Archive for the ‘In Solidarity’ 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Ellner

Professor Steve Ellner. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Mainstream media and government sources in Canada and the United States have provided an extremely unbalanced picture of Venezuela, portraying it as a dictatorship when in fact the governing party has won re-election consistently over the past (almost) 20 years in contests deemed fair and democratic by international observers. Through crippling economic sanctions, financial support to anti-government forces, and public musings about the desirability of regime change, the US government has made it clear it wants to put a more reliable puppet in power in Venezuela. With its long history of overthrowing governments it cannot control, the US destabilization campaign is par for the course. As is usually the case, the Canadian government has been an enthusiastic partner.

Doing its part to address the one-sidedness of this situation, the Winnipeg Venezuela Peace Committee held a very well attended public forum on 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 and Carlos Ron, Venezuelas Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, responsible for North America, who participated via Skype.

Regrettably, the Skype connection was so poor that Ron’s presentation was largely incoherent. While I recorded the entire event, I have not included the Skype portion because of terrible audio quality.

On a more positive note, Professor Ellner provided a detailed, highly informative description of conditions in Venezuela and an accessible analysis of how the country arrived at the state it is in.

He is more than qualified to talk about this country. Ellner earned his Ph.D. in Latin American history at the University of New Mexico in 1980. Since 1977 he has taught economic history and political science at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and for ten years taught in the graduate school of law and political science of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He has been a visiting professor at numerous schools in the United States and Latin America.

As Professor Ellner underlined, more than once, the problems faced by the Venezuelan people are complex and challenging; the situation is complicated and difficult to understand without considering many factors.

Opposition to the Chavistas by the Venezuelan oligarchs and their foreign backers began as soon as Hugo Chavez was elected in 1999. By fomenting coup attempts, violence and economic instability, these forces have undermined Chavista attempts to alleviate widespread poverty and have magnified the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

Not everyone in the audience would agree with the last paragraph; some were very critical of the Maduro government. Nonetheless, the discussion was wide ranging, open to all perspectives, respectful and civil.

Here is my video report.

Winnipeg, Jan. 23, 2018: The local Kurdish community rallied at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in solidarity with Kurds under Turkish attack in Afrin, Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

According to a January 23, 2018 story from Reuters, Turkey has killed at least 260 Syrian Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in its four-day-old offensive into the Kurdish-dominated Afrin region of northwest Syria.

The target of Turkey’s attack is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG, who are based in Afrin, though the offensive is expected to widen in the days ahead.

Because the YPG has been armed by the United States to repel attacks by ISIS, one might wonder why Turkey, also an ally of the United States, would attack them. To make a long story short, and possibly to over-simplify it, the Turkish government views the Kurds as enemies because of an almost century long bid by Kurds in the region for a national homeland.

In Winnipeg, the local Kurdish community rallied today at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Many are recent immigrants and they fear for the lives of family and friends in the path of the Turkish offensive.

Winnipeg, Dec. 6, 2017 – Professor Johnny Márquez, speaking at Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple on the political and economic situation in Venezuela. Photo: Paul S. Graham

When it comes to Venezuela, the mainstream media is awash with lies and distortions and the Canadian government is complicit (with the United States) in an attempt to force the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro. One can easily imagine Trump and Trudeau agreeing that it would be a crime to leave the largest proven oil reserves in the world (about 297 billion barrels) under the control of a socialist government pledged to use this wealth on behalf of some of the poorest people in the world.

In Winnipeg, a group called the Venezuela Peace Committee has organized a number of educational events to encourage citizens to learn about Venezuela and the struggles of working people for a socialist society. The VPC has a petition on the House of Commons E-Petition web site that calls on the government to cease its sanctions campaign. Here is the text:

E-1353
Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:

On September 22, 2017, the Government of Canada imposed new sanctions against Venezuela, Venezuelan officials, and other individuals under the Special Economic Measures Act in violation of the sovereignty of Venezuela;
Such sanctions impede dialogue and peace-building in Venezuela and in the region more generally;
These sanctions impede the normal operation of Venezuela’s duly constituted political processes including elections;
The Government of Canada has supported the U.S. government’s sanctions against Venezuela
The Government of Canada has met with, supported, and continues to echo the demands of Venezuela’s violent anti-government opposition;
The Government of Canada refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela’s democratically elected government and falsely refers to it as dictatorial; and
The government of Canada seeks to promote foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to immediately lift all sanctions against Venezuela, Venezuelan officials, and other individuals, retract all statements in support of US sanctions against Venezuela, immediately cease its support for the efforts of the US and other right wing governments in the Organization of American States (OAS) that violate the sovereignty and self-determination of another member-state and immediately cease all intervention against Venezuela.

