Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

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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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.

Winnipeg, June, 5, 2015: At the Manitoba Legislative Building, Maeengan Linklater answers journalists questions about his proposed Manitoba Indian Residential Schools Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, June, 5, 2015: At the Manitoba Legislative Building, Maeengan Linklater answers journalists’ questions about his proposed Manitoba Indian Residential Schools Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has completed its work, and the major federal political parties have have adopted predictable positions, what can ordinary folk do to make sure Justice Sinclair’s message isn’t lost between now and the election this fall?

I’m rather taken with a draft Act that was made public yesterday on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature that would set aside one day a year, called  Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day, to reflect on and reaffirm our commitment to truth and reconciliation.

According to Maeengan Linklater, the proponent of this resolution, adopting the Act would help achieve the following:

  1. Continue the healing for those survivors, families and communities;
  2. Reaffirm the safety and protection of Aboriginal children from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse;
  3. Reaffirm, recognize and acknowledge Aboriginal people and governments as self-governing and nation-to-nation in their relationships with the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba; and,
  4. Educate all Canadians about the Indian Residential School experience.

The use of the word “genocide” makes this is a provocative name for a provincial holiday. It is precisely the provocative nature of the word that makes it so valuable. Most Canadians are in a state of denial regarding the injustices perpetrated against indigenous peoples and badly in need of some straight talk.

I recorded Maeengan’s launch of the Act, following him through the halls of the Manitoba Legislature to capture the responses of representatives of four political parties. I’ve also (see below), published the draft Act. I hope the Manitobans reading this post will get behind it and get in contact with their Members of the Manitoba Legislature.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Canadians in other parts of the country tried to beat us to the punch and get similar laws enacted in their provinces?

Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act

WHEREAS between the years 1870 and 1996, 150,000 Indian, Metis, and Inuit children in Canada were removed from their families and communities to attend residential schools.

WHEREAS, the ‘Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ (adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948, includes “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” and the actions taken to remove children from families and communities and to put them in residential schools meets this definition of a “genocide”.

WHEREAS the goals of the Indian Residential School system were to “remove and isolate children from the influence of their home, families, traditions, and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominate culture”.

WHEREAS the Government of Canada recognized that many of the children experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, lived in conditions of neglect, and were forbidden to learn, or practice, their culture, and to speak their language.

WHEREAS on June 11, 2008, the Government of Canada made a Statement of Apology – to former students of Indian Residential Schools to initiate healing and reconciliation between the Aboriginal community and Canada.

WHEREAS efforts have been launched nationally to lead to reconciliation including the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

WHEREAS on June 2, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada recognized the establishment and operation of residential schools was a central element of assimilative policies that can be best described as cultural genocide.

WHEREAS the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples be the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

WHEREAS setting aside one day a year for such a day will provide an opportunity to focus on understanding and reconciliation including to:

a. Continue the healing for those survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities;

b. Reaffirm the safety and protection of Aboriginal children from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse;

c. Reaffirm, recognize, and acknowledge, Aboriginal peoples and governments as self-governing, sovereign, and nation-to-nation, in its relationship with the Government of Canada and the Province of Manitoba; and,

d. To educate all Manitobans about the lessons of the Indian Residential School system, and its continuing impacts in today’s society.

WHEREAS the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba is committed through legislation and education, to support the revitalization of Aboriginal communities that enable Aboriginal people to reach their full potential, and to bridge efforts of reconciliation of Aboriginal people and the people of Manitoba.

WHEREAS on June 2, we will remember, for we must never forget.

THEREFOR HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

Manitoba Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day

  1. In each year, June 2, to be known as Manitoba Day for Understanding and Reconciliation in Relations to the Indian Residential Schools.

 

March 14, 2015: About a thousand people rallied at Winnipeg City Hall and marched through Winnipeg to share their opposition to Bill C-51, a federal Conservative omnibus bill that will, in the guise of fighting terrorism, undermine constitutionally protected civil liberties in Canada. Similar events took place in more than 40 communities across Canada.


Introduced into Parliament on Jan. 30, 2015, Bill C-51 is an omnibus bill that will undermine constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of Canadians in the guise of combating terrorism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bombastic, saber-rattling YouTube video, published 2 days before the bill was tabled, set the tone. Essentially, Canada is under attack and the government will do whatever it takes to protect Canadians.

stephen-harperCritics of C-51 argue that it will criminalize speech, make it easier to arrest people who police think might commit an offence, share citizen’s private information between government departments without oversight, and allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to have police-like powers and disrupt the organizations they are spying on, all under a veil of secrecy.

Consequently, this bill has attracted a broad and growing opposition, including the federal Green and New Democratic Parties, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, editorialists at several major daily newspapers, and four former prime ministers. Regrettably, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said that Liberal MPs will support the bill.

Environmentalists, such as Greenpeace Canada’s Keith Stewart, have written that C-51 may be used against climate activists. A recently leaked RCMP document entitled “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment – Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry” lends credence to this line of analysis.

The Anti-Terrorism Act has come under expert legal scrutiny. Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions. They have set up a website to present their analysis. This is well worth reading.

Bill C-51 passed second reading in the House of Commons on Monday evening, with 176 Liberals, Bloc Quebecois, and Conservative members voting in favour. Only the the NDP, Greens, and an independent conservative, Brent Rathgeber, opposed the legislation.

Does this mean the jig is up? Not by a long shot. There is still time to let your MP know there will be a political price to pay for supporting this police state bill. Contact your Member of Parliament and tell him/her to vote against Bill C-51. If you don’t know how to make contact, follow this link.


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.

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.

edney dinner poster

Almost unnoticed amidst the hoopla and the protests associated with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was a dinner held at the Grand Mosque Community Centre last Friday in honour of Edmonton-based human rights lawyer Dennis Edney, QC.

Sept. 19, 2014: Human rights advocate Dennis Edney, QC, speaking in Winnipeg on the case of Omar Khadr. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Sept. 19, 2014: Human rights advocate Dennis Edney, QC, speaking in Winnipeg on the case of Omar Khadr. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Edney is the recipient of the National Pro Bono Award (2008) and the Human Rights Medal (British Columbia, 2009). He was honoured in Winnipeg for his decade-long pro bono defence of Omar Khadr and presented with a sculpture created by local artist Margaret Glavina.

Omar Khadr is probably Canada’s best-known, least understood prisoner. In 2002, at the age of 15, he was severely wounded in an American assault on a compound in Afghanistan, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, tortured and coerced into confessing to “war crimes.” Following his conviction by a US military tribunal he was returned to Canada and is currently held at the federal Bowden Correctional Institution in Edmonton. While respected human rights advocates, such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called for Khadr’s release, the federal government continues to resist demands that he be set free.

The Khadr case is controversial to say the least. In this video report, Dennis Edney recounts his experience defending Omar Khadr and discusses what this affair says about the state of human rights in Canada.

The dinner, the proceeds of which were donated to cover Omar Khadr’s legal defense costs, was sponsored by: