Archive for the ‘Nibbling on The Empire’ Category

Jo Seenie Redsky: "we’re your last resort." Photo: Paul S. Graham

Jo Seenie Redsky: “We’re your last resort.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

If your only source of information is the mainstream news media you can be forgiven for wondering what the Idle No More movement is all about. Since it burst on the scene late last year, media attention has darted from demonstrations to blockades to the fasts of elders and chiefs — with an occasional sustained flurry of excitement when the PMO tried to smear Chief Theresa Spence.

Discussions of the abrogation of historic treaty rights or the corporate pillaging Stephen Harper has buried, like poisonous turds, in his omnibus budget bills, do not lend themselves to the tidy sound bites that nourish the media and feed the news cycle.

Having spent last Sunday afternoon at a panel discussion sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg and Project Peacemakers, I can assure you that Idle No More is about nearly everything that is wrong with our society, but fundamentally it is about love. Love of family, friends, complete strangers, future generations, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we walk on.

Feb. 24, 2013: Jerry Daniels speaking about Idle No More in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Jerry Daniels: ” The issue is sustainable development.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

Idle No More is inclusive and green. As panelist Jerry Daniels puts it, “A sustainable future is important to not only aboriginal people, it is important to all of us . . . the issue is sustainable development – sustainable futures for our children.” For Leah Gazan, “it’s not just about indigenous people of Canada any more, it’s about all of us. It’s about all of us sharing this land in a really good way.”

Idle No More is about redressing the damage we have done to ourselves and the environment, and preventing more of the same. Chickadee Richard sums it up in as tidy a sound bite as you could find anywhere: “As you heal, you heal Mother Earth.”

Chickadee Richard, Feb. 24, 2013

Chickadee Richard: “As you heal, you heal Mother Earth.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

Michael Champagne: "An injustice to one is an injustice to all." Photo: Paul S. Graham

Michael Champagne: “An injustice to one is an injustice to all.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

Idle No More is about aboriginal youth, says Michael Champagne, but about aboriginal youth unlike those of previous generations: “not only are we educated in Western institutions . . . , we are also educated by the Chickadees of the world, by our elders and our ancestors and our community and we are able to learn about the strength and resilience of our ancestors and our nations.”

Idle No More is about human solidarity. Champagne continues: “We’re able to hear those teachings within the medicine wheel and understand that we are all related regardless of the colour of our skin, and like a circle, it is not complete if one of you is missing . . . if you’re hurting, I’m hurting . . . and if I’m hurting, so are you . . . An injustice to one is an injustice to all.” Champagne was consistent; he included Stephen Harper in the company of those damaged by the system Idle No More seeks to overturn.

Lori Mainville: "no fear, no surrender, only love." Photo: Paul S. Graham

Lori Mainville: “no fear, no surrender, only love.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

Idle No More cannot be contained or controlled says Lori Mainville. “The media poses a skewed version – always trying commodify or standardize or put it in a dichotomy and this is a people’s movement. The definition rests with the people and our relationship with the people, our allies, our brothers and sisters in each moment as this energy reveals itself. There’s no way you can cap [it].”

Idle No More is an obligation for those who love Mother Earth. “I guess you could say in . . . protecting the land, the waters, we’re your last resort,” says Jo Seenie Redsky. “I know the world is watching our people here, in the country of Canada, to see us rise up and protect what everybody needs to protect and that’s the land and the waters and those yet to come.”

Leah Gazan: "Idle No More is the newest version of a 500-year struggle." Photo: Paul S. Graham

Leah Gazan: “Idle No More is the newest version of a 500-year struggle.” Photo: Paul S. Graham

At its base, says Redsky, Idle No More is about love. “There’s an unconditional love that we have for our kids. That protection that we have for them is the same protection that we need to have for Mother Earth.” For Lori Mainville, whatever the risks, “I keep remembering that the greatest equalizer is love . . . no fear, no surrender, only love . . . For me, it’s about love as a mother and a grandmother and a sister and a community member.”

My reduction of this discussion to a matter of love aside, it is difficult to sum up a discussion of this importance in a few paragraphs.

Fortunately, I brought my video camera.

If you want to get involved, you can find Idle No More on Facebook and on the World Wide Web. As the weather warms, I have a feeling you’ll be able find it and join it in the streets. Don’t hesitate, because I’m sure you’ll receive a warm welcome.


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Roger Annis at the Feb. 24, 2013 annual meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Is the military intervention in Mali by France, with the assistance of the United States, Canada and others an example of a humanitarian intervention launched to protect a fragile democracy from the incursion of Muslim terrorists? Or is France meddling in the affairs of its former colony to protect its business interests and further the political and economic interests of its NATO partners?

