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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Money laundering, Canadian syle

Financial expert and human rights advocate, Bill Browder, and a team of investigators have tracked more than $13 million dollars associated with an elaborate tax fraud in Russia to bank accounts in Canada.

Mr. Browder and his team echoed their earlier calls for Canada to adopt legislation to freeze the assets of corrupt foreign officials.

In response, James Bezan, Official Opposition Critic for National Defence, issued the following statement:

“The findings that were brought to light by Mr. Browder and his team are evidence that Canada is not immune to the world of corrupt foreign officials. "Individuals accused of gross violations of human rights have been using our banking system to hide their assets. Canada needs legislation to bring this alarming practice to an end and to hold these individuals accountable.

“In May I tabled Bill C-267, “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). This Bill seeks to strengthen restrictive measures against foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Motions calling for the Government of Canada to adopt Magnitsky legislation and sanctions were unanimously adopted by the House of Commons and the Senate. These measures were supported by the three main parties during the 2015 Federal Election. However, despite support from within his own caucus, Foreign Affairs Minister Dion, has backtracked on this promise.

“This legislation will further enable the Government of Canada to quickly sanction individuals that are responsible for events like the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. Similar legislation has been adopted our allies in the United States and Europe.

“Gross violators of human rights must be held accountable; they must face repercussions for their actions. Sanctioning these individuals is the right thing to do.

“Bill C-267 is one way that Canada can take a stand against those responsible for human rights violations. I urge Minister Dion to listen to members of his caucus, to Mr. Browder, and to the international community, and support the Sergei Magnitsky Law.”

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For some backgrounder on this matter, check out Bill Browder's book
Red Notice:: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice published in 2015. A link and the Nash Holos review can be found here.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Member of Parliament James Bezan Marks Holodomor Memorial Day

Despite changes in leadership, the Government of Canada still supports the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the right of self-determination for Ukrainians.

On November 25, 2016, James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, issued this  statement to mark Holodomor Memorial Day:

“Today we stand united with Ukrainians in Canada and around the world as we mark the solemn anniversary of the Holodomor. We remember the millions of innocent men, women, and children that perished as result of the forced starvation and oppression by Joesph Stalin’s soviet regime.

“The Holodomor was an attempt to put an end to the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a free and independent country by a ruthless communist regime. This horrific act of genocide, which took place between 1932 and 1933, saw Europe’s breadbasket depleted to a barren land of suffering. It represents one of the darkest chapters in human history.

“With the passing of my private member’s bill in 2008, Canada became the first country to officially recognize the Holodomor as genocide. It is vitally important that we remember and raise awareness, not only to honour the victims and survivors, but to make sure future generations never witness such an atrocity.

“It is also important to acknowledge that the struggle of the Ukrainian people is not over. Canada stands proudly with the people of Ukraine as they work towards a brighter future for their children and grandchildren. Today, the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine is once again being threatened by an authoritarian Russian leader. Vladmir Putin and the Russian military have illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and continue to maintain military aggression in the east of Ukraine.

I encourage all Canadians to attend Holodomor Memorial Day services being held in communities across the country and remember the millions of victims and honour the courage of those who survived. Their memories shall be eternal.

“Vichnaya Pamyat”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Canada called on to enact tougher human rights laws on the anniversary of the murder of Sergei Magnitsky: Opposition

On November 16, 2016, The Hon. Rona Ambrose, Leader of Canada's Official Opposition, issued the following statement:

“On November 16th, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in a Moscow prison after he uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history. To date, none of the individuals responsible have been brought to justice.

“The United States and the European Union have both adopted Magnitsky sanctions. Unfortunately, despite their campaign promise, the Liberal government has yet to act. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has repeatedly broken his party’s commitment to update Canada’s laws and ensure that foreign nationals who are responsible for gross human rights violations can be punished and sanctioned accordingly.

“Last month financial expert and human rights advocate Bill Browder announced that he and a team of investigators have tracked more than $13 million dollars associated with an elaborate tax fraud in Russia to bank accounts in Canada. It is clear that Canada is not immune to the actions of corrupt foreign officials, who would use our banking system to hide their assets. The time has come for the Liberal government to act.

