Leading minister resigns over scandal that threatens Trudeau
BY ROB GILLIES
Tuesday, March 5
TORONTO (AP) — A leading Cabinet minister in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government resigned Monday, becoming the second minister to step down over a scandal that has shaken the government in an election year.
Treasury Board president Jane Philpott, considered a star minister, said in a resignation letter that it was “untenable” for her to continue in the Cabinet because she lost confidence and could not defend the government.
Philpott’s friend, former Attorney General and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, testified last week that Trudeau and senior members of his government inappropriately tried to pressure her to avoid prosecution of a major Canadian engineering company in a case involving allegations of corruption in Libya.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from Cabinet last month after being demoted to veteran affairs minister the month before.
The scandal has rocked Trudeau’s government. Gerald Butts, his closet adviser and best friend, also resigned last month and is scheduled to testify Wednesday before a Parliament justice committee in Trudeau’s defense.
“I know Philpott has felt this way for some time. And while I am disappointed, I understand her decision to step down. I want to thank her for her service,” Trudeau said at a campaign-style event.
Trudeau said he takes the concerns very seriously and said the matter has generated an important discussion.
“But at the same time, we need to keep in mind the bigger picture,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau has acknowledged raising the issue with Wilson-Raybould, but has said that was appropriate.
“I have concluded that I must resign as a member of Cabinet,” Philpott wrote. “Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”
Philpott, a physician, is a former minister of health and minister of indigenous services and was widely viewed as of one of Trudeau’s most competent Cabinet ministers.
“The evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin, and the evidence as to the content of those efforts have raised serious concerns for me,” Philpott wrote.
“I must abide by my core values, my ethical responsibilities and constitutional obligations. There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.”
Philpott said she would continue as a Parliament member for Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
Wilson-Raybould said the same last week but declined to say she had confidence in Trudeau. Trudeau said earlier Monday he was still deciding whether Wilson-Raybould could remain a member of his party in Parliament.
Trudeau thanked Philpott for her service in a short statement that said he would have more to say later in Toronto.
The leader of the opposition Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer, said at a news conference that Philpott’s resignation demonstrates “a government in total chaos” and called again for Trudeau to resign and for a police investigation of the affair.
Wilson-Raybould testified last week she was pressured to instruct the director of public prosecutions to negotiate a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin. The agreement would have allowed the company to pay reparations but avoid a criminal trial on charges of corruption and bribery. But Wilson-Raybould said the pressure was not illegal and said she was not instructed to interfere.
If convicted criminally, the Montreal-based company would be banned from receiving any federal government business for a decade. SNC-Lavalin is an economic force in Canada, with 9,000 employees in the country and about 50,000 worldwide.
“This is a spectacular blow to the government” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “It has become rare that ministers resign on principle in Canada. And now we’ve had two in such a short time. It reveals deep division in the Cabinet about how to deal with Jody Wilson-Raybould.”
He said he thinks that most ministers and Liberal lawmakers want to kick her out of the party and that Philpott does not agree with them.
Wiseman said the last time he can recall something like this was in 1963 when three Cabinet ministers resigned over then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s opposition to the stationing of American nuclear weapons on Canadian soil.
“This blow won’t bring down the government, and Trudeau, like Diefenbaker, will survive and fight back,” Wiseman said.
Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto, said the resignations speak to Trudeau’s failure to connect with his own troops.
“His failure to give a vigorous but reasoned response at the beginning of this pseudo-scandal allowed it to grow into Godzilla,” Bothwell said.
Bothwell said Trudeau is not like his father, the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who swept to office in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed “Trudeaumania” and governed for most of the next two decades.
“Previous prime ministers benefited from experience and seniority, or respect, or fear, or just the feeling that they knew the way better than anybody else. Trudeau the father had all these attributes,” Bothwell said.
Kashmir conflict is not just a border dispute between India and Pakistan
March 4, 2019
Author: Chitralekha Zutshi, Professor of History, College of William & Mary
Disclosure statement: Chitralekha Zutshi has received funding from the American Institute of Indian Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have diminished in recent days after repeated military clashes in Kashmir led to fear that the two nuclear powers could be on the verge of war.
