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What to read, What to watch — a new year’s list

The film Foxtrot is riveting– here is the trailer. It needs to be, it’s longer than average.  A feature film from Israel which gives a very different slant on the “most moral army in the world” the Israeli Defence Forces.  As most of you know, I’m for Palestinian human rights, and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel for its brutal colonial control over Palestinians and their land. Some people say this film is about the neurosis of a people (the Israeli Jews) who have been making war with Palestinians since 1948 and before. Others (like me) think it’s more like a “woe is me” tale — but it moves along and shocked me along the way! Worth seeing. foxtrot

Drum Roll please… 

For the best book of 2018cintioyou must read  Marcello di Cintio’s brilliant book Pay No Heed to the Rockets. Di Cintio is from Calgary.  An established and talented writer, Di Cintio made a number of trips to Palestine where interviewed scores of Palestinian authors, playwrights and poets– male, female and queer, of a variety of ages and backgrounds. This is quite simply the best book I’ve ever read on the Occupation and Palestine. The best.  He meets with writers in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, in Gaza and Israeli Arabs in the Galilee.   They discuss politics, literature, freedom, and culture. For any of us who know nothing of Palestinian culture, heritage, and literature, this book is an amazing resource.  I read this as an e-book from the Halifax Public Library but I had to renew it because I wanted to read it slowly –so it would not end.  The title comes from a prose poem by Palestine’s national poet Mahmoud Darwish.  The poem is called Memory for Forgetfulness and it’s about how to make coffee — but in the middle of the poem he writes: “Turn off the heat, and pay no heed to the rockets.” I cannot speak highly enough about Di Cintio’s book.   Independent Jewish Voices- Canada in Halifax are planning to bring Di Cintio to speak and promote his book in Halifax in mid-Feb. so stay tuned!!

Joan Williams’ White Working Class is a very good read.  A law professor in California, Williams does not take herself too seriously, but she is very serious when she discusses the lives of white working class Americans, who are now often made fun of, are ridiculed and demonized as pro-trump toadies.  This book whitelooks at how the class has fallen from grace — from the post World War II years to today.  Front a left wing perspective she analyses why so many did vote for Trump, and so many refuse to act in their own political and economic interests.  Fascinating read, and you can listen to a fascinating interview with her on NPR’s podcast Hidden Brain –– where I first heard about her and her book.  The book is in the Halifax library.

 

My Letter: Are there two justice systems in this province?

 

Is it just my imagination or a usual practice that when someone who is criminally charged does not show up for court, the judge issues a bench warrant? Instead the provincial court judge merely set a new court date (Feb. 11), when Shawn Wade Hynes failed to show up for court. Just for the record, Hynes’ lawyer didn’t show up either.

Hynes of Pictou County is accused of shooting Nhlanhia  Dlamini in the back with a nail gun on a construction site.  The nail partially collapsed Dlamini’s lung and he required surgery and a 4-day hospital stay.  Hynes was charged with criminal negligence, but many argue he should also be charged with a hate crime, since Hynes is white and Dlamini is black.

Are there two justice systems in this province – just asking.

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19 year old Nhlanhla Dlamini (right) with his brother at a demonstration in Halifax in the fall 2018.  (photo taken by Yvette D’Entremont from the Halifax Star-Metro)


What to Read & What to Watch…

At the Halifax library you can borrow the DVD Therese  Desqueyroux (with English subtitles).   The back of the case says something about the early 20th century heroine (the exquisite Audrey Tatou) who lives in a stultifying marriage of convenience, in the lovely French countryside near Bordeaux.  But the film in itself is rather slow and a bit too meticulous — as befits the lead’s role.  Somehow Therese morphs from an exciting and somewhat adventurous teenager to a drawn nearly catatonic wife. There are some rather scary twists and turns and her relationships deteriorate quickly.  Watch the trailer here.  I guess it is a French psychological thriller… therese

Over the holidays, like many of you, I  watched “Roma” on Netflix. A brilliantly made film, it has excellent romaacting androma2 the men virtually disappear behind strong female roles.  The review by Heather Mallick at the Toronto Star is good, and thoughtful — and I think her perceptions are right on. mallick (left) Healther Mallick.  

