Saturday, 11 August 2018

Post 231--Bolan's Gangsters (1)

Gangsters are still on my mind from the last post. No surprise, for they are often on my mind, especially when I read the newspapers. My favourite daily, The Vancouver Sun, has a columnist who covers the gangster front—Kim Bolan. Though I do not always agree with her and at one time in an email she called me something close to “idiot”—or so I felt about it, but I appreciate her writings and fail to read her column only if I have a bad day and don’t read the paper at all.

In this crazy world of litigation at the slightest instigation at all, I want to make sure no one accuses me of claiming Bolan own or controls gangs. These gangs are not Bolan's. Titles are meant to draw people's attention and I hope this one does.

Kim is not the only author to write on gangs and not all her articles are in the Vancouver Sun.  So, some of the articles linked here are by reporters instead of Kim the columnist, like Nick Eagland and Matt Robinson; some are in other papers like The Province. All that sort of information is clearly marked below.

But before I go further, I am reminded of the introductory paragraph at the heading of this blog.  There I explain that the title of this blog, “My World—My Neighbour,” is a summary of Jesus’ teaching that everyone in this world is my neighbour, whom I have to love, care for and about. How can I square this with the rather rough attitude I am displaying towards gangsters and their culture of violence and money?  Perhaps you’ve already wondered about that. Perhaps you even accuse me of contradictions or, worse, of hypocrisy. I am bringing this up at this point to let you know I am aware of this issue. I plan to address it before long. In the meantime, feel free to write me about it and help me think it through. 

Returning to Kim, sometimes her column is the only one I read. My wife, Fran or Frances (she prefers the short version; I, the longer), often cuts out articles for me if she knows I’m interested and I don’t have the time.  Bolan’s articles never escape Fran’s scissors. So, they are piling up in a box along with others.  But today is their day. I’m going to treat you to some of Bolan’s brain waves by means of links to some of her articles. Note well:  some, not all. And note also that, unless indicated otherwise, the dates behind the titles are of the Vancouver Sun.

As you read, check on the commonalities of these stories. What do they have in common?  What marks their culture?  And what of their pleas in court?  What are they asking?

This is only the beginning. I won’t bore you with too many data all at once, but I do intend to bring you more of this stuff. This is serious and only regularly reading these items, story after story, will it sink into your brain, heart and emotions. Allow it do that to you over time, and I think you will find your indignation and anger growing as you go till finally you may demand radical changes in the way these hoodlums are treated by the justice system. At the end you may well come to ask who are the most responsible for creating this violence and chaos—the gangsters themselves or the nation’s justice system. So, you will be thrown a lot of ugly stories as well as pleas for mercy and questions. You’ve got work coming up! 

Kim Bolan, “Police monitor rise of more puppet clubs.”  Hells Angels allegedly pulling the strings of certain less-established bike gangs. July 23, 2018 (p. A3).

Here you learn a lot about gang culture, including a hierarchy of clubs with Hells Angels at the very top. The ones lower down take the brunt of dangerous jobs. The motor cycling tours may seem like fun, but they are putting themselves AND their families at risk. There are serious consequences.  Police are monitoring them all carefully, making sure everyone is safe.  Why the police should be guarding these dumb wits against themselves is a big puzzle to me. Why should I pay taxes to protect those fools?    

Kim Bolan, “Real Scoop: Police concerned about rise of the HA puppets.”July 22, 2018.
An introduction to various gangs on the BC coast. 

Nick Eagland, “”’Wake Up Surrey’ pleads for help in tackling gang violence.” June 14, 2018 (p. A8).

Kim Bolan, “Firefighters’ biker club founder poses with Hells Angels.” Public safety minister calls the alleged association more than a bit disturbing. June 5, 2018 (p. A3).
The concern here is the penetration of gangsters into government agencies.

Kim Bolan, “Feds appeal immigration order freeing gunman.  Ministry objects to board decision to release gangster pending deportation.” April 26, 2018.

Kim Bolan,  “Guilty pleas expected in Bacon murder. Three men charged in 2011 gang shooting in front of Kelowna hotel reach plea bargain on lesser charges.” The Province,  April 22, 2018 (p. 4).