“While Minister Dion has embarked upon a misguided effort to re-engage with Vladimir Putin, Conservatives have filled the void. MP James Bezan has tabled Bill C-267, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). Senator Raynell Andreychuk has tabled similar legislation in the Senate. We have provided the Liberal government with multiple options should they wish to finally listen to the advice of former Liberal MPs such as Bob Rae and Irwin Cotler.

“The world’s worst human rights violators must be held accountable. They cannot be allowed to hide their assets in Canada. On the anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s murder in a Russian prison, we urge the Liberal government, particularly Minister Dion, to remember their promise to human rights advocates both in Canada and around the world: support and pass the Magnitsky Law.”


Monday, November 07, 2016

Canadian government being urged to acknowledge 1944 genocide of Crimean Tatars

On Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, Member of Parliament Kerry Diotte started second reading of Bill C-306, Crimean Tatar Deportation (“Sürgünlik”) Memorial Day Act in the House of Commons. 
MP James Bezan seconded the bill and urged all Parliamentarians to recognize the grave human rights abuses and to forbid history from repeating itself by supporting Bill C-306.
The intention of Bill C-306 is to recognize the mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 as an act of genocide and establish a national memorial day. 

In 1944, the Soviet regime under Josef Stalin ripped hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children from their homes in Crimea, and sent them into permanent exile simply on the basis of their ethnicity and religion.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” said Bezan echoing the words of Sir Winston Churchill.  

“The mass deportation occurred over two days, Soviet agents forced all of the Tatars into cattle cars, onto trains, and onto barges and deported them to gulags in Uzbekistan, where they were put into forced labour camps.  Half of them died of starvation,” he added.

“As we think of the persecution imposed on the Crimean Tatars in 1944, we are eerily reminded of the plights they are faced with today,” said Bezan.

In 2014, Russian president, Vladmir Putin, illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, where the Tatars are the indigenous population.

“The Russians went in and immediately removed the Tatar’s freedom of the press by shutting down their newspapers and radio stations. Then they shut down their political ability to work together at the Meijles, their parliament. Then the Russians made sure that they could no longer go to their mosques to gather. There is no freedom of association, no freedom of political affiliation, and no freedom of religion,” said Bezan.

If passed, Bill C-306 will recognize the mass deportations of Crimean Tatars in 1944 by the Soviet regime as genocide and establish May 18 as a day of commemoration. 

In 2015, the Parliament of Ukraine officially recognized the deportations of 1944 as genocide, the first country in the world to do so. Subsequently, the Ukrainian Parliament called on other countries to join them in recognizing this atrocity as genocide.

“Today’s efforts by the Putin regime to eliminate the cultural identity of the Tatars should be an indicator as to why supporting Bill C-306 is essential. If we do not recognize and learn from the atrocities of the past, they are bound to repeat themselves,” said Bezan.   

Monday, April 04, 2016

Ukraine's ascending star

This video reflects a reality of Ukrainian history that my friend Marsha J. Skrypuch and I discussed today.

She was telling me about the research she is doing for her next WWII-era novel, and reminded me that as recently as the middle of the 20th century, very few ethnic Ukrainians lived in the cities or even towns of what is now Ukraine.

How recent history has changed is that urban centres in Ukraine now are no longer populated primarily by occupying forces and/or re-settlers (with the sad and hopefully temporary exceptions of the Crimea and Donbas). Now, urban centres in Ukraine are populated by Ukrainians. Not necessarily ethnic Ukrainians, but with proud citizens of Ukraine, regardless of their ethnic heritage. And more and more of them speaking the native Ukrainian language.

I could ask if this is how a nation is born. The English word "nation" is the closest equivalent to the Ukrainian word "народ` (narod). But the Ukrainian word has so much more depth and breadth (just check out the list of synonyms on Google Translate) .

So to my mind, it is more accurate to say that this is how a state is born. The nation, it seems to me, was born long ago. 

This video to me illustrates an astonishing change in Ukraine's self-identity, and rapidly growing maturity as a nation-state.

