along with his Iranian-born parents — revealed today that the U.S. government agrees with the assessment of Amnesty International that the family faces a credible risk of persecution or torture if deported to Iran.

“The Canadian government now has TWO separate assessments, both showing that the history of past torture and persecution in Iran told by the Yourdkhani/Alibegi family is credible, and that return to Iran is not a viable option. One comes from the US government, the other from Amnesty International,” says lawyer Andrew Brouwer, who is retained by the family.

However, given the record of US immigration authorities in such cases, and the track record of officials at the Hutto detention facility where Kevin and his family are held with hundreds of other immigrants (including some 200 children), the prospect of release in the imminent future is dim unless there is immediate action from Canada’s Immigration Minister Diane Finley.

“Since March 5, Minister Finley has had on her desk an urgent request to grant a temporary residence permit to the Yourdkhani/Alibegi, and all she needs to do is sign that permit to allow the family out of the miserable conditions they are experiencing in jail and speed their return to Canada, where hopefully they can start piecing their life back together.”

Brouwer points out that the situation in Hutto is poor, and the conditions of detention are the subject of a lawsuit launched this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. 9-year-old Kevin Yourdkhani is suffering from a painful eye infection, eczema and what appears to be either a very bad a cold or flu. He also suffers severe asthma which is complicated by the poor conditions at Hutto.

Meanwhile, the minister’s office has been receiving phone calls and letters from people across Canada urging an immediate resolution of this situation.

For further information, contact Andrew Brouwer at 416-653-2912 or 416-230-2614 or Barbara Hines, the family’s US lawyer, at 1-512-232-1310.

Andrew Brouwer
Barristers and Solicitors
596 St. Clair Ave. W, #3
Toronto ON M6C 1A6
tel 416-653-9964 ext. 229
fax 416-653-1036
Keep the pressure on our Immigration Minister! Here's how...
Snail Mail:
Diane Finley
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Telephone: 613-996-4974
Fax: 613-996-9749

AND cc: our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Mackay:

This. must. stop.

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day: Blogging for Gender Liberation

Last November and December, I participated in a wonderful online campaign called "Take Back the Tech: 16 Days of Action against Gender Based Violence." On Day 8 of the campaign, I collected 30 stories from 30 places, in order to demonstrate the breadth of women's experiences around the world. Tonight, in honour of International Women's Day, I want to revisit each of those 30 places and provide you with a fresh look at how women are commemorating this special day. The list is presented in alphabetical order (by country):
  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Azerbaijan & South Caucasus
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Belize
  6. Canada
  7. Chile
  8. China
  9. Dominican Republic
  10. East Africa
  11. Kolkata, India
  12. Imphal, India
  13. Ireland
  14. Israel & the Occupied Territories
  15. Jerusalem, Israel
  16. Jamaica
  17. Korea
  18. Morocco
  19. Nepal
  20. New Zealand
  21. Pakistan
  22. Peru
  23. Philippines
  24. Senegal
  25. Seychelles
  26. South Africa
  27. Spain
  28. Sri Lanka
  29. UK
  30. USA

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

**Update** ACLU files suit on behalf of Kevin & his family

Finally, some hope: "ALCU files suit over detained Canadian boy" (CP)
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding U.S. officials release a Canadian boy and his Iranian parents from the "inhumane conditions'' of a Texas immigration detention centre.

The legal challenge, filed in a Texas district court against Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and others, also asks that the government be prohibited from separating nine-year-old Kevin Yourdkhani from his parents.

"There is simply no justification for imprisoning innocent children who pose no threat to anyone,'' said union staff lawyer Vanita Gupta.

"This is an affront to our core values as a nation. We need practical, realistic immigration policy, not draconian methods that are harming vulnerable kids.''

Kevin and his parents, who lived in Toronto for 10 years before they were deported to Iran, were again seeking refuge in Canada last month when their flight made an unscheduled stop on American soil.

U.S. Customs officials discovered they were travelling with fake Greek passports and took them into custody.

A Toronto lawyer has applied for a temporary residency permit for the parents, who have no legal standing in Canada, but
no decision has been made by Citizenship and Immigration.

Kevin, who wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper pleading for help, declared in a court document that he sleeps in a cell with his mother right next to a toilet and there is no privacy.

"The food is garbage,'' he said.
"I was hungry all the time for five days ... Everybody in my pod is really sick right now. Some kids can't go to school. Lots of kids have eye infections.''

His father, Majid Yourdkhani, sleeps on a separate floor although he once came to fix the boy's bed.