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Post 230--Away with Gangsters

I've written about gangsters before.  I was almost going to write that it's a topic that fascinates me, but that would not be true. It's a topic--no, it's not a topic or a subject; it's a person or a group of persons, mostly male, if I may still use that term! And it's hardly a fascinating person or group. I really want to say that a gangster or a group of them are probably among the most despicable of all human beings. That's how I feel, deep down in my heart.

Now I know a Christian is not to despise anyone. Heh, God so loves the world...!  And if He can love a world that has offended Him time and again, 24 X 7 over the centuries and millennia, perhaps even over billions of years, who am I to despise people who really have hardly affected me?  I read about them in the papers and I cut out many articles to file away for occasions like this one, when I write about them. No, I really need to change my attitude radically and seek forgiveness. Learn to love them even, perhaps? 

You may remember that in the previous post I treated you to an article I translated from my favourite Dutch daily, Trouw. It told the story how a Dutch court has criminalized the most vicious of Dutch gangs, the Hell's Angels.  Not sure I used the right word: "criminalized."  Lawyers, like us theologians, have a way with words and distinctions that are hard to follow for others. Perhaps the word "ban" would be more correct, though I would not know the difference. At any rate, both mean something like "away with them."

Now I do not regret their banning, for this is not banning persons from life, but their organization and their way of life or, rather, their way of death. If you were to spend a few hours reading my newspaper cuttings about gangsters, I don't see how you could defend them or how you could tolerate their culture, their way of life and their organizations. The Dutch have declared them not wanted and illegal. They have decided there no longer is place for them in Dutch society.

Here in Canada?  We put a protective shield around them. We call it "human rights." Human rights allegedly protect every body in Canada--yes, allegedly.  In reality, they protect criminals with their violent behaviour more than the ordinary law-abiding citizen. For the latter, human rights seem more like a prison that prevent us from protecting ourselves and each other. Gangsters do not care about anyone's rights; they step on them; they shoot and kill without genuine provocation. They spread terror left and right, but the authorities protect them with their gentrified legal system. They even spend unlimited time and money to find out who killed one of them.

Why on earth should society be so concerned and so protective about gangsters, people who have voluntarily chosen a most dangerous life style?  When a proven gangster has been killed, why not just bury the guy and move on? That's one less to worry about. Now the police can spend time protecting law-abiding citizens.

In my mind, people who chose violence should lose their human rights. Finish. Why should we protect them from their own choices? So, I appreciate their criminalization in the Netherlands. It's an important step forward.  But I recommend the next step also: Deny them their human rights. Quit protecting them while the ordinary citizens live in fear or just get shot.

Canada, when will you close the door to your prison of false human rights?  You have criminalized terrorists. What's the difference between those, apart from their motivation? 


PS--I was planning to copy one of the many newspaper cuttings I have on the subject of gangsters. However, you will have noticed irregularities in the fonts used in these posts. I have not been able to overcome that problem; I'm just not a techie.  However, a techie friend has just promised to help me fix the problem.  So, I resist the temptation to include that cutting. Hopefully he will be able to help me out this evening.  Once that is done, I may well succumb to the temptation of listing quite a number of such articles by their web access.  We'll see what happens--but he first has to help me with the immediate past posts. 

Monday, 18 June 2018

Post 229--Paradise: Banning Gangs!

Good morning on a fine sunny Saturday morning in Vancouver.  Yes, after an absence of a whole month, most of it in California with Kevin, our son and his family there.  From sunshine, through sunshine, back into Vancouver's sunshine.  Sunshine everywhere.  Plus--a heatwave almost everywhere along I-5, the route we took back with our RV. And believe me, as much as my wife, Fran, and I enjoyed the visit and the ride through all that beautiful West Coast country, there's no place like home.

Today our focus is on criminal motorcycle gangs in my birth country, the Netherlands. Originally, the article was published in Dutch in the Christian newspaper Trouw of June 18, 2018. The author is Dristel van Teffelen. I present you with this article because, though there are differences between Canada and NL, in this range of concerns the similarities are much the same.      Here, then the article. Read it carefully and give it some thought. I will try to make my own comments about it a couple of posts from now.  Have a good read.

