Archive for the ‘Nibbling on The Empire’ Category


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

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives like to present themselves as tough on crime, committed to accountable government and respectful of the rule of law. Given their record, we have to ask ourselves, when will we march them off to the nearest penitentiary to begin serving the mandatory minimum sentences they so richly deserve?

Like a Rocky Mountain avalanche in the making, a growing mountain of evidence of Harper’s cynical disregard for the rule of law threatens to bury even the pretense of Canadian democracy. Here are some examples . . .

Canadian Wheat Board Act Violated

On Oct. 18, 2011, Harper’s Conservative government introduced Bill C-18, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, which aims to remove the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over exports of western Canadian wheat and barley. Not only are they proceeding with this legislation in defiance of the expressed will of most western farmers, they are in breech of Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act which requires the permission of grain producers prior to the introduction of this kind of legislation.

2006 Election – the In and Out Scandal

During the 2006 federal election, the Conservative Party tried to get around election spending limits by giving $1.3 million dollars to 67 riding offices that had not yet reached their individual spending limits. The ridings then returned the money to the party, claiming that it was being used to buy advertising. The money was used by the national campaign to fund an advertising blitz in the final weeks of the campaign. The scam might have gone undetected but for the chutzpah of some riding officials who applied to Elections Canada for a 60% reimbursement of their advertising expenses. Four senior Conservative Party members were charged under the Elections Canada Act with overspending and submitting false or misleading election expense documents. Just this month, the Tories successfully plea bargained their way out of facing these charges, agreeing to plead guilty to what the Tory spin-doctors are calling “administrative errors.”

The Cadman Affair and the Criminal Code of Canada

In 2005, the minority Liberal government of Paul Martin was in deep trouble. The Tories were intent on bringing them down, but the vote would be close. In Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, Vancouver writer Tom Zytaruk tells the story of attempts by Conservative Party officials to offer financial inducements to independent MP Chuck Cadman in return for his support in bringing down the Liberals. The Tories were unsuccessful in getting Cadman’s support. However, an interview with Stephen Harper conducted by Zytaruk makes it clear that Harper was aware of his Party’s efforts to buy Cadman’s vote. And vote buying is a serious offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, one that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Harper has a majority government and opposition parties have been unwilling to step outside of Parliament to hold governments accountable. For these reasons, Harper will remain untouchable unless we organize a broad movement to hold him accountable. There is a clear leadership role for well-resourced organizations such as The Council of Canadians and The Canadian Labour Congress. Perhaps we should remind them.

I received this letter from the Friends of the Canadian Wheat Board. I think it speaks for itself.


The Attack on the Canadian Wheat Board: Seven Reasons Non-Farmers Should Care … and Act

Some of the 400 people who rallied in front of the CWB headquarters, Oct. 28, 2011. Photo: Paul S. Graham

On October 18th, Prime Minister Harper introduced legislation, Bill C-18, to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The majority of farmers oppose the Prime Minister’s plan—farmers have repeatedly voted for a strong, effective CWB. Farmers are organizing and protesting. But to save our democratically controlled marketing agency, farm families need your help, and the help of the organizations with which you work.

The loss of the CWB will hurt every Canadian family. Here are seven reasons why non-farmer Canadian citizens should act to help protect the Wheat Board:

1. Privatization and Loss of Economic Control
Few sectors of the Canadian economy are 100% owned and controlled by Canadians. But one is: our multibillion-dollar western wheat and barley marketing system. If the Harper government destroys the CWB, it will turn over to transnational corporations (most of them foreign) a critical sector of our economy that is now owned and controlled by Canadian citizens. What C-18 takes away from farmers and other Canadians, it gives to grain giants such as Cargill.

2. Genetically Modified Food
In 2000, Monsanto moved to introduce genetically modified (GM) wheat. Farm organizations, environmental groups, and citizens’ organizations banded together to stop Monsanto and keep GM wheat out of Canadian fields and foods. United, we succeeded. The CWB was a crucial ally. Many people and organizations believe that had it not been for the work of the CWB, Canadians would now be eating food made from GM wheat. Lose the CWB and we may lose the fight to stop GM wheat.

