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Anti-trans hate also fuelling school privatization sentiments

Rabble - Thu, 09/21/2023 - 12:32

Many unions, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) have released statements condemning the hateful rhetoric coming the organizers of the anti-2SLGBTQIA+ protest “1 Million March 4 Children.” Unions have also called out provincial governments for propping up hateful rhetoric. 

READ MORE: Rallies held across the country to push back against hate

The anti-trans fear mongering has put people in danger, but it may also fulfill a subtler function of pushing forward governments’ education privatization schemes. At least that is the suspicion of Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OBSCU).

“At the rally that I was at yesterday, the person leading the hate march had a sign. It did not say anything about parents’ choice or anything like that. His sign said, ‘Vouchers please, Mr. Lecce,’” Walton said in an interview with “That really belies to me that there is another agenda here. The goal is taking money and privatizing our public school system.” 

This sign is calling on Education Minister Lecce to implement a voucher system. This means that parents will receive vouchers of government money to put their kids in schools of their choosing. Voucher systems are usually implemented to help families cover the cost of private school tuition. 

“When we start talking about voucher systems, if you look at anywhere where that’s happening, like the US and out west, it is not beneficial. As a matter of fact, what folks forget is that private schools can control who comes to their schools,” Walton said. “So, while you might think that you are in the majority, you may find yourself in the minority and not being welcomed into a school.” 

As hate groups stoke fear of 2SLGBTQIA+ support in schools, it may also stir the desire to switch kids to private schools among some parents. Walton said she has heard people tell parents that if they do not like what is going on in public schools, they should take their kids somewhere else. However, this argument can prove dangerous. 

Taking kids out of an environment in which they encounter diverse people and ideas may further embed hate in Canada. 

“Through education and respectful dialogue, we can bridge gaps and create environments where everyone feels safe, valued, and respected,” the ETFO wrote in a statement denouncing the hate rallies. “But first, we must embrace diversity and acceptance.”

To cut off this dialogue entirely allows hate to fester. 

As well, if a large number of parents begin to look to private schools, the implementation of voucher systems could funnel money away from the public school system. 

“A public school system and a public education system are great equalizers, it allows everyone to come free of charge, to school and to learn,” Walton said. “We are an open space for everybody. When people start saying, ‘Oh, I want this element of the curriculum taken out and I want more of this element,’ we’re starting to delve into this world of individual education. But the public education system is about collective needs.” 

Anti-2SLGBTQIA+ discourse is also furthering privatization sentiments by pitting parents against public education workers. 

“It is alarming that several politicians are contributing to this troubling trend,” ETFO wrote in their statement. “Recently, Premier Doug Ford accused school boards of indoctrination. Education Minister Stephen Lecce scolded boards for upholding students’ human rights related to gender identity, and members of parliament are on social media using dog-whistle terms like ‘woke’ to gain political clout. Instead of spewing rhetoric they know is harmful and dangerous and that pits parents against educators, they should be ensuring safe and inclusive spaces for every student in the province and for every constituent they serve.” 

Union office vandalized

The anger towards education workers who support 2SLGBTQIA+ students has grown so strong in Ontario that three Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) offices in London were vandalized

“They just plastered the exterior of the buildings with signs that said, ‘Keep your hands off our kids,’ and ‘No gender ideology, no gender politics in schools,’” said Laura Walton, President of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OBSCU). “That speaks volumes to me. That wasn’t during a protest that was prior to the protests and the intent was to intimidate.” 

Walton said the targeting of teachers’ and education workers’ unions made sense to her. Hate groups are trying to target organizations who have the collective power to speak out against hate.

“Education workers want to be able to ensure that children are free from bullying, that they are accepted for the way that they are. We don’t want to ‘out’ children,” Walton said. “That is not something we ever want to do. We recognize that often children share things with us because they’re unable to share it with a caring adult at home.” 

Walton said that CUPE education workers, and many other workers recognize that home is not always a safe place for students to express their gender identity. Despite this, governments across the country have been pushing for policies that require parents to know when children choose to use different pronouns at school. 

In New Brunswick, the government revised a policy that would require teachers to get parental consent before using a student’s preferred pronouns. Saskatchewan announced a similar policy and Manitoba has promised to “expand parental rights” as well. In Ontario, the education Minister said he also believes parents should know when a child chooses to use different pronouns.

Despite some alarming trends, workers remain mobilized against hate. 