Roger Annis, coordinator of the Canada-Haiti Action Network and longtime political activist, explored these questions at the Annual General Meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, held Feb. 24, 2013 in Winnipeg.

If you want to read more on this issue, Roger has published a number of thoughtful articles on his blog.


July 1, 2012: National Stop Harper Day in Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Traditionally a day of celebration, Canada Day 2012 became National Stop Harper Day for Canadians in 12 cities because of the regressive policies of the Harper government, most notably Bill C-38.

In Winnipeg, citizens held a Funeral for Canada in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, a display of activist art at the St. Norbert Arts Centre and a Vigil for Canada on the outskirts of The Forks National Historic Site.

Naturally, I brought my camcorder.



Lester B. Pearson has been dead for four decades, but his imagined legacy, that of international peacekeeper, remains one of the defining myths of the Canadian identity. Horrified by our murderous behavior in the occupation of Afghanistan and the bombings of Libya and the former Yugoslavia, the sainted memory of our 14th prime minister is resurrected by people who ought to know better to argue that war-making is not really a Canadian value, that we need to retake our traditional place in the global community as a progressive force for international co-operation, harmony and peace – that we must, again, assume the mantle of our revered Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mike Pearson.

Yves Engler‘s sixth book, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, was written to put an end to this nonsense. Canadian foreign policy continues to serve the interests of Canada’s corporate elite, and Pearson’s major contribution to this end was to shift Canadian allegiance from the declining British Empire to the emerging American one. With his peacekeeping fig leaf firmly in place, he backed some of the most murderous thugs of the 20th Century. As Noam Chomsky puts it in the preface to Engler’s book:

“Canada’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and eminent statesman, Lester Pearson was a major criminal, really extreme. He didn’t have the power to be like an American president, but if he had it, he would have been the same. He really tried.”

To encapsulate the book, Yves assembled a list of the “Top 10 things you don’t know about Canada’s most famous statesman, Lester B. Pearson.”

10. Asked in Parliament, he refused to call for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
9. He had Canada deliver weapons to the French to put down the Algerian and Vietnamese independence movements.
8. The Kennedy administration helped Pearson win his first minority government.
7. He incited individuals to destroy a peace group after it called for the outlawing of nuclear weapons.
6. Pearson backed the CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala.
5. He described the formation of NATO, not peacekeeping, as the “most important thing I participated in.”
4. Pearson threatened to quit as external affairs minister if Canada failed to deploy ground troops to Korea.
3. He agreed to have Canada’s representatives to the International Control Commission for Vietnam spy for the US and deliver their bombing threats to the North.
2. The world’s leading intellectual, Noam Chomsky, considers Lester Pearson a war criminal.
1. Stephen Harper’s foreign policy resembles that of Pearson more than any Liberal would ever admit.

Yves Engler was in Winnipeg on March 15, speaking at the Mondragon Bookstore and Coffee House. His appearance was sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Dwayne Crowe and I prepared this video report for Winnipeg Community Television.

Image: Yves Engler in 2011. Photo: Paul S. Graham

UPDATE: You can watch a video report of Yves Engler’s March 15th Winnipeg presentation here.


Foreign policy analyst Yves Engler will be speaking in Winnipeg Thursday about his newest book, Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt.

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Mondragon Bookstore and Coffee House, 91 Albert Street, Winnipeg
Admission: Free. Donations will be requested to help defray expenses.


Written in the form of a submission to an imagined “Truth and Reconciliation” commission about Canada’s foreign policy past Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurtchallenges one of the most important Canadian foreign policy myths – that of Lester B. Pearson as peacekeeper.

Lester Pearson is one of Canada’s most important political figures. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he is considered a great peacekeeper and ‘honest broker.’ But in this critical examination of his work, Pearson is exposed as an ardent cold warrior who backed colonialism and apartheid in Africa, Zionism, coups in Guatemala, Iran and Brazil and the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic. A beneficiary of U.S. intervention in Canadian political affairs, he also provided important support to the U.S. in Vietnam and pushed to send troops to the American war in Korea.

Yves Engler has published five other books:

  • Stop Signs — Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay (with Bianca Mugyenyi)
  • The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Shortlisted for the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non Fiction in the Quebec Writers’ Federation Literary Awards)
  • Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical and (with Anthony Fenton)
  • Canada in Haiti: Waging War on The Poor Majority
  • Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid

His six books have been praised by Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, William Blum, Rick Salutin and many others.

His visit to Winnipeg is being hosted by Peace Alliance Winnipeg.