3. Food Sovereignty
As an alternative to a globalized, long-distance, corporate-controlled food system, many Canadians are advocating Food Sovereignty, wherein farmers and all citizens collectively shape the food system we want for our families. The CWB is a good example of Food Sovereignty in action: a democratic agency controlled by food producers and citizens. By attacking the CWB, this government is pushing back hard against Food Sovereignty, serving notice that our future food system will be more far-flung, more corporate controlled. A government hostile to the CWB is hostile to Food Sovereignty.

4. National Sovereignty
Today, Canada has its own grain production, processing, handling, and transportation systems. Our Canadian Grain Commission sets and enforces quality standards—equal to the highest in the world. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulates new seed varieties, keeping harmful ones out and ensuring farmers have access to seeds that grow well in our climate.

Most of our grain flows “east-west”, hauled by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways and loaded onto ships at Canadian ports by Canadian workers. If we destroy the CWB, other parts of our Canadian grain system will be destroyed in turn. As the government empowers US-based grain transnationals, those corporations will chafe against Canadian regulations and push for the destruction of our Grain Commission, seed regulations, and the rest of our quality and regulatory systems. Destroying the CWB accelerates the Americanization of our grain and food systems.

Worse, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Chapter 11 gives US-based grain companies a veto over future attempts to rebuild our CWB. If we destroy it, we can’t get it back.

5. Your Economy
The CWB is the cornerstone of our Canadian wheat and barley marketing, handling, and transport systems. Those systems create jobs:

  • in Winnipeg where the CWB, the Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute, and other agencies are headquartered;
  • in Thunder Bay, Ontario; Churchill, Manitoba; Vancouver, B.C.; and Montreal, Quebec; where Canadian export grain is cleaned, blended, and loaded onto ships; and
  • across Canada as money is retained in this country and spent in rural and urban centres.

The CWB raises farmers’ revenues by $500+ million annually, money largely from foreign nations that is spent in urban and rural businesses across Canada. PriceWaterhouseCoopers calculated the CWB’s total benefit to the Canadian economy at more than $850 million annually. Without the CWB, citizens and communities across the nation will suffer financially.

6. Our Democracy
The vast majority of farmers want a strong, effective CWB. Farmers have reaffirmed that support in 10 votes—3 plebiscites and 7 sets of Directors Elections. Despite this, the Harper government is pushing forward to destroy the CWB. And it is doing so illegally.

Section 47.1 of the CWB Act requires that farmers must vote in favour of major changes to the CWB. The government is ignoring that law and refusing to hold a vote. Also, the government is ramming its legislation through parliament, using closure to limit debate, refusing to let the Agriculture Committee examine the bill, and instead setting up an ad hoc committee to review the bill, but limiting that committee to just 5 minutes per section. Prime Minister Harper has announced he will “walk over” the farmer majority that support the CWB, and he has called his drive to dismantle the CWB a “train barrelling down a Prairie track.” Our federal government is sneering at democracy, evading due process, and bending the law to the breaking point. If these antidemocratic tactics are not challenged, they will be repeated.

7. Farms and the Land
The CWB raises farmers’ prices and incomes. And the CWB provides equitable access to the market for all farmers, big or small. Losing the CWB will accelerate the loss of family farms. In so doing, it will concentrate farmland ownership in fewer and fewer hands. A blow to the CWB is a blow to family-farm agriculture, and the men and women who produce our food.

You can help protect our food supply, sovereignty, economy, and democracy

Time is short. We need to act fast. But action takes just 15 or 20 minutes. What is needed right now is for Canadians to write two short letters:

  • One to Prime Minister Harper, asking him to scrap Bill C-18, his destroy-the-CWB legislation, and to instead enact policies that foster Food Sovereignty and a strong Canadian nation and economy; and
  • One letter to Canadian Senators, asking them to resist pressure to fast-track Bill C-18, and to instead give careful and adequate consideration to this detailed and far-reaching legislation; to hold meetings of their Agriculture Committee; and to hear presentations from farmers, workers, businesspeople, and other Canadians who will be affected by this legislation.

