Canada’s position on the world stage continues to embarrass and disturb.

On Nov. 4, Canada, along with  Ukraine and United States, voted against a draft resolution entitled “Combating glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

It’s a lengthy document, but worth the time it takes to read. As you read through the resolution, ask yourself why any decent human being would oppose it. Surely, only racists, bigots and nazis could find this resolution offensive.

In this instance, it seems likely that the US and Canada chose to vote with Ukraine because of the influence of neo-fascists in Ukraine’s government. I found myself wondering if parts of this resolution might apply to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians – thus providing another incentive for Harper to remain on the wrong side of justice (and history).

Not surprisingly (also on Nov. 4th), Canada was one of a handful of nations to vote against a draft text on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The resolution was supported by a record vote of 170 in favour. Seven were opposed (Israel, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, United States, Nauru), and six abstained (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Kiribati, Paraguay, Rwanda, South Sudan).

The Harper government’s stance on these two resolutions will not surprise anyone who has been paying attention. The next federal election cannot come soon enough.

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From the video "Dancing Tragedies and Dreams". Photo: Paul S. Graham

From the video “Dancing Tragedies and Dreams.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

Art, culture, dance and politics blended seamlessly in Winnipeg on September 21, 2014, with the performance of Dancing Tragedies and Dreams, a production of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba,  at Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Dancing Tragedies and Dreams featured dances from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt as well as an exciting performance of Poi dance from New Zealand, propelled by the music of El Funon Popular Dance Troupe of Palestine. Talk about fusion!

Eleven months in the making, Dancing Tragedies and Dreams was the brain child of Rana Abdulla and involved dozens of volunteers working evenings and weekends to bring it to fruition. In preparing this event, Rana’s dream was to bridge the divide between Western and Arabic worlds and to amplify the cry of Palestinians for peace, human rights and social justice.

Sixty-six years ago, the people of Palestine were forcibly driven from their homeland. Confined to parcels of land that are a fraction of their traditional territory and vilified by the the people who drove them out, their history shows some similarity to that of the indigenous people of this country. Unlike the government of Israel, the government of Canada does not bomb indigenous people (in this country, anyway), but for decades in Canada, indigenous people needed permission from the local Indian Agent to leave their reserves, a parallel that would be immediately familiar to any resident of Gaza or the West Bank. And hence, at Dancing Tragedies and Dreams, Said Hamad, Palestine’s representative in Canada, referred to their “solidarity with the aboriginal people in Canada.”

Like the aboriginal people of Canada, Palestinians have been “ethnically cleansed” and negatively stereotyped by their oppressors. Like Canada’s aboriginal peoples, Palestinians continue to assert their rights and make visible their humanity and their rich culture.

Dancing Tragedies and Dreams makes a stunning contribution to this effort. It’s too bad that the performance was limited to one evening. Fortunately, my friend Ken Harasym and I recorded the evening. So, get comfortable for the next 90 minutes. Enjoy, and share widely, please.

Private Sidney HallidaySixteen million people died as a result of World War One. Of these, as many as 64,990 were Canadian. One of them, a Manitoban named Sidney Halliday, was recently identified as being among the remains of five dead Canadians located in Hallu, France in 2006-07.

One suspects the efforts of our Department of National Defence (sic) to notify family members is motivated more by the Harper government’s campaign to glorify war and militarism than it is to offer condolences or compassion to Mr. Halliday’s surviving descendants.

This November 11th, let us remember Mr. Halliday and the millions who perished in that awful war. But let us also remember that this war had nothing to do do with freedom, or democracy, or defending our nation. It was a clash of empires, led by elitist sociopaths for the benefit of bankers and weapons manufacturers, not unlike the murderfest Prime Minister Stephen Harper has insisted we join in the skies over Iraq.


