April 26, 2010

Pt 1: Congo - The United Nations is asking Canada to offer up a general to command its peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After 14 years of fighting and as many as 5.4 million people killed, there are reports of an increase in violence and in particular rape in some parts of the country. (Read More)

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Pt 2: Speaker's Choice - House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken is expected to rule on whether the governing Conservatives are in contempt of Parliament. And some warn that could provoke a constitutional crisis, an election ... or maybe both. (Read More)

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Pt 3: Tom Rosenstiel - Tom Rosenstiel is one of the most widely respected voices on the state of journalism in North America. And he has good news and bad news. (Read More) 

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Whole Show Blow-by-Blow

It's Monday, April 26th.

House of Commons speaker Peter Milliken is expected to rule this week on whether Conservative MPs are in contempt of Parliament.

Currently, That's funny. I didn't know contempt and parliament were two different things.

This is The Current.

Congo - Banu Altunbas

Bibi Toomba lives in Montreal. She came to Canada from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1985. She still has family in the DRC ... brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews. She says she fears for their safety every day. We aired a clip.

* We should warn you that some of what Bibi Toomba describes is disturbing *

For the last 14 years, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been embroiled in a brutal civil war. As many as five million people have died from the fighting, as well as the illness and hunger that have resulted. That makes it the most lethal conflict since World War Two.

A little more than a year ago, President Joseph Kabila signed a peace deal with a key rebel group. But the violence hasn't stopped. Human Rights Watch says both the government and the rebels are committing "horrendous abuses" ... in particular, the use of rape as a weapon of war. There are 20,000 peacekeepers in the DRC. It's the United Nations' largest active peacekeeping force.

And now the U.N. is asking for Canada's help with the operation... specifically, to provide a General to lead the mission. Ottawa says it is considering the request. But there are widespread concerns about the significance of such an appeal.

Banu Altunbas knows firsthand what's at stake in the DRC. She's Medicine Sans Frontieres head of mission there. She was in Halifax this morning.

Link of interest: Medicine Sans Frontieres - Activities in Canada

Congo - Romeo Dallaire

Romeo Dallaire has taken a keen interest in the discussions about Canada's role in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He's a retired Canadian Lieutenant General. In 1994, he commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. His book, Shake Hands with The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda details his experiences during the genocide in that country. Romeo Dallaire is now a Liberal Senator. We reached him just outside of Ottawa today.


Speaker's Choice - Kady O'Malley

We started this segment with some tape from NDP MP Jack Harris. Last month, he presented a motion to the Speaker of the House of Commons ... a motion that asked the Speaker to find members of the Conservative Party in contempt of Parliament over their refusal to hand over documents related to the Afghan detainee controversy.

Sometime this week, Speaker of the House Peter Milliken is expected to respond to that motion, as well as two others that are similar... one from the Bloc Quebecois and another from the Liberal Party.

And there's a lot at stake. According to close observers, what Speaker Milliken says could set a constitutional precedent. It could re-define whether Parliament or the Prime Minister reigns supreme in Ottawa. It could even provoke an election.

And so, as politicians, political junkies and constitutional experts sit on tenterhooks, we asked you -- Canadians in St. John's, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Calgary -- to give us your version of how we got here in the first place. We played some tape.

So with MPs locked in a war of motions -- and -- emotions ... Peter Milliken must now decide who reigns supreme in Ottawa. Kady O'Malley is the CBC's Parliamentary blogger, and we reached her in Ottawa as she was filing about today's events.

Speakers Choice - Panel

It's not just those inside Parliament who are eagerly anticipating the Speaker's decision this week. Just a couple of blocks away from the House of Commons, the issue was being framed this way.

For their thoughts on the importance of this decision and the impact it will have, we were joined by three people. Errol Mendes is a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Ottawa. He was in Ottawa. And Ned Franks is a political scientist. He once taught Speaker Peter Milliken at Queen's University. He was in Kingston. And Patrick Monahan is a constitutional law expert and the Vice-President Academic and Provost of York University. He was in Toronto.


Tom Rosenstiel

These are tough times for the news media. The job losses and shrinking revenues that swept across so many sectors in the wake of last year's economic downturn have had a devastating effect on news outlets. Many are now focused on trying to regain at least some of the revenue they lost, now that the economy is showing signs of improving.

But there are other challenges as well. Social media and alternative journalism organizations are challenging the dominance of the traditional media. And many news outlets are having to re-think some of their most fundamental assumptions about how they work.

Tom Rosenstiel knows these issues well. He is the author of several books, including The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. He's also the Director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. The center has released its Annual Report on the State of the News Media. Tom Rosenstiel was in our Toronto studio.

*** You can watch this interview on our video edition of The Current. ***

Last Word - Congotronics

We closed the program today by returning to the Democratic Republic of Congo and a sound that is echoing through the bustling suburbs of the capital city, Kinshasha. It's a reminder that even in war there's a place for music. It is called Congotronics ... the collision of traditional, heavily percussive Congolese music and improvised electronics. This song is from Konono No. 1, it's called Ungudi Wele Wele.


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