Toronto CDPI AGM in NOW Magazine

April 14, 2008

I am a longtime member of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) and head of its new Brampton Chapter. We had our 2008 AGM in Toronto on the weekend of April 4-6. It was energizing and uplifting to see all our supporters, especially the following politicians: in my riding of Brampton-Springdale MP (Liberal) Dr. Ruby Dhalla, Etobicoke Centre MP (Liberal) Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Trinity-Spadina MP (NDP) Olivia Chow, and the Leader of the Green Party of Canada Elizabeth May. The empty chair on the stage at Friday evening’s opening meeting at The Church of the Holy Trinity for Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier was a stark symbol of the ruling Conservative Party’s lack of interest in our initiative. However, I just heard back from my colleague Rob Acheson of the Toronto CDPI chapter that he has met with Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation and CIDA, Colin Carrie (Oshawa), Mike Wallace (Burlington) and David Sweet (Hamilton). Rob is diligently working on meeting with more Conservative MPs and hopefully inroads will be made.

For more about our AGM, please read this article in NOW Magazine:

Getting past the petty

We can’t make peace our foreign policy till pols stop political blood sport
Andrew Cash

Loath as I am to admit it, music alone won’t change our war-making ways.

That’s why the April 4 all-party (except the governing one) panel kicking off a conference the next day promoting the idea of a Canadian Department of Peace at Friends House on Lowther is such a tonic.


Read rest of this article here.

Listen to these NOW audio clips:

Saul Arbess, National Co-Chair of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative talks about the mandate and the roll of a minister of peace:

Bill Bhaneja, National Co-Chair of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative talks about disarmament after the end of the Cold War:

Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj talks about the difficulties big tent national parties have in moving an agenda like this forward:

Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj talks further about the importance of speaking with MP’s who have made decisions, like supporting Afghanistan, and showing them ways of changing those decisions:


Brampton MPPs snub town hall, irate residents demand answers

February 9, 2008

Most of my GTA readers are likely aware of the problems we here in Brampton are having with our new P3 Brampton Civic Hospital and the closure of our Peel Memorial Hospital. This leaves our growing community which is fast approaching half a million residents with only one hospital that is operating at only 479 beds– and will not be up to the promised 608 until likely 2012, by which time our population will have increased even more. During last fall’s provincial election, the McGuinty government promised us that our old Peel Memorial will not be completely closed — it will be renovated and kept as a full service hospital with 112 beds. But at recent LHIN meetings we were informed that our old hospital is slated to be demolished, and there are no clear plans as to its future. This leaves Brampton residents in dire straits, severely lacking healthcare facilities. Understandably, Bramptonians are irate. We feel betrayed and demand answers, accountability and the re-opening of our old hospital. But our elected local MPPs hold us in such disdain that none of them bothered to show up at our two town hall meetings to at least answer our questions. (The lone MPP who attended last night was from Toronto.) To make a bad situation worse, there have been needless deaths and mishaps at the new hospital, which was downsized from the original plans, while the costs are going through the roof at our expense!

To her credit, Brampton-Springdale MP Ruby Dhalla attended our town hall last night and spoke in support of us and our Brampton Health Coalition which is the voice of Brampton’s residents.

My fellow Brampton Health Coalition members are unpaid volunteers. We simply want what we deserve: quality healthcare services for our city. We demand our politicians stop using our city as a testing ground for their schemes to privatize our healthcare.

This is what the Toronto Sun wrote about our town hall, “Only 1 MPP at protest”:

BRAMPTON — A continued snub by politicians of public meetings over Brampton’s controversial new hospital angered residents last night.

Only one MPP, Peter Tabuns of Toronto-Danforth, one MP, Ruby Dhalla of Brampton, and city councillor Vicky Dhillon responded to an invitation from the Brampton Health Coalition and Ontario Health Coalition (OHC).

“Local politicians refused to come to the October meeting, so we said we’d do it again,” Natalie Mehra, director of OHC, told 150 people at the Lester B. Pearson theatre in the Civic Centre at Queen St. E. and Central Parkway. “I’ve never seen a community meeting like this where the elected representatives do not come,” Mehra said as several people cried out “shameful.


Read rest of this Toronto Sun article here.

To learn more about this issue and P3 hospitals, go to:

The Yourdkhanis have arrived at Pearson!

March 22, 2007

What joy and relief! The Yourdkhani family has arrived at Pearson airport safe and sound at last! Although obviously tired by their long ordeal and somewhat overwhelmed, the Yourdkhanis expressed gratitude and thanks to the Canadian government and all the people who have helped bring them back. Kevin was finally able to hold on to the security of a big fuzzy bear which was banned to him — and to all the incarcerated children at Hutto. He was even able to manage a smile.

Now begins the laborious process of having this family granted permanent residency. I feel that they are in good hands with the highly capable Andrew Brouwer looking after this, so that the system does not fail them again. They have already suffered so much.