Kashmir is a disputed territory divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both sides.
The latest Kashmir standoff was triggered by a Feb. 14 suicide bombing by Jaish-e-Muhammad, a militant group with links to al-Qaida and founded by the Pakistan-based cleric Masood Azhar. More than 40 Indian soldiers died.
India blamed Pakistan for providing moral and material support to the terrorist organization, which is banned in Pakistan but operates openly there. On Feb. 26, India launched air strikes against Jaish-e-Muhammad’s training camps on the Pakistani side of Kashmir.
Pakistan retaliated, claiming to have shot down two Indian fighter jets on Feb. 28. Indian sources said that just one Pakistani jet and one Indian jet had been downed, and an Indian pilot taken hostage by Pakistan.
Pakistan has since released the pilot, soothing tempers – for now, at least.
The Kashmir issue has caused tension and conflict in the Indian subcontinent since 1947, when independence from Britain created India and Pakistan as two sovereign states.
Jammu and Kashmir – the full name of the princely Himalayan state, then ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh – acceded to India in 1947, seeking military support after tribal raids from Pakistan into the state’s territory.
The two countries have fought three wars over the region since.
The first, which began in 1947, ended with the partition of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan under a 1949 United Nations-brokered ceasefire. Wars in 1965 and 1999 ended in stalemate.
But Kashmir is not simply a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan.
As illustrated in my recent edited volume on the history of this contested territory, Kashmir is a multi-ethnic region with several internal subregions, whose inhabitants have distinct political goals.
Pakistani Kashmir consists of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, jurisdictions that want to become formal provinces of Pakistan to gain more political autonomy over their internal affairs.
Indian Kashmir includes Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley. While the first two regions desire to remain part of India, the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley wants independence from it.
A many-sided conflict
The desire for autonomy in different areas of Kashmir has led to repeated uprisings and independence movements.
The most prominent is a violent insurgency against Indian rule in the Kashmir Valley that began in 1989 and has continued, in ebbs and flows, over the past three decades. Thousands have been killed.
The Kashmir Valley has become a militarized zone, effectively occupied by Indian security forces. According to the United Nations, Indian soldiers have committed numerous human rights violations there, including firing on protesters and denying due process to people arrested.
The UN also cites Pakistan’s role in the violence in Kashmir. Its government supports the movement for Kashmir’s independence from India by providing moral and material support to Kashmiri militants – allegations the Pakistani government refutes. Pakistan also tacitly supports the operations in Kashmir of non-Kashmiri extremist groups like Jaish-e-Muhammad.
As a result, consecutive Indian governments have managed to write off unrest in the Kashmir Valley as a byproduct of its territorial dispute with Pakistan.
In doing so, India has avoided addressing the actual political grievances of Indian Kashmiris.
An entire generation of young Kashmiris have been raised during the 30-year insurgency. They are deeply alienated from India, research shows, and view it as an occupying power.
Militant groups in the region tap into this discontent, recruiting young people to use violence in their quest for Kashmir’s freedom. Indeed, the man who under the auspices of Jaish-e-Muhmamad blew himself up in the Feb. 14 suicide bombing of the Indian military convoy was a young Kashmiri.
Ending the conflict
Tensions in Kashmir may have subsided, but the root causes of the violence there have not.
In my assessment, the Kashmir dispute cannot be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan alone – even if the two countries were willing to work together to resolve their differences.
This is because the conflict has many sides: India, Pakistan, the five regions of Kashmir and numerous political organizations.
Establishing peace in the region would require both India and Pakistan to reconcile the multiple – and sometimes conflicting – aspirations of the diverse peoples of this region.
Only when local aspirations are recognized, addressed and debated alongside India and Pakistan’s nationalist and strategic goals will a durable solution emerge to one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
World’s oldest tattooist’s toolkit found in Tonga contains implements made of human bone
March 4, 2019
Michelle Langley, ARC DECRA Research Fellow, Griffith University
Geoffrey Clark, Associate professor, Australian National University
Disclosure statement: Michelle Langley is a ARC DECRA Research Fellow in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She receives funding from the Australian Research Council. email@example.com receives funding from The Australian Research Council
Partners: Griffith University and Australian National University provide funding as members of The Conversation AU.
