Friday, September 16, 2005

Two things today


Re: 72-Day Hunger strike of Mohammad Mahjoub

Dear Mr. McGuinty,

I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to meet the legitimate demands of Mohammad Mahjoub, who has been detained without trial in an Ontario prison for over five years and is now on Day 72 of a hunger strike (Sept. 16) to demand minimally decent conditions of detention. His main demands include proper medical treatment for the Hepatitis C he contracted at the jail (a prescribed liver biopsy has been denied), proper medical care for as knee injury sustained at the jail, filling a long-neglected prescription for eyeglasses, and touch visits with his young children once a month.Given that Mr. Mahjoub is not hooked up to any medical monitoring devices, there is a real danger that his blood pressure may take a sudden drop and send him into a coma without anyone knowing before it is too late. Mr. Mahjoub has requested that he be hospitalized given his extremely weak, and painful state. He also needs authorized individuals from your government to meet with him, his family, and his legal representatives to negotiate a solution to this crisis.

Mr. Mahjoub has requested that you or someone from your government immediately contact his authorized representative and friend, Matthew Behrens, at (416) 651-5800 or, to arrange an emergency meeting to include Mona Elfouli, who is married to Mahjoub, to reach a just and humane solution.So far, there has been no response from Monte Kwinter, whose portfolio includes responsibility for detainees in provincial detention centres, and time is running out on Mr. Mahjoub.

Although Mr. Mahjoub is a federal detainee, he is within your jurisdiction in a provincial jail, and it is therefore your responsibility to respond to this crisis.Montreal-based medical professionals have stated, in a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin, that Mahjoub is at imminent risk of permanent, severe impairment, and very possibly, of death.

By way of comparison: in 1981, Bobby Sands and 9 other IRA prisoners on hunger strike died after periods varying from 46 to 73 days after sustaining severe organ damage (e.g., blindness). Several survivors of the strike remained permanently handicapped. In 1996, many Kurdish hunger strikers in Turkey died after periods of 65 to 69 days.

Please intervene immediately to try to find a humane solution to this situation. You have the power, and therefore the moral responsibility, to resolve this crisis.Surely it is not too much to ask for a monthly contact visit with two small children and for proper medical care.

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on respecting basic human rights. Please remain true to this fundamental value. Should Mohammad Mahjoub die or be permanently handicapped, it would be to our lasting shame and dishonour as Canadians and as members of the human family.

I look forward to your prompt response to my letter and to positive action to resolve this crisis.



University spokesman John Danakas would not say what restrictions the university would place on how the video is screened, because those details have not yet been discussed with the researchers. That's 3 years after the film, which the the University of Manitoba is worried might offend Monsanto, was made. That needs to be set in the context of just how far some Canadian universities allow their staff to go in operating as propagandists for the biotech industry. A situation which has lead one Canadian academic to comment, "what some are doing today under the umbrella of academic freedom is actually not far removed from the proclamations of Orwell's Ministry of Truth." Such academic propagandists, of course, can attract significant industry funding. Witness the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph which has attracted funding from Monsanto, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred, ConAgra, McCain, McDonald's, Nestle, Ag-West Biotech, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., Southern Crop Protection Association, Pharmacia, AgCare, the (biotech industry funded) Council for Biotechnology Information, etc., etc.

Researchers say University of Manitoba blocked video on GM crops
by Helen Fallding

Stephane McLachlan, an environment professor at the University of Manitoba, and his PhD student Ian Mauro, were cited as accusing the university of blocking the release of their video exploring the risks of genetically modified crops while at the same time courting funds from biotech companies.

The story explains that the two completed a feature-length documentary in 2002 with help from independent Winnipeg filmmaker Jim Sanders, and is based on interviews with Prairie farmers about their experiences - good and bad - with genetically modified canola.

But the Seeds of Change video has never been screened because the university and the researchers, who share the copyright, have been unable to negotiate an agreement on its release.

The story explains that the university originally demanded assurances it would not be liable if anyone sued. One insurer demanded a $50,000 deductible for any lawsuits by crop marketer Monsanto, which has a reputation for protecting its interests vigorously through the courts.

The company is featured in the documentary because of its legal battle with a Saskatchewan farmer and its development of genetically modified wheat. Monsanto Canada spokeswoman Trish Jordan was quoted as saying, "Obviously, we've never seen (the video), so I'm not sure how these guys could assume that we would sue them."

Now that a private investor has pulled out of the Seeds of Change project and the filmmakers have made it clear they don't intend to make a profit, the lawsuit issue has apparently been dropped by the university.

Alan Simms, who represented the university in early negotiations before going on to head the university's Smartpark research complex, was quoted as saying, "I've seen (the video) and I think it's fair. It's not a biased kind of thing."

But McLachlan said the university is still demanding control over where and when the video is shown, while at the same time requiring a disclaimer indicating the project has nothing to do with the university.

University spokesman John Danakas would not say what restrictions the university would place on how the video is screened, because those details have not yet been discussed with the researchers.The university wants to make sure the documentary is only used for educational purposes, he said.


Mel said...

Did #2 just come out? I looked for it in Saturday's paper and couldn't find it.

Timothy said...

I heard that the article was in the Saturday Winnipeg Free Press, but I missed it. (I had no loony after supper at Affinity!) I received a link to the article through an email from

Anonymous said...

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