Prohibiting Satudarah Means a New Success for the Ministry of Justice in Its Handling of Criminal Motorcyle Gangs
Dristel van Teeffelen
Trouw  June 18  2018

The motorclub Satudarah is no more. The Society was dissolved after the court in The Hague pronounced a prohibition this morning. For the Ministry of Justice this signals a new and important victory in its handling of criminal motorcycle gangs, even though not all problem are solved with this step.

That the judge should resort to a prohibition was not step to be taken for granted. The right of association is in the constitution and may be restricted only when there are weighty reasons. In the case of Satudarah, a motorclub that exists since 1990, the court recognized enough reasons.The list of criminal behaviours of its members is so long and the culture of the association so violent, that Satudara endangers the public order and is even capable of destabilizing society, the judge concluded.

The society uses violence against its own members who want to disassociate themselves, but also against other citizens. Even board members of other clubs get beat up after members of Satudarah demand that their club join Satudarah. It is striking that many victims do not dare to report this violence for fear of retaliation. Furthermore, the club resists the police actively and the board justifies injustice and even stimulates it. All in all, this is enough to conclude that this society is a genuine attack on the security of the society, according to the judge.

The Ministry opted for the avenue of civil rights to achieve a prohibition, just as it did before with another motorclub, the Bandidos. In 2009, an attempt to ban a branch of the Hells Angels ran stuck at the High Court. That judge concluded that the behavior of individual members cannot be attributed to the society.  The Ministry once again aimed its arrows at the Hells Angels, this time on the entire organization and via a civil rights procedure. 

It is questionable whether the prohibition strategy will work.  Satudarah itself argued with the judge that a ban would be useless, because the members could easily continue under a different name.  The judge acknowledged this fact. Nevertheless, a ban on Satudarah in any case means that everything associated with the society, like dress, name, logo and public expression, comes to an end.  In addition, the national LIEC, an organization that is dedicated to combat the undermining criminality, affirms that a firm approach on the part of the Government to criminal motor clubs has delivered fruit.  For example, the growth in members slowed down in 2017. 

Banning of the entire society is but one of the ways by which the Government can put the clamps on criminal motorclubs. For example, in 2017, members of the clubs were imprisoned for committing punishable acts in organized contexts. In addition, many local governments during that year closed eighteen club houses of societies that were preoccupied with criminality and violence more than with motorcycle touring.   That ban also holds for “chapters” and support clubs associated with them.  
Read also (if you can read Dutch!):

Public Ministry: “Time for a ban on Hells Angels in the Netherlands.”
For the oldest Dutch motorclub, the Hells Angels, there is no more place in the society, according to the Public Ministry. The Ministry of Justice has asked the judge for a ban. The club is allegedly a danger to the public order.

“Judge’s Ruling Paralyzes Motorclub Bandidos.”
There is no place left in The Netherlands for Bandidos. The society can no longer operate a bank account or rent a clubhouse, while all assets must be handed over. A Government appointee is to wind up the club’s finances.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Post 228--Quebec Secular Fundamentalism


Graeme Hamilton: A secular fundamentalism has taken root in Quebec

Graeme Hamilton    National Post   March 20, 2018

Listening to politicians, it can feel as if Quebec is under assault from religious fundamentalists. But they have no quarrel with a secular fundamentalism that has taken root in the province

