Jaws of Life, defibrillators and ground search and rescue vehicles are just some of the things that will enhance safety in communities provincewide, thanks to help from the province’s Emergency Services Provider Fund. In total, 222 volunteer fire departments and emergency response organizations across the province will benefit from the fund, with 124 of those projects being announced today, March 19. “Firefighters and first responders are the backbone of our communities”, said Premier Rodney MacDonald. “This fund supports the work they do everyday to keep us safe in our neighbourhoods, town and cities. I wish to extend my heartfelt thanks to the many volunteer firefighters and emergency services workers for their self-less dedication to their communities and to our province.” Announced in September 2007, the fund began as a one-time, $5-million initiative. However, it has grown to almost $8.5 million to address the unique equipment and infrastructure needs of Nova Scotia’s volunteer fire departments and emergency response organizations. These organizations include ground search and rescue, lifeguards and ski patrols. “This financial support will help many volunteer firefighters and first responders get the equipment they need to stay safe while they respond to the safety needs of Nova Scotians in communities across the province,” said Jamie Muir, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. “It also assists these groups to purchase equipment to help keep our families safer in our homes and on our roads.” Wayne MacDonald, deputy chief of the East River Valley Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the first recipients to receive funding under this initiative. “With government’s help, we now can buy the much-needed equipment sooner,” said Mr. MacDonald. “We are buying new radios for communications, breathing apparatus bottles, masks, nozzles and proper hoses. One of our biggest purchases was the thermal imaging camera, which will help us to find the source of the fires sooner.” The fund also supported the infrastructure needs of various emergency groups and fire stations. The Berwick Fire Department for example, will receive $250,000 towards the construction of a new fire station. “We know that this fund will not fix everything or purchase every piece of equipment. But, it is a big step in the right direction,” said the premier. The fund was application-based and provided for a maximum of $250,000 for eligible projects. Projects have been approved for every county in Nova Scotia. A complete list of projects funded through the Emergency Services Provider Fund can be found at www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/muns/espf .
Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said in a new report that legal justifications for targeted killings were often based on “excessively broad circumstances” and there was a lack of essential accountability mechanisms to ensure that they were legal.“In terms of the first problem, there are indeed circumstances in which targeted killings may be legal,” Mr. Alston noted. “They are permitted in armed conflict situations when used against combatants or fighters, or civilians who directly engage in combat-like activities.“But they are increasingly being used far from any battle zone. The United States, in particular, has put forward a novel theory that there is a ‘law of 9/11’ that enables it to legally use force in the territory of other States as part of its inherent right to self-defence on the basis that it is in an armed conflict with al-Qaida, the Taliban and ‘associated forces’, although the latter group is fluid and undefined.“This expansive and open-ended interpretation of the right to self-defence goes a long way towards destroying the prohibition on the use of armed force contained in the UN Charter. If invoked by other States, in pursuit of those they deem to be terrorists and to have attacked them, it would cause chaos,” Mr. Alston writes in his report to the UN Human Rights Council.He emphasized that he did not question the seriousness of the challenges posed by terrorism, saying he wholeheartedly condemned actions of al-Qaida and other groups that killed innocent civilians, as well as those that increased the danger of attacks on civilians by hiding in their midst.“But the fact that such enemies do not play by the rules does not mean that a government can cast those rules aside or unilaterally re-interpret them. The credibility of any government’s claim that it is fighting to uphold the rule of law depends on its willingness to disclose how it interprets and applies the law – and the actions it takes when the law is broken,” according to Mr. Alston.On accountability, Mr. Alston observed that international law requires that States using targeted killings demonstrate that they are complying with the various rules governing their use in situations of armed conflict.“The clearest challenge to this principle today comes from the programme operated by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in which targeted killings are carried out from unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. It is clear that many hundreds of people have been killed as a result, and that this number includes some innocent civilians,” Mr. Alston said.“Because this programme remains shrouded in official secrecy, the international community does not know when and where the CIA is authorized to kill, the criteria for individuals who may be killed, how it ensures killings are legal, and what follow-up there is when civilians are illegally killed.“In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated,” Mr. Alston said.He contrasted the lack of accountability during targeted killings to the established practice in the United States Department of Defense, where controversial military decisions can be reviewed.“While it is by no means perfect, the United States military has a relatively public accountability process, as demonstrated earlier this week by its report on the incident in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, in which at least 23 civilians were killed based on erroneous intelligence from surveillance drone operators,” Mr. Alston said.“Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries,” Mr. Alston added.The Special Rapporteur reports to the Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva, and serves in an independent and unpaid capacity. 2 June 2010A United Nations independent human rights expert today sounded the alarm about the practice of targeted killings, saying it had a tenuous legal basis and could undermine the rules that aim to prevent extrajudicial executions and guarantee people the right to life.