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Chicago Grads Want To Turn City Into A ‘Powerhouse Of Organizing’

Popular Resistance - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 14:34

Chicago's thousands of graduate workers — increasingly responsible for teaching and research work once performed by faculty — have long been overworked, underpaid, and non-union. This month, that might finally be starting to change.

On January 12, nearly 3,000 graduate workers at Northwestern University announced a landslide victory in their union election, winning 93.5% of the vote. This Tuesday, some 3,000 graduate workers at the nearby University of Chicago (UChicago) will also cast ballots, and while UChicago’s election results won’t be tallied until March due to mail-in voting, a majority of workers pledged to vote ​“yes.” The two universities are the largest employers of graduate workers in Chicago, and union victories at both would reflect a dramatic increase in the area’s academic union density.

The post Chicago Grads Want To Turn City Into A ‘Powerhouse Of Organizing’ appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

Victory Against Polluter Points Way To Clean, Green, And Fully Funded Schools

Popular Resistance - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 14:33

Chicago, Illinois - For two years, teachers and staff in my workplace, George Washington High School, helped lead a community campaign to stop a hazardous industrial metal shredder, General Iron, from moving a few blocks from our school.

Repeating a historic pattern, city officials facilitated General Iron’s planned move from the wealthy and white Lincoln Park neighborhood where it had operated for decades to the working-class, majority Latino Southeast Side.

Our campaign won a major victory when we pressured Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health into denying the final operating permit for General Iron. It took years of mobilizing, street protest, and a month-long hunger strike to force the mayor to do the right thing.

The experience of Chicago Teachers Union members in the #StopGeneralIron campaign highlights the power of union members when we stand shoulder to shoulder with environmental justice activists to demand safe living and working conditions.

The post Victory Against Polluter Points Way To Clean, Green, And Fully Funded Schools appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

These Artists Are Turning Their London Street Into A Solar Power Station

Popular Resistance - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 14:31

The climate crisis, the energy crisis in Europe and rising power bills are inspiring many people to rethink where their power comes from and imagine possible alternatives for their energy needs. One artist and filmmaker couple in London are focused on the street where they live.

Hilary Powell and Dan Edelstyn live in a narrow brick house on Lynmouth Road in the Northeast London neighborhood of Walthamstow and they’ve begun transforming their street into a solar power station. Their Power Station project intends to help as many of their neighbors switch from relying on fossil fuel power plants to generate their electricity to solar power through a series of local actions.

“POWER is a ‘show and do’ project building a solar POWER STATION across the rooftops (streets, schools, community buildings) of North East London via enacting a grassroots Green New Deal – working with art and infrastructure to tackle the interlinked climate/energy/cost of living crises.

The post These Artists Are Turning Their London Street Into A Solar Power Station appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.

Categories: F. Left News

The long food movement… a future in the making

Rabble - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 12:49

A new year brings new reflections. At least it does for me. And it can bring about new perspectives to share. In rural Canada, one often shares ideas and perspectives around a big kitchen table. Historically, it is where a lot of organizing began for solutions.

It’s true that you have to understand the problem to begin contemplating the solution. But most of the time, at least in this column, identifying the problem is on-going and happens often……you research the problem, substantiate why it is a problem, and speculate on where we are headed if the problem continues. But rarely do you have the chance, time or space to follow through on a thorough discussion of the possible avenues to take toward solutions.

Some of us understand that drastic change is required in our food systems. And some of us also understand that world hunger is a problem of distribution of resources and not anything as simplistic as simply population or production.

But as we fret and meet climate change, war, and other global conflicts head-on, such issues as agricultural production, distribution and environment may lead to having not enough food to feed the population. In other words, population numbers could be a problem — but what comes first when it comes to global hunger — population issues, lack of support for local food production, or not being prepared to produce food and distribute where it is needed.

Asking fundamental questions such as these is when the solutions might begin to happen. I like to call this creative exercise when it comes to food as the big kitchen table. On most farms the big kitchen table was where meetings have been held to organize farmers, to rally around important social issues, to protect and ramp-up services for communities, etc. That big kitchen table might now be on the farm, in the urban, at conferences, on Zoom, or sitting around and chatting over your beverage of choice.

I imagine the report I am about to share came from brainstorming and discussion by the IPES-Food – the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. I can only imagine the discussions and conversations, zoom meetings, emails chats between this group of 23 independent experts of varied backgrounds from 16 countries covering five continents. It has lead to ground-breaking thinking on global food systems,

We have heard of slow food and the 100-mile diet. Here is another phrase that will hopefully catch-on: IPES-Food brings us the “long food movement” and explains what our agri-food systems might look like up to 2045 if we dare dream about a better food system.

Published in 2021, the report titled “The Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems to 2045” outlines some of the major issues — but quickly advances to how transformation might occur with farmers, communities, and sustainability at the centre. Essentially the report maps out two possible future scenarios: What could happen if agri-business is allowed to run its course; and what could happen if “instead, the initiative is reclaimed by civil society and social movements — from grassroots organizations to international NGOs, from farmers’ and fishers’ groups, to cooperatives and unions.”

The report authors ask us to “…consider what this ‘Long Food Movement’ could achieve if it succeeds in thinking decades ahead, collaborating across sectors, scales, and strategic differences, working with governments and pressuring them to act, and transforming financial flows, governance structures, and food systems from the ground up.”

Quite the challenge and an interesting read. This column has outlined some of the  major issues related to agriculture and our food systems — from land grabbing in Canada and pension fund speculation, agriculture and climate change, to urban farms, the shocks of COVID-19 on the food system, right through to the harm of pesticides like Roundup.

But, even in this column, the big kitchen table discussions where solutions are mapped out coherently and globally have been wanting.

The Long Food Movement will stand the test of time as we move into the next quarter century.

While the full report, published in English, French and Spanish versions, is more than 175 pages long, there is also a 12-page report that can help to whet your appetite. From there you can move into the longer report, replete with amazing references ripe for exploration.

The report outlines the various pathways and opportunities to a fairer, sustainable, and productive agricultural system based on the needs of the community. These pathways and opportunities call for:

  • policies that promote healthy soils, diversity in crops varieties, livestock breeds and aqua- and agri-ecological food systems;
  • deeper and more effective anti-trust and competition laws;
  • recognition of food workers, their rights, and the key role they play in food production; and ethical consumerism

IPES—Food publishes several reports in a year. Check this page to add to your 2023 reading material.

The post The long food movement… a future in the making appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Day drinking with Dale and Larry: A metaphor for Alta.’s UCP government

Rabble - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 11:42

Talk about the perfect metaphor for Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government in the year of Our Lord 2023: A couple of guys day drinking in a 7-Eleven and yakking about it. 

Well, bois, it just doesn’t get any better than this! 

I speak of course of the social media video made by Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally and his pal Larry about how the UCP is making Alberta a better place by cutting “red tape,” which as we all understand is a venerable pejorative term used by people who don’t like the rules to describe regulations. 

The reference, by the way, to “bois” – usually pronounced boys – is a reference to the beer these two worthy gentlemen are quaffing. Is this a dogwhistle to the UCP base? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll know if they show up in another video wearing Hawaiian shirts and camo vests. Most likely it was just the only beer from an Alberta brewery on hand in the store. 

Nally – who is the MLA for Morinville-St. Albert and also the Minister of Service Alberta, by tradition the least significant portfolio in an Alberta cabinet – was touting the government’s Jason-Kenney-era promise to “cut red tape,” a phrase that needs to be enclosed in scare quotes not just because many regulations benefit society but also because conservative efforts to reduce it so often result in the creation of even more regulation.

For example, to allow customers to swill booze on the premises, 7-Eleven will require a restaurant licence and will also have to hire staff who have received the Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s liquor sales staff training course, which sounds like two additional pieces of red tape to me. 

Premier Danielle Smith’s government has been pushing its not-very-significant red-tape initiative hard for the past couple of days, presumably to distract from the embarrassment caused by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s Alberta Law Society hearing and the privacy breach he publicly committed while it was taking place. 

The idea of selling beer and wine in convenience stores has worked well enough for many years in Quebec and Newfoundland, which like Alberta remain part of Canada. It could work well here, too, if it is done right. 

“It is because of our government’s red tape reduction that 7-Eleven locations with cafes, like this one here, are licensed to sell and serve alcohol,” enthused Nally, just in case you were thinking of letting the kids run down to the corner 7-Eleven by themselves, in his one-minute social media video. 

But this deal seems to have been worked out only with the Dallas, Texas-based, Japanese-owned, multinational convenience store chain

Moreover, the idea appears to have started out not as red tape reduction, but as part of COVID-19 mitigation measures to AGLC regulations for consumption of alcohol in parks and restaurant off-sales of beer and wine during the pandemic. 

As CBC beer columnist and Athabasca University professor Jason Foster pointed out in his blog last week, “this decision stretches the definition of an eating establishment to the point of absurdity. Sure, 7-Eleven serves food. Hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza and other hot greasy things are its anchor. … But does that make it a restaurant? I am skeptical.”

More importantly, Foster continued, “this push by 7-Eleven is more about finding a back door way to allow them to sell beer and wine like a liquor store. … This is about expanding retail sales to convenience stores.”

“This change has the potential to upend Alberta’s liquor retail system,” he wrote. “It is being done without any consultative process with either Albertans or other players in the industry or without any open recognition of its potential impact on the liquor retail industry. 

“Worse, it is being implemented in a way that clearly advantages one of the largest convenience store chains on the planet,” Foster added, noting that “a policy that clearly provides an unfair advantage to one for-profit player at the expense of others is bad policy.”

Whether any of this benefits consumers can be debated. It is certainly unlikely to lower prices or address public health and safety concerns.

It may drive some of Alberta’s many marginal liquor stores out of business, a change that certainly won’t stimulate economic growth, diversification and job creation, as Nally asserts it will in his video. 

Not all regulation eliminations in the UCP’s red tape cutting exercise are bad. For example, allowing government offices to accept digital signatures makes sense and will ease the burden on public employees and businesses alike. 

But most examples touted by the UCP are dangerous. 

For example allowing cryptocurrency scammers to operate in a rules-free “regulatory sandbox,” making it easier for the parks ministry to cave in to off-road vehicle users by “moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach,” and making sure only pro-industry captured agencies make regulations affecting resource development will all have harmful impacts on Alberta and Albertans. 