“As the Conservative Party of Canada continues to welcome extremist voices in the party, the Canadian Union of Public Employees will be there to fight back,” CUPE wrote after the counter protests. “Wherever worker’s rights are challenged by hate and intolerance, we will be there. Trans rights are human rights.”

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Categories: F. Left News

One year after historic protests, Iran continues crackdown

Rabble - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 12:03

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has a long history of executions since its inception in 1979. The Death Penalty Information Centre has ranked Iran second to China for many years. Based on population numbers, it is evident that IRI ranks first for the executions per capita

The latest executions occurred due to the Women, Life, Freedom movement, which started with the killing of Mahsa Jina Amini in September 2022 at the hands of the“morality police.” Mahsa’s killing ignited a massive protest across social classes, universities, schools and streets which engulfed the whole country. The rallies were led by young women demanding freedom from oppressive and obsolete Islamic rules and practices. The expansion of the protests across the country led to the IRI’s usual deployment of its Iron Fists to crackdown, incarcerate, torture and impose the death penalty on hundreds of young demonstrators without proper legal procedures. 

In December 2022, Amnesty International reported that more than 22,000 people were arrested, tortured and kept in prolonged solitary confinement. 

The detainees were often denied medical care, forced to confess falsified information under torture, and raped. Some committed suicide.

The IRI has always been very erratic in its actions. During the uprising of 2022, the “Morality Police” was stopped from harassing and arresting Iranian women. On July 16, 2023, after several months, they are back on the streets. 

Another example of the IRI’s arbitrary decisions is the arrest and incarceration of Toomaj Salehi. Toomaj, an Iranian rap artist mainly known for his protest songs concerning Iran’s societal issues, was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for eight months without any legal procedure. In July 2023, he was sentenced to six years and three months of imprisonment. His life and safety is a major concern for many activists under this untrustworthy regime.

Under the IRI dictatorship, people are discriminated against for their gender, sexuality, religion, and faith. 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are persecuted with flogging and execution. Those who follow Baha’i are forced to hide their faith, banned from attending higher education and prohibited from taking part in any government positions or affiliated businesses. 

Women experience daily harassment and violence due to compulsory wearing of the veil. They are denied access to, or are segregated in, public spaces, prevented from certain employment and services. The value of a woman and a follower of other religions is half that of a Muslim man for the “Diya” equation (blood money). The legal age of marriage for girls is set to 13 years. With the fathers’ permission, it can be reduced to 9 years. 

The IRI hijacked the promising 1979 revolution and crushed all the hopes of establishing a secular government. The constitution, judicial rulings and criminal laws are based on the Twelve-Imam Shia religion of Islam. A practice of execution and retribution by flogging, stoning, amputation, blinding goes back fourteen hundred years. However, the Religious Supreme Leader, presently Ali Khamenei, has the final say and is above the law. 

The IRI’s executions started in the early months of the Revolution. Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre reports that from February to March 1979, 438 high ranking officials of the previous regime were executed; between 1981-1985, 14,794 political activists, including more than 1,000 children and women were executed. Even after IRI’s establishment and the mass murder of the early 1980s, still the number of executions during 1988-1998 reached 6,783.

The Iran Human Rights Organization (IHRO) in Norway, reported that during the 2019 uprising, the number of protesters killed on the streets by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were about 1,500, while the estimation of eyewitnesses is between 5,000 to 7,500. In 2020, 274 people were executed in prisons and 254 in 2021.

The number of executions rose drastically with the uprising of the Women, Life, Freedom movement. In April 2023, the BBC reported that executions in Iran rose by 75 per cent in 2022, with at least 582 people put to death, as authorities sought a “spread fear” strategy among protesters. In addition, the government escalated the execution of non-political prisoners on drug and homosexuality-related charges. Amnesty International reports drug related executions have increased three times during 2023 compared to 2022.

The IRI’sintimidation campaign extended even further to terrorizing innocent school girls. In April 4, 2023, United States Institute of Peace reported that “between November 2022 and March 2023, up to 7,000 schoolgirls were poisoned at dozens of schools in at least 28 out of 31 provinces”. The press release of UNHRO in March 2023 stated that the “deliberate poisoning of schoolgirls is further evidence of continuous violence against women and girls”.

