CUSJ’s ‘Academic’ awards for progressives in 2017

What a year 2017 was. As we contemplate the events of the past 12 months, what fun it is to pretend that we progressives could have our own Social Justice awards, a bit like the Oscars, minus the glitz and glamor, and with the understanding that the awards in this case are, virtual.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 22, 2015: Oscar Statuettes backstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Drumroll, please!

Most inspiring event for progressives: ICAN gets the Nobel Peace Prize

Category: Abolition of nuclear weapons

ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize was, at one and the same time the most significant, and yet the most quietly understated, media event of the year. Peace is like that! Not noisy at all.

Here is ICAN’s end of year message.

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Here is ICAN Director Beatrice Fihn being interviewed on Al Jazeera.

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Please, join the global movement to abolish nuclear weapons! Go to to sign up.

Potboiler award: Cdn Liberals renege on ER, BC Liberals cede to a PR-like coalition, and the PR saga continues

Category: Democracy and the struggle for Proportional representation

Early in 2017 we learned that the Liberals were reneging on their promise for electoral reform. CUSJ hoped that the vote on the Special Committee on Electoral Reform recommendations (the ERRE report) would revive the issue, but negative votes by Liberals defeated the motion, which fizzled in a 159 to 146 vote. The only two Liberals to vote for the motion were Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and Sean Casey.

However, Canadians’ quest for PR is far from over. Later in the year, after the Liberals won a minority government in BC, the BC Greens and the provincial NDP put their heads together and realized that together they held more seats than the Liberals… a coalition was formed, and the ruling Liberals were forced to cede their throne to the Green-NDP Coalition when they lost a confidence vote on June 29. The Lieutenant-Governor, in an unprecedented move, asked NDP John Horgan to form govenrment, and Premier Horgan’s NDP government was sworn in July 18. Clark, meanwhile, quit as Liberal leader July 28. (Read more here.)

Mark your calendars:

  • On October 1, 2018, Québec will be having a general election, and PR promises to be a campaign issue.
  • On November 30, 2018, the people of BC, now under a de facto PR government,  will be voting on whether to formally instate proportional representation. This would make BC the first province in Canada to adopt PR, which could have a domino effect!

Best example of torture outside of the context of war: Moe Harkat’s ongoing ordeal at the hands of the Canadian government

Category: Human rights

CUSJ continued to wait and hope for developments on the Moe Harkat case. There was little to report in 2017.

However, journalists like Matthew Behrens continue to keep this case in the public eye. In an epic letter written on December 10 2017, Human Rights Day, describing the surreal nature of Moe Harkat’s ordeal, which began with his detention in 2002, based on a secret hearing security certificate, and the experiences that have affected his mental and physical health and well being. Behren compares Harkat’s arrest to Kafka’s dystopian novel the Trial. Behrens’ letter concludes,

‘As the Harkats await word from the judge, they are also hoping to hear back from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. They applied for Moe to stay in Canada as a permanent resident by asking Goodale to find that Moe’s living here would not be contrary to Canada’s national interest. Over 700 letters of support were attached to that application. Finally, they are awaiting word from Trudeau’s immigration bureaucracy, which is currently considering submissions on whether Harkat should be deported to torture. Just another week in Kafka’s Canada.’

Most egregious example of politics over principle: Hassan Diab endures his fourth year in solitary confinement

Category: Human rights

CUSJ members continued to advocate for the release of Hassan Diab in 2017, through letters and phone calls. Most recently, in November and again in December 2017, some of us phoned the Prime Minister’s office asking him to speak with French President Macron to request that Professor Diab be returned to Canada.

Here is an excellent article that describes the parallels between the Diab case and the Dreyfus case in the 1890s, when a Jewish army officer was falsely accused of treason. Let us hope that, as was the case with Dreyfus, that the power of the written word will ultimately shame the government into acting to undo this great wrong, if only to preserve its reputation.

Slowest exit award goes to: Pipelines

Category: Environment

As the year draws to a close, we take heart in the fact that the Energy East pipeline was cancelled. The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, however, remains very much a threat. Here is an excellent animated report that shows just how damaging the Kinder Morgan pipeline would be.

The end-of-year letter from the Coast Protectors holds out many reasons for hope in the year ahead.

Thank God for small mercies award goes to: Carbon emissions

Category: Climate Change

Canada moved up from its 2016 position of 56th among all nations to 51st spot (out of 60) on the Climate Change Performance Index. Baby steps in a situation that demands galloping changes. The Canadian government needs a kick in the caboose to avoid a train wreck.

Worst neighbor ‘evah’ award goes to: Israel

Category: Israel and Palestine, Peace

CUSJ joined the ‘No Way to Treat a Child’ campaign, on behalf of children and youth detained and prosecuted in Israeli military courts.

CUSJ stood in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners on a hunger strike, began in April 2017 to highlight the mass detention and inhumane treatment of men, women and children. The hunger strike was suspended in late May, after some small concessions from the captors.

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In December, CUSJ decried the US’s attempt to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, a ploy that ultimately failed.


CUSJ was active in many other issues in 2017, submitting numerous letters and interventions on various National Security bills, such as Bill C-22, which was passed in April 2017, and Bill C-23, which was adopted in June of 2017.

Activists breathed easier in May 2017, when CRA reforms for charities came through, with the Report of the Consultation Panel on the Political Activities of Charities recommending, among other things, that charities be allowed to engage in public policy dialog and development, and that the Income Tax Act be amended to allow charities to engage in political activities.


The CUSJ Board, Chapters, and members will continue to pursue the social justice goals we have targeted for 2017-2018. As UUs, we generally eschew talk of belief systems, choosing to focus instead on our values and the seven principles. But the events of 2017, such as the ICAN successes, the burgeoning PR movement, the global community’s rejection of Trump’s latest ploy, to name a few, do tempt us to believe in the potential of humanity to overcome our greatest enemy (also humanity). May our inner fires of commitment continue to burn brightly in 2018!

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