The post Day drinking with Dale and Larry: A metaphor for Alta.’s UCP government appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Solutions to climate crisis exist, but we need the will to change

Rabble - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 08:27

Resolving the climate crisis is a challenge — but not for lack of solutions. What’s needed is political will and public support.

Considerable research shows existing methods and technologies could quickly shift the world away from fossil fuels — even without accounting for rapidly advancing renewable energy and storage technologies.

As Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson told The Guardian, “We have wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, electric cars. We have batteries, heat pumps, energy efficiency. We have 95% of the technologies right now that we need to solve the problem,” adding that the remaining five per cent “is for long-distance aircraft and ships…for which hydrogen-powered fuel cells can be developed.”

In his forthcoming book No Miracles Needed, Jacobson lists other benefits, including reducing pollution and related health care costs and deaths, lowering energy prices and improving energy efficiency (much of the energy from fossil fuels is lost as heat).

David Suzuki Foundation research shows that by prioritizing wind, solar, energy storage, energy efficiency and interprovincial transmission, Canada could reach zero-emissions electricity by 2035 “without relying on expensive and sometimes unproven and dangerous technologies like nuclear or fossil gas with carbon capture and storage.”

Although Jacobson sees a possible role for “direct air capture” technologies that remove CO2 from the air, he’s skeptical about carbon capture and storage, new nuclear, biofuels and blue hydrogen (which requires fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage to produce).

“Carbon capture and storage is solely designed to keep the fossil fuel industry in business,” Jacobson told The Guardian. As many, including me, have pointed out, nuclear is expensive and takes a long time to build, while renewable energy is readily available at far lower costs. Biofuels still pollute and often require lots of land.

As for the oft-repeated claim that mining for renewable energy materials is too destructive, Jacobson says the mining required for wind and solar is about one per cent of that required for the fossil fuel system in terms of the mass of materials. (That doesn’t mean we should dismiss mining-related issues.)

Not everyone shares Jacobson’s optimism, but he makes compelling arguments and backs them with substantial research. Why wouldn’t we employ all available solutions, when failing to do so will lead to catastrophe?

Much of the pushback is from oil, gas and coal interests and the short-sighted politicians, “dark money” groups and media that support them — as has been the case for the many decades we’ve known burning fossil fuels and destroying natural systems that store carbon are causing the world to heat to levels inhospitable to humans and many other beings.

Plenty of industry propaganda is misleading and disingenuous, and counts on widespread lack of awareness among the public, especially older people who tend to vote more often. For example, arguments that Canada’s oilsands industry is cleaning up its act and reducing emissions fail to mention this only refers to operations emissions and not the far more serious problems caused by burning the fuels in countries we export to.

Although the fossil fuel industry is responsible for significant misinformation, promoters of other large-scale power sources are also digging in, as it’s easier under current economic systems to profit from these often-monopolized sources.

As one small example, a racketeering trial just got underway in Ohio against top Republican lawmakers accused of taking $60 million in bribes — mostly funnelled through a secretive, tax-exempt dark money group called Generation Now — to bail out ailing nuclear power plants by adding a surcharge to customers’ energy bills.

A Guardian article notes the case follows similar scandals in Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. Money was also channelled through Generation Now to subsidize ailing coal plants by raising prices. Along with lobbying to increase solar costs, these moves increase prices for customers and slow or prevent cleaner energy from coming online.

Governments worldwide are finally realizing we don’t have time to waste in shifting to cleaner energy and that doing so comes with many benefits beyond those for climate — especially if they ensure affected workers and marginalized people and communities are looked after in the transition.

Politicians are accountable to the people they serve, not to wealthy corporate interests, so it’s important for all of us to demand action, through petitions, letters, calls, demonstrations and voting. People have the power!

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

The post Solutions to climate crisis exist, but we need the will to change appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Canadian media justifies Canada’s genocidal foundations

Rabble - Wed, 02/01/2023 - 08:02

On January 24, The Globe and Mail published a piece by John Ibbitson arguing in defense of Canada’s so-called ‘father of Confederation,’ Sir John A. Macdonald. In the piece, Ibbitson goes on to argue a defence of Canada itself, engaging in genocide apologia by asserting that Canada has done good in the world – indeed, that Canada is good in the world – and thus we should be grateful for its existence.

Regarding Macdonald, Ibbitson’s main point is that Sir John A. does not deserve particular condemnation; “Injustice toward Indigenous peoples long predated Confederation and continues to this day. The record of racism toward non-European immigrants is lengthy and sordid. What makes Macdonald more culpable than the rest?”

About Canada, though, Ibbitson argues that this country is uniquely worthy of celebration.

“But Macdonald and a handful of others also gave us Canada. They crafted a dominion unique in its balance of powers between federal and provincial, English and French. Immigrants from Britain and Eastern Europe came here. Italians and Portuguese and Chinese and South Asians and Filipinos came here. Muslims and Jews came here. Refugees came here, the latest from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Canada is far from perfect, but it is arguably the least imperfect country on Earth, if the embrace of diversity is your measure.”

This is an incoherent sentiment, to say the least. Canada is a Eurocolonial project, a site of ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples facilitating a predominantly European/white settler-colonial state. The fact that Europeans from various countries have settled in Canada is not set apart or against the argument that Canada is evidence of genocide – it is the very same thing. They are the settlers, not something else.

Further, immigrants and refugees who have come to Canada from elsewhere in the world are, in many cases, leaving other sites or consequences of Eurocolonial violence and structural, global white supremacy. Again, these are not effective arguments that the Eurocolonial violence and white supremacy which created and maintains Canada was or is justified, they are just further examples of the same thing. Ibbitson also conspicuously omits less flattering aspects of Canada’s global record and foreign policy. Canada has among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, and the government touts being a destination for the global mining industry’s corporate headquarters. The day after UN Secretary-general António Guterres declared investing in new fossil fuel projects to be “moral and economic madness,” Canada approved its largest-ever offshore drilling project. The scale of Canada’s disproportionate contributions to climate change and global ecological devastation is shocking, and greatly deepens Canada’s role in propagating Eurocolonial violence and inequity throughout the world. This, before you even consider Canadian arms sales, support for medical IP restrictions, participation in imperialist foreign interference, and military support for war crimes and apartheid. None of this appears to enter Ibbitson’s analysis.

Ibbitson goes on to write a damningly revealing statement;

“The answer could be that, as the first prime minister and a Father of Confederation, Macdonald personifies Canada. In pulling down his statue, some people are not simply protesting the legacy of residential schools – they are pulling down the symbol of an oppressive, colonizing state.

In that sense, to pull down a Macdonald statue is to pull down the statue of every prime minister and every leader who contributed to oppression of Indigenous peoples. And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them?”

In my view, this demonstrates the ultimate point. Ibbitson is unwilling or unable to conceive of a world that is not both product of and structurally propagating white supremacy. This world, the one we see when we look around us, bears a history, centuries-long, of Europeans enslaving, murdering, mutilating, robbing, raping, displacing, and violently dehumanizing as many other people in the world as they could while enriching themselves. Millions upon millions upon millions of people, for centuries. Accounts of the treatment of enslaved people are shocking and sickening to a degree words simply cannot express. From his writing here, it appears that Ibbitson does not fundamentally object to these events. He claims to understand why Indigenous peoples may oppose Canada itself, but does not consider for a moment that this history presents a reason he should oppose Canada. The implication Ibbitson offers is; slavery, colonization, genocide, centuries of global racist inequity – it’s all to his benefit, so he takes no issue with it. “And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them?”

Sir John A. Macdonald was an overt white supremacist. Macdonald authorized the creation of the residential school system, a structure explicitly intended to eradicate Indigenous cultures, knowledge, and ways of being. In implementing legislation to prohibit Chinese immigrants to Canada from voting, in addition to them being subject to a racist ‘head tax’, Macdonald argued a need to maintain “Aryan” character and European dominance in Canada. He should be specifically condemned, whether or not to a greater degree than his contemporary slavers and colonizers. (A common response to such points – “everyone thought that way at the time!” – eagerly forgets that people who aren’t European are indeed human, and did not agree.)

Ibbitson says that we should be cautious in our condemnation, because John A. Macdonald is part of who we are. Naturally this begs the question; who is “we”? The vast majority of people in the world have immediate and familial reasons to reject Eurocoloniality, to speak and act against a world built on and invested in maintaining centuries of horrific white supremacy. Ibbitson, however, does not see this as a call for solidarity. He motions toward some understanding of why a colonized people would reject the colonial state, but he displays no revulsion toward it himself.

Ibbitson claims that Sir John A. Macdonald gave us Canada, and we should be grateful for that. To me, it seems what he means is that Macdonald gave him Canada, and he wants to keep it.

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Categories: F. Left News

Federal court orders repatriation of Canadians illegally detained in Syria

Rabble - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 13:13

In an important ruling with global human rights implications, Federal Court Judge Henry Brown has informed the Canadian government that it must end the years-long arbitrary detention without charge endured by dozens of Canadian men, women and children in northeast Syrian jails and prison camps.

The January 20 judicial repatriation order applied to four Canadian men “imprisoned against their will without charge or trial” under conditions Brown deemed “dire” (with one of those men having “reported to Canadian government officials that he had been tortured”). It was released a day after the federal government confirmed a settlement to repatriate 19 women and children who’d originally been connected to the same court case. Brown was quick to point out that in this case “the legal principles applicable to the Canadian men are the same as those applicable to the Canadian women and children.”

These 23 Canadians – who have suffered conditions the UN describes as akin to torture – are among almost 50 who have been unlawfully detained at Canada’s behest in the Kurdish autonomous region of northeast Syria also known as Rojava. Going back as far as 2017, Ottawa has refused to respond to the Kurdish captors’ simple three requests: to send an official letter requesting repatriation, issue travel documents, and appoint a representative to attend in Rojava for a handover.

While dozens of other countries, including the United States, have been able to manage the simple journey to Northeast Syria  – a well-documented fact relied upon by Brown – Canada instead spent those years in the full knowledge that it was prolonging Canadian citizens’ needless suffering by creating a racist None is Too Many “Policy Framework to Evaluate the Provision of Extraordinary Measures to Assist Canadian Citizens detained in North-Eastern Syria.” (None is Too Many is a phrase that was used by Canadian officials seeking to prevent entry of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, one with particularly contemporary resonance).