The VPC is asking Canadians and friends of Canada to sign the petition. Just sign here.

The petition arose out of a resolution approved by the attendees of a conference held at the University of Manitoba to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Julia Buxton, an internationally recognized expert on Venezuela. I recorded her talk.

Most recently, the VPC arranged for the visit of Professor Johnny Márquez to speak in Winnipeg. Professor Márquez is a Venezuelan lawyer, diplomat and scholar and president of the Latin American and Caribbean Center for Energy and Environment Studies. His first appearance was at the University of Manitoba on Dec. 5, 2017, where he discussed the history of Venezuela’s oil industry and its strategic importance. The following day he presented at Winnipeg’s historic Ukrainian Labour Temple on the current political situation in Venezuela. Both of these videos are linked below.

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.

Winnipeg, July 19, 2014: Winnipeggers march in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeg, July 19, 2014: Winnipeggers march in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Photo: Paul S. Graham

July 19, 2014: Several hundred Winnipeggers rallied in front of the Canadian Human Rights Museum in solidarity with the people of Gaza who are enduring yet another murderous invasion by Israeli forces. The rally, the second in a week, was part of an international day of action.

Here’s my video report, featuring:
• Krishna Lalbiharie, Canada-Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg)
• Rana Abdulla, Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba
• Terrance Nelson, Grand Chief, Southern Chiefs Organization
• Daniel Thau-Eleff, Independent Jewish Voices (Winnipeg)
• Bassam Hozaima,  Canada-Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg)
• Glenn Michalchuk, Peace Alliance Winnipeg

The demonstration was sponsored by

• Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba
• Canada-Palestine Support Network (Winnipeg)
• Independent Jewish Voices (Winnipeg)
• Peace Alliance Winnipeg
• Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (WCAIA)

Oct. 4, 2013: Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to remember the lives of 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, 75 of whom came from Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Oct. 4, 2013: Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to remember the lives of 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, 75 of whom came from Manitoba. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba Legislature on Friday afternoon to demand an national inquiry into the causes for the disappearance or death of over 600 indigenous women in Canada in recent years. The demonstrators repeated a longstanding demand for a for national inquiry, something that has gained the support of all provincial premiers and territorial leaders, but which continues to be rejected by the federal government.

Appearing in this video report are Rosanna Deerchild, Chief Francine Meeches,  Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Raven Hart-Bellecourt, Robert Animikii Horton, Jo Redsky, Sierra Noble, Dana Foster and Chief Cathy Merrick.


HR Poster logoWinnipeg, September 28, 2013 – In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, Winnipeg’s Chilean community held numerous educational and cultural events throughout September. On September 28th, the Chilean Human Rights Council of Canada held a conference at the University of Winnipeg entitled “Human Rights – The Chilean Experience.”

Speakers included:
– Dr. Miguel Sanchez, University of Regina, School of Social Work
– Fr. Eduardo Enrique Soto Parra, SJ, Mauro Centre, University of Manitoba
– Claudia Garcia de la Huerta, Journalist
– Dr. Clint Curle, Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Moderator)

Conference Organizers:
– Chilean Human Rights Council of Canada
– Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Conference Sponsors:
– University of Manitoba, Mauro Centre
– University of Winnipeg, Global College

Salvador Allende

Salvador Allende

Forty years ago, on September 11, 1973, the military forces commanded by General Augusto Pinochet, overthrew the democratically elected government of Chile led by Salvador Allende. Thousands of people were killed. Many thousands more were imprisoned.

The coup d’etat was swift, brutal and merciless. It was carried out by the Chilean oligarchs with the active assistance of the United States. Overnight, the progressive social and economic measures introduced by the Allende government were overturned, condemning Chile’s working class to lives of poverty and oppression.