Officials at the T. Don Hutto facility, a converted prison just outside Austin, were angry about that and threatened to put his parents in separate jails while placing Kevin in foster care, said the boy.

"I cried and cried so much that I lost my energy and I went to sleep. I felt if I will be separated I can never see my parents again.''

In the lawsuit, which includes nine other kids from various countries, the rights group charges the centre doesn't meet minimum conditions for housing minors and many children lack access to adequate medical care and education.
And to anyone who dares question the family's history of being tortured in Iran (e.g. as a pretext for denying their re-entry into Canada):
After facing torture [in Iran], which [the family's lawyer] said was corroborated by Amnesty International, the parents made another attempt to seek refuge in Canada with the use of stolen Greek passports.
And tonight? Kevin and his family await a decision from Min. Citizenship & Immigration, Diane Finley: "Jailed boy’s fate in hands of immigration minister" (CP)
A formal application for a temporary residency permit for the parents, who have no legal standing in Canada, was filed Monday with Canadian immigration authorities, said Andrew Brouwer of the Toronto law firm Jackman & Associates.

It should also be in the hands of Immigration Minister Diane Finley, who has the power to immediately grant the application on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, Brouwer added.

"That’s all we’re asking her to do," he said.

"We’re not asking for permanent status for the family.
We’re just saying that Kevin is a Canadian citizen, he’s a child, and he’s in a jail. He’s been there for almost a month. The only option for this family at this point appears to be that they come to Canada."

U.S. authorities would likely free the family from the facility for illegal immigrants if the permit were granted, allowing them to re-enter Canada where they plan to make a second bid for asylum, Brouwer added.

An American who heard about the family’s plight has already agreed to pay for their flight back to Canada, he said.
Ok, Diane. Get to work! (you can expect a lot of emails!) And you, too, Peter Mackay--we haven't forgotten your role in all of this! (emails galore!)

Canadians do not treat children this way, nor do we abide anyone else locking up our children. We're watching & waiting and we are beyond outraged. Here's an updated list of Canadian bloggers who have added their voices and demanded Kevin's freedom (in the order that I read them, not necessarily the order in which they were written):
  1. Verbena-19 (Annamarie brought this to my attention, over a week ago! Watch her site for regular updates)
  2. Pogge (skdadl)
  3. liberal catnip (+update here)
  4. April Reign
  5. Thought Interrupted
  6. The Cylinder
  7. Vive le Canada
  8. The Next Agenda (nbstar)
  9. My Blahg
  10. JimBobby (+ update here, "nine-year-old-blues" song!)
  11. The Galloping Beaver (+their letter to Mackay)
  12. Kenn Chaplin
  13. Dr. Dawg
  14. Cathie from Canada
  15. The Vanity Press
  16. Red Jenny
  17. Pretty Shaved Ape
  18. Canadian Cynic
  19. Nitroglycol
  20. Peter's Politics
  21. Take off, eh?
  22. The Anth Zone (*)
  23. More Notes from the Underground (*)
  24. The Christian Radical (*)
(*) indicates blogs not included in my previous list. Please keep'm coming & let me know if I've missed anyone!
[Updated Wednesday, March 8, 9:54AM: added Peter Mackay's email (thanks for the reminder, skdadl!!]

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Canada could do something if it wanted to": Did you hear that, Peter Mackay?

Well, it looks like Peter Mackay can't sneak into the States without facing questions regarding the legality of his actions. Sound familiar?
This is an update to Sunday's post about the 9 year old Canadian boy who was detained with his family in an American Immigration "facility" (read: prison), first brought to my attention by Annamarie at Verbena-19. Kevin and his parents are still imprisoned, but their story is gaining greater media traction. Friday's G&M devoted serious ink, even publishing Kevin's letter from jail. As you may remember, Kevin suffers from asthma and he is clearly very distressed. The March 2 G&M piece also indicates that he has lost 6 lbs. during his stay at the Hutto jail.

