Archive for the ‘Act Locally’ Category

Winnipeg, Aug. 15, 2019: “We need people to vote as if their life depended on it, because it just might.” — Elizabeth May. Photo: Paul S. Graham

 

Elizabeth May came to Winnipeg yesterday to lend her voice in support of Manitoba Greens contesting the Sept. 10th provincial election. She had a message for the people of Canada — that the coming federal election, to be decided this October, is the most important election in Canadian history.

Climate change confronts the world’s peoples with an existential threat — reduce greenhouse gas emissions or face ecological collapse and unimaginable global suffering. Time is running out and the decisions Canadians make at the polls will determine whether Canada can make a timely contribution to meeting this global challenge.

The video focuses on May’s address. For video of the entire evening, including a lively Q & A session with Elizabeth May and Wolseley Green candidate Dave Nickarz, go here.

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2018 was not my most prolific year in terms of video output, but it provided, nonetheless, some interesting and useful insights into the struggle for peace and human rights in various parts of the world. Here is a rundown of the past 12 months and as we like to say in YouTubeLand, if you enjoy any of these, please click the “like” icon and subscribe.

Steve Ellner: What is really happening in Venezuela: The Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee held a public forum on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 entitled “What is really happening in Venezuela?” The forum featured Steve Ellner, professor of economics at the University of Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. Watch.

Yves Engler on Canada’s Left & its Foreign Policy Failures: Yves Engler discusses his latest book, “Left, Right — Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada.” The book details the failure of Canada’s Left parties, institutions and intellectuals to confront Canada’s support of empire and promotion of corporate interests abroad. Watch.

Niranjan Takle: Journalism under Hindutav Fascist India: Indian journalist Niranjan Takle recounts how the mainstream media in India ignored or refused to publish his report on the suspicious death of Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya. Watch.

Israel Palestine International Law Symposium: An impressive line-up of experts on human rights and international law gathered in Winnipeg for a weekend to explore various legal aspects of the Israel-Palestine situation. I recorded all of the sessions.

  • Introduction: Symposium coordinator David Kattenburg explains the origins and purpose of the symposium.
  • Human rights: Rhetoric vs Reality: Lawyer and journalist Dimitri Lascaris describes the failure of western governments to uphold the human rights of Palestinians.
  • Keynote Address: Michael Lynk, who is the United Nations Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, explains how international law has largely been ignored or broken by Israel over the past several decades of its occupation of the Palestinian Territory.
  • Israeli Rights and Obligations:  Michael Lynk and Dimitri Lascaris explore different aspects of Israeli’s legal rights and obligations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
  • One State or Two?: Professors Michael Lynk and Virginia Tilley speak to this issue.
  • Palestinian Rights & Obligations: In this clip, we hear from human rights advocates Suha Jarrar and Jonathan Kuttab.
  • Palestinian Rights to Resources: Suha Jarrar, a Palestinian human rights researcher and advocate, and currently the Environmental and Gender Policy Researcher at Al-Haq human rights organization in Ramallah, Palestine explains how Israeli companies illegally exploit resources in the Occupied Territories.
  • Is Israel an Apartheid State?: In this clip, Virginia Tilley argues that Israel meets the legal definition of an apartheid state.
  • Dueling Perspectives: In this clip, David Matas defends Israeli practices and policies with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Michael Lynk argues that Matas’s arguments are not supported by international law.
  • Canada’s Rights and Obligations: Dimitri Lascaris explains how Canada has not lived up to its obligations under international law.
  • Concluding Remarks: In this final clip from the symposium, we hear from David Kattenburg, Mark Golden and Dean Peachey, key organizers of the event. The symposium was sponsored by (alphabetical order): Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Mennonite Church Manitoba Working Group on Palestine-Israel, Palestinian Canadian Congress, Peace Alliance Winnipeg, United Jewish People’s Order (Winnipeg) and the Winnipeg Centre Federal Green Party Association. Additional information, including Power Point presentations and other documents will be made available at the conference web site.

Winnipeg Lanterns for Peace 2018: Every August, Winnipeggers commemorate the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) with a Lantern Ceremony in Memorial Park. We believe it is important to keep the memory of those horrible events alive so that current generations understand we must never allow nuclear weapons to be used again. Watch.