The brutality of the IRI intensifies when it comes to ethnic regions such as Kurdistan and Baluchistan. Research by the IHRO shows that at least 174 Baluch prisoners were executed in 2022. This includes 30% of all executions, while Baluch make up only about 5% of the population. From September to October 2022, 91 people including one woman and six children were killed in the Baluchistan region and 186 Kurdish minors were abducted. 

During the last uprising in 2023, IRGC used drones and missiles to terrorize and kill civilians in Kurdistan. In the first five months of 2023, at least 45 children were detained: 21 in Kurdistan, 17 in Baluchistan, 6 in Karaj and 1 in Izeh. 

Due to the extreme cruelty of the IRI, the mass protests across the country have gradually tapered off, but the arrests and executions still continue under different pretences. IHRO reports that in the early months of 2023, 354 people were executed. Unfortunately no one knows the real number, especially considering those who were arrested without identity documents.  

Currently, journalists, lawyers, artists, environmental and labour activists, as well as women who challenge the compulsory veil are arrested on a daily basis. The executions continue to be a tool for political repression. 
For further information about prisoners’ conditions and signing petitions to halt all the executions please see the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and Iran Human Right Organizations’ websites.

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Categories: F. Left News

Millennials and Gen Zers could close the talent gap in manufacturing

Rabble - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 11:46

“In 2020, the manufacturing industry faced unprecedented challenges. Now, as we look ahead to 2023, the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS) is returning to Toronto with a focus on the technologies driving the future of Canadian manufacturing. This event unites all facets of Canada’s manufacturing industry, offering a platform for knowledge-sharing, collaboration, and innovation in the manufacturing sector,” said Bob Willig, executive director and CEO of SME, the organization producing the conference.

Despite the optimistic outlook for Canada’s manufacturing industry, truth is it’s still facing tremendous opposition in terms of parents, guidance counsellors and individuals who still may not see manufacturing as a job that embraces a promising future.

A new report on the manufacturing workforce highlights the opportunity to solve the industry’s talent challenge by engaging Millennials and Gen Zers.

A report by Tooling U-SME titled, Solving the Talent Challenge: Millennials and Gen Z in the Workforce from a Manufacturer’s Perspective notes there will be a shortage of skilled workers over the next decade. Millennials and Gen Z workers will be essential to addressing the talent gap.

Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials are surprisingly well established in the workplace. Meanwhile, Gen Zers, born between 1997 and 2012, are just embarking on their careers.

Workplaces, including manufacturing, need to embrace both generations because they make up the majority of the workforce needed to replace aging Baby Boomers as they retire.

The report suggests that attracting these workers to manufacturing is only part of the solution. Insight into what motivates them and understanding their work styles is vital to recruiting, retaining and training these professionals.

The report also analyzes the expectations of Millennials and Gen Zers offering key insights into managing a multigenerational workforce that includes these younger workers.

“Millennials and Gen Z workers are vital to the manufacturing industry’s ability to thrive in the post-pandemic economy,” said Jeannine Kunz, vice president of Tooling U-SME.

“By better understanding and embracing their strengths, manufacturers can build high performers, providing exciting career opportunities and boosting productivity throughout the entire organization, and offering companies a competitive advantage in a crowded talent marketplace,” she added.

Currently, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z are all working within the same spaces. Yet, each has their own unique way of learning and working.

That means employers are going to have to embrace generational learning needs in order to train and retain younger workers.

Millennials – also known as Gen Y — and Gen Z may not have the technical skills that prior generations had, but they definitely have different expectations of employers regarding how they need to be trained and what advancements they’re offered.

That means employers must adopt better practices for training and developing the younger generation that is entering manufacturing in order to avoid creating a revolving door of talent.

Generally, Millennials in their late thirties and early forties are successful because they have an ability to grasp important facts; see inter-relationships between elements; can brainstorm big picture solutions; and are used to working in groups to come to democratic solutions. Perhaps most importantly, Millennials really understand and value a good work/life balance.

Millennials also have an innate desire for self-learning and self-improvement. They value face-to-face contact with staff in-person as much as they do over zoom.

In short, Millennials make great leaders and bosses.

Overall, Millennials and Gen Z both value internal feedback and genuinely want to be part of the process for continuous improvement. That really seems to be key to improving Millennial and Gen Z employee retention.

That’s going to require employers to look at the onboarding programs they currently have in place. A one-day orientation on human resource policies is not going to cut it. Instead, these generations want a solid 90-day development plan.