So is anybody listening? What about the Canadian consulate?
When the consular officer at the Canadian consulate in Dallas visited the family at Hutto two weeks ago, Majid said, “he asked about our rooms and our food. Just regarding here. I asked him what he can do for us, and he said, ‘I don't promise now. But we can help Kevin, not you.' ”
David Marshall, a consulate spokesman, said that he could not talk about the case, citing the Privacy Act. Alain Cacchione, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Canada, would not comment either.
Ok, M. Mackay, if your spokesman won't comment on your behalf, what have you, Peter Gordon Mackay, got to say for yourself? For your country? Well, the CP caught up with him on Friday, as he attended the Organization of American States meeting in Washington, D.C. (I sure hope his papers were in order!):
"We've taken the opportunity to review how we can be of assistance to him but there have been no decisions taken as of yet," [Mackay] said.
Ultimately, it will be up to Citizenship and Immigration whether they're admitted to Canada, said MacKay, adding that he's been told the family won't be deported to Iran until "we have an opportunity to assess all the various options."
"This is in many ways a personal decision that the family have yet to make," said MacKay.
What lies!! The CP caught this:
But the parents of the boy, named Kevin, say they want to live in Canada. And Kevin has written a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pleading to go back to his old school.
At which point Mackay resorted (predictably) to the fake-passports diversion: "You're aware of the anomaly of the situation where his parents are not Canadian, yet he has Canadian citizenship"
Read: Look over there! They're ay-legals!
No, M. Mackay, that's not an excuse to sit on your hands. The boy is Canadian, no? Here's what officials told Maclean's, earlier this week (h/t Dr. Dawg, see comments):
A spokesperson from Citizenship and Immigration Canada told [...] that the family would have to claim asylum in the United States. But according to [University of Toronto law professor Audrey Macklin], the government has some wiggle room available to it. "Under the terms of the agreement, there is room for exceptions to be made for reasons of public policy," she said. "The agreement doesn't articulate what the criteria are for an exception… [but] you could argue that an exception should be made when they have a child who's a Canadian citizen."
The public policy claim, in other words, would be that the Safe Third Country agreement is effectively thwarting a nine-year-old boy's right to live in the country where he gained citizenship by virtue of birthplace. And whatever the future might hold for the family, that might at least free the boy from what he and his father describe as fairly grim conditions.
[...] Macklin argues that such facilities might themselves represent a flaw in the Safe Third Country agreement. "The premise underlying the…agreement is that the two countries provide more or less equivalent protection to refugees and more or less abide by their international legal obligations," she said. "Obviously if there were wild disparities between the two, it wouldn't be fair to refugee claimants to force them into one system or the other.
"The widespread use of the detention of children is a significant difference between Canada and the United States, and that detention of children is itself considered by many to be a violation of international human rights norms." [...] "If the Canadian government asked the U.S. authorities to release this family from detention to enable them to get to Canada, I think U.S. authorities would comply," [Macklin] said. [...] And while this particular family's situation might seem unique, Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi - who serves as vice chair of the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee - told that many children share a similar plight. "As much as I would like to say to you that this doesn't happen a whole lot, we regularly deport Canadian… families, so their kids end up going [with them]," he said, adding that the Committee would be discussing the boy's case.
As for this particular 9-year-old's prospects of gaining some measure of freedom, Macklin summed it up as a matter of will: "Canada could do something if it wanted to."
You hear that? Canada could do something if it wanted to.

I want to.

Many of us want to. This is how I ended my Sunday post on the matter:
Let's get to work and make sure this same fate doesn't befall Kevin and his family. Check-in with AnnaMarie for regular updates. [...] Something of a 'blogburst' is beginning to take shape. Pogge (skdadl), liberal catnip, April Reign, Thought Interrupted, The Cylinder, Vive le Canada, The Next Agenda (nbstar), My Blahg, JimBobby, The Galloping Beaver and Kenn Chaplin have added their voices. Please add yours!
Dr. Dawg, Cathie from Canada, The Vanity Press, Red Jenny, Pretty Shaved Ape, Canadian Cynic, Nitroglycol, Peter's Politics, Take off, eh?...the blogburst continues! The mighty Galloping Beavers have added an update, and an open letter to Peter Mackay (hint, hint, it's still important to write to him & your MPs!). JimBobby's posted an update and a song about the whole mess. Annamarie, Catnip, and many others have shown leadership in raising awareness about Kevin and his family. People do care, Mr. Mackay. We want to do something!

[Saturday, March 3, 2007, 1:17 PM ET] ETA links to Red Jenny, JimBobby's update, Pretty Shaved Ape & Canadian Cynic!

[Monday, March 5, 2007, 12:06 AM ET] ETA link to Nitroglycol's post!

[Monday, March 5, 2007, 10:57 PM ET] ETA link to Peter's Politics!

[Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 11:43 AM ET] ETA link to "Take off, eh?" !

h/t FurGaia at The Cylinder for the Amy Goodman article

Read on, MacDuff!