Oct. 23, 2014: Members and supporters of Pimicikamak Cree Nation rallied at Manitoba Hydro's Winnipeg Headquarters to explain the reasons for their occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Oct. 23, 2014: Members and supporters of Pimicikamak Cree Nation rallied at Manitoba Hydro’s Winnipeg Headquarters to explain the reasons for their occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Yesterday, after a week-long occupation of the Jenpeg Generating Station, representatives of the Pimicikamak Cree of Cross Lake brought their protest to Winnipeg. Community members and local supporters rallied at Manitoba Hydro’s downtown headquarters to pray, sing and tell their story to Winnipeg media.

They began with a prayer and followed with a moment of silence and an honour song for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the young reservist murdered in the recent attack on Parliament Hill. Then representatives explained what led the community to evict Hydro staff from the Jenpeg housing complex and to occupy the generating station.

In a statement circulated on her behalf, Chief Cathy Merrick invites Winnipeggers to empathize.

“Imagine if the once pristine waters in the lake by your cottage became murky and the shoreline continually washed away. Imagine your favourite childhood camping sites eroded right off the map, your industries undercut, your favourite golf course denuded, your ancestors’ graves dug up, and your place of worship defiled. Imagine if you had to constantly fight for compensation and mitigation, while paying monthly bills to the victimizer.”

According to Merrick, the Pimicikamak are asking for “a public apology, a revenue sharing arrangement, environmental cleanup, a say in how water levels are managed, and aggressive Power Smart programs to reduce our bills.”

Here is my video report:

Winnipeg, Oct. 16, 2014: Robert-Falcon Ouellette speaks with students following a forum on youth issues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Oct. 16, 2014: Robert-Falcon Ouellette speaks with students following a forum on youth issues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo: Paul S. Graham

This Wednesday, I’m voting for Robert-Falcon Ouellette. I believe he offers the best combination of progressive ideas and personal characteristics of all the candidates. Having voted in every Winnipeg civic, provincial and federal election since the 1970s I’ll go even further – Robert is the most promising candidate for mayor (or any other office) we have seen in a generation.

Robert proposes sensible ideas for fixing Winnipeg’s infrastructure and knows how we’ll pay for them. His plan to renew Winnipeg Transit is both practical and visionary. His proposals for standing up for indigenous women and girls will save lives. He’s serious about cleaning up City Hall and he walks the talk: unlike his competitors, he lists his contributors on his web site, in real time. As a grandfather, I’m pleased with his many creative ideas for a child friendly city and for a city our grandchildren will thank us for when they are old enough to vote.

There’s much more I could say about Robert’s platform. Visit his web site (links below) and judge for yourself. While I have your attention, I’d prefer to talk about Robert the man.

Born on Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, Robert grew up poor. His father suffered from alcoholism. He’s been hungry and homeless and knows what it is like to live on next to nothing. Statistically speaking, he should be dead, in jail or poor.

Instead, Robert has defied the statistics that come with being born aboriginal and poor in Canada. At 37, he directs Aboriginal Focus Programs at the University of Manitoba. He, his wife Catherine, and their five children live in a comfortable home. During 18 years in the Canadian Forces he earned a Bachelor of Education degree, two Masters degrees (music and education) and a PhD in educational anthropology.

Robert credits his success to his mother’s sacrifices and the support he received from a high school teacher. However, without his own considerable intelligence, hard work and self discipline he would not have come this far.

Robert is youthful and energetic, but thoughtful and mature. He’s self confident, yet modest. He’s self-aware but not self-absorbed; without exception, he treats everyone with genuine interest, respect and warmth. He communicates fluently in English, French and Cree. He likes to laugh, dances a pretty good Red River jig, sings on key and plays a mean piano.

Robert says he wants to be “a mayor for everyone.” Not content with cleaning up City Hall, he aspires to unite a city that is divided along racial, ethnic and class lines. This is a tall order, but if anyone can, it’s Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

A poll came out this morning that puts Robert in third place with the support of 14% of decided voters. This is a remarkable achievement for a candidate who was completely unknown when he declared his candidacy in late May.