St. Boniface By-election 2018 – Elizabeth May and Françoise Therrien Vrignon: Françoise Therrien Vrignon was the Green Party of Manitoba candidate in the July 17th Manitoba by-election in St. Boniface. With her in this video is Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May. Their discussion took place at La Maison des artistes visuels. Watch.

Winnipeg Rally for Refuge: The Canadians Care Coalition in association with Amnesty International, Menno Simons Students Association and the Global College Students Association held a rally entitled “Rally for Refuge: Rescind the safe third country agreement.” The coalition demanded that the Canadian Government rescind the designation of ‘Safe Third Country’ that is applied to the United States because the US is demonstrably unsafe for refugees. The Safe Third Country Agreement denies refugee claimants access to the Canadian refugee determination system if they have come from the United States to the Canadian border. Watch.

Winnipeg Walk for Peace 2018: Winnipeggers held their 37th Annual Winnipeg Walk for Peace. Sponsors: Peace Alliance Winnipeg and the Winnipeg chapter of the Council of Canadians. Watch.

Michel Chossudovsky – The Globalization of War: The Regina Peace Council played host to Professor Michel Chossudovsky, who spoke on the growing dangers of world war and the need to revitalize the peace movement. Professor Chossudovsky is the founder and director of Global Research. Watch.

Al Nakba 70 in Winnipeg: Winnipeggers marked the 70th anniversary of the forcible expulsion of Palestinians from their land and expressed solidarity with the people of Gaza who are under Israeli siege. Watch.

Make Poverty History in Winnipeg: Make Poverty History Manitoba released a comprehensive report on the poverty that affects one in ten Winnipeggers and called on the city’s mayor, Brian Bowman, to take the lead in developing a poverty reduction strategy for the city. Watch.

MFL Day of Mourning 2018: Manitoba’s labour movement held its annual observance in memory of injured and killed workers. Hundreds attended the march from the Union Centre to Memorial Park and the future site of the Firefighters, Peace Officers and Workers Memorial. Watch.

7th Generation Walk for Mother Earth 2018: Winnipeggers marked 15 years of taking to the streets with grassroots land and water defenders.The 7th Generation Walk is alternative to Earth Day, recognizing the resistance and resilience of Indigenous community led campaigns for social and environmental justice. Watch.

Mobilize against the war: Just hours before the United States launched missile attacks on Damascus and Homs, peace activists rallied outside the building housing the US Consulate to speak out against the war and Trump’s declared plan to expand it. The picket was organized by the Manitoba Peace Council. Watch.

Democracy and Elections in Cuba: Two Cuban government representatives visited Winnipeg to discuss Cuba’s electoral system and other issues of interest. The forum was sponsored by the Manitoba-Cuba Solidarity Committee. Watch.

My Jerusalem – Responding to the U.S. Embassy Announcement: Panelists representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, share their personal reflections on what Jerusalem means to them and the implications of the US announcement to move it’s embassy there. Watch.

Winnipeg Commemorates Quebec Mosque Massacre: Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to honour the victims of the terrorist attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Watch.

Winnipeg Kurdish Solidarity: In Winnipeg, the Kurdish community rallied at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in defense of Kurds under Turkish attack in Afrin, Syria. Watch.

North Korea and The United States at a Dangerous Nuclear Crossroads: Michel Chossudovsky is professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa and founder of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He spoke at the University of Manitoba on the history of the United States’ conflict with North Korea and the prospects for nuclear war. Watch. As well, he spoke at the University of Winnipeg. Watch.

Arnold August – Cuba-US Relations from Obama to Trump: On a national tour to promote his book “Cuba-US Relations: Obama and Beyond,” Arnold August spoke at McNally Robinson Books on developments in the two countries relations since the election of Donald Trump. Watch.

That’s it for 2018. Happy New Year, all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, anti-poverty activists in Winnipeg released a report aimed at encouraging the City of Winnipeg to develop a strategy for reducing poverty in the city. They called on the mayor to champion poverty reduction, observing that the most promising civic antipoverty programs in Canada (in Edmonton and Calgary) are promising specifically because of the leadership of the mayors in those cities.