RELATED: Islamophobia preventing Jack Letts from returning home to Canada

The Policy Framework was infused with bureaucratic state security bafflegab and designed to ensure these tortured souls, over half of them under the age of 10, would perish abroad from disease, malnutrition and violence due to Canadian government-sanctioned criminal negligence causing death (“culpable homicide” being defined in the Criminal Code of Canada as any act which “directly or indirectly, by any means… causes the death of a human being.”)

Judge Brown carefully parsed through the conditions for repatriation and declared that, as soon as reasonably possible, “Canada must make a formal request for their repatriation,” that the detainees “must be provided necessary travel documents,” and Canada be required to  “appoint either a delegate or representative to accept their hand over.” He made these findings based on well-settled Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence and Canada’s international treaty obligations “in the expectation the executive government will act in good faith as its counsel represented to the Court.”

Judge rejects government’s Islamophobic framing

The landmark decision ends a protracted legal battle that included three days of repeatedly delayed public hearings in December and January, with two sets of secret hearings.

Brown, a highly respected expert on Supreme Court jurisprudence and practice, spoke barely above a whisper during the hearings, and appeared non-plussed with the government’s Islamophobic framing of the case. While Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer Anne Turley attempted to portray the children, women and men as alleged threats to the security of Canada, Brown asked questions revealing an intimate knowledge of the case and illustrated, in his own modest way, what can only be described as a loving commitment to the core constitutional principles and international human rights laws and treaties to which Canada, at least on paper, has committed itself.

(Notaby, Turley similarly lost a 2009 case in which she fought against the repatriation of another Muslim Canadian abandoned abroad and tortured with Canadian complicity, Abousfian Abdelrazik. As The Globe and Mail reported at the time, Turley notoriously engaged in a vicious, racist cross-examination of Abdelrazik “attempting to discredit [his] assertions that he was beaten and abused by Sudanese police, suggesting instead that [Abdelrazik] mutilated himself and that ‘tribal’ practices of cutting or burning account for the scars on his body.”)

No evidence of violence by detainees

Critically, Judge Brown delivered as part of his 85-page decision a finding that should tamp down some of the inflamed and inaccurate reporting that has followed its release. “Notably the [government] Respondents do not allege any of the Applicants [detainees] engaged in or assisted in terrorist activities,” Brown declared. “The Respondents affirmed this position at the hearing.” In other words, if the government had any evidence that these 50 Canadian children, women and men had been up to no good in Syria, this had been their opportunity to share it. Possessing no such evidence, Canadian officials – who have based their refusal to repatriate on Islamophobic “national security” tropes and vague allegations of nefarious associations – must now halt their illegal practice of banishment and end their years-long complicity in the arbitrary detention of their own citizens.

As if Brown’s finding was not enough to obliterate the government’s thin house of cards case, he also added, “Canadians are entitled to have political opinions, no matter how abhorrent they may be to other Canadians. The limitation is when Canadian opinion holders take actions, whether inside of [or] outside of Canada, that constitute offences against Canadian law including the Criminal Code of Canada. However there is no evidence to that effect before this Court [emphasis added].” Again, this should undermine any subsequent attempts to prosecute the Canadian returnees from conditions of torture. If Ottawa had any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, why didn’t it place that before the Court?

Magna Carta rights inform decision

To the consternation of DOJ lawyers who zealously fought right up until the last minute to perpetuate what had become the de facto exile of almost 50 Canadian Muslim men, women and children, Brown has issued what can only be called a radical decision (inasmuch as radical means to get to the root of things) by relying on the 808-year-old Magna Carta that informs and undergirds such a broad swath of constitutional governance, rights and principles in Canadian jurisprudence.

“With respect, from its antiquity I conclude the 808 year old promise to end banishment and exile illustrates how long our constitutional order has concerned itself with protecting the right to enter and return to one’s country,” Brown writes, referencing the bedrock roots of Section 6(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada”). Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly defined 6(1) as a “foundational” and “fundamental” right preventing “the exclusion of membership in the national community.” The scope of this right, Brown noted, is “expansive, generous and powerful” and cannot be overridden by the Charter’s often abused notwithstanding clause. Brown also points out that the government lawyers chose not to invoke a Section 1 Charter argument that would have raised in this case the question of “reasonable limits” to the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.

In addition, Brown refers approvingly the Supreme Court’s Divito decision and the need for Canada to take actions and design policies in accordance with international law:

Divito unequivocally states the right to enter or return to Canada guaranteed by subsection 6(1) must be defined generously – and not in a legalistic manner – in light of the interests it is to protect. It is “foundational” right because without the ability to enter one’s country of citizenship, the “right to have rights” cannot be fully exercised. The right to return to Canada, says Divito, is a “fundamental right associated with citizenship”…. Importantly, Canada’s international obligations not only inform Charter rights. Divito confirms earlier Supreme Court jurisprudence that: “the Charter should be presumed to provide at least as great a level of protection as is found in the international human rights documents that Canada has ratified.” The right to enter protected by subsection 6(1) of the Charter must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with or greater than Canada’s international treaty obligations.

During the court proceedings, Brown questioned government lawyer Turley about the Magna Carta, noting he used to teach a university course on the document that is regularly ignored by what he referred to as “troublesome” regimes that essentially tell banished individuals, “You can’t come back. We don’t want you back. We don’t like what you think… I just wonder whether that’s so ingrained in our system as opposed to European systems, which in many cases may not have had constitutions like we’ve inherited [with] principles as referred to in the opening words of our Constitution. I just throw it out because it’s historical fact and interests me. Have any thoughts on it?”

Turley, whose whole case rested on rejecting the Magna Carta, stumbled through an answer about “the law as it exists today in Canada” before deking off into another area of rights-denying submissions. Brown later repeatedly shot down her arguments in his decision.

“The primacy of the right to return to Canada is reinforced in Canadian law,” Brown writes. “This is also a critical factor in this Judgment. Simply put, there is no known offence in Canada that carries with it exile or banishment as a penal consequence,” yet both by its actions and conscious inaction, exile or banishment were plainly the result for Canadians stuck in northeast Syria. Indeed, Brown carefully cited jurisprudence that Section 6(1) “forbids the executive from frustrating the rights of Canadians to enter and return whether by executive actions taken in Canada or abroad.” In this instance, the government’s None is Too Many Policy Framework, which he later called into question, was exactly the kind of obstacle employed to frustrate rights of the detainees.

Ottawa failed to request repatriation

Throughout the landmark decision, Brown is not shy about sharing his reservations about clear government misconduct. “The Applicants are Canadian citizens who are not able to return home in part because their government seems never to have formally requested their repatriation,” he writes at one point.

Brown expresses concern that six months before the detainees even started their legal challenge, their lawyer wrote to Global Affairs Canada asking them to appoint a delegation to visit Rojava and receive the detainees, but no such appointments were ever made. “I appreciate this may not be the first step in the exercise of the Applicants’ right to return, but it is still one that I find essential to the exercise of the Charter rights at issue,” Brown declares. “The Applicants absolutely must have Canada make such appointments or they will never be able to return to Canada.”

In addition, Brown also points out that although the detainees’ counsel “have repeatedly asked for travel documents not only before commencing this proceeding but up and to the close of oral submission, none have been provided. Instead Canada relies on and requires the Applicants meet the conditions in its Policy Framework. With respect, I am not persuaded compliance with the Policy Framework is a precondition of the exercise of the Applicant’s Charter protected right to return to Canada.” He adds as well in what can only by a stinging rebuke to the designers and administrators of the None is Too Many policy, that the Framework is “a likely very useful set of internal guidelines to assist the executive in assessing the situations of the Applicants, but it is no substitute for nor does it permit the executive to unilaterally derogate from subsection 6(1).”

In addressing what he deems “not correct,” the government assertion that a Charter breach must be established before a remedy is granted, Brown also expresses his dismay at the inexplicable and indefensible failure of the government to act despite years-long requests for them to do so. “While I might have found Charter breaches in terms of travel documents and making a formal request for repatriation, rights requested almost two years ago but not afforded [emphasis added],” he writes, “I do not consider that necessary because of well-established jurisprudence that a Charter breach is not a necessary pre-condition for the declaratory orders to be issued in this case as already determined.”

Later in the decision, Brown says that he remains “perplexed as to why the [government] did not share the Policy Framework with the Applicants [detainees] when they requested relief and were in effect requesting it in February 2021 [a month after it was created].” He ponders why the government  “for unknown reasons chose not to tell the Applicants of the Policy Framework until November 2021. The Court was not provided with a satisfactory explanation for what it considers an unreasonable delay in informing the Applicants of the Policy Framework. The Respondents delayed from February, 2021 to November, 2021 … a delay of nine months.”

Human consequences of delay

Beneath that language of a nine-month “unreasonable delay” is the human reality that never enters the government’s cynical calculations, even though family members have flooded Global Affairs Canada with individualized reports on the appalling, life-threatening conditions. Indeed, each moment of that nine-month delay was rife with risk and continued suffering, in which severely malnourished children are forced to eat sand and dirt, there is no clean water or nutritious food, there are rarely diapers or sanitary towels, there is no medical care, education, or privacy. It was an additional nine months where children played (and some drowned) in cesspools of human waste, sewage flooded their paper-thin tents, and wild dogs roamed the camps terrorizing people. As Brown would note repeatedly, the conditions for the imprisoned men were even worse.

Throughout his decision, Brown outlines the hugely problematic process engaged by the creation of the secret Policy Framework, noting that without informing the detainees of the framework’s assessment criteria nor seeking their input, Global Affairs Canada conducted assessments on all of the detainees and concluded in 2021 that only one of them met the criteria for “consideration” (in that case, a deathly ill woman, Kimberly Polman, was finally repatriated a year afterwards).

On the eve of the December 2022 repatriation hearing, in a clumsy move clearly designed to undercut the detainees’ case, Global Affairs Canada pulled a 180-degree move and informed the court that all of the women and children were suddenly, after all this time, eligible for “consideration” under the Framework, though no timeline was attached to that announcement. None of the men were thusly considered, a point of clear discrimination that Brown would repeatedly return to during the hearings and in his written decision.

Brown’s clear discomfort with the discriminatory None is Too Many framework is frequently referenced, as when he writes that he finds himself  “compelled to observe the three threshold criteria for eligibility to be considered under the Policy Framework appear drafted to exclude the Canadian men imprisoned” in Rojava and that, if this were indeed the case, the policy could not withstand a Charter challenge.