Some of you who have seen it, say the Mexico City of the early 1970s which is portrayed in the film seems like a kinder, gentler city than the drug-ridden, violent city we hear about today.  That is us white folk speaking nostalgically. And I’m not sure the city was the delightful, playground shown in parts of the film except for the upper middle class.  I have heard of a similar ‘quest for comfort’ in the 28 year old American film Fried Green Tomatoes. fried_green_tomatoes_(poster)— The idea in Fried Green Tomatoes is that the southern US  between World War I and WWII was kinder and gentler and somehow more wholesome than we have been led to believe.  Relations with Blacks, the racism which led to many. many lynchings are air-brushed out of the film.  The story focuses on good white people who gave to their communities.  There were ups and downs — a few deaths and even a murder but all’s well that ends well…  The message is one of comfort.

Of course Roma does bite back in a way few American films ever dream of.  Another Mexican director’s film did bite back.  The 2006 film Babel Babel_poster.pngdirected by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is really 4 stories, loosely interconnected– not exactly in the same time frame.  One story takes place in Morocco, one in Japan and one in a US border city near Mexico.  This too is a film well worth seeing.  In ’06, it was nominated for the Palm D’Or prize at Cannes, where the director won Best Director.  

As for what to read — Shrewed, Essays by Elizabeth Renzetti is excellent.  Renzetti is a columnist for the Globe and Mail. shrewedHer essays are funny, witty and a close-up view of girls and women from a staunchly feminist perspective.  Her experiences as a freelancer in Toronto, Los Angeles and London show a lot about women and what women have to do to be taken as serious journalists.  She interviewed Germaine Greer, PD James and others and what she takes from the meetings will surprise you.  Her description of her Italian-Canadian heritage, and her childhood in Toronto is at time hard to read.  An excellent and delightful book. 

As for fiction, do read nightgauntsjpgNight Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates, who I think is one of the best fiction writers in the US today.  Among the 6  short pieces of fiction in the book my favourite is “The Experimental Subject” — any feminist will recognize herself somewhere in this story.  A story that is fantastical yet all too believable.  “The Long-Legged Girl” is a delight. In both stories ageing white male academics get their comeuppance and maybe that is the why I liked the two stories so much.

 

Back of the Envelope Considerations about Icy Halifax Streets

 

The CBC reports that yesterday, Jan. 2, the first “ice day” there were over 250 visits to Emergency rooms in HRM hospitals.  In the ER vernacular, most of the people were “slip and falls.” Instantly, tongue knew he was in real trouble and that all his mom's warning, hither to ignore, were true.

We did not have enough surgeons or operating rooms to service all the people who needed surgery due to serious orthopedic injuries. Many were sent home, and will wait to be called back for surgery.

Every year we have ice, and “ice days” in Halifax and throughout the province. Yet every year we have the young, middle aged and old slipping and falling, breaking wrists, arms, hips and legs.

These are serious injuries.  Probably the person who fell is in a lot a pain; likely the person has to take time off work.  If the person works in retail, in grocery, in food service they are not likely to be unionized, and not likely to get paid sick time.  That means the person suffers twice – once with a serious and painful injury and secondly they are deprived of pay.

Metro councilors play a game.  They warn if we want improved snow and ice clearing we all must pay more taxes. Fair enough.  But out of a different pocket, we are now collectively paying through our taxes for the strains on Emergency rooms and the health care system.  So we all pay one way or another.fall

Let’s say when any one person presents at Emergency, it costs the system at least  $200. Here is how I break it down:

  • the paramedic or nurse takes the person’s blood pressure and temperature;
  • the clerk enters the person’s name and data on the computer and puts a wristband on the person;
  • the person waits perhaps hours in Emergency to be seen.Security personnel are required to ensure the Emergency Dept is kept safe—that no one is attacked or hurt while they wait. 
  • Then a paramedic or nurse interviews the person privately and gets them ready for the examination by an emergency doctor.
  • The emergency doctor examines the person and then might order blood tests, or xrays.
  • A phlebotomist comes by to take the person’s blood.
  • And a technologist takes the x-rays.