Perhaps 500,000 Chileans were forced into exile, relocating to countries around the world. Several hundred found themselves in my home town, Winnipeg, where they have made significant and lasting contributions to the life of our city.

This past month, the Winnipeg Chilean community, like many such communities in the Chilean diaspora world wide, has been commemorating the tragedy of Sept. 11, 1973 with film screenings, cultural performances and events such as the one I participated in tonight as part of a panel discussion that included former Manitoba Premier, Howard Pawley, former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and Darrell Rankin, head of the Manitoba wing of the Communist Party of Canada.

Each of us drew on our experiences to talk about the significance of September 11, 1973 and our memories of the solidarity movement with the people of Chile. What follows is the text of my remarks.


Panelists (l-r): Darrell Rankin, Howard Pawley, Judy W,, Paul Graham. Photo: Maggi Robinson

Panelists (l-r): Darrell Rankin, Howard Pawley, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Paul Graham. Photo: Maggi Robinson

Forty years is a long time to remember what I knew and when I knew it, but I seriously doubt that I could have located Chile on a map on the day that Augusto Pinochet seized power and destroyed so many lives.

In September 1973 I was a student at the University of Manitoba. I was active in student politics and becoming aware of some of the forces that shape our lives. But our struggles were more local and immediate. For example, there was a strike at the U of M that year, and some of us looked for ways to support the people on strike.

However, in time, our impulse to act locally led us to think more globally.

Throughout the 1970s Winnipeg was fertile ground for many kinds of political activism. We had a vibrant anti-war movement. It mobilized support for American draft resisters, opposed the war in Vietnam and campaigned for nuclear disarmament.

I think the first demonstration I attended had to do with American nuclear testing in Amchitka, an island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. This movement became quite broad by the early 1980s, with annual Walks for Peace that attracted up to 20,000 people.

The anti-apartheid movement was quite active here in the 70s, supporting liberation movements in South Africa, Mozambique, Angola and what was then known as Rhodesia.

The women’s movement was gaining strong momentum. There would be many victories in successive decades, including reproductive rights, equal pay for work of equal value, state supported childcare and the right of women to work in so-called nontraditional occupations.

Environmentalism was being born in Winnipeg. It is interesting to note that the Amchitka nuclear test that drew me and a couple hundred other people to the US consulate in 1971 was a catalyst for the creation of Greenpeace. We can thank the Vancouver “Don’t Make a Wave” committee which sent a boat named “Greenpeace” to protest the blast and later adopted the boat’s name as their own.

White progressives were waking up to the struggles of aboriginal peoples and getting involved in campaigns around mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows, support for the Dene who were opposing the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, and struggles led by the American Indian Movement related to the Wounded Knee occupation and the case of Leonard Peltier, who many believe was framed for the murder of 2 FBI agents in 1975.

Relatively new to government, the NDP introduced some progressive reforms, such as public auto insurance and reduced medicare premiums. As a Party, it was more active in political education than it has been for many years since and published a newspaper for its members. To the left of the NDP we had, for a time, at least five revolutionary groups. To this collection of radical lefties we should add members of the New Democratic Youth, and former members of the Waffle movement that had been expelled from the NDP. We had at least three left wing book stores, and Canadian Dimension magazine, still published in Winnipeg, was enjoying its largest circulation ever.

Also working for social change were a number of largely (but not exclusively) faith based organizations dedicated to international development and social justice. In a more secular vein, Oxfam, CUSO, and the IDEA Centre engaged in similar work. To various degrees, these groups were beginning to think in terms of solidarity and linking the struggles of oppressed people in the so-called Third World with those of people living in Canada. With the exception of the IDEA Centre, most of them continue to be active and make up the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Winnipeg was, in the 1970s, politically progressive, diverse and vibrant. It was a welcoming environment for the refugees of Pinochet’s terror and one that was enriched by these newcomers.

In 1975, when Chileans started arriving in Winnipeg, I had just begun working at the IDEA Centre. IDEA stood for Intercultural Development Education Association. Its mission was to promote support for international development. We were housed at 418 Wardlaw Avenue, in the company of like minded organizations, including CUSO, the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation and the Agassiz Food Co-op.