While pointing out the first two of those criteria apply only to children, the third is based on the premise that “Canadian men held in very dire circumstances in makeshift prisons” may only be considered eligible if they show their condition has “changed significantly,” and in the view of Global Affairs Canada, “none of the four men Applicants have met the threshold criteria.”

In language that must feel validating to all those family members who have dealt with the maddening gaslighting of the rights-violating Framework, Brown expresses his disbelief that such a nonsensical policy could be engaged to prevent the enjoyment of Charter rights, noting with respect to the finding that the men did not meet the criteria:

With respect these conclusions are very problematic. I say this because, based on evidence before this Court, the conditions of the Applicant Canadian men are even more dire than those of the women and children who Canada has just agreed to repatriate. Numerous questions arise. Do those incarcerated men, who imprisoned with 30 others in cells designed for 6, need to demonstrate they are now with 35 others or more? Do these Canadian prisoners receiving inadequate food and inadequate medical care need to establish their rations have been further reduced or their medical treatment terminated? Do those who allege they have been tortured…need to establish they have been tortured more frequently or in even worse ways? And how exactly are Policy Framework administrators to determine if conditions in the prisons for men have worsened “significantly” given these men have not been heard of since 2019? This issue was discussed at the hearing where I suggested this aspect of the Policy Framework was inacceptable from a Charter point of view, a view I am not persuaded to abandon. I add these comments based on the evidence before the Court as of 2019, not knowing their current situation but assuming it is the same or worse, which may not be correct, in the hope the Policy Framework will be materially revised, or that the Canadian male prisoners be considered for repatriation as is not the case with the Canadian women and children.

Brown debunks government arguments

At every turn in Brown’s decision, he dismisses the baseless arguments made by government lawyers, who were unable to sneak past this Supreme Court scholar poorly constructed rationales that, in one instance, he called “debunked”. Indeed, despite government exhortations to discard the numerous findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on this issue, Brown relied heavily on them, including the urgent June 2022 report sent to the Trudeau regime which reiterated “again that the urgent, voluntary and human rights compliant repatriation of all the citizens of your Excellency’s Government is the only international law-compliant response to the complex and precarious human rights, humanitarian and security situation faced by those detained in inhumane conditions in overcrowded prisons or other detention centres in North-East Syria, with limited access to food and medical care putting detainees’ lives at increased risk.” [Emphasis added].”

These conditions, Brown writes, and the manner in which they violate Canada’s international treaty obligations, constitute “a matter the Court is unable to ignore or set aside in coming to its conclusions.”

READ MORE: UN slams Canada’s failure to repatriate citizens illegally detained in Syria

Critically, Brown discusses how, while one can be entitled to Charter Rights, the government of Canada can act in such a way that makes those rights become illusory. While Brown does place faith in the government acting on his decision, he says Ottawa must be “alive and sensitive and guided by the fact the Applicants do not merely depend on the goodwill or discretion of the executive but have the constitutional rights declared in this Judgment.” Importantly, he notes the court “is granting relief in accordance with binding jurisprudence,” finding  “no merit” to government arguments that this would somehow represent “an unprincipled expansion of the right to enter Canada,” adding his “declarations flow from the very dire circumstances of the Applicants” and international treaty obligations.

Next steps for repatriation

Because Judge Brown did not impose a timeline on repatriation beyond “as soon as reasonably possible,” there remains concern that a federal government which regularly professes its respect for court decisions and rule of law (but usually fails to act on them) will do what it always does in such cases: drag its feet and continue to perpetuate the well-documented rights violations suffered by these Muslim Canadians.

While advocates will continue to apply pressure for immediate repatriation (which is entirely practicable given how often has been been occurring with other nations), Brown himself will no doubt be monitoring whether the faith he has placed in Ottawa doing the right thing is being honoured as well. Indeed, given that Canada has already agreed to repatriate 19 women and children, the exact same infrastructure will be in place for the remaining four men in the legal case. In addition, there are almost 30 more men, women and children not named in the lawsuit who should also be brought home (including the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children).

In the meantime, as Global Affairs Canada said it is “reviewing” the decision and so-called “security” experts try to generate Islamophobic hysteria about the detainees’ return, it’s instructive to recall the words of lawyer Barb Jackman who, in representing one of the male detainees, Jack Letts, opened her arguments by noting she was counsel at two earlier commissions of inquiry that found Canada complicit in the overseas arrest, detention, interrogation, and torture of four Muslim Canadians. She noted with a combination of sadness and rage that none of the recommendations flowing from these inquiries had been substantively implemented, and that she was seeing in this case the same patterns of racial and religious profiling contributing to torture.

The lethal cost of delay

Against that backdrop of lessons unlearned and contemptuously ignored, Jackman informed Brown, “I’m appalled that we’re even here,” but added in comments that proved prophetic, “I’m glad it’s before this court because if there’s any obligation, it rests with you to make sure Canada does what it’s supposed to do, because they obviously didn’t listen” to the justices who presided over the earlier commissions of inquiry.

Jackman noted the ease with which Canadian governments and their agencies have always improperly labeled Muslims as security threats. “Once you get the Islamic terrorist label on you, nobody wants to help you,” she said, adding that in the present case, where such labels were being improperly affixed to the detainees “from the highest levels of the Canadian government,” it appeared no different from cases she’d worked on 20 years earlier.

As of December 2022, Jackman said, “Nothing has changed. Nobody’s looking at the actual facts of the case. Instead, [her client] is labeled a terrorist and they don’t want to help him. It’s one of the reasons why access to a court is so important, because a court will look at the facts and will try and determine what’s right in terms of the law and its application to human rights matters. The question you have to answer [is] can Canada wipe its hands of its citizens who are living in such appalling conditions over such an extended period of time? Are we the kind of country that doesn’t care about the humanity of our citizens who are outside our border when we know they’re dying?…if you don’t tell the government of Canada to act to bring these people back, they’re not coming back.”

Thankfully, Judge Brown heard Jackman’s challenge and answered her question well. Brown noted at the close of the December portion of the hearing that he felt an urgency to hear the rest of the matter as soon as possible because “Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.”

While the detainees and their families have much to celebrate with this decision, they are all too aware that the government must also act quickly because, as Brown clearly stated, Canadians are dying or at risk of dying with every day of delay in implementing this historic decision.

Advocates are calling for pressure on Ottawa to quickly repatriate through a Change.org petition.

The post Federal court orders repatriation of Canadians illegally detained in Syria appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Quebecers’ savings fueling apartheid

Rabble - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 09:10

In 2019, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) – Quebec’s pension fund – became the largest shareholder in one of the leading security services providers in North America, Allied Universal. Even for CDPQ standards, this was a very big deal, some estimate the total investment to be over 1.5 billion dollars.

With such a massive investment of Quebecers’ hard-earned cash, one would expect the CDPQ to rigorously monitor and govern how this money is being used. It turns out it was used to enter into the apartheid business.

A short time after CDPQ’s purchase of Allied Universal, the latter acquired G4S, another security service provider. This should have raised red flags at CDPQ headquarters since G4S’s misconduct and controversies are well documented.

Most egregious of these controversies is G4S’s history of aiding and abetting Israel’s brutal security infrastructure. A human rights complaint to the OECD detailed how G4S provided and maintained screening equipment to several West Bank and Gaza military checkpoints, bases and colonies, helping Israel implement restrictions on movement of Palestinians. G4S also provided various other security services to the Israeli military and police. Ultimately, G4S was able to turn a good profit off Israel’s violent subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Fortunately, following organized campaigns by human rights organisations and the BDS movement targeting G4S, the company finally decided to divest from its Israeli subsidiary in 2016.

Despite this forced divestment, however, G4S continues to be active in enabling Israeli crimes. This time, its support of, and profiteering from apartheid are being carried out through its important stake in Policity Ltd.

Again, it is hard to understand how this investment went under CDPQ’s radar, as Policity’s participation in Israeli abuses against Palestinians is almost as ubiquitous as was G4S’s prior subsidiary in that country. Policity, for example, has made money by partnering with the Israeli police to build and operate Israel’s National Police Academy.

Make no mistake about it, the Israeli police service is not a small-time operation tasked with handing out parking tickets. According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli police force is one of the main state organs engaged in the violent repression of Palestinians opposing Israel’s military occupation (think violent repression of protesters, house raids, brutal interrogation techniques, abuse of detainees). They have been widely denounced for their systematic use of torture and other illegal practices against Palestinian political prisoners, including children.

In a way, these atrocities could be considered “corporate atrocities.” Companies are offered lucrative contracts by repressive states to support the creation of oppressive security frameworks. Senior corporate officials review and approve such contracts with only one objective in mind, increasing shareholder value. And in this case, tragically, Quebec’s pension fund is at the top of the food chain.

Any corporate participation and profiteering from Israel’s brutal occupation, apartheid and other abuses is abhorrent, but to see the CDPQ involved in this cruel business should hit home for Quebecers. The CDPQ is not like any other investment fund: it is an institutional investor that manages several public and para-public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec. As such, it should hold itself to the strictest of fiduciary duties, investing responsibly and ethically.

Because of this, a diverse human rights coalition called BDS Quebec launched a strong campaign last year challenging the CDPQ to cut ties with companies enabling Israeli human rights abuses.  Despite meeting face-to-face with representatives of BDS Quebec, however, the CDPQ has so far resisted calls to divest.

Hiding behind intermediaries does not absolve the CDPQ of responsibility. In the 21st century, Canadian pension funds – especially the CDPQ – should be held to the highest standards of ethical investment. Other large funds have already taken this step: Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund has blacklisted G4S, as have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Kuwait’s national pension fund.

There is no honour in being the last person to stand up for human rights and decency.  May the CDPQ be a leader, and not a laggard, in divesting from Israel’s occupation and regime of apartheid against Palestinians. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Fact in fiction: Canadian authors reflect sex workers’ struggles

Rabble - Tue, 01/31/2023 - 04:00

When I first moved to Toronto, I rented a room above a restaurant in a not yet gentrified neighborhood. Across from me was one of those seedy boarding house hotels and sex workers worked the corner. I would see them on my walk home. When things were slow, they read books. As a bookworm myself, I was intrigued. It took me a couple of months to work up the courage to ask them what they read when they weren’t busy. They were amused by me. I was a weird college kid in weird outfits with a weird ask, but from then on, we would chat about books sometimes. They were the first sex workers I ever met. They made me feel welcome in my new neighborhood.