Millennials and Gen Z need goals to be visible and achievable through a structured training plan with dedicated time to training. They also want to be made to feel part of the company’s mission and value opportunities for meaningful career advancement.

The Pew Research Centre in Washington, DC is a nonpartisan fact tank. A recent study found that 80 per cent of Gen Zers say YouTube has helped them become more knowledgeable about something. While 68 per cent said that they had gained or improved skills that will help them in the future.

Seven in 10 Gen Zers surveyed said they watch videos with others in order to feel more connected. While 80 per cent admitted to sharing videos with their parents or other adult family members.

That makes videos a fabulous learning vehicle and one that Tool U-SME has tapped into with the development of a micro-video strategy that helps new workers relate to their training.

By developing a resource library of self-learning assets, employers can ensure that employees have the ability to create individualized learning plans to expand their learning base and look for new opportunities.

A mentor program creates a supportive cross-generational learning relationship whereby an employee can share their knowledge, experience and wisdom with new hires.

Tool U-SME has been around for over a decade addressing skill gaps in manufacturing. Their products fill the knowledge gap and help baseline the workforce while building confidence in workers.

A recently released series of virtual-reality labs enables users to practice their skills in a controlled, safe setting while building confidence before testing their new skills in their workplace.

Consultative services are also available to help companies adopt and standardize all aspects of a best in-class learning program. With nearly 600 online classes, virtual labs, instructor-led training, certifications, apprenticeships and consulting SME provides the tools to help train and retain younger workers.

According to Mark L. Michalski, 2019 SME President and SME Member Since 1992:

“Manufacturing is not a dead-end industry. Entry points can be many. Yes, it is great to earn an engineering degree, which we encourage; however, the reality is that employers are less focused on degrees and more focused on skills. An individual who can write code, use a 3D printer, analyze data or fill a wide range of roles and abilities will be the most sought after. This is true for all generations. The reality is that manufacturing is where you can have fun and work on the coolest, most bleeding-edge technology, while giving back and creating a better world.”

Those interested in finding out more about careers in manufacturing should plan on attending the CMTS at the Toronto Congress Centre from September 25 through September 28, 2023.

This is Canada’s largest industry event produced by SME, a non-profit committed to accelerating new manufacturing technology adoption and building North America’s manufacturing talent and capabilities. Tooling U-SME is the workforce development division of SME.

Over 500 suppliers and original equipment manufacturers, more than 8,000 manufacturing professionals from across the country and around the world, and a staggering array of equipment will be featured.

More than 50 educational sessions and panel discussions will provide insights into the latest trends and advancements shaping the manufacturing landscape.

Opening keynote speaker Massimiliano Moruzzi, CEO of Xaba, a Toronto-based startup focused on intelligent automation will explore artificial intelligence (AI) integration from industrial robotics to sustainable materials.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association will open Day 3 sharing insights about the ways in which Canada could drive the next transportation revolution.

Kitchener-based Acerta CEO Greta Cutulenco will deliver the Day 4 keynote dedicated to next-generation talent including the celebration of women in manufacturing.

Educational sessions will bring together the brightest minds in the industry so that attendees have the opportunity to gain knowledge, expand their network, and explore collaborative opportunities.

SME was established in 1932 as a nonprofit organization headquartered in Southfield, Michigan. SME elevates manufacturers, academia, professionals, and the communities in which they operate. Learn more at

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Categories: F. Left News

COVID-19 is not the only virus

Rabble - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 09:20

First, the bad news. For the majority of viruses, there is no treatment or cure. For this reason, viruses are considered self-limiting. This means that they will dissipate and ultimately disappear on their own. It’s like the saying about the common cold, itself caused by viruses: take drugs and a cold lasts seven days. Don’t take drugs and a cold lasts a week.

Now, the good news. We are fortunate that vaccines and treatments were developed for COVID, in an unprecedented short period of time. Do you recall what life during the pandemic was like before vaccines were approved and before drugs like Paxlovid were created to fight the worst of the symptoms?

With the advent of what is the sixth booster for some people, we are accustomed to having anti-COVID shots. These may not entirely remove the risk of being affected by COVID, but they do limit the severity of the disease and the number of COVID-related deaths.

