In a flagrant violation of the agreed-upon ceasefire, the Syrian government launched a heavy offensive on rebel-held Wadi Barada valley in the final days of December. Residents have been deprived of running water and electricity and are being bombarded by hundreds of missiles and barrel bombs.
During the last electoral campaign, we urged the next government "to step up to the plate" and commit itself to making the fight against impunity a foreign policy priority. Almost a year later, we are pleased to see Canada moving in this direction.
Some 31,000 women are currently pregnant inside the Islamic State. These children born out of conflict will form the future ranks of the group. School curriculum is being altered and reshaped to support extremism and strict adherence to the Islamic State's view of religion and philosophy. Children are desensitized to violence and trained for combat from an early age. This presents a complex, yet vitally important, challenge for any nations engaged with the Islamic State.
Canada has historically been a leading voice for international accountability. Mass violence and mass atrocities being committed in Syria, Ukraine, the Central African Republic and North Korea suggest that states are falling short of their obligations. Expectations are not being met. Canada can and should resuscitate its leadership on this front.
Scholars, lawyers, and governments will no doubt weigh in on whether or not the residential schools experience in Canada officially constitutes a cultural form of genocide. In the meantime, it is important to create a cultural and intellectual climate in this country that is flexible and sensitive enough to recognize the depth of suffering experienced by traumatized people and their children without ranking it on a destructive hierarchical scale.
Shortly after Israel began its bombing campaign of Gaza last week, a fellow Jew emailed me a photo of a guy holding a large sign that read: "I am a Jew. Stop Killing Babies in Gaza." That photo has been burning a hole in my inbox ever since. I feel helpless in the face of all the carnage raining down on Gaza. I, too, want Israel to stop killing babies in Gaza. I want Israel to end its indiscriminate killing of all Palestinian civilians, full stop.
In the annals of human evil, Rwanda's genocide takes a special place. With a kill rate of about six people a minute for more than three months, it's likely one of the fastest mass slaughters of humans in history. Most were hacked to death by machete, partly because the perpetrators found it cheaper than using bullets.
Progress for the world's women has proceeded in fits and starts in the past century, but 2012 saw some clear advancement on numerous fronts and in diverse locations. But while global advancements on gender issues were escalating, at home, in Canada, the record remains decidedly mixed. Canadian women are presently losing ground on everything from pay equity to childcare, from poverty to homelessness. Canadians must come to terms with the irony of witnessing the advancements of women's rights on a global scale while at the same time dealing with the reality that this country has been steadily declining in international rankings of gender disparity.
News that four former Guantanamo detainees have filed a complaint against Canada with the UN Committee Against Torture for the Canadian government's failure to arrest George W. Bush has caused quite a tempest in our teapot. Evidence of Bush's involvement in authorizing war crimes and torture goes far beyond the reasonable grounds necessary for law enforcement.
Charles Taylor is the first tyrant to be tried, convicted and sentenced. Some even think that Taylor's fate may worry Syria's Bashar al-Assad, and perhaps persuade him to ease off on killing his people. But Assad continues to rampage against his people; it's clear there's no interest in direct action against homicidal leaders.