If each person seen costs the system $200, on Jan. 2 emergency room visits cost the health care system at least $50,000.  And that doesn’t count injured due to motor vehicle accidents, or transportation by  ambulance or paramedics or other emergencies related to the ice. Let’s push the number to $75,000. 

While every “ice day” will have people who have accidents, we might be looking at spending $50,000 each day for every “ice day” this winter.  Maybe there are 10 “ice days” which cost the system a total of $500,000. 

How much snow and ice clearing and salting can we do for half a million dollars?
Even at $20 an hour that is about 25,000 hours above and  beyond what we already contract to pay for snow removal. 25,000 hours works out to 2500 hours of work on each of the 10 bad ice days. 

If we actually hired people to work the extra 2500 hours we’d have a good shot at ice free sidewalks, bus stops, and curbs.  Injuries and suffering would be cut.  And somehow winter wouldn’t be so scary.heels

Canadian donors to Jewish National Fund support Israeli military and war!

Canadian charity used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military

JNF says it has since stopped the practice, which contravenes Canadian tax rules

Israeli air force cadets toss their caps into the air during a graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim air force base in southern Israel in 2014. A Canadian charity that funds projects in Israel has faced claims that some of its charitable donations have gone to support projects on Israeli military bases in violation of Canadian tax rules.(Tsafrir Abayov/Associated Press)

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The Jewish National Fund of Canada, one of the country’s long-established charities, has been the subject of a Canada Revenue Agency audit over a complaint that it used charitable donations to build infrastructure for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), in violation of Canada’s tax rules.

The JNF funds numerous projects in Israel, such as reforestation efforts in areas hit by wildfires and the construction of playgrounds for special needs children.

However, it has also funded infrastructure projects on Israeli army, air and naval bases. While no law bars a Canadian citizen from writing a cheque directly to Israel’s Ministry of Defence, rules do ban tax-exempt charities from issuing tax receipts for such donations, and also ban donors from claiming tax deductions for them.

The organization, which disclosed to donors last year that it has been under audit by the Canada Revenue Agency, said it stopped funding those projects in 2016.

A JNF Israel webpage describes Canadian-sponsored projects on Bat Galim Naval Base and Palmachim Airbase in Israel. (KKL-JNF)

That would not protect it from action by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which in August revoked the charitable status of an Ottawa mosque for promoting “hate and intolerance” by inviting controversial speakers, and for financial irregularities that took place between 2009 and 2014 under a previous group of directors.

Guidelines clear on the law

In its guide for Canadian registered charities carrying out activities outside Canada, the CRA states plainly that “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

Yet JNF documents describe some of the charity’s spending in Israel in those very terms.

One JNF Canada document called “Project Opportunities” refers to an “outdoor fitness area at a Gadna military base,” describing Israel’s Gadna program as “a special program for young people in Israel that prepares them for their service in the Israel Defence Forces.” The project included “a fitness area for the regular army staff at the Gadna base in Sde Boker.”

A JNF Canada Youth Leadership Solidarity Mission picked up tools to help build the hilltop outpost of Givat Oz VeGaon in the West Bank, south of Bethlehem, in 2014. (KKL-JNF)

Documents produced by JNF Canada’s Israeli parent organization, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF), shed additional light on military projects funded by its Canadian affiliate.

They include developing “the new planned IDF Training Base City in the Negev” desert, “helping the development of the Bat Galim training base complex area” at Bat Galim Naval Base, “helping to facilitate the upgrade of the existing auditorium for soldier intake, training and conferences” at the same base and a new “moadon” or mess hall-type facility for the 124th (Blackhawk) Helicopter Squadron at Palmachim Air Force Base (“where crew can relax and refuel”), as well as a similar facility for 131 Squadron at Nevatim Air Force Base.

The logic behind the CRA’s guidance to charities is that issuing Canadian tax receipts for contributions to foreign militaries effectively reduces the revenue available to support Canada’s own defence spending.