Four small artefacts found on the island of Tongatapu, Tonga are among the earliest tattooing equipment known. Two have been found to be made from human bone.
Since their original discovery in 1963, the Tongatapu artefacts have been in storage at the Australian National University awaiting further examination. In 2016, we took the first really good look at these artefacts using the modern methods and techniques now available to archaeologists.
Through directly dating a sample from one of the combs (the blades that drove the ink into the dermis layer of skin), we determined that the four artefacts were 2,700-years-old – much older than originally thought.
Careful examination also discovered that while two of the combs were made of sea bird bone (such as albatross), the other two were made from the bones of a large land mammal – probably human.
Why human bone? No large mammals were present on Tonga apart from people at that time and early burials from the Pacific show that bones were often taken from burials. We also know that human bone was a favoured material used to make tattooing combs in more recent times.
Tattoo combs made from human bone could mean that people were permanently marked by tools made from the bones of their relatives – a way of combining memory and identity in their artwork.
Originally found alongside the combs was a small pot likely containing tattooing ink. Together, these artefacts made up a tattoist’s toolkit – something exceedingly rare in the archaeological record – and the oldest set of its kind found.
Evidence rarely survives
There is little evidence for early tattooing because tattooed human skin rarely survives intact enough for us to be able to see an inked design.
Thus far, the earliest evidence for tattooing reaches back to 5,300 years – the oldest known case being two ancient Egyptian mummies with small motifs inked into their upper arms.
Other early examples include the famous “Ice man” of the Italian Alps and the Siberian “princess” found with extraordinarily complex designs across her body.
The discovery of implements used in tattooing is even rarer. This is because identifying tools used to ink one’s skin is exceptionally difficult – any sharp object could potentially be utilised. Also, the kind of evidence needed to positively identify a tattooing blade (such as ink) often doesn’t survive.
The oldest surviving tattooing tools found so far are sharp flakes made of obsidian (volcanic glass) used 3,500 years ago in New Guinea for piercing or puncturing the skin, and in Egypt, single metal or stone points that might be tattooing equipment dating back to 3,200 BC.
In Oceania, we don’t have mummies to help us figure out when tattooing first appeared because skin doesn’t survive our harsh tropical conditions. So, instead we must look for less direct clues – such as tools.
Technology still used today
While the Tongatapu bone combs are younger than the metal and stone points previously found, they are part of a far more complex technology – one which is still used in present day traditional tattooing.
In the Pacific, tattooing has a long history. The unique and powerful designs made an impact on early European explorers to the region, and the return of tattooed sailors, beachcombers, and Indigenous peoples to Europe created lasting interest in the practice.
Ultimately, it was this contact between European and Pacific cultures that led to the vibrant modern tattooing traditions and the spread of Polynesian inspired tattoos all over the world today. (Ironically, in the 19th century missionaries suppressed tattooing in parts of the Pacific and in Tonga itself, people had to travel to Samoa to be tattooed.)
Hear about the importance of tattooing in the Pacific from those using tools near identical to the Tongatapu artefacts.
Despite the importance of tattooing to past and current Pacific peoples, we don’t actually know if it was something that arrived with the first human colonists to the islands around 3,500 years ago – or if it was invented at some point afterwards.
With this discovery, however, we now know that the complex inline tattooing combs were already present in Tonga almost 3,000 years ago and that they may very well have been invented there.
William Stewart: That’s very interesting except..
“Careful examination also discovered that while two of the combs were made of sea bird bone (such as albatross), the other two were made from the bones of a large land mammal – probably human.”
Wouldn’t the “careful examination” have come up with something more conclusive than “such as” and “probably”?
As the author points our, tattooing was widespread in primitive societies. It undoubtedly meant something then. The tradition was kept alive by people who wanted a permanent record of doing “something”. Serving on a ship, in a regiment, being in a particular gang.
Nowadays it means nothing at all. It’s just another form of graffitti.