But there is some potentially bad COVID news. The discovery of EG.5, yet another variant of interest stemming from the Omicron variant, is raising concerns not only in Canada but across the globe. There seem to be two countervailing theories surrounding this new variant. The first is that it is highly infectious, which is worrisome. But the second is that immunity from vaccines and having been exposed to COVID appear to diminish the spread of this variant. Only time will tell which theory proves more important.

In addition, another new variant, BA2.86, has been reported in 11 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

What about seasonal influenza?

There are several viruses that Canadians face, generally on a seasonal basis. We are all familiar with the annual flu, or parainfluenza. This virus almost disappeared during the three years of COVID, largely thanks to mask wearing and hand washing. These simple measures, long advised by public health agencies, actually do work.

Canada generally follows Australia and New Zealand in the pattern of seasonal flu. From these two countries, we learn what we can expect in severity and the efficacy of the season’s vaccine. In their autumn flu season, Australia and New Zealand’s influenza was quite mild, despite being more prevalent than during the COVID years. Canada can likely expect the same.

Are there other viruses that are cause for concern?

Most other viruses are in two categories. There are common respiratory viruses, which Canadians have learned to take for granted. These are the enterovirus and the rhinovirus, otherwise known as the common cold.

The best protection from these remains frequent hand-washing. To avoid colds, and to protect yourself and others from germs, consider wearing a mask in crowded spaces. And always cover your cough.

More serious, but still a respiratory virus, is RSV or respiratory syncytial virus, particularly dangerous among children. Symptoms include wheezing, lethargy, and persistent cough. Outbreaks of RSV recently have made headlines across Canada, perhaps because during COVID, children did not develop the normal immunity they would otherwise have acquired by being with other children and adults.

The same is true of Hand, Foot & Mouth (HFM) disease, a particularly virulent form of enterovirus. HFM manifests itself in small spots on the hands, feet and mouth of children. Occasionally it develops on the buttocks as well. The spots are small red dots that may or may not turn into blisters.

Like other viruses, HFM is a self-limiting disease. While it is highly contagious, it does “cure” itself within a week or two. It is spread through fluids like sneezes, runny noses and productive coughs and it replicates through close contact with infected children, especially through hugs.

Adults are also susceptible to HFM, making this virus highly contagious in day care and nursery schools, where children are too young to take precautions when they cough or sneeze. Or when they spread the virus by wiping their noses and then playing with shared toys.

There is a reason why day care centres are jokingly referred to as petri dishes. Children spread viruses to each other while the viruses are incubating in them. With HFM, The red spots only appear several days later, when contagion is most rapid.

By then, many other children – and adult staff and parents – may also be infected. Ironically, at least in Ontario, HFM is not considered a reportable disease, which allows it to spread without warning parents about outbreaks. Nor is it listed as a reportable disease on the Canada-wide lists of such diseases. You are not alone if this does not make sense to you.

Any other viruses?

Norwalk virus is not a respiratory virus; rather, it is viral gastroenteritis. It is characterized by diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Because it is most common during the colder months, it is sometimes referred to as Winter Stomach Flu.

As with other viruses, it spreads most commonly in congregate settings like child care centres, schools, nursing homes, cruise ships and dormitories. Fortunately, it rarely escalates in severity and it passes within a few days. It should not be surprising that frequent hand washing is the best defense against Norwalk. Proper cooking of food can also kill the virus before it spreads.

Staying healthy

COVID-19 brought the issue of viruses to the forefront of Canadian thinking. The good news is that we are now more aware of viruses. And we are aware of public health measures to protect ourselves and others.

Some viruses come and go. Examples include SARS, M Pox (formerly known as Monkeypox) and, to a lesser extent, West Nile Virus. But all viruses provide us with immunity that helps us when other viruses attack. This is true as long as we continue to be vigilant. Hand-washing won’t eliminate viruses, but it will help us fend them off should we be exposed to them.

When COVID first came on the scene, many performers created songs and ditties about washing hands. Here is a Canadian version. It should remind us all that COVID is not the only virus.

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Categories: F. Left News

To turn down the heat, we have to end the era of fossil fuels

Rabble - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 09:16

As people worldwide join forces to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis, the industry largely responsible for turning up the heat is doubling down on efforts to keep record profits rolling.

Paying for media and “influencer” campaigns, selling “natural” gas as a climate solution, attacking electric vehicles, holding conferences, garnering support from political and media entities — the fossil fuel industry employs many strategies to maintain its lucrative hold on global economies and lives.

