Here in Canada, where more than 81 per cent of us now live in urban centres, the challenge is how to create successful communities that are safe, healthy and sustainable. Jobs are of course central, but so too is making cities affordable for the majority. In Greater Vancouver, the average house price now exceeds $801,000, a rise of 83 per cent in the past decade.
Seven Iranian students have received a suspended sentence of up to 12 months and 91 lashes each. Their crime: they recorded a video signing Pharrell Williams' song, Happy. A huge disconnect is obvious in Iran and Saudi Arabia where, in the name of Islam, varying degrees of orthodoxy is being enforced on the masses.
While Iranian President Rouhani pledged to usher in a new era of human rights for Iranians, he continues to engage in massive repression. What follows is an overview of some of the serious human rights violations in Iran that serve as a litmus test for the authenticity of Rouhani's commitment to human rights for the Iranian people.
The Harper government has mastered the art of selective morality. When it is convenient, Mr. Harper takes cover behind international law to attack those he disagrees with on ideological or religious grounds. And those with whom he has an ideological or religious connection, his government wilfully ignores their indiscretions. This selective application of morality is at odds with the principles of social justice, which all Canadians hold dear.
The Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shiite, is far from perfect. It has failed to create a shared sense of nationalism in Iraq that unites the Shiites and Sunnis in peaceful co-existence. However, Prime Minister Maliki remains the world's best hope against the Jihadists who, if left unchecked, would continue to wage wars against Shiites and the West.
The Iranians allegedly do not want talks to break down because of a likely Israeli air attack, which though it would not be permanently incapacitating, would do great damage, retard development, and could be repeated as needed at intervals. The Vienna talks will have one more session before breaking for the summer. Though no one seriously expected that they would achieve an agreement, the Iranians have apparently put their program on hold, without rolling it back very far.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani repeatedly touts his commitment to "constructive engagement" with the international community, particularly as he negotiates a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Yet, as nuclear talks resume this week, the systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran continue unabated.
President Obama does not want to lose the Senate to the Republicans, yet that might happen if he is seen to side with Iran, which Americans detest, and against Israel, which most Americans, including mainstream Democrats, solidly support. For this reason, the Obama Administration could be counted on to veto the anti-Israel resolutions that would surely arise at the United Nations.
On February 14, 1989, precisely 25 years ago, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini called upon "all brave Muslims of the world" to murder the apostate Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, a novel condemned as blasphemous. Twenty-five years ago, on February 14, 1989, war was declared by Islamic end-times fundamentalists upon freedom of thought, freedom of speech, literature, secularism, and human expression.
The U.S. under President Ronald Reagan opposed Israel's decision to destroy Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor, and when Israel went ahead in 1981 Reagan embargoed delivery of F-16 fighters to punish Israel. The U.S. under President George H Bush insisted that Israel not retaliate against Iraq when Saddam Hussein launched 39 Scud missiles into Israel.
Iran ranked 144th out of 175 on Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perception Index. This is not a joke: Iran shared the position with Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Ukraine. It is no wonder why Rouhani is trying to expose the corruption of his predecessor.
Pessimism is a hallmark of the post-crisis period, and it was with us for so long, we almost didn't notice. Confidence -- its polar opposite -- is one of those necessities that we take for granted. That is, until they are taken away. Without confidence, at best we cower in the shadows, coming out to carry on basic activities, and scurrying back for shelter. At worst, it causes the collapse of financial systems and the distribution of goods and services -- in a word, chaos. But this year, we regained something: hope.
Since I read Mandela's book, Long Walk to Freedom, in Iran's Evin prison in 2000, I felt stronger and more committed to my activism work. He gave me hope and power to fight against the Iranian dictatorship. What's even more amazing is that every one of my cell mates were reading his book as well. I'll never forget what his words gave me.
A closer look at the Canada-Israel relationship reveals that Canada has exercised moral clarity by standing up to double standards, dictators, and outright hypocrisy. Canada, under Stephen Harper's administration has confronted terror, upheld international law, and promoted peace between Israelis, Palestinians and the region as a whole.
Taken overall, the Harper government's response to the Iranian deal is symptomatic of its wider foreign policy, which has abandoned any sense of realism. Instead of welcoming the accord as a major breakthrough and a potential chance to help stabilize the Middle East, Canada appears intent on mirroring Netanyahu's futile zero-sum, intensely hostile approach to Iran.
Incorrect is the claim that Stephen Harper defends the freedom and dignity of all people. Israel's occupation of the West Bank is an institutionalized system of oppression that every day denies the freedom and dignity of millions of Palestinians. When Canada votes against Palestinian aspirations at the UN, we come across as vindictive.
Whether we like it or not, we live in the shadow of Neville Chamberlain's Munich deal with Hitler. It must affect our perspective on any agreement of this nature. What we learned from Munich, though, was that deals do not finalize the results. What Hitler absolutely taught us was that what one says and even promises is not necessarily what one means.