Once again, I’d like to thank all those bloggers and readers here who had unquestioningly supported me and liberal catnip, responded to our action alerts, and joined in the tireless effort to bring justice for this family. As well, Liberal MP for Brampton-Springdale Dr. Ruby Dhalla deserves heartfelt thanks for her letter and phone calls urging Peter MacKay to act.

Read this Global National report: Cdn boy and Iranian parents arrive in Canada

Read this CBC News report: Canadian boy, parents arrive in Toronto after Texas prison stay

Toronto, Ontario – Majid Yourdkhani (C), his son Kevin (R), and wife Masomeh Aubegi (L) arrive at Pearson International Airport after being released from detention in Texas, in Toronto, March 21, 2007. (National Post)

UPDATE: I just saw on this morning’s CBC News (March22, 10:00 am EDT) that the Yourdkhani family’s plight is far from over. They were only granted a six-month temporary residency permit. If their permanent claim is denied, they still face deportation. Consequently, we must remain vigilant to ensure that this does not happen.

We Canadians pride ourselves in our welcoming, multi-cultural society that provides safe haven to those seeking a better life. Let us show this by granting the Yourdkhani family permanent residency. This family must be allowed to remain in Canada so that they can live a normal life, free from threat of persecution and imprisonment. Diane Finley and her department must do the right thing!

UPDATE: Good news about Kevin Yourdkhani and his parents!

March 13, 2007

I just came home from an important meeting and saw the emails from my blogger friends about the good news regarding little Kevin Yourdkhani and his parents. Looks like they will be coming back here soon:

Updated Mon. Mar. 12 2007 8:22 PM ET News Staff

A nine-year-old boy and his Iranian parents held in a Texas detention centre for illegal immigrants are being granted temporary passage to Canada.

Kevin Yourdkhani (a Canadian citizen) and his parents were detained last month by U.S. Customs officials after their flight to Toronto made an unscheduled stop on American soil.

“The minister’s decision was made in the best interests of the child,” said Mike Fraser, a spokesperson for Immigration and Citizenship Minister Diane Finley. “This is a unique situation.”

Citing privacy concerns, Fraser said he couldn’t comment on how soon the family may leave the T. Don Hutto facility outside Austin, Tex., or how long the family will be able to stay in Canada.

Read full CTV article: Detained family given temporary passage to Canada.

Although Diane Finley’s spokesperson Mike Fraser would not comment on when the family will leave Hutto or how long they will be allowed to stay in Canada, it is good to know that at least they will be returning here, hopefully soon. Kevin has suffered more than any young child should suffer.

…And you can bet that little ‘ole moi’ here will keep a vigilant eye on this family’s situation, refugee claim and asylum. Let’s hope that they won’t fall through the cracks of our immigration and refugee system again. With all they’ve been through, this family deserves a chance at a decent life.

My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful, compassionate bloggers here who unquestioningly came to the assistance of this family when they saw what I was trying to do. Without your tireless, ongoing support, my little voice would have been lost in the wilderness. You deserve kudos! Liberal catnip has been especially hard-working.

Here is another link to little Kevin’s story, this one from the CBC:
Family detained in U.S. granted permit to enter Canada.

** I must not forget the great help given by my Liberal MP, Dr. Ruby Dhalla who wrote a wonderful letter to Peter MacKay and followed up with phone calls. Thanks, Ruby!

Letter from Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla to Peter MacKay re: Kevin Yourdkhani

March 12, 2007

This is the letter sent by my Liberal MP Dr. Ruby Dhalla to Peter MacKay, as per my request to her. It is reprinted here with Ruby’s permission.

Here is the text of her letter for your website:

March 2, 2007

Hon. Peter MacKay, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa Ontario K1A 0G2

Dear Minister MacKay:

I have been contacted by a constituent to bring forward this urgent case regarding a nine year old Canadian boy and his Iranian parents who are being held in the T. Don Hutto Family Detention Centre in Taylor, Texas.

The family’s ordeal began 10 years ago when they left Iran and came to Canada seeking asylum. While living in Toronto, they gave birth to a son. However, on December 6, 2005, with all legal avenues exhausted, the parents were deported back to Iran along with their son.

On February 4th, 2007, while returning to Canada from Guyana, this family’s flight was diverted to the United States of America due to another passenger suffering from heart failure. While disembarking the plane, the American authorities noticed that the family was travelling with false passports. The family is now being detained at a family detention centre in Texas.

Although I do not condone the use of falsified documentation, my concerns are for the welfare of the young boy who is a Canadian citizen.

I would appreciate your kind attention to this matter and please feel free to contact me should you need any more information


Dr. Ruby Dhalla
Member of Parliament



Andrea Dillon
Special Assistant
Office of Dr. Ruby Dhalla, MP
Brampton – Springdale
West Block, Room 218
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

T: 613.995.4843
F: 613.995.7003