Francisca Linconao is a healer and a spiritual leader of the Mapuche, the largest of the indigenous peoples of Chile. On March 30, 2016 she was arrested along with ten others in connection with the killing of an elderly couple that had occurred January 4, 2013 in the midst of a demonstration on the couple’s farm. Those arrested were charged with murder, arson and terrorism and detained under Chile’s draconian Counter-Terrorist Act.

The only evidence linking the eleven accused to the killings was the testimony of one Jose Peralino (above, centre), who claimed he had participated in the attack and knew everyone involved. Peralino has since recanted, alleging police torture and coercion. His allegations are reportedly under investigation, but the eleven accused remain in custody, either in prison or – as is the case with Linconao, under house arrest.

The eleven maintain their innocence and are demanding a trial in order to prove it. Supporters have launched an international solidarity campaign and organizations such as Amnesty International have spoken out in their defence.

On June 24, 2017, Winnipeg supporters of Francisca Linconao held an evening of Solidarity at Broadway Disciples United Church. Here are some of the highlights.

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L. B. Foote / Winnipeg Free Press Archives 1919 Strike Crowd gathers at Victoria Park

L. B. Foote / Winnipeg Free Press Archives
1919 Strike
Crowd gathers at Victoria Park

Sometime in the 1990s, it became fashionable for many socialists to refer to themselves as “anti-capitalists.” I’m not sure why this was the case, but I suspect it involved a large measure of opportunism; socialism (at least that variant represented by recently imploded Soviet Union) had become discredited but the dominant capitalist system still refused to deliver the goods, hence the “anti.” Anti-capitalism also worked nicely with the “anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-imperialist” patter that Leftists liked to rattle off whenever ask to describe themselves. Unfortunately, upping the ANTI made it difficult for the uninitiated (and for younger comrades who lacked the history), to understand what it was we stood FOR.

In Canada, the NDP purged the word “socialism” from its program and relegated the Regina Manifesto to the memory hole. Activists increasingly described themselves primarily in terms of ethnicity, race, gender and physical ability. Lacking an overall vision that could inspire and unite all of these various identity groups, activists have been unable to stop the downward spiral of living standards. Rather than challenge the system responsible for the impoverishment of growing numbers of Canadians, the Left fragmented into fighting single issues in isolation from one another, forever on the defensive, increasingly ineffective and incoherent.

I think it is time we began to say what we stand FOR. Furthermore, I think it is time to reclaim the socialist vision that underpins so many of the progressive aspects of Canadian society. More on that in future posts.

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Today (on the 13th day of Christmas), Make Poverty History Manitoba rallied at the Manitoba Legislature to call on the provincial government to ensure that the basic material needs of every Manitoban are met. Despite the -20 C weather, the mood was upbeat and the music merry.

Specifically, the coalition is demanding that the provincial government:

1. release a comprehensive poverty reduction plan in its 2017 budget that is developed in consultation with community members
2. include in this plan an increase in the basic needs benefit that ensures each Manitoban has an income that is at least 75% of the poverty line

Make Poverty History is conducting a postcard campaign to convince the provincial government to adopt a poverty reduction strategy with measureable, meaningful goals.

Make Poverty History is conducting a postcard campaign to convince the provincial government to adopt a poverty reduction strategy with measurable, meaningful goals.

Organizers are conducting a postcard campaign aimed at convincing Premier Pallister to do something his NDP predecessor, Greg Selinger, was unable to do — devise a poverty reduction plan that contains targets and timelines. (The NDP’s All Aboard poverty reduction strategy was widely criticized as ineffective and lacking in meaningful evaluation criteria.) They are also asking the public to send emails to Premier Pallister directly.

North End Stay and Play, a program for infants and young children and their families in Winnipeg’s North End, is getting closer to the day it can move into new digs on Selkirk Avenue. For the past seven years, it has been running on a modest budget and has only been able to operate one afternoon a week, usually out of a donated church basement. However, they have acquired land at 681 Selkirk Avenue, raised money and gotten pledges of free labour from the Carpenters Union and operating funds from the provincial government.

Their new, custom-built play house on Selkirk Avenue will operate five or six days a week. It will be called the Little Stars Playhouse.