In 2014, JNF Edmonton’s Negev Gala dinner was serenaded by members of the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. According to JNF Edmonton’s Facebook page, “proceeds from (2014’s) Negev Gala will develop three areas of the Negev’s Tse’elim army base, the largest military training facility in Israel. The project will upgrade and landscape the family visiting area, intake and release facility and the barracks’ main plaza. The base is the national centre for ground forces training.”

JNF Canada declined an interview request for this story, but CEO Lance Davis told CBC News in an email that while the organization has funded projects that support the IDF in the past, it stopped doing so in 2016 after being informed of the CRA guidance.

“To be clear, we no longer fund projects located on IDF land and JNF Canada operates in accordance with CRA regulations governing its status as a charitable organization,” Davis wrote in the email.

Greening the land

Megan McKenzie says she first came across the Jewish National Fund when she was planning a bequest in memory of her nature-loving Jewish grandmother. The Jewish National Fund is famous for planting trees, “greening the land of Israel.”

McKenzie is a professional mediator and conflict consultant who is married to a Canadian soldier and lives at CFB Shilo in Manitoba. Having worked in conflict resolution from Ireland to DR Congo, she said was “dumbfounded” to find that the JNF was involved in projects she believed did not conform to Canada’s charitable rules.

“I have a PhD and I’m sort of a natural researcher and so I did some online research,” she said. “And the more I did, the more appalled I was.”

Megan McKenzie says she found examples of JNF Canada funds benefiting the Israeli Defence Force when she looked into making a donation to the charity on behalf of her late grandmother. (CBC News)

McKenzie’s online research led her to webpages for both JNF Canada and its parent organization giving extensive details on the charity’s support for the Israeli military and its reforestation projects that have sprawled across the 1949 armistice line (the “Green Line”) into occupied West Bank territory.

In the case of the JNF’s Canada Park project, occupied land forested by the JNF was enclosed on the Israeli side of the barrier Israel built to separate its citizens from the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

A new complaint

Canada Park was JNF Canada’s first large project in Israel and the West Bank, built on the site of three Palestinian villages left empty after 1967’s Six Day War.

Retired physician Ismail Zayid of Halifax was born in one of those villages, Beit Nuba. He has been complaining to CRA about JNF’s charitable status for 40 years.

“I wrote to (the CRA) repeatedly,” he said. “They would say they are conducting an investigation of (the) complaint, and then I would write again and say, ‘What are the findings of your investigation?’ And they would say, ‘The findings are confidential.'”

Retired physician Ismail Zayid has initiated several complaints about JNF Canada, most recently in 2017. (CBC News)

In October 2017, Zayid filed a new formal complaint, this time in concert with an Ottawa professor, a Vancouver rabbi and a retired nurse from Montreal and using some of McKenzie’s research (the complaint has been backed by the activist organization Independent Jewish Voices Canada, which has mounted a “Stop the JNF Canada” campaign). The CRA appears so far to have taken no action against the charity, although it has subjected JNF to an audit.

The CRA declined to be interviewed for this story, citing confidentiality. But JNF Canada’s Davis said in an email to CBC News the charity is “currently engaged in ongoing confidential discussions with CRA.” Davis dismissed the complaint as “a rehash” and called IJVC “a longstanding opponent of JNF.”

Building in the West Bank

The 2017 complaint includes new information about JNF’s contributions to Israeli military infrastructure projects and its involvement in building in the West Bank.

Canada officially opposes Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory. CRA policy statement CSP-P13 states: “The courts have held that an organization is not charitable in law if its activities are contrary to public policy.”

Canada states its position on settlements on Global Affairs Canada’s website: “Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

JNF Canada missions in Israel also have contributed directly to the construction of at least one hilltop settler outpost that was declared illegal by the State of Israel itself. Givat Oz VeGaon received and ignored at least 18 demolition orders from the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

A JNF Canadian Young Leadership Solidarity Mission visited the site in August-September 2014 and worked with picks and shovels “to prepare the ground for building a residential unit to be used by the security guard.”

