Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Map of Proposed Energy East Pipeline route. Source: National Energy Board

Map of Proposed Energy East Pipeline route. Source: National Energy Board

Energy East Pipelines, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Oil Pipelines (Canada), has applied to build the Energy East Pipeline, a project that will use aging natural gas pipelines along most of its route to move explosive, toxic diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to refining facilities on Canada’s east coast.

The plan is fraught with risks to human health and the natural environment, but the National Energy Board, the federal regulatory body charged with assessing the suitability of this project, seems determined to turn a blind eye to the most serious ones.

The elephant in the room that the NEB is most anxious to ignore is the climate change that will be unleashed by the continued development of the Alberta oils sands, a northern Alberta mega project that will strip-mine an area the size of Nova Scotia and in so doing, will unleash enough carbon to push the world to the edge of uncontrolled climate change. Without pipelines, oil sands development will shrivel, and with it, the potential for further environmental damage.

In Winnipeg, a citizens’ coalition has challenged the National Energy Board to “consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects.”

Here’s video I recorded at its December 8, 2014 news conference in Winnipeg. Below is the text of the coalition’s open letter to the NEB.

An Open Letter to the National Energy Board on TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline

Dear Mr. Watson,

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge the National Energy Board to amend its review of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline. We believe that the review process must consider the full scope of the proposed project’s environmental and human impacts, including upstream and downstream effects. Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the cumulative impacts of producing, refining, and burning the oil that would flow through it, if the project were approved.

If the NEB continues to refuse to assess upstream and downstream impacts you are leaving essential questions unanswered:

  • What are the global climate impacts of burning the oil this pipeline carries?
  • Understanding that this project would enable tar sands expansion, what consequences would Energy East have on the world’s ability to keep global average temperatures below a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise?
  • What would be the economic and health effects of increased tar sands production on communities, including First Nations communities, near the tar sands and along the pipeline?
  • What are the projected economic costs of the national and global climate impacts associated with any project which increases tar sand production? Who would be most likely to bear these costs?

What kinds of climate adaptation plans would be required based on the climate impacts of this proposed project? Who would develop them? Who would pay for them, and how?

Without a full and transparent accounting of the global climate impacts and associated economic and health costs of this project, we cannot in good conscience consider the National Energy Board to be acting in the best interest of Canadian families. Without including these critical questions, how can we believe the NEB to be undertaking a legitimate review of the proposal?

It is in your power to add these areas of concern to the “list of issues” for consideration. If it is currently outside the scope of the regulatory powers of the NEB to address these questions, we urge you to exercise exemplary moral leadership and refuse to review this pipeline and petition Parliament to grant you the legal authority to do so.

For a resilient and stable future,

No Energy East Manitoba – Energy Justice Coalition

Idle No More Winnipeg

The University of Winnipeg Students Association

350.org

The Council of Canadians – Winnipeg Chapter

Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement

Kairos Canada (Cambrian-Agassiz Region)


It has been said of Stephen Harper that he never saw a war he didn’t like. So it should be no surprise that he has been unabashedly at war with the environment since gaining power in 2006.

Whether it has involved shutting down world class environmental research, muzzling scientists, gutting environmental protection laws or attempting to demonize environmental activists as terrorists, Harper’s strategic objective has been to facilitate the corporate rape of our natural resources. He has pursued this objective with no regard for the health of our land, air and water, our people or the generations to come.

Despite Harper’s best efforts, Canadians are fighting back and opposition, in the form of demonstrations, occupations,  road blocks and court battles, grows daily. Following are three recent presentations I have recorded of people who are making significant contributions to this fightback.

Dennis LeNeveu: Stop the Energy East Pipeline

dennis leneveuDennis LeNeveu is a retired scientist who worked for many years in the field of nuclear fuel waste management and radiation and industrial safety. In this presentation he discusses the many reasons Canadians show oppose the proposed TransCanada Pipeline Energy East Project, a proposal that he says risks the health and safety of the environment and the many people who live along its route. His presentation is available here.

Chris Turner: Stephen Harper’s War on Science

chris turnerChris Turner is the author of The War On Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada. He spoke about Stephen Harper’s campaign to suppress Canadian science at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg on November 6, 2014. His presentation was sponsored by the Boreal Action Project. His presentation is available here.