This is the project I wrote about a year ago. At the time, the proponents were hopeful that construction would begin late in 2015. Gerrie Primak, of Woman Healing for Change, says they now hope to break ground early in 2017, but that first they must raise more funds for construction. In the meantime, as you can see in the video, they have taken some time out to celebrate their progress and the people who have contributed to this worthwhile project.

If you want to make a donation:

  • Make your cheque payable to “Woman Healing for Change Inc.” and send to Assiniboine Credit Union, 655 Henderson Hwy, Winnipeg, MB, R2K 2J6, Account no. 100101102192. WHFC,a registered nonprofit charity, will provide a receipt for all donations over $20, or
  • Make your cheque payable to United Way Winnipeg and note on the cheque that your United Way donation is for “Woman Healing For Change, Charitable no. 891621864RR0001 for Little Stars Playhouse.”

If you want to become more involved, you can find them on Facebook.

Winnipeg, April 26, 2016: NDP MP Romeo Saganash, in conversation with students at the University of Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, April 26, 2016: NDP MP Romeo Saganash, in conversation with students at the University of Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

On April 21, 2016, NDP MP Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou) introduced legislation (Bill C-262) that will ensure that Canadian law is consistent the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, the declaration was initially opposed by the Harper government but eventually endorsed by Canada in 2010. Bill C-262 is essentially the same as a bill Saganash introduced during the Harper government. While the Conservatives were unwilling to support it, the (then) Opposition Liberals did promise to vote for it. Saganash says the Trudeau government has so far been noncommittal with regard to this bill.

Saganash played a key role in the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a process that took 23 years. He was in Winnipeg recently and spoke with students at the University of Winnipeg about the benefits this legislation will provide indigenous peoples in Canada, if it is passed by Parliament. Passage is by no means assured and Saganash is calling on Canadians to lobby their Members of Parliament to support the bill.

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives won a majority government last week, leaving many left-of-centre citizens feeling somewhat shell-shocked and adrift on a sea of uncertainty after 17 years of predictable but increasingly unsatisfactory NDP government. Even though the outcome had been foreseen for many months by all but the most optimistic Dippers, many professed shock that the same people who had voted last fall to oust the federal Harper Conservatives would turn around and vote in their provincial kissing cousins. (Many of the same folks have expressed surprise that Sunny Ways Trudeau is beginning to break their hearts, but I digress.)

For over a year now, it’s been clear that the election was Brian Pallister’s to lose. There are many reasons for this, but Pallister’s charisma and charm were never factors. Even though Pallister runs behind his party in terms of popularity, Manitobans so disliked Greg Selinger and/or the NDP that they were even willing to vote Progressive Conservative if that is what it would take to get rid of them. And vote Tory they did, giving the Pallister PCs 53.4% of the vote and 40 seats in a 57-seat legislature. While the NDP were reduced to 14 seats, the Liberals overcame the many rookie gaffes of the feckless Rana Bokhari to win three seats. Even the Greens saw an improvement in electoral fortunes, very nearly winning the riding of Wolseley, long an NDP stronghold.

Not surprisingly, anxiety stalks the land — at least that portion of it occupied by folks who believe in a major role for the public sector and/or those who depend upon it for programs, services and employment. That fear is probably justified. Tory times typically have been tough times and Pallister’s promises to protect the jobs of front-line government workers have not been particularly convincing. Still, as challenging as this situation is, I think it offers some exciting possibilities for Manitoba’s Left, broadly defined.

For progressive thinkers within the NDP, the party’s electoral humiliation offers the opportunity for critical reflection and the possibility for renewal. This will not be easy in a party that is as divided and beaten up as this one has been. It will take years and a willingness to confront some ugly truths about what the party has allowed government to do in its name. I hear distant rumblings that this process is beginning.

Unaffiliated Lefties are faced with choosing between involvement in party politics (and not just within the NDP) and perhaps escalating their involvement in movement politics (labour, indigenous rights, environmentalism, human rights, peace, feminism, LGBTQ, etc., etc.) A new player is emerging on the scene called Solidarity Winnipeg which seeks to unite progressive elements to oppose the anticipated Tory austerity project and promote the Leap Manifesto. It is early days for Solidarity Winnipeg, but I’m reminded of CHOICES!, a loose association of lefties that did some very creative and productive political work in the 1990s but dissolved as soon as the NDP regained power.