IDEA offered a lot of things to a lot of different kinds of people. We operated a resource library that specialized in international development. We did programs with schools and held regular educational evenings, usually on Wednesdays, that were combined with a potluck supper.

Our most useful function, I think, was that we provided meeting space, printing facilities and a welcoming environment in which a wide range of individuals and groups could meet, plan and organize.

As the Chilean community began to form in Winnipeg, and as people found their bearings, the IDEA Centre was one of the places that welcomed them, worked with them and learned from them.

It was at the IDEA Centre that I met people like Jaime Carasco, Hugo Torres, Olga Flandez, Rosa Candia, Pablo Herrera and many others. Bonds of friendship, collaboration and respect were formed in those days that have endured to the present. With all of this in mind, I have two observations with which I will close:

Most of the Canadians with whom I worked in that period fell into one of two categories.

One was made up of individuals who were motivated by faith-based or secular humanitarian values; we had little to no direct, personal experience of poverty, oppression, or repression; our understanding was largely theoretical.

The other group included people who had traveled, worked abroad and witnessed poverty and abuse; in some cases they helped struggle against it. Others in this group had had similar Canadian experience. But our perceptions were conditioned by our largely middle class, privileged backgrounds. At the end of the day, we could go home to a relatively comfortable existence.

The arrival of the Chilean refugees, and their participation in Winnipeg’s political life changed this. It enriched our understanding of solidarity. It made it real. Suddenly American imperialism wasn’t some abstract system directed by sociopaths we would never meet. Through our new Chilean friends we could learn what it was all about. It was no longer theoretical. It was flesh and blood. And this strengthened our resolve and deepened our understanding.

My second observation has to do with the Chileans themselves. Like all newcomers, their first priority was getting oriented, learning English, finding jobs, decoding Canadian culture and coping with all of the stress that this involves. Add to this the need to recover from the trauma of the coup, of prison and torture, of having to uproot and flee, of losing their friends, families, homes, communities and country. You have to ask where they found the energy to not only survive, but to reach out and participate in the political life of their new community.

Not everyone was able to manage this. But many were, and their solidarity work went beyond resistance to Pinochet’s military junta. In the years that followed their arrival in Winnipeg, US backed governments carried out vicious repressions rights across Central and South America. If there was a solidarity committee for any of these struggles operating in Winnipeg you could be sure to find at least one Chilean on it.

In 1980, I had the privilege of being able to travel to Nicaragua with a group of solidarity activists from across Western Canada. At least one third of the group were Chilean Canadians who had worked hard to support the Nicaraguan revolution. They understood, better than most, that freedom for Nicaragua would contribute to the same in their own country and throughout Latin America. History has shown they were right. Latin America is much less dominated by American imperialism than it has ever been.

Another quick example and I’ll wrap up. On Oct. 25, 1983, the United States invaded Grenada, a tiny Caribbean nation of 91,000 people. People worldwide were outraged. The UN General Assembly called the invasion a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Three days later, in Winnipeg, there was a demonstration at the US Consulate, then on Pembina Highway. Several hundred people participated.

It began peacefully, but we soon had our own invasion to deal with. A half dozen members of the Winnipeg Rifles militia unit, decked out in camouflage jackets, charged the steps to disrupt the speakers and touched off what some described as a “police riot.”

Rather than arrest the militia goons, the police began arresting demonstrators. Six were arrested and many more were roughed up. Four of those arrested were Chilean.

Now, this little statistic could be used by folks uncomfortable with refugees as evidence they are troublemakers. Having been an active participant in that demonstration and the subsequent defence committee, I see things differently.

They were arrested because they were unwilling to let their comrades be detained by police. They were arrested because they refused to be intimidated by right wing thugs in camouflage uniforms. They were arrested because they would not allow what happened in their home country to happen in another without standing up and saying “Nunca mas!” – “Never again!”

That was the spirit of the Chilean community in Winnipeg in those early years. A spirit of resistance to oppression. A spirit of resilience. A spirit of courage. I think this spirit lives on and continues to inspire all of us.


Aug. 31, 2013: Two of the Winnipeggers who gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Museum to oppose military intervention in Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Aug. 31, 2013: Two of the Winnipeggers who gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Museum to oppose military intervention in Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

By Peace Alliance Winnipeg

As the United States moves closer to a direct military strike on Syria, the world draws closer to a conflict that could spread well beyond the boundaries of that war-torn nation.