MONTREAL — Listening to politicians, it can feel as if Quebec is under assault from religious fundamentalists. The opposition Parti Québécois wants an observer to report annually to the National Assembly on “manifestations of religious fundamentalism.” The Liberal government has a working group to combat radicalism. The Coalition Avenir Québec proposes banning preaching that runs counter to Quebec values.
But those same legislators have no quarrel with a secular fundamentalism that has taken root in the province at the expense of religious rights. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a message to Quebec that its state-sanctioned secularism can go too far.
In a ruling affirming the right of Montreal’s Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys school, to teach its own version of a provincially mandated course on ethics and religion, the court offered a timely reminder to politicians.
“The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs,” Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. “A secular state respects religious differences, it does not seek to extinguish them.”
The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs
The ruling specifically applies to a small number of private religious schools in Quebec, but it resonates more widely at a time when governments contend with questions involving religious rights. Recently in Quebec, mosques have run up against obstacles over fears of religious extremism, and a Muslim woman was told she could not appear before a Quebec Court wearing her hijab. The federal government has taken a stand against the face-covering niqab, saying women cannot wear the garments during citizenship ceremonies.
Interference with a religious group’s beliefs or practices is justified only if they “conflict with or harm overriding public interests,” Justice Abella wrote.
In the Loyola case, the court found that there was no such conflict or harm. The dispute stemmed from Quebec’s 2008 introduction of a course called Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC), which begins in primary school and is continued during four of the five years of high school.
The ERC program resulted from the end of denominational school boards in Quebec and reflected a noble goal of inculcating “in all students openness to diversity and respect for others,” as the court put it. Students would be taught about world religions and ethical questions from an impartial perspective. That is fine and indeed appropriate for public schools but hugely problematic for Loyola, which has been run by Jesuits since its founding in the 1840s and is attended mostly by children from Catholic families.
CP/Graham Hughes
The instructions from the Education Department were that Loyola would not be allowed to teach any part of the ERC program — even Catholicism — from a Catholic point of view. All religions would be on an equal footing. “In an effort to try to be pluralistic, it essentially won’t take a stand,” school principal Paul Donovan lamented when the course was introduced.
Thursday’s ruling states that Quebec’s refusal to allow Loyola to teach an equivalent course from a Catholic perspective has a “serious impact on religious freedom.” And there is an implication that the Education Department’s hard-nosed approach was born out of a suspicion of religious belief.
“The Minister’s decision suggests that engagement with an individual’s own religion on his or her own terms can simply be presumed to impair respect for others,” Justice Abella wrote.
All seven judges who heard the case agreed that Loyola should be allowed to teach a version of the course that reflects its mission as a Catholic school, but there was a difference over how far it could diverge from the official curriculum.
In a partially concurring opinion that argued for less restriction on Loyola, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Michael Moldaver wrote that it is enough for Loyola teachers to treat other religious viewpoints with respect; it does not have to treat them as equally legitimate.
“Indeed, presenting fundamentally incompatible religious doctrines as equally legitimate and equally credible could imply that both are equally false,” they wrote. “Surely this cannot be a perspective that a religious school can be compelled to adopt.”
John Zucchi, whose son was a student at Loyola when the ERC program was introduced and who was a plaintiff in the initial court case, said Thursday’s ruling provides crucial guidance. “This is helping the country to come to what I would call a sane form of secularism,” he said. “We don’t need to shut down one voice in the name of diversity and pluralism, but rather diversity and pluralism mean that all perspectives can be heard and be out in the public square.”

Post 227--Bureaucrats to Assess "Sincere Beliefs"

The powers that be in Canada, consider it a secular country.  Whether that describes the majority of Canadians is something that is assumed, but may not be true. Certainly, there are millions of Canadians who do not consider themselves secular, with me being one of them. But even among those who do not consider themselves secular, there are many who have been so deeply influenced by it that in fact they are secular, including many Christians, in the sense that they support many secular causes.  Just like African Christians are still influenced by African Traditional Religion (ATR), so many Canadian Christians are profoundly influenced by secularism. In Africa, ATR is in the air and people as it were "breathe" it;  in Canada the same with secularism.

When the government insists on neutrality of religion, it defines neutrality in a secular way--which means it is not neutral. To make it worse, our high government officials at every level of government, are highly educated people in a secular perspective, but in religion they are at the level of Religion 101. They are at best at Grade 1 level in religion. So, people with Ph.D.'s, highly educated, think their insights in religion are at the same level as their knowledge of their subject of graduation.  In fact, their knowledge does not go beyond Grade 1--which means they are bound to get it wrong.  Highly sophisticated officials make Grade 1 decisions about religion and often sound stupid and clumsy., all the way to the top, hardly anyone excluded.

Now, it is with that scenario that mid-level Quebec officials are to make decisions about sincerely held religious beliefs and on that decision decide other things for citizens.  But they do so at a Grade 1 level! How can you trust that situation, those decisions or those officials? 

Okay, now go read the rest of this post and then see what you think of the issue.  Can you really have confidence in the decisions to be made?   

