Archive for the ‘Nibbling on The Empire’ Category

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.

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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

The Problem

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Nibbling on The Empire
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Gerry Caplan is a former CUSO field officer, author of The Betrayal of Africa, a weekly, online columnist for The Globe and Mail, a featured television political commentator and a veteran CCF-NDP war horse. He was also my boss at CUSO for a brief period in the late 70s, something he doesn’t remember – which may be all for the best :-).

Gerry was the keynote speaker at a dinner held in Winnipeg December 10, 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of CUSO and the 63rd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on Dec. 10, 1948.

The title of his talk was advertised as “When good people do bad things.” Fortunately for those present and for his reputation as a rabble rouser, the theme that emerged would be more appropriately described as “solidarity, not charity.”

This event was sponsored by the University of Winnipeg Global College, CUPE Manitoba, the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation and CUSO-VSO. It was held at the Union Centre in downtown Winnipeg. Here is my video report.


Friends of Canadian Broadcasting continues to raise the alarm over threats to our nation’s public broadcaster and well they should. While Heritage Minister James Moore promised in May to maintain and expand support for the CBC, Tory antipathy to the CBC is well known. Recent initiatives, such as the petition by Tory MP Rob Enders to end CBC funding cast doubt on the Tory pledge to support the CBC. (His surname says it all, eh?)

Because Harper is a notorious control freak, no Tory backbencher who wanted to keep getting nominated would post a petition of this sort without his blessing. This has to be taken seriously.

The Friends have taken a humorous approach in their current attempt to awaken Canadians to the Tory threat. I hope it works.

Under Harper’s majority government, we are beginning to see the unraveling of Canada.

The next four years will be trying times for Canadians who do not want to see our society hideously disfigured. We will have to fight them every step of the way. Take a moment to see how you can begin this by supporting the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.


An open letter to Canada’s Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and Senators, from a broad and diverse coalition of 46 organizations representing millions of Canadians –

Support Canadian Food, Canadian Farmers, and the Canadian Wheat Board

Bill C-18, if passed, will destroy the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).  Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly stated that he will not recognize the plebiscite recently conducted by the CWB, in which results were clearly in favour of keeping the CWB as the sole marketing agent for prairie wheat and barley intended for human consumption.

The CWB was created by an Act of Parliament, and is run by a 15-member Board of Directors, ten of whom are elected by farmers.  The Wheat Board provides fair, equitable, reliable, and cost-effective services to farm families.  It provides stability in uncertain times, and is a foundation of Canada’s grain sector.

Ending the single desk authority of the CWB would throw western agriculture into turmoil and would transfer wealth created by Canadian farmers to big, private, often foreign-owned grain companies—money now returned to farmers, who spend it in their communities.  The Minneapolis Grain Exchange has already changed its rules to allow for speculation in futures contracts for Canadian wheat and barley—a move which will increase price volatility for purchasers without providing any benefit to farmers.

Canada’s political system is built on representative democracy.  This means that the law, not merely the person in power, is to be respected and followed.  The CWB Act is a law made by Parliament, and it requires a farmer vote before any substantive changes are made to the single desk authority.  Our current government is ignoring this law—refusing to hold the required vote—and moving to eliminate the requirement for a vote.  This is deeply concerning, as it strikes at the heart of our Canadian democracy.

We the undersigned:

  • Recognize the billions of dollars of economic value that the CWB creates each year—for farmers, rural communities, short line railroads, and the whole of Canada—as a result of its superior marketing ability, capacity to defend Canadian interests in trade disputes, and commitment to return to farmers all net proceeds from sales.
  • Are proud of the strong international reputation for quality and reliability that Canadian wheat and barley have earned—a direct result of the CWB and its companion institutions, the Canadian Grain Commission and Canadian International Grains Institute.
  • Deplore the government’s disregard for the outcome of the recent plebiscite in which 62% of farmers voted in favour of keeping the single desk for wheat and 51% supported keeping the single desk for barley.

We therefore call upon the Prime Ministers, MPs, and Senators to immediately stop undermining the single desk authority of the CWB.  We further insist that Parliament must comply with the Canadian Wheat Board Act, Section 47.1, which requires a binding plebiscite (vote) of farmers before any substantive change to the CWB’s single desk authority is initiated.

Signed:

  • Agriculture Workers Alliance
  • Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto
  • Big Carrot Natural Food Market
  • Biofreedom
  • Brandon University Students’ Union
  • Briarpatch Magazine
  • Canadian Auto Workers (CAW)
  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)
  • Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
  • Canadian Wheat Board Alliance
  • CCNB Action (Conservation Council of New Brunswick)
  • Centre for Social Justice
  • Coalition On The Niagara Escarpment
  • Council of Canadians
  • Council of Canadians – Moose Jaw, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Prince Albert, Sask. Chapter
  • Council of Canadians – Winnipeg, Man. Chapter
  • CWA/SCA (Communications Workers Union) Canada
  • Food Action Committee of the Ecology Action Centre
  • Food Secure Canada
  • Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board
  • GE Watch Comox Valley
  • GRAIN
  • Grain Services Union (GSU)
  • Greenpeace Canada
  • Growing Food Security in Alberta
  • Health Sciences Association of Alberta
  • Inter Pares
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 529
  • Lardeau Valley Seed Savers
  • Les AmiEs de la Terre de Québec
  • LIFT (Low Income Families Together)
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
  • New Brunswick Common Front for Social Justice
  • Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Windsor
  • Organic Food Council of Manitoba (OFCM)
  • Oxfam Canada
  • Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL)
  • Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN)
  • Society for a GE Free BC
  • The Ark Farm, B&B, Vegetables, & Native Plants
  • Union paysanne
  • United Church of Canada
  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)

Stop the steamroller

Make your voice heard by sending a message to the PM and your MP at Stop the Steamroller.