The two front-runners, Brian Bowman and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, are in a statistical dead heat with 38 and 36 percent of the decided vote respectively. With 29% of those polled in the undecided category, this race is too close to call.

I expect Robert’s supporters will feel considerable pressure to abandon him. “Vote strategically. Don’t waste your vote,” we will be advised. We’ll be warned that “it’s the only way to stop ___________ (pick your favourite ‘villain’).”

I don’t accept these arguments. For starters, a careful analysis of the front-runners’ programs reveals no significant differences. Neither candidate promises the break with the past we need for Winnipeggers to meet the many challenges we face. Neither candidate has demonstrated the skills or attitudes needed to unite a divided city. One is as good or as bad as the other.

My philosophy is simple: You get what you vote for. The only sensible thing to do is to vote for what you really want. For me that means voting for Robert-Falcon Ouellette.

If Robert wins, great! If he doesn’t, his ideas will have to be taken seriously, especially if he attracts a significant share of the ballots cast on Wednesday. These votes will provide the foundation, not only for future campaigns, but for the movement for real change that must be built and sustained far into the future.

Links

Robert-Falcon Ouellette on the Internet
Robert-Falcon Ouellette on Facebook
Robert-Falcon Ouellette on YouTube
Information for Voters
Winnipeg Mayoral Debates Video Playlist

U9In April 2014, the government that had come into power two months earlier in Ukraine launched what it termed an “anti-terrorist operation” against the people of Eastern Ukraine.

The easterners were opposed to the government’s plans for economic association with Western Europe and were demanding a greater voice in central government decisions.

That political conflict, NATO’s backing of Kyiv against Moscow, and the large-scale humanitarian crisis created by the war have shaken the political foundations of Europe and ushered in a new Cold War.

Roger Annis is a Vancouver-based writer who attended an antiwar conference in Yalta, Crimea on July 6th and 7th. Conference delegates included Ukrainians, Russians and antiwar activists from Europe and North America.

Roger talks in depth about the origins of the conflict, the anti-Russian propaganda offensive in the West, the rise of neo-fascism and other recent developments in Ukraine, and what must be done to bring peace to this part of the world.

The evening was sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Roger’s web site, which contains several excellent articles on the Ukrainian situation, is http://www.rogerannis.com/.


Winnipeg, Sept. 23, 2014: CBC News reporter (and panel moderator) Sean Kavanagh snaps a selfie with mayoral candidates at North Centennial Community Centre, proving some journalists will bend over backwards to get the story. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Sept. 23, 2014: CBC News reporter (and panel moderator) Sean Kavanagh snaps a selfie with mayoral candidates at North Centennial Community Centre, proving some journalists will bend over backwards to get the story. Photo: Paul S. Graham

On October 22, 2014, we Winnipeggers will elect a new mayor. With seven in the running, and the avalanche of announcements continuing to grow, it is difficult knowing who said what.

Mainstream media outlets tend to be selective in what they cover and often oversimplify what candidates have to say. It’s difficult to get a complete picture.

To help you deepen and broaden your knowledge of the candidates, what they say and how they present themselves, I’ve been recording mayoral debates. So far, I’ve recorded four debates where candidates present their views and one very interesting forum where citizens talk and the candidates listen.

I’ve stitched them into a YouTube playlist where you can see the candidates in action, unedited and unfiltered. This is unbiased coverage you will find nowhere else. The only spin you get is that which the candidates choose to offer.

I know – information overload. But the stakes are high and it’s worth investing the time. We’ve had ten years of lousy government at City Hall and with this election, we have a chance to do better

Make an informed choice. Click on the link below to watch these debates:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjun-krHoPPKl9o6tW_h_fjwBmszRlvVQ

October 13th Update:

Since posting this article I’ve recorded and posted another seven debates, for a total of 11 mayoral forums.