A few years later, when I was a baby stripper, some of the girls would lend each other books in the changing room. Some were self-help, some business improvement, and some were books about sex workers, or sex worker memoirs. Eventually, we formed what we called “the ho bookclub.” Our book club went on for a year or two, before some of us left the club for good. I still read and collect books by or about sex workers, particularly books written by Canadian authors.

I’m hoping to review books written by sex workers later this year, but for now, I’m going to focus on established feminist writers whose books can be easily found at local libraries and bookstores.

Margaret Atwood and Heather O’Neill are Canadian, feminist, best-selling authors. Both have written about sex workers during their careers. There is not enough space in a monthly column for me to get into much detail about each author and their body of work. But there is space for me to tell you if sex workers feel seen in the books written by the above authors.

I might as well start with the grande dame of Canadian literature herself, Margaret Atwood. As we’ve seen with the reversal of Roe v. Wade in America, her book and the current TV adaptation the Handmaid’s Tale is becoming less speculative fiction by the day. I remember first reading the book in high school, and remember thinking to myself that I, too, would have chosen to work at the clandestine brothel called Jezebel’s instead of hard labour in a nuclear wasteland without any safety precautions if the powers that be determined me to be too slutty to be used as a handmaid. I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to express that even in extreme situations such as being forced to choose between sex trafficking or a gulag, victims can and do express agency. And there is such a thing as a spectrum of consent. 

Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy, like the Handmaid’s Tale, is speculative fiction. Year of the Flood is my favorite of the three because the protagonist is a stripper. Ren is a graduate with a fine arts degree in dance whose only career prospects are working in fast food or to work as a stripper. She gets hired as a feature entertainer at a club called Scales and Tails. The book begins with Ren being stuck in a decontamination suite at the club just as the environmental apocalypse hits. She survives on champagne and bar nuts and reflects on her life thus far and wonders if she will ever find her friend Amanda again. In this dystopian strip club/brothel, the women who work there are categorized by the owners as either talent or disposable, and the clients treat them as such. 

The girls who are talent are expected to perform. They are provided some, but never enough, safety measures such as skin suit costumes and a decontamination suite if the suit gets ripped to minimize their interactions with the clientele. By contrast, the workers deemed as disposable are brought in from impoverished countries and the men can do what they wish to them with impunity — their bodies are literally disposable.

In her fictional world, and in my real world, class, or the perception of class, determines a sex worker’s earning potential and working conditions. On one end, we have white, conventionally attractive, college educated women who can brand themselves as luxury and charge accordingly. On the other end of the spectrum, we have sex workers who work outdoors. They are more likely to be living in poverty, racialized, disabled, living with addictions or mental health issues, and/or without access to education or social capital. 

Think about it: when the Stormy Daniels scandal broke, people were tripping all over themselves to say that they too would engage in sex work for 130 thousand U.S. dollars and that Daniels has great business acumen. Would these same people rush to express their approval when they see a sex worker working outdoors, doing the same thing just in far worse conditions for exponentially less money? Would they want to be a sex worker in that scenario?

With the exception of Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O’Neill sets her books in Victorian or Edwardian era Montreal. Her protagonists are, for the most part, teenage girls who engage in survival sex work. I’m sure, in part, writing about Montreal’s history is in itself O’Neill’s ongoing homage to her hometown. Montreal is glorious and deserves to be celebrated. But it’s also a hell of a lot less jarring to read about teenagers trading sex during a time where child labor was still legal and women weren’t allowed to vote or own property. I think for us as readers, it’s easier to stomach human tragedy when it’s at arm’s length — we can tell ourselves that things are much better nowadays for young people, and that our social nets never let anyone “slip through the cracks.” We fall asleep with our book still open, in our cozy beds, surrounded by modern amenities. 

O’Neill’s latest book, When We Lost Our Heads, is about two best friends Marie and Sadie, who get up to all sorts of strange and wonderful performance art. Marie is the only (legitimate) child of a sugar baron. Sadie is the child of a social climbing third rate politician. In an ever escalating game of truth or dare, the girls accidentally kill a maid. Marie is shielded from consequence. Sadie is sent abroad to some sort of remedial school. Years later when she returns, she runs away from home because her family wants to minimize their reputational risk and send her to the asylum. Instead, she runs away and meets George, an androgynous woman who was raised communally in a brothel. George hasn’t left the brothel, she splits her time between doing sex work, being a trained midwife for the brothel, and a clandestine abortionist for the wider community. She takes in Sadie and they have a beautiful love story. Sadie eventually becomes the brothel’s resident dominatrix. This book is unapologetically queer; there are no heaving bosoms. Instead, we get a love scene with a strap on followed by cuddles. The sex is real. 

Equally real is the camaraderie among the sex workers. They help each other with clients. They hustle together. The work is hard, but the girls have a shared sense that helps them push through it.  On Sundays, they rest their bodies and smoke opium. Nowadays, it’s a facemask, foot bath and joint kind of hangout after work or on a Sunday afternoon, but the communal rest remains the same. The women at the brothel know each other’s bodies. They love each other. It made me want to work with these girls. 

Sadie and George eventually part ways, but they put their time at the brothel to good use. They each become writers in their own right. Sadie becomes a famous erotica writer, and George writes political pamphlets that eventually empower young girls working in the factory to revolt, strike and demand better working conditions. There is no precautionary tale, they both move on from sex work relatively unscathed. If anything, their time at the brothel gave them inspiration and time to plan their next steps.

If reading more books was one of your New Year resolutions, you should add Year of the Flood and When We Lost our Heads to your list. The authors’ creation of a parallel world as a way to lessen the blow about the impossible choices young women are faced with is masterful.

Both books highlight and parallel key struggles that I, and other sex workers I know, face. They also reflect us as full humans: we are resilient and work hard. We love and are loved. We use our talents to uplift our communities in face of injustice. 

I’m looking forward to reading books new book written by sex workers about sex work and sex workers. We have a lot to say! Consider reading along with me this year.

The post Fact in fiction: Canadian authors reflect sex workers’ struggles appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

2SLGBTQI+ caucus a parliamentary first

Rabble - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 13:01

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have banded together to form Canada’s first 2SLGBTQI+ caucus.

In many ways, the Canadian Pride Caucus cements the protection of 2SLGBTQI+ individuals in the country.

Not only would this kind of governmental body be illegal in different jurisdictions around the world, there would not even be space for 2SLGBTQI+ people in politics.

NDP MP Blake Desjarlais made history in 2021 when he became the first Two-Spirit Member of Parliament in Canada. He’s making history again by co-chairing the unprecedented caucus.

“We have thousands, if not millions, of people in Canada who are members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community,” Desjarlais said in a mid-January interview with rabble.ca. “And it’s not such a far stretch to know that every single human society in the world, that we exist, no matter if governments allow it to exist or not.”

Homosexuality has been legal in Canada for less than half of the country’s existence. Married gay couples in the United States will not even be able to celebrate their tenth anniversary until 2025.

But as Desjarlais noted, it wasn’t until people like professor and activist Michael Phair stood up and said, “I’m done waiting around and watching my friends die of AIDS and HIV.”

Phair’s outspokenness about the AIDS crisis helped him become the first openly gay politician elected in Alberta’s history in 1992. He remained a city councillor for 15 years.

“If they’re not going to do it for us, we’re going to do it ourselves,” Desjarlais said of Phair’s leadership.

Now, the fight for dignity and equality continues as Desjarlais warned “our safety isn’t guaranteed.”

“We have to continuously work together to make sure we don’t fall down a slippery slope, because it’s possible,” he said.

Pointing out the trans community is undergoing a historic level of hatred, Desjarlais added solidarity, cooperation, and unity among the 2SLGBTQI+ community is more important than ever.

“We are a part of the world here. We are part of this land — part of this world as anyone else and any living thing is,” Desjarlais said. “To diminish us and take us out of this world is to hurt our ecosystem and to hurt our environment for all of us.”

Creating the Canadian Pride Caucus

The caucus, which will bring together members of the Canadian House of Commons and Senate, was announced in December 2022 before parliament adjourned for the holiday season.

Co-chaired by Senator René Cormier and Desjarlais, the Canadian Pride Caucus will consist of eight MPs from three federal political parties and two independent senators. 

Desjarlais noted the goals of the caucus include working with civil society organizations while also raising awareness and advocating for 2SLGBTQI+ issues in a non-partisan way. 

Other MPs on the caucus include New Democrats Lisa Marie Barron and Randall Garrison and CPC member Melissa Lantsman.

There are also three federal ministers in the caucus. They include Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge, and Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault. The Liberal members are joined by Robert Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Rounding out the group of ten is a second independent senator, Kim Pate.

In a joint statement issued last month, Cormier and Desjarlais noted the creation of the caucus came one year after Canada banned so-called conversion therapy practices, also known as acts of torture against 2SLGBTQI+ individuals.

“Current events are a constant reminder that the rights of 2SLGBTQI+ communities are eroding and far from achieved around the world,” the co-chairs said.

The creation of the caucus comes in the footsteps of the global Equality Caucus, which first met with politicians in 2020.

In December, Sen. René Cormier tweeted about the creation of the Canadian Pride Caucus.

“The non-partisan approach between parliamentarians has been proven elsewhere in the world,” said Cormier, Caucus co-chair. “Now it’s Canada’s turn to provide united leadership on this matter.”

Caucus will help ‘create a better Canada’

For Desjarlais, the caucus has the ability to reshape perceptions about 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada, while debunking myths and countering the hyper-divisiveness endangering queer and trans communities.

“I hope that the community sees it as a fair chance for us to try to create a better Canada — one that isn’t as scary as it seems on TV or on TikTok or on Twitter,” Desjarlais said.

Desjarlais hopes the caucus can conduct enough substantial work to present it to a parliamentary committee. But in the meantime, he added, there are mandates and planning items to decide on.

“I think this next year is going to be about the community,” he said, noting he hopes the caucus will provide a platform for as many stakeholders as possible to bring their priorities to the House floor. 

According to Desjarlais, the caucus is slated to hold its first event in February.

“We’re the folks who are going to help contribute to a greater society and a greater peace in this place,” Desjarlais said. “Because we have in the past and that’s our record.”