Occupy Winnipeg took its opposition to Bill C-10, the so-called Safe Streets and Communities Act, to Winnipeg’s West End Library and then proceeded to occupy the constituency office of Manitoba’s Justice Minister, Andrew Swan for 24 hours.

Before doing so, an Occupy Winnipeg spokesperson read the November 17, 2011 statement of the Canadian Bar Association entitled “Ten Reasons to Oppose Bill C-10.” My alter ego, Red River Pete, captured some of the moments.

The Canadian Bar Association statement is available at its web site. Or you can read it below.


November 17, 2011

10 Reasons to Oppose Bill C-10

Bill C-10 is titled the Safe Streets and Communities Act — an ironic name, considering that Canada already has some of the safest streets and communities in the world and a declining crime rate. This bill will do nothing to improve that state of affairs, but, through its overreach and overreaction to imaginary problems, Bill C-10 could easily make it worse. It could eventually create the very problems it’s supposed to solve.

Bill C-10 will require new prisons; mandate incarceration for minor, non-violent offences; justify poor treatment of inmates and make their reintegration into society more difficult. Texas and California, among other jurisdictions, have already started down this road before changing course, realizing it cost too much and made their justice system worse. Canada is poised to repeat their mistake.

The Canadian Bar Association, representing over 37,000 lawyers across the country, has identified 10 reasons why the passage of Bill C-10 will be a mistake and a setback for Canada.

1. Ignoring reality. Decades of research and experience have shown what actually reduces crime: (a) addressing child poverty, (b) providing services for the mentally ill and those afflicted with FASD, (c) diverting young offenders from the adult justice system, and (d) rehabilitating prisoners, and helping them to reintegrate into society. Bill C-10 ignores these proven facts.

2. Rush job. Instead of receiving a thorough review, Bill C-10 is being rushed through Parliament purely to meet the “100-day passage” promise from the last election. Expert witnesses attempting to comment on over 150 pages of legislation in committee hearings are cut off mid-sentence after just five minutes.

3. Spin triumphs over substance.
The federal government has chosen to take a “marketing” approach to Bill C-10, rather than explaining the facts to Canadians. This campaign misrepresents the bill’s actual content and ensures that its public support is based heavily on inaccuracies.

4. No proper inspection. Contrary to government claims, some parts of Bill C-10 have received no previous study by Parliamentary committee. Other sections have been studied before and were changed — but, in Bill C-10, they’re back in their original form.

5. Wasted youth. More young Canadians will spend months in custodial centres before trial, thanks to Bill C-10. Experience has shown that at-risk youth learn or reinforce criminal behaviour in custodial centres; only when diverted to community options are they more likely to be reformed.

6. Punishments eclipse the crime. The slogan for one proposal was Ending House Arrest for Serious and Violent Criminals Act, but Bill C-10 will actually also eliminate conditional sentences for minor and property offenders and instead send those people to jail. Is roughly $100,000 per year to incarcerate someone unnecessarily a good use of taxpayers’ money?

7. Training predators. Bill C-10 would force judges to incarcerate people whose offences and circumstances clearly do not warrant time in custody. Prison officials will have more latitude to disregard prisoners’ human rights, bypassing the least restrictive means to discipline and control inmates. Almost every inmate will re-enter society someday. Do we want them to come out as neighbours, or as predators hardened by their prison experience?

8. Justice system overload. Longer and harsher sentences will increase the strains on a justice system already at the breaking point. Courts and Crown prosecutors’ offices are overwhelmed as is, legal aid plans are at the breaking point, and police forces don’t have the resources to do their jobs properly. Bill C-10 addresses none of these problems and will make them much worse.

9. Victimizing the most vulnerable. With mandatory minimums replacing conditional sentences, people in remote, rural and northern communities will be shipped far from their families to serve time. Canada’s Aboriginal people already represent up to 80% of inmates in institutions in the prairies, a national embarrassment that Bill C-10 will make worse.

10. How much money? With no reliable price tag for its recommendations, there is no way to responsibly decide the bill’s financial implications. What will Canadians sacrifice to pay for these initiatives? Will they be worth the cost?

Canadians deserve accurate information about Bill C-10, its costs and its effects. This bill will change our country’s entire approach to crime at every stage of the justice system. It represents a huge step backwards; rather than prioritizing public safety, it emphasizes retribution above all else. It’s an approach that will make us less safe, less secure, and ultimately, less Canadian.

© 2011 The Canadian Bar Association