‘KKL for IDF’

A JNF Israel document describes construction work carried out within Tel Nof Airbase in Israel in 2015, paid for by its Canadian subsidiary. (KKL-JNF)

In a 2014 document produced by the JNF Canada’s parent organization, the Israeli JNF’s Resources and Development Division lists a dozen “KKL for IDF” projects over the previous decade as “Canada-sponsored,” mostly in the period 2011-14.

One JNF Canada document from 2014 offers donors the chance to participate in the construction of a “meeting point” to enable soldiers to see family members while on active service. Canadian donors are also invited to fund a 900-metre “security road” at Kadesh Barne’a near the Egyptian border that “will improve access to the area for security forces.”

A KKL-JNF document describes its roads in the western Negev as “security roads which serve the armed forces that patrol the border zones … All the work undertaken by KKL-JNF is coordinated with the IDF … Thanks to these roads, military activity is enhanced.”

‘Improving the quality of lives of Israelis’

In an email to CBC News, Davis said these projects were just part of the works funded by JNF Canada.

“Thanks to the generosity of Canadians, JNF Canada has played an important role in a wide range of projects in Israel. We have, for example, supported the building of water reservoirs, collaborated with dozens of educational institutions, built numerous recreational/educational facilities, planted millions of trees and supported pioneering research in green technology,” he said.

Laureen Harper poses with JNF Gala honorees during a group visit to 24 Sussex Drive in 2015. (JNF Canada)

“In keeping with our mission of improving the quality of lives of Israelis, we have in the past funded projects of a charitable nature that indirectly involved the IDF. These projects were built on land owned by the IDF primarily for the benefit of children and youth. When it came to our attention several years ago that supporting these types of projects may not be in keeping with CRA policies, we stopped funding them.”

In a subsequent email, Davis said that “the last project we funded was in June 2016 and it was directed to the Hatzerim Airforce Base for a playground/soccer field for the children living on the base.”

Hatzerim is home to the Israeli Air Force’s flight academy and three combat squadrons.

Low marks for transparency

Kate Bahen heads Charity Intelligence, a Toronto-based NGO that produces a report rating Canadian charities on their transparency and efficiency in spending donors’ money.

“When you look at JNF Canada, it’s fine for cost efficiency,” said Bahen. “It really falls down on financial transparency and accountability. For financial transparency, it gets zero.”

Bahen said the charity has done the right thing by disclosing to donors that it’s being audited, but it is “an utter black box” when it comes to providing a breakdown of how its money is spent.

“Any Canadian donor who knows of JNF automatically thinks of planting trees. And there is a lot more to JNF than planting trees.

“We have absolutely no information on how much it’s spent planting trees, how much goes for irrigation, or education, or how much is diverted to military bases. And that information, I think, is critical, and it’s not provided to Canadian donors.”

Support in Canada

JNF has had strong relations with successive Conservative and Liberal governments. One of its recent projects in Israel is the Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary in Galilee. Another is John Baird Park in Sderot.

Stephen Harper helps to lay the cornerstone of the JNF’s Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary in the Galilee region of northern Israel in January 2014. Harper played the keyboard at a Toronto JNF dinner to raise funds for the project, which remains uncompleted. (JNF)

Although the group enjoyed particularly strong links with the Harper government, it also has been close to the Trudeau government.

Last July, Ralph Goodale, Canada’s minister of Public Safety, planted a pistachio tree at the JNF’s VIP Tree Planting Center in Jerusalem. He was accompanied by fellow Liberal MP Michael Levitt, a former board member of JNF Canada.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Liberal MP Michael Levitt plant a tree at JNF’s VIP Tree Planting Center in the mountains above Jerusalem in July 2017. (KKL-JNF)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Evan Dyer

Senior Reporter

Evan Dyer has been a journalist with CBC for 18 years, after an early career as a freelancer in

Did you know in NS you can be forced to work on a holiday — like New Year’s day — for straight time? You read this right!