Diane Orihel: Big Dreams, Big Science: Saving Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area

diane orihelOn November 6, 2014, Dr. Diane Orihel spoke on the struggle to save Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area from destruction by the Conservative federal government of Stephen Harper and the important role that this scientific institution has played in protecting the world’s environment. Her talk, also at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, was sponsored by the Boreal Action Project and can be viewed here.

Some Useful Links

There are dozens of organizations that are fighting Harper’s agenda. I you haven’t already done so, join one. Here are some of my favorites. Please feel free to add your faves in the comments section.


I don’t normally reprint news releases. This time I will make an exception. At the end of the news release are two videos I recorded earlier this year that speak to this issue. In the first, Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, of the Environmental Conservation Lab at the University of Manitoba, talks about the research that is the subject of this news release. In the second, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May explains why Canada needs an energy policy that is good for Canada’s economy and its environment.


Health Study Reveals Alarming Links Between Oil Sands Contaminants and Incidence of Illness

July 7, 2014, Edmonton, AB – Today the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manitoba, released a report Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, and is the first report of its kind to draw an associations between oil sands produced environmental contaminants and declines in community health and well-being in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

This report has been peer reviewed by Health Canada and other health and environmental agencies. Integrating scientific research methods and local knowledge, the report is the result of three years of community-based participatory research that incorporates both the traditional knowledge of community members and scientific monitoring techniques.

MCFN Chief Steve Courtoreille says, “This report confirms what we have always suspected. about the association between environmental contaminants from oil sands production upstream and cancer and other serious illness in our community. The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Programme has released data about the increases in these contaminants, but fails to address and monitor impacts to First Nations traditional foods. We are greatly alarmed and demand further research and studies are done to expand on the findings of this report.”

Findings include generally high concentrations of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and selenium in kidney and liver samples from moose, ducks, muskrats, and beavers harvested by community members. Bitumen extraction and upgrading is a major emitter of all of these contaminants.
Contaminants in wildlife, as well as limited access due to declining water levels, have nearly eliminated the consumption of some traditional foods; fish caught in Lake Athabasca and the Athabasca River are no longer trusted, while muskrat populations have declined precipitously.

ACFN Chief Allan Adam notes that “It’s frustrating to be constantly filling the gaps in research and studies that should have already been done. This demonstrates the lack of respect by industry and government to effecting address the First Nations concerns about impacts our Treaty rights and the increases in rare illnesses in our community. We need further independent studies done by internationally credible institutions like the World Health Organization.”

Community health and wellbeing have been in sharp decline. The study reveals a link between the Oil Sands and illness in Fort Chipewyan unlike the 2014 cancer report by Alberta Health Service which simply aggregated limited data.. Indeed, cancer occurrence in Fort Chipewyan is positively associated with the consumption of traditional wild foods, including locally caught fish.

“Communities are facing a double-bind”, says Stephane McLachlan, head researcher for the study. “On one hand, industry, notably the Oil Sands, causes a substantial decline in the health of the environment and ultimately of community members. On the other hand, the existing healthcare services are unable to address these declines in human health. These Indigenous communities are caught in the middle, and the impacts are clear and worrisome.”

Researchers and the community leaders urge further investigation of contaminant concentrations, in addition to the mitigation of existing occurrences. The report also emphasizes continued community-based monitoring and calls for improved risk communication from government and industry. A full copy of the report will be available online at www.onerivernews.ca



Winnipeg, Feb. 17, 2014: Suzanne Patles of the Mi'kmaq Warriors Society, speaking at at Thunderbird House. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, Feb. 17, 2014: Suzanne Patles of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, speaking at Thunderbird House. Photo: Paul S. Graham

It is time to “warrior up” according to Suzanne Patles of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society. She spoke at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg on Feb. 17, 2014 as part of a national tour to raise awareness about the struggle at Elsipogtog First Nation against shale gas fracking and police repression, as well as their ongoing assertion of nationhood.

Their blockade in opposition to shale gas fracking at Elsipogtog First Nation (located in Kent County, New Brunswick) came to national attention on October 17, 2013 when the it was attacked by dozens of RCMP officers armed with assault rifles, pepper spray and dogs.

Forty members of the blockade were arrested, and a number of members of the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society face charges.

Seen at the opening of the video is the Keewatin Otchitchak Traditional Women’s Drum Group, which performed at various times during the evening.

The Winnipeg stop of this national speaking tour was organized by the Council of Canadians-Winnipeg Chapter, Boreal Forest Network, Thunderbird House, Winnipeg-Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).