Contact information for the Prime Minister
Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
FAX: (613) 941-6900
Email: stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

Contact information for Senators
Canadian Senators
c/o the Clerk of the Senate
Parliament Building
Ottawa, Ontario


I also think it would be worth it to contact your Member of Parliament. Here are some useful links and a video to round out your resource kit. Don’t delay.


Against the wishes of most western farmers, and in defiance of laws that they are sworn to uphold, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are poised to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. In truly Orwellian fashion, the Tories describe this as “democracy,” all the while invoking closure on Parliamentary debate and refusing to hold the farmers’ plebiscite that is required by federal law before any such major change can be made to the status of the CWB.

The CWB has been a bone of contention in farm policy circles for decades. While a loud minority of western grain producers have been clamoring for an end to the CWB monopoly on wheat and barley exports, most farmers continue to support the Board, as evidenced by several CWB Board of Directors election results and a recent CWB-sponsored plebiscite. The reason for the Board’s enduring support is that it works for farmers, as opposed to private grain companies who exist to maximize profits for their shareholders.

Urban Canadians have yet to wake up to this issue, though this is starting to happen. The Council of Canadians is prominent in the coalition of organizations leading the fightback. What we city slickers need to get our heads around is that this is, first and foremost, a battle for democracy. It is a struggle against growing corporate control of our food and the relentless corporatization of agriculture that is destroying rural communities.

One one level, the issues are complex. You can get a crash course by watching the video I produced along with my WCTV colleague Ken Harasym. Follow that up with visits to the web sites listed below and you will be well on your way.

On another level, it is very simple: like us, farmers are part of the 99%. We gotta stick together. Occupy that, Stephen Harper!

Links

On Thursday, George W. Bush and former U.S. president Bill Clinton (himself an accomplished war criminal) will be attending the Surrey Regional Economic Summit at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel. Here’s some information from the Canadian Peace Alliance on what you can do to support Bush’s arrest for war crimes.


» Report George W. Bush as a person likely to try to enter Canada contrary to section 35 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The Canadian Border Service Agency runs a Border Watch Toll-free line. Their website advertises:
“If you have information about suspicious cross-border activity, please contact the Canada Border Services Agency Border Watch Toll-free Line at 1-888-502-9060.”

George Walker Bush, born July 6, 1945 is likely to try to cross the border into Canada on or about October 18 to 20th 2011 to attend an event in Surrey British Columbia.  Mr. Bush has admitted to authorizing and approving the widespread use of torture by the U.S. Armed Forces and the CIA.  There are reasonable grounds to believe that George W. Bush, as the President of the United States of America and Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces between 2001 and 2009, counselled, aided and abetted the commission of torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations. Experts estimate that in Iraq alone, over a million innocent men, women and children have died as a consequence of the illegal U.S.-led war on Iraq authorized and directed by George W. Bush.

N.B. the website indicates that CBSA has discretion to provide a reward for information.
http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/security-securite/bwl-lsf-eng.html

For more information about the case to charge Bush as a war criminal please see: Lawyers Against the War

» October 20: Peaceful Rally to Protest George W Bush’s Surrey Visit

Thursday, October 20, 11:00 am
Join at the parking lot outside the Bay, Guildford Mall, SW corner of 152 St. & 104 Ave.
For info on this rally, please email stopwar@resist.ca
http://stopwarca.wordpress.com/

» Sign the Online petition to arrest George Bush:
www.amnesty.ca

»Torture victims plan to file charges when Bush enters Canada
www.stopwar.wordpress.com

» Lawyers press for Bush arrest, as #Occupy activists set to converge in Surrey
Vancouver Observer


You can follow the events on twitter: @StopWarCa and #OccupySurrey #ArrestBush