The post 2SLGBTQI+ caucus a parliamentary first appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Off the Hill: Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy

Rabble - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 10:53

From rabble’s January 2023 ‘Off the Hill: Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy’ panel. Join guests MP Leah Gazan, Jim Stanford, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Karl Nerenberg. With co-hosts Robin Browne and Nick Seebruch.

This month, Off the Hill explored the politics of cooling the economy – and the planet – as Parliament returns. Canadian parliament returns on January 30. The spotlight is on the economy and the impact on Canadians. Our panel discussed the critical issues related to the economic outlook and the climate emergency. 

Off the Hill is a fast-paced live panel on current issues of national significance. It features guests and a discussion you won’t find anywhere else, centred on the impact politics and policy have on people, and on ways to mobilize to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill.

Meet our guests

Robin Browne is Off the Hill’s co-host. Robin is a communications professional and the co-lead of the 613-819 Black Hub, living in Ottawa. His blog is The “True” North.

Nick Seebruch acted as Off the Hill’s co-host this month. Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022.

Leah Gazan is the member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. She is currently the NDP critic for Children, Families, and Social Development, as well as the critic for Women and Gender Equality, and the deputy critic for Housing. Leah is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, located in Saskatchewan, Treaty 4 territory.

Jim Stanford is an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work, a labour economics research institute with operations in Canada and Australia. He previously served as economist and director of policy with Unifor.

Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6-based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, located in Northern Manitoba. He is an Indigenous activist, campaigner and public speaker. Thomas-Müller has been recognized by Yes Magazine as a Climate Hero and is featured as one of ten international human rights defenders in the National Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He is also the author of Life in the City of Dirty Water.

Karl Nerenberg is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster and filmmaker, working in both English and French languages. He is rabble’s parliamentary correspondent and a regular panelist on Off the Hill.

The post Off the Hill: Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Premier throws down gauntlet with defamation accusation; CBC picks it up

Rabble - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 08:04

On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith threw down the gauntlet, accusing the CBC of defamation and demanding that the corporation retract and apologize for its January 19 report someone on her staff sent emails to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service challenging how it was handling cases stemming from last year’s highway blockade at Coutts. 

Friday, the national broadcaster picked up the gauntlet, publishing an uncompromising statement by Helen Henderson, senior director of journalism and programming at CBC Calgary, standing by the story and vowing “there is much more reporting to be done and stories in the coming days will include further information.”

So I guess there’s nothing for the premier to do but go ahead and sue the CBC and its reporters for defamation, eh? Well, don’t hold, your breath. 

But while we wait to see what happens, it seems likely the premier will turn up the dial on her attacks against the CBC and the CBC’s reporting will reveal more about what was happening in the Premier’s Office to influence the way Crown prosecutors were dealing with cases related to the enforcement of public health regulations during the pandemic and protests against those policies. 

A CBC report yesterday that quoted Henderson’s statement in full indicated it was drafted to respond to angry comments by supporters of the premier after Smith’s challenge was published. 

Henderson’s statement drew attention to Ms. Smith’s 2019 comments about the Globe and Mail report that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in a fraud and corruption prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. Wilson-Raybould resigned as justice minister and was later expelled from the Liberal Caucus in Ottawa over her conduct in the brouhaha. 

“If anything warrants a Mueller committee-style investigation, it’s certainly this,” Smith, still working as the host of a right-wing talk radio show, said at the time – a reference to the 2017-2019 investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and President Donald Trump’s reputed involvement. 

Henderson also noted that Smith has admitted she contacted Crown prosecutors and then later changed her story. 

While the CBC story did not name the sources of its information, Henderson said, “CBC knows the names of the sources, knows where they work, and has carefully assessed the credibility of the information they offered, but agreed not to use their names so as not to put their jobs at risk.”

“Let me emphasize here that we were very careful not only to confirm the bona fides of the sources we spoke with, but to corroborate the information they gave us,” she continued. “It was only after we had spoken with multiple sources and were satisfied with its credibility and authenticity that we published it.” 

“We remain committed to reporting this story and all the stories we carry with transparency, balance and impartiality,” her statement concluded. 

So it would seem that Premier Smith can bluster and threaten if she likes but that there is not much she can do to prevent the CBC from pursuing the story. 

The post Premier throws down gauntlet with defamation accusation; CBC picks it up appeared first on rabble.ca.

Categories: F. Left News

Thinking about inflation, layoffs and fighting back

Rabble - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 07:31

We’re going to be hearing a lot this year about inflation and layoffs. As anyone who buys gas or groceries can tell you, prices for necessities are spiking. Spoiler alert: our economic masters expect workers to absorb the impacts of economic change, from higher prices to disappearing jobs. A time-honored and knee jerk corporate response to inflation and other forms of economic turbulence is to lay off workers, a move that  is often rewarded, at least temporarily, by the stock market. (Although, like much pro-capitalist received wisdom, the link between layoffs and improved profit and performance is less robust than it appears to  be. More on that later.) In just the first three weeks of January, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced 12,000  job cuts around the world, with some of the bloodletting slated to occur in Canada. Amazon.com Incorporated expects to cut 18,000 world-wide. Similarly, Microsoft expects to lay off 10,000 workers this year. Canadian tech firms were also cutting workers in the opening weeks of the year, with hundreds of jobs lost at Lightspeed Commerce, Hootsuite Inc., Clearco and Thinkific. All told, over 70,000 tech workers were laid off in the past year, including the 3,700 jobs lost to the bloodletting over at the Twitter abattoir.

And the tech sector was not the only one seeing significant layoffs. From iron mines on Baffin Island to food delivery apps in Winnipeg, Canadian workers are already  getting layoff notices this year, as management tries to prop up profits by reducing labour costs. The corporate slogan seems to  be “Thanks for your service. Now screw off.” The situation is now so serious, and the use of the layoff tactic so common, that Fortune Magazine, one of the iconic journals of the business class, recently published a long article on how to best conduct employee layoffs. One of the helpful layoff  hints Fortune  offered to top management was that they should obey local laws, apparently not an obvious practice for Fortune’s CEO readers!

So, what does all this have to do with union strategies for the new year? The answer is simple: organize, organize, organize! Unionized workers, by and large,  have more protection from arbitrary dismissal, and better severance packages than unorganized workers. And the protection and benefits negotiated by unions for their members tend to drive up wages, protections  and benefits for unorganized workers in their localities as well. Unions create direct benefits for their members and indirect benefits for the larger economy and for their employers too, as was recently argued in a paper from the Atlantic Council.

As mentioned above, it has long been assumed in ruling class circles and in the business aligned press that the best response for companies facing challenges is to lay off workers and make operations “lean.” But some fascinating  research reported in the Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018,

suggests that mass layoffs are often not only cruel and heartless, but stupid, failing spectacularly to the achieve the bottom-line targets they were implemented to accomplish. The study’s authors note:

“Yet other data on layoffs should give companies pause. In a 2012 review of 20 studies of companies that had gone through layoffs, Deepak Datta at the University of Texas at Arlington found that layoffs had a neutral to negative effect on stock prices in the days following their announcement. Datta also discovered that after layoffs many companies suffered declines in profitability, and a related study showed that the drop in profits persisted for three years. And a team of researchers from Auburn University, Baylor University, and the University of Tennessee found that companies that have layoffs are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as companies that don’t have them. After a layoff, survivors experienced a 20% decline in job performance.”

The same Harvard Business Review researchers give an account of a powerful union-led push back against layoffs at a German plant operated by the cell phone company Nokia. When the company announced massive layoffs at the plant in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, unionized workers there fought back with mass demonstrations and consumer boycotts. The workers persuaded the German government to demand Nokia repay subsidies they had been given earlier. According to the authors, Nokia lost seven hundred million Euros in sales and one hundred million Euros in profits in 2008 and 2009 due to this effective labour fight back. We don’t always win when we fight back, but we always lose if we surrender. And unions represent an important way for workers to fight back.

Sadly, unions have been targeted and in too many cases weakened by the shift to a globalized economy and the rise of right-wing authoritarian regimes and sophisticated anti-union ideologies around the world. Strikes are broken, labour law protections weakened, and the slimy, squalid doctrines of rugged individualism promoted. Collective efforts are disparaged in contrast to a neo-Hobbesian war of all against all. It is not an easy time to be a trade unionist, but it continues to be vital that we build and protect our unions.

The challenge to build, expand and protect  independent, militant unions is a global one, but workers face different obstacles in different jurisdictions. For example, Canadian unionism, while in desperate need of renewal and expansion, is far stronger than organized labour in the US.

American union density is at its lowest ebb since record keeping on this vital matter began in 1983. Union members make up only 10.1 per cent of the American workforce, down from over 20 per cent 40 years ago. Canada has seen losses in union density too, but not as disastrous as the American case. In 1981, 38 per cent of the Canadian workforce was unionized, a figure that fell  nine per cent to 29 per cent in 2022. So Canadian workers start from a better place than American, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want a union movement robust enough to fight back against what our business class masters have in mind for us.

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Categories: F. Left News

Education and the carceral state

Rabble - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 07:11

Activists, community members, harm reduction workers and radical scholars have long called attention to the relations between K-12 schools, universities, and policing; prison expansion, gentrification, and the privatization of public space; houselessness, alternative street economies, substance use, and mental illness. As activists and scholars working in Toronto who are deeply concerned about these issues, we witness daily how neoliberal capitalist interests are directing money away from the people and away from social supports and programs. We know that it is not a coincidence that all of the following is happening simultaneously: the chaos of discussions around public health, housing and the mayor’s increasingly authoritarian decision-making power and lack of accountability; violent shelter hotel and encampment evictions; and calls in recent months for the increased “securitization” of public schools and the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) campus.  

In response to an incident of sexual assault on October 26, 2022 at TMU, an online petition was circulated, calling for an increase of security on campus. The petition garnered over 13,000 signatures. On November 7, 2022, TMU announced “measures to enhance security on TMU campus” in response to “recent incidents on our campus [that] have been especially concerning for our community members.” The announcement details how TMU’s Community Safety and Security Team have already increased the number of security guards and municipal police on campus to protect what they call, “the wellbeing of our community.” 

