June 3, 2009

Pt 1: Legal Aid - On any given day, Canadian courts are filled with people who wouldn't be able to afford a lawyer if it weren't for legal aid. About 1.2 million defendants in either criminal or civil cases applied for legal assistance in Canada last year.

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Pt 2: Afghanistan Doc - The Laws Between Worlds - In April, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a law that shocked even some of his most ardent supporters. The law would have made it illegal for a Shiite woman to refuse her husband sex or to leave the house without his permission. After intense criticism, President Karzai has now ordered a constitutional review of the law.

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Pt 3: Jaffna Tamil Library - Twenty-eight years ago this week, the residents of Jaffna -- a predominantly Tamil city in northern Sri Lanka -- were sifting through the wreckage after several days of rioting.

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Today's guest host was Nancy Wilson.


It's Wednesday June 3rd.

A new biography of Attila the Hun paints him as a savvy, deft and "surprisingly civilized" political operator.

Currently, Dick Cheney still comes off as a thug.

This is the Current.

Legal Aid - Ontario

On any given day, Canadian courts are filled with people who wouldn't be able to afford a lawyer if it weren't for legal aid. About 1.2 million defendants in either criminal or civil cases applied for legal assistance in Canada last year.

But many of the lawyers who take legal aid cases say they are over-worked and under-paid. And now the Criminal Lawyers' Association has voted to stop taking new Legal Aid cases in Ontario if they are related to homicides, guns or alleged gang activity.

Nic Rozier is a criminal defense lawyer in Toronto who does legal aid work. She hasn't decided what she thinks of the boycott yet. But she is very clear about why she does the work. We aired a clip.

You also heard from Gary Petrie and Ron Murphy, who rely on legal aid to get through the court system. Nic Rozier did not sign the petition, but more than 130 other defense lawyers have signed on to the Criminal Lawyers' Association's legal-aid boycott. Frank Addario is among them. He's also the President of the Criminal Lawyers' Association and he was in Toronto.

Legal Aid - Manitoba

In Manitoba, the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association considered a similar job action several years ago. But ultimately the association felt that its clients would be the ones who suffered.

Josh Weinstein is a member of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association. He's also the Chair of the National Criminal Justice section of the Canadian Bar Association and he was in Winnipeg.

Afghanistan Doc - The Laws Between Worlds

In April, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a law that shocked even some of his most ardent supporters. The law would have made it illegal for a Shiite woman to refuse her husband sex or to leave the house without his permission. After intense criticism, President Karzai has now ordered a constitutional review of the law.

But even so, the experience has left many people wondering just how deep a mark the Taliban has left on the country and what kind of cultural legacy has yet to be fully confronted. Brishkay Ahmed is a documentary producer who lives in Vancouver with her extended family. She was born in Afghanistan and she remembers a moment in time when the country's laws promised equal rights to men and women.

Last year, she went back to Kabul to visit a place called the Family Guidance Centre. It is run by the organization Women for Afghan Women and at that centre, Afghan lawyers and councilors fight -- one client at a time -- to reinstate the equality that once existed in Afghanistan.

Brishkay Ahmed's documentary is called The Laws Between Worlds.

Since the Family Guidance Centre opened in Kabul in 2007, about 500 women and girls have received counseling and mediation services to resolve family conflicts. The centre gets about 40 to 50 new cases every month. The centre's shelter, which is hidden in another part of Kabul, houses 35 women and 20 children at any one time.

Many of the centre's' clients travel from rural provinces where the kinds of services it provides do not exist. Since the centre in Kabul first opened, three other centres like it have opened in other parts of the country. The staff say the goal is to one day open a centre in the Taliban-dominated province of Khandahar.

Music Bridge

Performer: Five Stone
CD: Instrumentals
Cut: "All together Now"
Label: November Sixteenth Publishing

Jaffna Tamil Library - Cheran

Twenty-eight years ago this week, the residents of Jaffna -- a predominantly Tamil city in northern Sri Lanka -- were sifting through the wreckage after several days of rioting.

Tamils had become the targets of Sinhalese anger after two police officers -- one of them Sinhalese -- were killed at a Tamil political protest a few days earlier. The riots had been violent and bloody and they culminated in an event that would turn out to be a catalyst for the decades of fighting that were to come.

On June 1st of 1981, police and government-sponsored paramilitaries marched on the Jaffna Library and burned it to the ground ... along with an estimated 97,000 books and documents, including some of the most treasured Tamil cultural texts in Sri Lanka.

CVK Sivaganam was Jaffna's Municipal Commissioner at the time. He tried to approach the Library that day, but was threatened by Sinhalese police. He also tried to launch an investigation into the role the police played in the destruction of the library, but says he was threatened into silence. We aired a clip with how he remembered that day.

R. Cheran witnessed what happened that day too. He was an undergraduate Tamil student at the University of Jaffna at the time. He's now a poet and a professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Windsor. And R. Cheran was in Toronto.

Jaffna Tamil Library - Knuth

The burning of the Jaffna Library is just one example of an instance when books have been specifically targeted in a conflict. Rebecca Knuth has studied that history extensively. She's a professor in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii. She's also the author of Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction and she was in Honolulu.

Last Word - Jaffna Library Music

And we'll leave you this morning with some music inspired by the poetry of R. Cheran ... the Tamil man who was a witness to the destruction of Jaffna's Public Library on June 1st, 1981. Using his poetry as lyrics, a group of Canadian-Sri Lankan musicians produced a CD called Speaking to the Wind. The song is called, Our Home, Our Land.

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