I read the report with a mixture of despair and frustration. My despair was stimulated by the depressing and familiar litany of statistics that describe the depth and breadth of poverty in my hometown. The frustration was rooted in the knowledge that this well-intentioned report would, like its predecessors, consume the energy of its proponents but ultimately lead nowhere unless we focus on challenges unacknowledged in the report.

The report is worth reading. It is particularly strong in illustrating the shocking extent of poverty in the city.  When it gets around to policy prescriptions it’s a mixed bag. There are some good ideas, and there are others that will do little more than create busywork for government and NGO bureaucrats.

In trying to be comprehensive, the report is often superficial. But more problematic is the elephant in the room that does not get a mention. We live in a capitalist political economy that benefits from the existence of poor, unemployed, under-employed or under-paid working people. This “reserve army” of poor workers helps depress wages, dampen labour power and discipline the working class, all of which serves the interests of the capitalist class – that unacknowledged elephant.

If we accept that proposition as a starting point it follows that any decent anti-poverty strategy has to focus on creating jobs that pay living wages. Nothing is more empowering than a good, secure job with a decent salary.  However, we can’t rely on capitalist market forces to create jobs; our governments must take steps to foster these developments.

I would have liked to have seen a section of this report devoted to exploring how the City could support the development of worker co-ops, social enterprises, and new, innovative industries that would create green products and services while training and employing inner-city residents. Without a serious economic strategy that focuses on creating industries and jobs for the 21st century, all we are left with are social work solutions which, up to now, have failed to contain poverty, much less eradicate it.

Poverty in one of the richest countries in history is unacceptable. Despite my misgivings about the report, I hope people get behind the campaign to get the City to step up to the plate. A place to start is to sign this petition. But this is just for openers.

In two recent announcements the Manitoba Government has revealed how it intends to regulate cannabis when it is legalized in July 2018. In short, the province will source and regulate it and the private sector will retail it. So far, so good. Unhappily, Manitobans will continue to be criminalized if they grow their own for non-medical purposes and, in a bid to protect children that is doomed to fail, the province will prohibit citizens who are otherwise considered adults (able to vote, join the military and consume alcohol) from partaking until their nineteenth birthday. You can read the details here and here.

Since quitting drinking around the turn of the century I have come to appreciate the ability to think clearly. I am amazed that Younger Me was so eager and willing to abandon clear-headedness so easily and frequently. For various reasons, I’ve come to prefer the joy of experiencing the world as it is to stumbling through drug-induced alternate realities. It logically follows, then, that I am not a consumer of cannabis. I have no skin in this game. Still, I have to wonder what Brian Pallister was smoking in his Costa Rican retreat when he came up with this half-baked plan.

Winnipeg, Dec. 5, 2017: Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson announces how the province will regulate cannabis consumption in 2018.

In announcing Manitoba’s plans, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said “This new legislation sets out the regulatory framework, enforcement structures and compliance provisions that will help keep cannabis out of the hands of our youth and away from the black market.”

At best, this statement suggests she is hopelessly naive. If current enforcement efforts have not kept pot out of the hands of kids, it is difficult to see how this government’s plans will address this. Canadians love their dope. Despite government expenditures of $500 million per year on cops and courts, more than two million Canadians consume an estimated 770,000 kg annually. On average, they begin to toke up at age 15 and a quarter-million kids aged 12 to 17 smoke it daily.

Along with setting the age of consumption at 19, Manitoba’s legislation will restrict where retail outlets can operate (away from schools and parks, for example) and allow municipalities to outlaw retail cannabis sales by holding a plebiscite.

There is no plan protect children. The government knows it as should anyone who reviews the colossal failure otherwise known as the War on Drugs.

However, undeterred by the lessons of history our provincial government is determined to keep the costs of law enforcement unnecessarily high by prohibiting home cultivation of cannabis for recreational purposes. Even though citizens may lawfully make beer and wine at home, they will not be able to grow their own weed without the fear of cops kicking in their doors.

Of all of the measures in this bill, this is the least defensible. It serves only to protect the government’s monopoly, which is not a sufficient justification in my view.

As Moses would have said to Pharaoh under these circumstances, “Let my people grow!”


Additional Reading

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.

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.