On Friday, December 2, 2022 students of York Memorial Collegiate Institute walked out of their school and marched with their community supporters to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) offices to protest the horrific conditions they are being subjected to in their school. As the walkout and press releases by students demonstrate, students and those who love them are acutely aware of the violence in their schools, wherein police are not the answer, but indeed very much part of the problem. Students at York Memorial report being subjected to racial slurs, racist remarks, and discrimination from teachers; they do not feel supported or respected as human beings. The frequency with which police are called to the school has not improved the situation, instead students report being further terrorized by the presence and behaviours of armed officers. Certainly, many of them, especially those who are Indigenous, Black, and/ or poor people, are starkly aware that police do NOT keep them safe. And yet, beginning on Monday, December 5 (and continuing for several days) an urgent special meeting of the TDSB Board of Trustees discussed a proposal to bring back the School Resource Officers (SRO) program, after voting to remove that same program from its schools less than five years ago

Tireless organizing and activism by students, parents, educators, community members and educational activists led to the correct decision to remove cops from TDSB schools in 2017, and it is unconscionable that the board would now even consider reinstating that program. We add our voices to the many asserting that any move to revive the SRO program will send a clear message to the students and families most impacted by this decision, that the TDSB does not care about their well-being, about their education, or about their futures. Cops in schools do not end violence in schools; cops in schools subject students to normalized police surveillance, harassment, intimidation, assault, racial profiling, and criminalization.

At TMU (formerly Ryerson University), activist students – most notably Black student activists – have described being subjected to relentless surveillance and harassment, especially when organizing against the presence of police in their school. Organizing and activism led by students forced the university to suspend plans for additional police presence on campus a few short years ago. Instead of committing to the long-term work of creating safer academic and local communities rooted in strong relationships, shared resources and harm reduction, universities too often prefer to “wait out” generations of radical students. This appears to be the case at TMU, as the senior administration has sought to maintain its authority through attempts to silence and push out student activists (Igbavboa, Singh, 2020). In the recent announcement regarding safety at TMU, the very first of the “community supports” the university identifies as key partnerships in these efforts is Toronto Police Service.

Due to the ongoing resistance of the Indigenous landback movement, and increasingly militant action and refusals of normative white settler colonialism in academia, TMU has been forced to rebrand from emphasis on colonial historical authority (via the Ryerson name and legacy) to an emphasis on neoliberal capitalist authority (as an institution of a global city/metropolis). Universities seek to capitalize on sophisticated spaces of urban “diversity” and capitalist development, while erasing the poverty, criminalized activity, and alternative survival economies that always already exist in gentrifying cities. This involves the construction of disposable groups of people through carcerality – using surveillance and police violence to criminalize ‘social problems’ and the (disproportionately Black, Indigenous) populations most directly subjected to them. The university has been mythically constructed as the antithesis and even solution to such urban social problems and peoples; hence TMU and the University of Toronto in downtown Toronto and those of us who work in these institutions can think of ourselves as progressive and embracing of international diversity without the burden of addressing the power relations and social hierarchy of racial capitalism (Leonardo and Hunter, 2007). 

A report on anti-racism that was published in 2010 by Ryerson/TMU demonstrates the way racialized students, faculty and staff experience racial violence from the presence of cops on campus (Final Report of the Taskforce on Anti-Racism at Ryerson, 2010, pg. 30). This message has since been consistently communicated to the university administration by multiple student groups, faculty, and external community members, while additional research, such as the 2020 report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission details that Black Toronto residents are disproportionately targeted by police violence.

The Scarborough Charter is a pledge to fight anti-Black racism and promote Black inclusion in higher education. Under pressure from activists after failing to sign on from the outset, Mohamed Lachemi, President of TMU, signed the Charter in October 2022 (Djan, 2022). A specific call to action listed in section 3.1 of the Charter states that Universities and Colleges Commit to Enabling Mutuality in Governance by: 

3.1.1. reassessing the existing campus security and safety infrastructure and protocols with a view to protecting the human dignity, equality and safety of Black people on campus

3.1.2. undertaking periodic climate surveys that consider local community relations, to assess and guide initiatives to build inclusive campuses in a manner that is responsive to the specific needs of Black faculty, staff and students.

Despite the commitment of TMU to address anti-Black racism in the university, TMU is engaging in policy to address sexual violence in a way that centres white neo/liberal values. It has ignored the broader knowledges of students, faculty, staff, and community members that would support measures that can address the overlapping, co-constitutive nature of racial, sexual, and state violence (Colpits, 2021).  In addition to discounting the labour of those who have worked for community-centred, trauma informed, non-carceral approaches to collective wellbeing at the university, TMU’s decision to increase policing on campus (whether by private security companies or the TPS) directly conflicts with the commitments of the Scarborough Charter. TMU’s touting of its ongoing intimacy with TPS as a way of addressing sexual violence dramatically fails to recognize the multitude of ways that racialized sexual violence is enacted in campus spaces and the greater community—including by police themselves.

It is necessary to reflect on who feels (and who does not feel) reassured by increased policing practices in schools, and whose wellbeing is nourished (and who is directly harmed and traumatized) by police presence in schools and communities. Increased policing increases violence, especially violence towards Black and Indigenous community members, and those who are negatively impacted by lack of housing, by poverty, and by the criminalization of substance use and sex work. 

TMU has implemented more police and security officers, disregarding substantial evidence of the effects of increased racial violence from increasing security on campus. Consistent efforts led by Black student groups over the years have detailed how actions to increase security on campus adversely impact the greater TMU community. As Dr. Anne-Marie Singh tells us, “these calls for increased security ignore the findings of both the Anti-Racism Taskforce Report and the Anti-Black Climate Report about the violent policing of Indigenous and Black bodies by campus security – Reports which the Administration accepted with much fanfare but have now tossed aside” (personal communication, December 20, 2022). TMU administrators are thus well aware that increased policing on campus only provides a sense of safety for community members who feel protected by systems of white supremacy and the social hierarchy of racial capitalism.

The clandestine violence of calling for a strengthened police presence on the TMU campus cannot and should not be ignored, nor should it be viewed in isolation from the ramping up of a racist and gendered moral panic about student violence in public schools. Bringing cops into schools is intricately connected to neoliberal capitalist interests, as is deploying cops to violently evict encampments and shelter hotels, as are court injunctions and the deployment of cops to violently extract Indigenous peoples from their land. Institutions of police direct money away from the people, as evidenced by the mayor’s unabashed 48 million dollar increase in funding for the police instead of addressing the crucial need for greater supports for housing, health and education.  

At the same time that Black students are leading resistance to police presence in their schools, the poor are defending their communities and rights to permanent affordable housing, and Indigenous Land Defenders are continuing centuries of resistance to the unethical and illegal occupation of colonizers on their traditional territories. These issues are intertwined, and we stand in solidarity with those who are leading actions that imagine a future that transcends white settler colonialism.

It is crucial that new and current students of all ages know of a narrative that differs from the common and timeworn myth that police protect and serve all of us equally and equitably. If we must walk out from schools and engage in hours, months, and years of advocacy and resistance to make it known, then we are valid and justified in doing so. Demands to increase police presence in schools and communities disregard the realities of those who know, live, and survive police violence as anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-poor violence. Cops do not keep our communities safe; cops keep normative white settler colonialism intact

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Categories: F. Left News

COP15 and 30×30 Pt. II: Indigenous led conservation and saving the Greenbelt

Rabble - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 04:12

In the second part of this two-part episode of the Courage My Friends podcast COP15 and 30×30: Indigenous-Led Conservation and Saving the Greenbelt, manager at Springwater Provincial Park and former Chief of the Beausoleil First Nation, Jeff Monague, discusses principles of Indigenous-led conservation, the dangers facing First Nations communities from Greenbelt development and the need to shift our thinking in order to reconnect with the natural world.

Reflecting on the meaning of reconciliation, Monague says: 

“We can’t think about conservation if we don’t live or try to live that conservation…We’re not doing that enough. In Canada, the government needs to do more. If it is reconciliation that they’re talking about, then they need to do more…Reconciliation won’t happen if all of your partners are not included. Let’s say we’re going to spend $30 million on a project and then we’ll give 1% of that to First Nations. That’s not reconciliation.” 

About Jeff Monague

Jeff Monague is a member of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island and currently resides near Coldwater, Ont. Presently, he is the manager at Springwater Provincial Park. He has been an instructor of the Ojibwe Language and has taught at every level, from junior kindergarten to post secondary at Georgian College. His book Ahaw Anishinaabem for beginners of the Ojibwe Language is available on Amazon. He is a former Chief and Councillor of his community on Christian Island and has been the Treaty research director for the Anishinaabek Nation. He is also a Canadian military veteran.

Transcript of this episode can be accessed at georgebrown.ca/TommyDouglasInstitute or here. 

Image: Jeff Monague / Used with Permission

Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased

Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (podcast announcer); Bob Luker (voice of Tommy Douglas); Kenneth Okoro, Liz Campos Rico, Tsz Wing Chau (street voices) 

Courage My Friends Podcast Organizing Committee: Chandra Budhu, Ashley Booth, Resh Budhu. 

Produced by: Resh Budhu, Tommy Douglas Institute and Breanne Doyle, rabble.ca

Host: Resh Budhu

This is part two of a two-part episode. Catch up on Part I of this episode here

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Categories: F. Left News

The health care debate

Rabble - Fri, 01/27/2023 - 07:57

Last month I had cataract surgery at the Bochner Eye Institute, a private clinic in Toronto.  It’s one of the 900 private clinics in the province doing simple surgery and diagnostics. The doctor asked me if I’d like to be able to see without glasses after surgery, pointing out that because I have an astigmatism, it would cost $4,000 per eye above OHIP. It’s called upselling but it didn’t work on me. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 13. I barely recognize myself without them, so it wasn’t an issue for me.

As someone who has relied on alternative medicine all my life for most of my ailments, I’m used to paying for health care. All kinds of serious procedures and treatments whether dental, ocular, or psychological are not covered by health insurance. Moreover, up until very recently our Western medical system has ignored most preventative medicine. In that sense, public health care in Canada is a bit of a myth. Like most things, we compare ourselves to the U.S., who have about the worst health care system in the world and compared to them, our system is wonderful. For broken bones, cancer, and major surgery, public health care is excellent but it’s not perfect.

So why has Premier Doug Ford’s (aptly nicknamed Doug Fraud by playwright Brad Fraser) recent announcement about the funding of new private clinics set up such a storm of protest? As Globe and Mail health reporter André Picard just pointed out on CBC radio, we already have private clinics in many provinces, and they haven’t undermined public health care. Yet, I would add, when the biggest province in the country announces that there will be big bucks to set up private for-profit clinics, health care corporations around the world will take notice. The danger is that private capital sees another opportunity to make profit from public money on the backs of the vulnerable.

