In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: the flu virus. the human rights situation in occupied/colonized Palestine. And, attributing extreme weather to climate warming.
On the ropes for arresting Huawei executive Meng Wanzhau, as US-Canada extradition law required, now under fire, two of its own diplomats and at least one other Canadian held by the vengeful Chinese, coveted trade relations in peril, Ottawa has been staking out high minded positions.
Few are higher minded — or richer — than that of Liberal MP John McKay, Chair of the Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, speaking to CBC news about China and its Canadian captives: “It’s hard to make a trade deal with another country that doesn’t respect the rule of law,” McKay declared.
Really? Look how easily Canada strikes relaxed, congenial trade relations with the State of Israel! Although Israel’s West Bank settlements are flagrantly illegal under the most canonical of twentieth century laws, the 4th Geneva Convention (Global Affairs Canada says so at its website) the Canadian government is pleased to do business with settlement businesses (i.e. invest) under the most favourable terms.
To be precise, Israel’s settlement enterprise violates Article 49(6) of the Convention. In Convention lingo, it constitutes a “grave breach.” Article 1 of the Convention obliges State Parties like Canada to hold miscreants accountable for grave breaches. The FGC has been incorporated into Canadian law, as the Geneva Convention Act. Under the Act, grave breaches are subject to prosecution and lengthy imprisonment in Canada. Of course, Canada cuts Israel lots of slack.
Then there’s Article 25 of the UN Charter, obliging member states to uphold and abide by Security Council Resolutions. Several dozen have declared settlements unlawful. UNSC 2334, passed unanimously in December 2016, called on State Parties to “differentiate” in their trade relations between Israel ‘proper’ and the settlements.
Canada does not. Not content simply to ignore calls from the supreme council it dearly wishes to join, the Trudeau government defends Israel’s right to label its settlement goods “Product of Israel” on Canadian store shelves (deep-sixing Canadian consumer protection laws), even though Canada’s formal position is that West Bank settlements are decidedly not part of Israel. In the Trudeau government’s view, Israel’s right to market unlawful, ‘Product of Israel’ settlement wines on Canadian store shelves trumps the right of Canadians to know, truthfully, where the food and drinks they consume come from – not to mention the right to live in a country that upholds international law.
(Full disclosure: I am Applicant in a law case on this issue before the Federal Court of Canada).
Israel appreciates Canada’s subtle endorsement of its de facto annexation strategy. But the annexation of territory acquired by force is strictly prohibited in modern public law. So is the economic exploitation that typically ensues. These prohibitions are “customary” in status. Everyone must abide by them. No exemptions. No excuses.
Tell this to Israel’s staunch friend Justin Trudeau. Quietly, without the fuss generated by Donald Trump’s flashy but symbolic Jerusalem decision, Canadian trade officials have been cleansing legal clauses from the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA). A minute provision stipulating that trade will be carried out “in accordance with applicable rules of international law” has been extirpated from the new, improved deal heading for Third Reading and certain passage early next year.
Invited to reconsider, late last November, Liberal members of the Standing Committee on International Trade refused. An amending line to the new CIFTA Act put forward by committee member Tracey Ramsey (NDP) — “relations between the Government of Canada and the State of Israel as well the implementation of the provisions of the agreement itself shall be based on respect for human rights and international law” — was declared “inadmissible” by the committee’s Chair. The amendment would “create new obligations on the Government of Canada,” the Chair ruled.
Two days later, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhau on a US warrant, throwing Ottawa on the ropes simply for doing what the law required. Stung by China’s revengeful response, Canadian leaders now appeal to the rule of law. Their righteous calls would carry more weight if Canada played by the rule book with its own best friends.
It’s flu season! The time of year people get the flu. Get the vaccine, people say. Do your bit for herd immunity.
But effective flu vaccines are notoriously challenging to develop. The flu virus is a constantly moving target, modifying its surface structures to evade our immune system. Vaccines do reduce infection rates but keeping up with shape-shifting viruses is a ceaseless struggle.
Matthew Miller is working on a universal vaccine that would provide active, broad immunity for years. Miller is assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and biochemical sciences at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, and a member of the Michael G. DeGroot Institute for Infectious Disease Research’s Immunology Research Centre.
Listen to my conversation with Matthew Miller in today’s podcast. (The link on top, in case you missed it).
The United Nations is a huge organization. Within the UN Human Rights Council, a system of Special Rapporteurs has been established: individuals with expertise in a wide range of areas, reporting on matters from a thematic or country-specific perspective. There are Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders; on indigenous and internally displaced people; on migrants.
There’s even a Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Among the countries Special Rapporteurs currently focus on: North Korea, Belarus, Cambodia, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. This latter post is filled by Michael Lynk. Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at the University of Western Ontario, with expertise in human rights and labour law.
In 2016, Professor Lynk was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to become the 7th Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory. In this capacity, he issues two reports annually on human rights in the OPT.
Listen to Michael Lynk in today’s podcast. Click on the link above. Or go here for the full version of our chat.
Dreadful wildfires. Ferocious hurricanes. Mountainous storm surges, flooding. Drought. Killer heat waves. Is climate change to blame? It seems likely but is hard to confirm. I spoke about this with Friederike (Fredi) Otto, Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, and a founding member of the World Weather Attribution Initiative.
In this edition of the Green Blues Show, songs by Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell, Doctor Isaiah Ross and Ry Cooder. All images by David Kattenburg. Virus image courtesy US Center for Disease Control.