To all my native Ukrainian friends ... I stand in awe (and the greatest admiration) of all of you. Molodetz!

Слава Україні!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Journalist exposing Kremlin trolls comes under attack

An article about a journalist being attacked by Kremlin trolls for daring to expose them was recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is chilling.

Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro worries that it's not only her coming under attack. She says that "trolls are having an unhealthy impact on freedom of speech and democracy more broadly."
"... ordinary Finns who are exposed to troll misinformation have 'told me that they have started to lose touch with what is true and what is not true ... for example, in the Ukraine crisis they don't know what is a fact and what's not, because trolls mess up the conversation.'

"Some of those attacking her say they are just exercising freedom of political speech. Aro has no time for that argument. In fact they are trying to suppress other people's free speech through aggression, she says.


"An EU official who has been studying Russian propaganda – and who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity – says Aro's case is "quite extraordinary".

"I'm actually surprised this is happening in the EU," he says.

"The amount of resources being put into an attempt to bully Aro was remarkable. "Not only money but also people. The purpose: intimidation ... to kill the debate."

"However, Aro is far from the only victim, nor the only topic of pro-Russian trolling, misinformation and propaganda, the official says.


"..."the troll network is used to 'road-test' conspiracy theories, seeding six or seven competing pieces of propaganda or misinformation and letting the Darwinian world of online information exchange prove which is the hardiest – which is then republished by more conventional media. It's a system applied, for example, to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014.

"'One of the biggest problems is we don't have a clue how much money they put into this,' the official says. 'We do not have clue how much media there are, how many people they target, how many people they reach. We can only guess from the results.

"'The aim is not to make you love Putin. The aim is to make you disbelieve anything. A disbelieving, fragile, unconscious audience is much easier to manipulate.'"

Read the full article here. It's an eye-opener.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Who will really end this war

(Ras)Putin’s “popularity” appears to be coming down like a house of cards. This despite his control of the Russia's media.

I was surprised to see this video of Russian people protesting in Moscow ... and not a little alarmed at the reason one Muscovite said that they are not protesting in larger numbers.

While the collapse of the oil market and the ruble may eventually bring the Russian mafia down, in the process it is bringing misery to millions who are mere pawns in high-stakes games of international finance, as we see clearly in the above video.

There are many other reports about the fallout of Putin's demagoguery in articles like this one about shopkeepers and mall owners losing their livlihoods at the hands of the state, and this one about Russian-owned gas stations closing in Poland and the Baltics.

There is plenty of misery to go around at the hands of the Putin regime, and I do feel sorry for the Russian people, but only to an extent. Some see the light but the vast majority, if the polls are to be believed, don't.

They trust a mafia boss to deliver a decent standard of living, as this video clearly illustrates.

They believe that Ukrainians are “fascists” for wanting a better life than what they could have under Kremlin lackeys.

They refuse to believe their own friends and relatives in Ukraine who tell them life is vastly different from what the Russian state media tells them.

So, now they are reaping the reward of their blind faith in a moneyed, criminal egomaniac. And, perhaps, in their own egos.

But will they eventually face reality? Or will they look for scapegoats, as happened in Nazi Germany?

As for the mafia-run government they still trust, how likely is it that Putin & Co. will go down quietly, much less alone?
The reality is that (Ras)Putin will cause as much damage as he can trying to hold on to his ill-gotten gains and position of privilege. Sort of a post-modern twist on the "scorched earth" tactic the Russians have used extensively in their imperialist ambitions, especially against Ukraine, most recently by Stalin in WWII.

But the western military-industrial complex won’t allow the global economy, to crash. Recently financial gurus have been opining about how "war is good for the economy."

So I'd say there's a good chance that another world war is on the horizon. And with nukes in the hands of rogue states it doesn't bode well for humanity.