The pretext for an American strike is an allegation, as yet unproven, that Syrian government forces used sarin gas on opposition forces and civilians. A UN weapons inspection team is on site to determine if chemical weapons were used, though it has no mandate to determine who might have used them. Regardless of what the UN might say, the American government has decided to press on with “punishing” the Syrian regime. No such action is mandated by the 1925 Geneva Protocol on chemical weapons, and an attack would violate international law.

Despite the US government’s assertions of overwhelming proof, only France has said it will join the US in an attack. The British Parliament, last week, voted against military intervention. The UN Security Council has refused to authorize a strike. NATO has ruled out military action.

British MPs voted against military action because the British people were well aware of the falsified British and American intelligence reports that were used to justify attacking Iraq in 2003. That invasion caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and almost 5,000 coalition troops. Four million Iraqis became refugees, the country’s infrastructure was destroyed and Iraqi society was fragmented by sectarian violence that continues to this day.

Canada has funneled more than $5 million to opposition forces and endorsed the use of military force. PM Harper has ambiguously stated that, “at the present time the Government of Canada has no plans, we have no plans of our own, to have a Canadian military mission.” Although Canada has said that it doesn’t intend to send troops, it has provided the US government with consistent political support. We must pressure the Canadian government to reverse that support and we must express our opposition to the US war drive.

The Syrian war is widening

The people of Syria have already suffered over two years of a devastating war, with more than a hundred thousand Syrians killed and millions driven from their homes. What began as a nonviolent protest and then civil war has expanded to sectarian and even more dangerous international conflict.

Syria is a battleground where conflicts are being fought out between regional powers (Saudi Arabia and Iran) and global powers (the US and Russia). A US military attack would worsen the conflict between heavily armed and powerful forces, seriously escalating the war and further destabilizing the Middle East.

Attacking Syrian forces with cruise missiles and drones, which is what the US military is likely to do, will only add to the death toll and delay the peace negotiations that must ultimately bring this war to a close. Even if, through some miracle, the violence remains contained within Syria, the price will still be paid by the Syrian people.

Antiwar sentiment is strong and growing

Last weekend there were antiwar demonstrations around the world. Protests were held in more than 12 Canadian cities, including Winnipeg.

This attack can be prevented, but only with a huge global response. We need to show our solidarity with the people of Syria and stop the US from launching its missiles under the guise of humanitarian intervention. The lives of tens of thousands more Syrians are at stake.

What can we do, here, in Winnipeg?

There are positive, constructive steps we can take to show our support for the people of Syria. We can contact our Members of Parliament. We can insist that they reconvene Parliament and take the following constructive steps:

1. Provide genuine humanitarian aid to the victims of the civil war in the form of food, medical supplies and financial contributions to the reputable humanitarian aid groups that have been stretched to the breaking point by this crisis.

2. End all forms of material and political support to opposition forces.

3. Adopt a genuinely neutral position on the world stage and press for peace talks that involve all of the contending forces.

Parliament must be reconvened to reverse the damage that our government has done by taking sides in this civil war. Canada has to become a responsible voice for peace in the Middle East and the world. If you don’t know how to get hold of your MP, here are some phone numbers.

  • Niki Ashton (Churchill): 204-677-1333
  • Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre): 204-983-1355
  • Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar): 204-822-7440
  • James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake): 204-785-6151
  • Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South): 204-984-6787
  • Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia): 204-984-6432
  • Shelly Glover (St. Boniface): 204-983-3183
  • Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North): 204-984-1767
  • Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre): 204-984-1767
  • Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul): 204-984-6322
  • Robert Sopuck (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette): 204-848-7000
  • Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona): 204-984-2499

For more complete contact information, go here.

What else can we do?

Get educated. There are excellent sources of critical analysis on the Internet. Here are a couple:

Centre for Research on Globalization

Middle East Research and Information Project

Get involved. You can find No War With Syria (Winnipeg) on Facebook. Peace Alliance Winnipeg is also on Facebook, and on the Internet.

Please contact us. Together, we can do our part to work for peace.

Reposted from Peace Alliance Winnipeg News