Archive for January, 2012

January 26, 2012: Ottawa

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

In 1939, 937 men, women, and children found themselves in a nightmare on a ship in the Atlantic. They had sailed from Nazi Germany on the MS St. Louis to seek refuge in the West. But, because they were Jews, Cuba, the United States, and Canada all turned them away.

Returning to Europe, they faced the full impact of the Holocaust; many of them dying. This was a dark stain on our history. One we need to be reminded of. One we need to understand. One that will – hopefully – never be repeated.

Ambassador Jacobson speaks with Herbert Karliner

Last night, Julie and I attended the Ottawa Jewish Youth Library’s book launch where we were introduced to the book So Near, Yet So Far: Clara’s Voyage on the MS St. Louis. Four speakers connected to the project, which was in part sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Embassy, spoke to the audience.

Author Sara Lowenthal read her poignant and powerful children’s book. Illustrator Nicholas Jackson described how he created pictures to faithfully tell this story to young readers without frightening them. Artist Michoel Muchnik shared his interpretation of the nine-foot bas-relief mural of the MS St. Louis that hangs in the Jewish Youth Library and which he created for this launch.

But, most memorable of all, was Herbert Karliner, now over 80 years old, who told the story of what it was like to be a 12-year old boy on the MS St. Louis. He was one of the survivors.

Ambassador Jacobson, Member of Parliament Rick Dykstra, Herbert Karliner, survivor of the MS St. Louis; Miriam Ziv, Ambassador to Canada from Israel, and Devora Caytak, Director of the Jewish Youth Library

Sometimes there aren’t words to do justice in telling someone else’s story, and this was one of those times. I can’t possibly convey to you how his personal story made all of us part of the reality of this voyage and his life following.

Four people shared their stories – more than 200 left the auditorium with memories they’ll not forget.

You can read more about the MS St. Louis project on the U.S. Embassy’s Education & the Arts blog.

DJ

January 26, 2012: Ottawa

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Over the last two days, I participated — along with military, political and diplomatic leaders from the United States and Canada — in the 228th meeting of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defense. The PJBD says as much as anything about the nature of the relationship between our two countries. In a world marked by profound change, the Board is Permanent. It was formed in 1940 by the Ogdensburg Declaration, to create a body that could consider, in the broad sense, the security and defense of the northern half of the Western Hemisphere.

Each country provides a co-chair, along with a mix of military and civilian members. The Canadian co-chair Laurie Hawn, the Member of Parliament from Edmonton Centre, is my friend from our trip together to Afghanistan over Christmas in 2009. Laurie was joined by the new US co-chair, John Spratt. John is a recently retired congressman from South Carolina. During his distinguished career he was the Chair of the House Committee on the Budget, and the long time member of the Armed Services Committee. The two of them will, no doubt carry on the Board’s distinguished tradition.

The first US co-chair back in 1940 was Fiorello LaGuardia. He famously said: “My generation has failed miserably. We’ve failed because of lack of courage and vision. It requires more courage to keep the peace than to go to war.” The meeting here in Ottawa was part of our bilateral effort to display the courage and the vision necessary to keep the peace in North America and around the world. (I believe LaGuardia also invented the phrase “your plane is delayed.”)

During the course of the meeting, we signed three agreements that will contribute to the safety and security of our citizens on both sides of the border. The first was the Civil Assistance Plan (CAP), which is a plan for Northern Command in the U.S. and Canada Command to provide support to civil authorities in the event of a disaster in either country. The second is the Combined Defense Plan (CDP), which gives guidance to our militaries on how to defend North America. The third is a Memorandum of Understanding that will allow us to share information more readily.

Among the attendees at the meeting was the Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Marc Grégoire. Commissioner Grégoire is leading the Coast Guard during an exceptionally exciting time. In addition to their daily duties of search and rescue, maritime safety and security, icebreaking and maintaining navigation aids, today, January 26, 2012, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Commissioner Grégoire indicated this would be commemorated on the newly released Canadian 50 dollar bill. The Canadian Coast Guard is part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding and Procurement Strategy and, as part of that project, design work has begun on a new state-of-the-art polar icebreaker.

I’d like to join the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Bob Papp, who was also at the meeting, in congratulating the Canadian Coast Guard for 50 years of service to Canada, humanity and the environment and to offer my thanks for being such a valued and critical maritime partner of the United States.

DJ

January 10, 2012: Ottawa

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

This morning I had the honor of attending the award of the United States Legion of Merit to Canadian Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard.  Admiral Sam Locklear the Commander of US Naval forces in Europe and the NATO Commander of the Allied Joint Forces in Naples traveled from Italy to make the presentation in recognition of the Lt General Bouchard’s valiant leadership of Operation Unified Protector in Libya.

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III, presents the U.S. Legion of Merit award to Lieutenant-General Joseph Jacques Charles Bouchard for exceptionally meritorious service as Deputy Commander, Allied Joint Force Command, Naples and Commander, Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, from October 2009 to December 2011

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III, presents the U.S. Legion of Merit award to Lieutenant-General Joseph Jacques Charles Bouchard for exceptionally meritorious service as Deputy Commander, Allied Joint Force Command, Naples and Commander, Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, from October 2009 to December 2011

 

The United States Legion of Merit is special.  It is one of the highest honors my country can bestow upon a foreign soldier.  It is given very rarely and only for “exceptionally meritorious service.”  Among the recipients have been Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Charles DeGaulle, King George VI, George Vanier, and Ehud Barack.   

Canadians should feel rightly proud of the service of General Bouchard in the Libya campaign.  He has brought credit to himself, his family, and to his country.

 DJ

January 11, 2012: Ottawa

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Yesterday I attended the Ottawa premiere of “The Price of Sex”, a documentary film by renowned photojournalist Mimi Chakarova. In the film Chakarova, who was born in Bulgaria and emigrated to the United States in 1989 after the fall of Communism, documents the horrors of sex slavery in her former homeland and other countries in Eastern Europe.  After earning the trust of victims over the course of many years, she was allowed to film several of the girls and young women affected by human trafficking as they recounted their heartbreaking and horrifying firsthand accounts.  She also put herself into incredible danger by going undercover into the sex clubs where the women were being exploited.  For this work, she was awarded Human Rights Watch’s 2011 Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking.

Hundreds of thousands of young women have been tricked into sex slavery. Many of them are single mothers, trying to support their families, and they jump at the promise of decent jobs elsewhere doing work such as waitressing or factory work.  In fact, they become a commodity in the same illicit market that includes trafficking of narcotics and arms and they are treated with unbearable cruelty and indifference.

It is almost inconceivable to me that human beings could treat others with a level of cruelty that, were they to treat a dog like this, would land them in jail in the United States or Canada. The film opened my eyes to the scope and scorching pain of the human trafficking problem. While it is difficult to watch – you should see it. Ask your local library to obtain a copy of the film, or go to www.priceofsex.org to view an extensive multi-media presentation of her work.  The best weapon against this blight is awareness.

Filmmaker Mimi Chakarova speaks at Ottawa screening of "The Price of Sex".

Afterward there was a lively Q & A session with Chakarova.  Julie and I then joined her for dinner, along with representatives of organizations in Canada and the United States including Human Rights Watch and Equal Voice as well as some of the people in the U.S. Embassy who work every day at combating human trafficking. We were able to continue the discussion about various aspects of the sex trade and possible solutions.

The President and Secretary Clinton have both forcefully condemned human trafficking as modern-day slavery and made its eradication a high priority.  I’m glad that our Embassy was able to contribute to the very important effort to educate and inform the public about this issue.

DJ

January 4, 2012: Ottawa

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Yesterday the citizens of Iowa (my wife’s home state) kicked off a series of primaries and caucuses that culminate with the general election on November 6.  Voting is one of our most important rights.  Every American citizen retains that right even if they are not in the United States on election day.  And one of our most important responsibilities at the U.S. Mission in Canada is to assist U.S. citizens to exercise that right to vote in U.S. elections.  If you’re not sure where to start, we are here to help you with the process. 

If you plan to vote by absentee ballot in the 2012 elections, now is the time to get started.  Although voting through absentee ballots may not be new to many Americans living in Canada, I want to make sure you know that for 2012 there has been a change to the process.  Starting this year, all overseas voters who want to cast an absentee ballot are required to submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) each year. This includes citizens registering to vote for the first time as well as those who have submitted absentee ballots in the past.  

Technology is making the voting process easier for Americans overseas.  Through the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) http://www.fvap.gov, you can ask your local election officials to provide blank ballots to you electronically and you can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online.  If you’ve never registered to vote or you aren’t sure in which state you should register, FVAP can also help with that.  And if you can’t find your answer there, we will help you, just contact the Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate for information and assistance.   http://canada.usembassy.gov/consulates.html 

Please take a moment to download and fill out an FPCA at https://www.fvap.gov/r3/privacyactnotice.  Some states allow you to submit the FPCA online; otherwise you can mail the FPCA yourself or drop by the Embassy or nearest Consulate to give your form to a consular officer who will forward the FPCA in the pre-paid envelope to the appropriate office.  http://canada.usembassy.gov/consulates.html 

As the President has observed, every Election Day underscores the strength and resilience of American democracy.  Regardless of the outcome, power in the United States rests with the people.  That is at the core of our system of representative and accountable government.  

I will be voting in the Illinois primary and in the General Election.  Our consular staff in the Embassy and Consulates General across Canada will do everything we can to ensure American citizens in Canada have the information they need to cast their votes. 

Please join me in this civic responsibility. 

DJ

January 3, 2012: Human Rights

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Guest Blogger: Julie Jacobson

Next Tuesday, the Embassy will partner with Human Rights Watch, Equal Voice and the Nobel Women’s Initiative for an important awareness event about human trafficking.  Award-winning documentary filmmaker Mimi Chakarova will be in Ottawa to present her harrowing documentary “The Price of Sex.” 

Bulgarian-born Chakarova and her family immigrated to the United States in 1990 following the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.  The film follows her return to her home a decade later and her discovery that new opportunities in the West left many of the old communities impoverished and without hope.  One tragic consequence was that hundreds of thousands of young women left their homes to follow a dream of economic security for their families, only to find that they had been tricked into a nightmare of sexual slavery with no hope of escape.

In the documentary, Chakarova follows the trail of these “disappeared women,”  forming relationships with several over a period of years.  She elicits their heartbreaking stories; even taking the extraordinary risk of going undercover in the sex clubs.

“The Price of Sex” has been shown around the world to critical acclaim and has received the Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking.  It casts a desperately needed spotlight on this worldwide crisis.  I’m proud, as an American, that my country has taken a leading role in trying to stop this cruelty.  Secretary of State Clinton has called it a modern form of slavery, and an affront to our values.  I couldn’t agree more.

The film is open to the public free of charge at The Library and Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington Street, at 2:00 pm on Tuesday January 10.  Following the screening, Mimi will answer questions from the audience.

To attend, please send an RSVP email to cultural@state.gov

Julie Jacobson