The National Energy Board is conducting hearings on Enbridge’s proposal for a pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to the town of Kitimat in the heart of BC’s Great Bear Rainforest. If approved, over 200 oil tankers would be navigating the difficult waters off BC’s Northwest Coast each year, making widespread environmental damage to BC’s coastline only a matter of time. Moreover, it will facilitate the marketing of even more dirty oil from Alberta’s tar sands, fueling that unfolding ecological catastrophe with profound consequences for the rest of Canada and the world.

The project is meeting fierce opposition, especially in northern BC, and the federal government has declared war on anyone who opposes this project. In Winnipeg, a coalition of environmental groups banded together to hold a public forum on February 16, 2012 at the University of Winnipeg entitled Tar Sands, Pipelines and Tankers. Over 300 people turned out to view an excellent 16-minute documentary by Pacific Wild entitled Oil in Eden and to dialogue with an expert panel, moderated by journalist Ricard Cloutier.

The Panel

Dr. Wade Davis is Explorer in Residence, National Geographic Society, Visiting Professor and Senior Fellow of the Masters in Development Practice (MDP) Indigenous Development program, University of Winnipeg.

As well, he is the author of The Sacred Headwaters: the fight to save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.

Gerald Amos was Chief Councillor for the Haisla First Nation for 12 years. He has been a leading voice for conservation in Canada for thirty years.

He is the author of an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver “No apology forthcoming.”

Lynne Fernandez, of the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives has an MA in economics from the University of Manitoba. As a research associate at the Manitoba office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Lynne has studied municipal and provincial social and economic policy. She is also interested in labour and environmental issues.

Anne Lindsey is former executive director of the Manitoba Eco-Network. Since 1984, Anne has worked on such Manitoba and national issues as nuclear waste, forestry, food, pesticides and environmental reviews.

This event was organized by the Manitoba Eco-Network, Green Action Centre, Climate Change Connection, the Council of Canadians (Winnipeg), and the Green Action Committee of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church, with the support of the University of Manitoba’s Global Political Economy Program and the University of Winnipeg.

I hope you can schedule some time to view the video report I prepared in collaboration with Ken Harasym for Winnipeg Community TV. At two-and-a-half hours, it is long, but it is crammed with information and analysis that make it well worth the time.

Decem­ber 9, 2011: Angered by the UN-caused cholera epidemic that has claimed thousands, Haitians rallied at the UN Sta­bi­liza­tion Mis­sion in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Base at St. Marc. Photo: from a video produced by Nick Strat­ton, Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux. Watch it at http://ijdh.org/archives/24340.

Two years after an earthquake killed 158,000, the majority of Haitians continue to battle against hunger, disease, homelessness and political repression. Half a million people remain in refugee camps and many thousands who have found other accommodations are living in buildings that have been designated as unsafe and requiring demolition or major repairs.

Clean water is unavailable to almost half the population and sanitation, in the form or latrines, is available to only 34%. It is a formula for disease, and the 2010 cholera outbreak, traced to the criminally negligent sewage disposal practices of UN troops, sick­ened nearly 500,000 peo­ple and killed more than 6,500 oth­ers.

With all of the aid money that has been pouring into Haiti, it would not be unreasonable to expect living conditions to be much better than they are. Journalist Kim Ives, a writer and editor of Haiti Liberté, who spoke on this topic last Thursday at the University of Manitoba, provided this summary:

  • $2.4 billion in bilateral relief aid (emergency aid) delivered to date
  • $4.5 billion was pledged for bilateral recovery in 2010, 2011 (plus $1 billion for debt relief). As of Dec, 2011, $2.4 billion of that was delivered.
  • Donors have dispersed an additional $560 million in recovery assistance.
  • An additional $3.1 billion for relief and recovery from NGOs and other private donors. (The largest share of that came from the Red Cross, which raised $1.4 billion; of that, only 50% has been spent. I wonder where the rest went?)
  • Cholera treatment funding of $172 million has been promised; $130 million has been disbursed.

Clearly something is wrong. Kim Ives summarized the obstacles to effective aid and reconstruction as follows:

  • A weak and under-funded national government,  as a result of two centuries of foreign intervention and plunder
  • A large presence of international aid organizations and UN agencies,  accountable, first and foremost, to their donors and home governments
  • A right-wing presidency brought to power through an exclusionary and fraudulent electoral process
  • A foreign police and military force (MINUSTAH) dating from the 2004 coup d’etat and whose purpose is to preserve the status quo

If you want to know more, watch my video report.


Resources

Canada Haiti Action Network
Winnipeg Haiti Solidarity Group
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti
Haiti Liberté