This article first appeared in the NS Advocate on 31 Dec. 2018 https://nsadvocate.org/2018/12/31/did-you-know-that-in-nova-scotia-you-can-be-forced-to-work-on-a-holiday-for-straight-time-yes-you-read-that-right/ 

In most Canadian provinces, if you work on a statutory holiday, you’re entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for the time you worked. But in Nova Scotia, employers can get away with paying you straight time. That makes us among the stingiest places in the country. We already have fewer statutory holidays than other provinces, but this makes it even worse.

There are two issues here: one is statutory holiday pay. That’s what you get paid whether you work or not. The second is what I call premium pay for working on the holiday which I shorten to “premium pay”. That’s what you get paid if you are called in to work on a statutory holiday. WalmartCartoon

In an earlier article I wrote about how many of you – if you are notin a union — will get paid for the Christmas Day statutory holiday, but not for Boxing Day.  Though most businesses and retail store were closed on Boxing Day, it is not a statutory holiday so you do not get paid for the forced day off work.

Want to get paid for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day?

First, let’s consider holiday pay.  Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are statutory holidays, meaning most people do not work but get a day’s pay anyway. But there’s a catch. In NS, toqualify for statutory holiday pay, you need to have worked for 15 of the last 30 calendar days.  Andyou need to have worked your last scheduled shift before the holiday and your next scheduled shift after the holiday. If you qualify,you earn a regular day’s pay for the statutory holiday. If you don’t qualify, you’re out of luck.walm2

Next, let’s consider premium pay:

If your boss assigns you to work either Christmas Day or New Year’s Day (let’s say you work in a bar or restaurant or at a gas station) then you are entitled to the statutory holiday pay plus  premium pay, but only if you qualify.  Premium pay is your normal pay, plus time and a half for all hours you work that day.

Example:  If you normally work 8 hours and earn $12 an hour, and on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day you work 6 hours, you should earn 8 x $12= $96, plus 6 x $12 x 1.5 = $108 – in total $204.00.  But that’s not guaranteed. First, you need to qualify for premium pay.

Again to qualify—you have to have worked 15 out of the last 30 days, and worked the last shift before the holiday and the first shift after.timhortons-1

But what if you do not qualify, but you have to work on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day? Well you earn only your regular hourly rate.  No holiday pay and no premium pay. If you have to work 6 hours on New Year’s Day, and your hourly rate is $12, you receive only 6 x $12 = $72.00!

All provinces in Canada (excluding PEI and Quebec) pay at least 1.5 times your hourly rate for statutory holidays. Even in New Brunswick you are entitled to 1.5 times your hourly rate for working Christmas Day and New Year’s Day—with no qualifiers.  In Newfoundland, workers do not need any qualifiers to earn twicetheir hourly wage for working on a holiday.

Nova Scotia is clearly one of the stingiest and most punitive provinces when it comes to labour standards. As Tim Bousquet wrote the other day, many people are paid far less here than they would be in other provinces. Low labour standards and nickel and dime-ing workers who work on statutory holidays is a symptom of our low wage economy.

 

Read & Watch– get away from turkey stuffing

Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Uncoupling is a lot of fun.  It centres on a suburban high school production of the play Lysistrata. uncouplingIt features  a motley bunch of teachers, including the education psychologist, to two happily married English teachers, to an over-eating guidance counsellor and an uncommunicative school principal.  The book is charming, and clever — not quite to her standard in “The Feminine Persuasion” or “The Wife” but worth reading in this silly season. For another take on modern day Lysistrata take a look at this overly serious yet totally unaware article in the Guardian 

This is an excellent film — made in the mid-70s, it takes aim at the media and it’s creepy “tell all” side.  Of course the mainstream media today is even more wizened and useless than it was then. And arguably more dangerous to ‘democracy’. The 70s was a time of revolution in Germany, of the Baader Meinhoff Gang and others trying to break from their parents’ going along with the Third Reich… I recommend watch this– I got it from the Library on DVD blumIf I have a cultural hero, it’s filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta and you’ll see why.  There is a very nice interview (in English) with Schlondorff and von Trotta 40 yrs after they made the film. And that add-on is worth watching.