Ford famously said, “You will not need a credit card, all you’ll need is your OHIP card.” What he didn’t say is that the cost of that procedure might not be more for you, if you turn down the bells and whistles, but it will cost more to taxpayers because private, for-profit clinics care more for their shareholders than their patients. On top of that if there are more for-profit clinics, there will be more double billing. We had that fight in Ontario decades ago when doctors tried to argue that it was fair to pay more to get to the front of the line. They lost that fight but Mike Harris gutted the health system by refusing to increase funding to the public system. Today in B.C., a case is going through the courts with the same double billing argument. So far the court has rejected it but it’s on its way to the Supreme Court.

If you have any doubt about for-profit clinics just look at what happened in long-term care. In an analysis of 93 long-term care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks that have resulted in death, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) found fatality rates of nine per cent in for-profit homes, 5.3 per cent in non-profits, and 3.6 per cent in municipally owned facilities. Nevertheless, the Fraud government issued 30-year licenses and expansions for 18,000 long-term care beds to the same for-profit corporations responsible for the deaths of 4,000 long-term care residents. The same for-profit operators that had to have the army sent in to help with neglected and dying residents.

At this moment we are waiting to hear of the agreement made between the federal government and provinces for increased health care funding. There is a model for such an agreement in the daycare agreement released last year. The federal government under considerable pressure insisted that all new money go to non-profit or public daycare. Fraud has been working hard to get around that limit and the childcare movement is working just hard to counter those limits and to assist new non-profit daycares to establish themselves to meet the growing need. Why not include funding for only new private non-profit or hospitals sponsored clinics in the health care agreement?

Medical clinics to do simpler procedures and diagnostics is a good idea. It’s cheaper, more efficient, and more comfortable than hospitals but they don’t need to be for-profit. Quebec has an excellent model in CLSC’s, non-profit community clinics that serve many Quebecers instead of individual family doctors. The Ontario Medical Association is suggesting something similar called ambulatory clinics that would be run by hospitals. In another article here Karl Nerenberg argues that the most important problem is access to primary care and that non-profit clinics are the best solution.

The issue is not just private versus public, it is profit versus non-profit. Why should our taxpayer dollars pay the profit of more multi-national health organizations, which we already do through pharmaceuticals and long-term care? How much better would our response to COVID-19 have been if we still had a public pharmaceutical laboratory?

There is no question in my mind that Doug Fraud is out to privatize medicare and any other public service he can to enrich his buddies and live out his limited ideology that the market is best despite all evidence to the contrary. But in my view, the best way to fight him is to insist on non-profit private clinics not to oppose clinics altogether.

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Categories: F. Left News

The Belmarsh Tribunals demand justice for Julian Assange

Rabble - Fri, 01/27/2023 - 07:25

“The first casualty when war comes is truth,” U.S. Senator Hiram W. Johnson of California said in 1929, debating ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a noble but ultimately failed attempt to ban war.

Reflecting on the First World War, which ended a decade earlier, he continued, “it begins what we were so familiar with only a brief period ago, this mode of propaganda whereby…people become war hungry in their patriotism and are lied into a desire to fight. We have seen it in the past; it will happen again in the future.”

Time and again, Hiram Johnson has been proven right. Our government’s impulse to control information and manipulate public opinion to support war is deeply ingrained. The past 20 years, dominated by the so-called War on Terror, are no exception. Sophisticated PR campaigns, a compliant mass media and the Pentagon’s pervasive propaganda machine all work together, as public intellectual Noam Chomsky and the late Prof. Ed Herman defined it in the title of their groundbreaking book, Manufacturing Consent, borrowing a phrase from Walter Lippman, considered the father of public relations.

One publisher consistently challenging the pro-war narrative pushed by the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has been the whistleblower website Wikileaks. Wikileaks gained international attention in 2010 after publishing a trove of classified documents leaked from the U.S. military.

Included were numerous accounts of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of civilians, and shocking footage of a helicopter gunship in Baghdad slaughtering a dozen civilians, including a Reuters journalist and his driver, on the ground below. Wikileaks titled that video, “Collateral Murder.”

The New York Times and other newspapers partnered with Wikileaks to publish stories based on the leaks. This brought increased attention to the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. In December 2010, two months after release of the Collateral Murder video, then vice-president Joe Biden, appearing on NBC, said Assange was “closer to being a high-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers.” Biden was referring to the 1971 classified document release by Daniel Ellsberg, which revealed years of Pentagon lies about U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

With a secret grand jury empanelled in Virginia, Assange, then in London, feared being arrested and extradited to the United States. Ecuador granted Assange political asylum. Unable to make it to Latin America, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He lived inside the small, apartment-sized embassy for almost seven years.

In April 2019, after a new Ecuadorian president revoked Assange’s asylum, British authorities arrested him and locked him up in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, often called “Britain’s Guantánamo.” He has been held there, in harsh conditions and in failing health, for almost four years, as the U.S. government seeks his extradition to face espionage and other charges. If extradited and convicted in the U.S., Assange faces 175 years in a maximum-security prison.

While the Conservative-led U.K. government seems poised to extradite Assange, a global movement has grown demanding his release. The Progressive International, a global pro-democracy umbrella group, has convened four assemblies since 2020 called The Belmarsh Tribunals. Named after the 1966 Russell-Sartre Tribunal on the Vietnam War, convened by philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sarte, The Belmarsh Tribunal has assembled some of the world’s most prominent, progressive activists, artists, politicians, dissidents, human rights attorneys and whistleblowers, all speaking in defence of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

“We are bearing witness to a travesty of justice,” Jeremy Corbyn, a British Member of Parliament and former leader of the Labour Party, said at the tribunal.

“To an abuse of human rights, to a denial of freedom of somebody who bravely put himself on the line that we all might know that the innocent died in Abu Ghraib, the innocent died in Afghanistan, the innocent are dying in the Mediterranean, and innocents die all over the world, where unwatched, unaccountable powers decide it’s expedient and convenient to kill people who get in the way of whatever grand scheme they’ve got. We say no. That’s why we are demanding justice for Julian Assange.”

Corbyn is joined in his call by The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel–major newspapers that published articles based on the leaked documents. “Publishing is not a crime,” the newspapers declared.

Never before has a publisher been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. The Assange prosecution poses a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and a free press. President Biden, currently embroiled in his own classified document scandal, knows this, and should immediately drop the charges against Julian Assange.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Categories: F. Left News

Online gambling undermines everything good that draws us to sports

Rabble - Fri, 01/27/2023 - 06:52

There’s something sad about the effect that increased legal access to gambling has had on the wide world of spectator sports.

Bruce Kidd, a Canadian track champion in his time, wrote eloquently in the Globe and Mail about the diminution of sports’ inherent joys and uplift by slathering on new gambling opportunities, particularly online.

It’s ironic that when alcohol is finally facing possible mandatory exposure for its illness effects — by way of labelling — gambling flows ever more freely. Maybe that’s the regulatory hydraulics of a vice: shut down one and the impulse flows to another.

It infects everything, including the sports talk shows. The journos and ex-jocks can’t resist strutting their savvy about gambling, odds, the over-under. They sound like Damon Runyon characters in Guys and Dolls. I’ll die happy if I never have to hear the words, Al’s Brother, on TSN’s Overdrive again.

The folks, including governments, getting rich off all this, make de rigueur calls for moderation and mental health — which has become the get-out-of-jail card for almost everything ugly done by the powerful. In fact the numbers of problem gamblers are pegged far below problem drinkers — not that it matters if you’re caught up in it as my family was, due to my dad’s gambling addiction.

Is anything specific occurring right now that aids the voracious advances made by the gaming industry?

I’ve always believed — based, I grant, on the family album — that people gamble most destructively when they’ve lost all hope of legitimately rising through merit or effort. In other words, when the game’s clearly rigged. In my teens, when I argued with my dad that moral wrongs must be fought at any cost, he countered, “Even when they’re wrong, they’re right.”

But in the last 40 years of neoliberal policy, income gaps have risen to the levels of the Gilded Age; then, since COVID, they’ve gone even higher. So the appeal of pure chance (a.k.a. gamblers’ instincts, luck etc.) has risen too. Because the times are so unfair, potential gambling profits are staggering.

Spectator sports have always played the role of distraction from the harsh realms of socio-economic injustice. Fandom took you to a realm where money isn’t what mattered — sometimes literally. During the era of the Original Six, pro hockey players sold used cars during the summer. Success seemed to rely instead on merit, skill, determination.

Now, with gambling possible even during games — you can bet on individual moments, not just wins and loses — the ugly elements of reality that drove fans to games hoping that worthier values might prevail in life — have wormed their way back in, to mock those hopes in the act.

More on MAID

The government has paused the expansion of justifications for Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Act (MAID), which has already resulted in far more deaths here than comparable places like California.

CBC’s Fifth Estate ran a fine hour on it recently. Mostly it showed people and let them speak for themselves. Minister of Justice David Lametti was the face of Smug Liberalism. He said Canadians have “faith” in our medical personnel.

But MAID involves a small medical subset: some clearly honourable, others, in my opinion, questionable. That’s why caution’s required.

A sympathetic MD who’s been with the program from the start said he’ll drop out if “mental illness” gets added, per the current plan. It makes him “sad.” That’s a guy you want in the program.

A disabled man who couldn’t afford decent housing, applied for MAID. He didn’t want to die on the street. When word got out, people contributed enough to pay his rent. It was a “reprieve,” he said. Still, he thinks people deserve a dignified death if they aren’t allowed to live humanely. That’s complex thinking but he seemed up to it. I think I’d rather have him as justice minister than Lametti.

How much do I think this matters? If the changes pass, and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre promised to repeal them, I’d vote for him next election. In a minute.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

Unions saving the families of 50,000 Ukrainian seafarers

Rabble - Fri, 01/27/2023 - 04:14

When Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, thousands of Ukrainian seafarers were on their vessels away from their families. Transport unions helped by flying families out of the country, purchasing supplies and providing mental health counselling for the children.

RadioLabour is the international labour movement’s radio service. It reports on labour union events around the world with a focus on unions in the developing world. It partners with rabble to provide coverage of news of interest to Canadian workers.

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Categories: F. Left News

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The Fine Print II:

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