Another choice for progressive Manitobans lies with the Green Party of Manitoba. While it is fashionable in some Left circles to dismiss the Greens as “conservatives who compost,” this criticism is usually made by people who have not taken the time to read, much less understand, the party’s platform. (Full disclosure: I’ve been a Green for a few years now.) If they had, they would easily conclude that federally and provincially the Greens are to the left of the NDP on most issues.

In Wolseley, the provincial riding where I live, we doubled the Green vote and very nearly toppled the NDP incumbent. Greens made gains in numerous other constituencies as well. Our growth was based, I would argue, on a platform that was fundamentally more progressive than anything on offer from the other parties. These gains show that there is a growing appetite for a politics that promises to care for the earth while caring for each other.

What’s a Lefty to do in Manitoba? You’ve read my take. I’d love to read yours.

 

Green Party of Manitoba candidate in Wolseley, David Nickarz. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Green Party of Manitoba candidate in Wolseley, David Nickarz. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Next April, Manitobans will elect a new government. Based on recent polling, if that election were held today, the winners would likely be the Progressive Conservatives. A September 2015 poll of 1000 Manitobans by Probe Research indicates 45 per cent of decided voters province-wide would vote PC; the governing NDP was tied for second place with the Liberals, at 20 per cent.

Of course, having the most votes doesn’t guarantee one the election in our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system. Support for the PCs is overwhelming outside of Winnipeg (where the Tories have 59 per cent of decided voters and NDP holds third place with 16 per cent). But in Winnipeg, where a slim majority of the seats are, the situation is more competitive; the Tories and Dippers are in a statistical tie (35 and 32 per cent respectively) and the Liberals are beginning to challenge at 27 per cent.

Despite being almost invisible, the Liberals have shown steady growth among decided voters both outside and inside of Winnipeg. NDP support has declined in lock step with Liberal advances while Tory vote in and outside Winnipeg has remained fairly stable. If the Tories do win next year it will likely be because the NDP hemorrhaged crucial support to the Liberal Party.

Given that the Liberal Party has not done anything to date to distinguish itself, the NDP could still win this one if it can convince soft supporters that a Liberal vote is not only a wasted vote, but a dangerous vote because it will lead to victory for the dreaded Tories. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess.

Whether the next government is formed by Dippers or Tories, the outcome will be the same in at least one very important respect – it will be business as usual. Neither party has shown real interest in or capacity for discussing the major issues of the day, much less offering solutions. (The same goes for the third party in the Legislature, with its promise to allow Uber to compete with taxi companies, but I digress.)

By major issues, I’m talking about the failure to address widespread poverty and inequality in Manitoba society that manifests itself as the thousands of children in provincial care (we have one of the highest rates in the world), the growth of food bank usage, the epidemic of homelessness  and our nation–leading homicide statistics.

As serious as these are, they pale in comparison to the existential challenge posed by climate change. Whether or not Manitoba matters in the overall scheme of things, the province has consistently failed to meet its own carbon emissions targets and, recent announcements notwithstanding, shows no sign that anything is about to change.

As well, the province has shown no interest in stopping the TransCanada Energy East Pipeline – a project that is will enable the expansion of the Alberta tar sands. Not only is tar sands expansion a driver of global climate change, the pipeline itself is an environmental menace that should have no place in Manitoba.

So, as you may have guessed, I’m not at all optimistic about the outcome of the next election. I do, however, have reason to hope that we will see the beginning of change in my little part of the province.

I reside in the provincial constituency of Wolseley – a neighbourhood in central Winnipeg where the Green Party of Manitoba has placed second in each of the last three elections.

This time around, the Green candidate is David Nickarz. I like him and think he’d make a great MLA. He’s youthful, mature, energetic, intelligent and a seasoned environmental campaigner. You can read his bio, here.

I’ve decided to support his bid for office because we need to have at least one Green voice in the Legislature. Neither of the likely winners will provide this. The NDP has had more than a decade to deliver on the environment and in some regards we have moved backwards. As for the Tories, the environment is not even on their radar.

And so Dave Nickarz will have my vote and my volunteer time. If the Greens will make a breakthrough anywhere in Manitoba, it will be in Wolseley. As shop-worn as the phrase is, it really is time for a change.