Greame Hamilton recently published an article in the National Post of June 6, 2018, that appeared also in some other newspapers, including the Vancouver Sun of the same date.  The Sun  title of the piece is "Quebec to assess 'sincere beliefs.'"

Beginning next month, at least one employee in every Quebec government body, municipality, transit agency, school board, university, daycare and hospital will need a new skill: judging the sincerity of religious beliefs.
Across the province, hundreds of “accommodation officers” are getting crash courses on whether to accept or reject requests for accommodations made on religious grounds, such as meals respecting dietary restrictions or time off for religious holidays.
In recently published guidelines, the provincial government says the officers will apply a number of criteria established over time thorough jurisprudence, including whether the request for a religious accommodation stems from a “sincerely held belief.”

Quebec women attend a protest in 2010 Allen McInnis/The Gazette

This month’s training blitz is the final chapter in enacting Bill 62, the Liberal government’s controversial legislation that it hoped would settle a decade-old debate over the place of religion in Quebec’s public sphere.
But there is no sign the law has settled anything. Its most controversial provision, prohibiting people from giving or receiving public services with such face-covering religious garments as the niqab and burka, has been suspended pending a court challenge.
And the entire law could be short-lived, as the front-running Coalition Avenir Québec has promised to “tear it up” if elected in the Oct. 1 provincial election.
In comments last month about the new guidelines on religious accommodations, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée did little to dispel the impression that the law is a solution in search of a problem. “There is no invasion of requests for religious accommodation, as some would have you believe,” Vallée told a legislature committee May 16.
In fact, less than five per cent of the 582 complaints of rejected accommodations received by the provincial human rights commission in the last five years alleged religious discrimination. The large majority — 90 per cent — related to physical disabilities.
The new guidelines for dealing with requests for religious accommodations take effect July 1. It is expected that existing employees will take on the work.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee provides further details about how the government’s controversial Bill 62 will be implemented at the legislature in Quebec City Tuesday, October 24, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The government has published a 15-page guide aimed at clarifying the process, but its instructions are vague. “A request may be reasonable in a large organization, but unreasonable in a small one,” the guide says. “The analysis is carried out on a case-by-case basis. It is important to be innovative and creative to find a solution acceptable to all.”
To be approved, an accommodation must address a situation of discrimination under the provincial Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it must be based on sincere religious beliefs, it must be consistent with the principles of equality of the sexes and state religious neutrality, and it must not cause undue hardship for the government agency concerned.
Isabelle Marier St-Onge, an aide to Vallée, said it was impossible to offer a template for specific accommodation requests. She gave the example of two women police officers seeking to wear the Muslim headscarf known as the hijab, one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. The one in Montreal might be prepared to wear a sports-type hijab posing no safety risk, while the one in Quebec City might insist on a more free-flowing garment that would pose a danger.
“The Montreal request could be accepted and the Quebec City one refused,” Marier St-Onge said.

Marie-Michelle Lacoste, who now goes by Warda Naili after converting to Islam, left, and her lawyer Catherine McKenzie speak to the media at a news conference Tuesday, November 7, 2017 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

While the safety issue in her example makes an accommodation officer’s job relatively easy, things will undoubtedly become trickier when trying to establish whether a request is based on a sincerely held belief.
The guidance from the government states: “The religious belief that is asserted must be in good faith, neither fictitious nor capricious, and must not be an artifice. It is not necessary for that practice or belief to be based on a religious precept recognized by established religious authorities or shared by a majority of believers.”
Supreme Court judges have wrestled with these questions; now it will fall to mid-level bureaucrats.
Nathalie Roy, secularism critic for the Coalition party, said the government should have provided more specific guidance, drawing on previous cases adjudicated by the rights commission. “I worry that the door is being swung wide open to subjectivity in these decisions,” she told the legislature committee.
Her party, like the opposition Parti Québécois, wants stricter rules barring religious symbols for all state employees in a position of authority, from police officers to teachers. “For us, a school is not a church . . . and a police car is not a place of worship either,” Roy said.
Vallée accuses the opposition parties of seizing on the secularism issue to sow division.
“This question of identity is polarizing . . . and certain political parties will no doubt try to exploit it in the coming months,” she said at the committee hearing.
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