Still there is hope. According to this recent article, mercenaries fighting for Putin are starting to see the light.
Former Russian insurgent calls those whom he was fighting against in the Donbas patriots of his country and says he regrets coming to Ukraine with weapons.
This was stated by former Donbas militant Alexey in an interview with Russian website Rosbalt...
"I can only say of the armed forces of Ukraine, those poor creatures who had been drafted to the army and forced to protect their Fatherland - they are good eggs and patriots. I really regret about having to shoot at them. My enemies are not there! That's the TV that made me think so.
"It's a pity that I'm not the only one deceived by TV propaganda. It's a good thing that many of those who had been there started to realize that's not our war, that's the war of other people and their interests. Many of my comrades realized that we had been deceived and betrayed." 
This to me is the only hope for war to end, along with the misery it brings.

Not so much that people merely stop fighting, because that just makes it easier for tyrants to continue their oppression and totalitarianism. Which is what Ukrainians have been fighting for centuries, and still are fighting... mostly alone as they always have been.

Rolling over and giving in may end the use of heavy weapons, but it won't end the oppression of tyrants. 

No. War will not end until people stop allowing themselves to be used as instruments of evil. This calls for some hard decisions, honest introspection, and sacrificing of egos on an individual, personal basis. No finger-pointing or assigning blame ... except to the person in the mirror.
Is the human race up to it?

Well, we can only hope.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Ukrainians being deported from Canada

Recently I came across an appalling story about a Ukrainian immigrant family that is being deported from Canada.

This young family, the Vasileyevs, came to Canada in 2012. Since then, they they have been going through all the hoops involved in the immigration process, following all the rules to apply for Canadian citizenship.

But now they are about to be deported. From Canada.

Many things about this story trouble me, not least of all that so far it is not getting much coverage in the media.

The only story on this family's woes was published in the Winnipeg Sun. It was reprinted in Canoe News and referenced by The Rebel in a brief video that takes a poke at the current Trudeau government.

How this family is being treated, by Canadian bureaucrats and Canadian media alike, is so wrong.

There is corruption in bureaucratic ranks that allows this sort of thing to happen, regardless of which political party is currently in power in Ottawa.

Yet no one investigates, no one speaks up, no one pays any attention at all until there is some political gain to be made.

Being in the media myself (albeit on the outer fringes), I can't blame The Rebel for taking advantage of this family's predicament. It is just doing what comes naturally in the media biz, which is more cut-throat than most, and is fast becoming as politically polarized as it is south of the border.

That said, it is an utter disgrace that the media ignores stories like these until they do become partisan issues. At which point all those left standing in the spotlight can see fit to do is point fingers at their political opponents.(Whatever happened to the meme of "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?")

In my humble opinion, it is beyond disingenuous, and shameful, to play partisan politics with such travesties. Because while those of us living our lives of comfort and privilege enjoy the luxury of playing partisan politics (or not), hardworking, innocent, good people who just want to have a decent life keep getting screwed.

As for the few who will bother to watch the video and read the article, you can bet yer boots there are some among them who will soon be arguing about how either the current government or the previous government is to blame for this family's plight.

Meanwhile, nothing will be done to help the Vasileyevs, and they will return to their country with less than flattering accounts about ours.

Sadly, few Canadians, including those of Ukrainian extraction, seem to be very concerned about that. But hey, there are obviously more pressing matters (like arguing partisan politics) than helping people who are being victimized by incompetent and/or corrupt bureaucrats.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Donetsk Airport

Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy performed at Donetsk Airport on 1 March 2014.This song is considered to be the "anthem of Europe."

Just weeks after this performance, Russia dispatched its proxies in Donetsk, who attacked this beautiful new building with the intention of destroying it. This is what "Russkie Mir" (Russian peace) looks like. Any wonder Ukrainians are fighting back?

The Ukrainians who defended their airport against foreign aggressors were nicknamed "Cyborgs" because they continued to outwit the Russian aggressors and impeded their progress in occupying Ukrainian territory.

I was honoured to visit a wounded Ukrainian "Cyborg" in Kyiv last spring. His story is very inspiring. If you haven't seen my video with footage of that visit, check it out here.

If you like it, please leave a comment, here and/or on YouTube. I have more photos and footage I'd like to share from that and previous trips in video, so I'd appreciate your feedback to help me make them as interesting and informative as possible. 

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