In a system where billionaires, corporations and the politicians they’ve bought hold the economic reins, and the “invisible hand of the market” and constant growth are considered efficient ways to produce and distribute societal goods and needs, the industry’s actions make sense. But if you understand global climate disruption, biodiversity loss, ecological collapse and increasingly unpredictable and devastating impacts, you know it’s suicidal.

It’s not difficult to become so indoctrinated into a system you’ve lived within all your life that imagining another way is a challenge. What coal, oil and gas companies are doing is treated as “normal.” Their numbers are listed on stock exchanges, governments subsidize and proselytize for them, news media chart their progress in positive tones — all while they step up efforts to continue exploiting and profiting from products that put us in increasing jeopardy.

Scientists everywhere are warning that we’re nearing dangerous tipping points and feedback loops — if we haven’t arrived already. What’s industry’s response?

Suncor, a member of oilsands group the Canadian Pathways Alliance, is the latest to bail on renewable energy work and commitments. CEO Rich Kruger said the company had been focusing too much on the long-term energy transition and not enough on “the business drivers of today” — meaning oilsands operations.

The company sold its wind and solar power assets last year, “getting out of the renewable energy business it had been involved in for more than two decades,” BNN Bloomberg reports. Other companies are also focusing on fossil fuels, and cutting jobs.

But doubling down on polluting fuels in the thick of crises they’re causing is a tough sell. Industry has responded with the same types of massive communications, greenwashing and gaslighting campaigns it’s been employing for decades, fully aware of the devastating consequences of using its products as intended.

I don’t know how fossil fuel executives sleep at night. Even more galling, as they rake in unprecedented financial gain, they keep coming to governments asking for public money.

Industry wants, and usually gets, subsidies for everything from largely unproven, expensive technologies such as carbon capture and storage — favoured mostly as a way to keep fossil fuels burning — to cleaning up drilling sites to electrifying liquefied “natural” gas operations. When governments acquiesce, the money comes from taxpayers. Despite promises by industrialized countries since 2009 to end inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, the world’s nations invested US$1.4 trillion in public money in 2022 alone! (Canada recently announced an end to some subsidies.)

But, with help from politicians and media, fossil fuel spokespeople work to spin the industry as responsible, necessary, clean and part of the solution to the climate crisis.

The full-on campaign to sell fracked methane gas as a “natural” climate solution is the latest. Although the idea that “natural” gas should be a transition or “bridge” fuel has been around for well over a decade (you’d think we’d have crossed the bridge by now), there’s a renewed push as the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupts supplies and drives prices higher.

Gas may have once had a role as a bridge fuel — even though it’s responsible for some of the most potent emissions and other environmental damages — but that time has passed. Costs of cleaner energy from wind and solar are dropping rapidly as technologies, including storage, improve. Most renewable energy is already less expensive than energy from coal, oil or gas — and less polluting!

Fossil fuel companies are also targeting a former ally, the automobile industry, with ads depicting electric vehicles as “an onerous tethering to the grid.” And they’re paying popular social media “influencers” to do their public relations. It’s a desperate push for corporate survival that puts human survival at risk.

It’s past time to end the fossil fuel era. The industry must adapt and change or get out of the way.

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

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Categories: F. Left News

BRICS: Summits, coups and a changing world order

Rabble - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 07:00

In the launch of our fifth season, we are pleased to welcome back author, public intellectual and director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, Vijay Prashad. Taking us through the recent economic summits of BRICS and the G20, as well as the cascade coups in West Africa, Prashad delves into the rapid and stunning changes taking place in the world today, where they came from and what this could mean for a changing world order. Is it multipolarity or is it something else?

In speaking of the origins of the BRICS bloc of economically emerging nations, Prashad says:

“You know, it’s interesting because it’s almost as if people in the West were blindsided by the appearance of this thing called BRICS and recently, of course, the term Global South … there’s a straight line between the anti-colonial struggles of the 19th century and these developments now … And so the BRICS isn’t some invention of the Goldman Sachs economists. It didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s part of a long history by these countries to fight for economic sovereignty, political democracy on the world stage in one sense or the other, and then some kind of economic parity.”

Prashad also reflects on the history of coups in the Global South and those now taking place in West Africa:

“In many parts of the Third World, especially during the period of the debt crisis and subsequent to that. .. there was a sense that nothing is going to change. You know, people resigned themselves to a kind of futility …There is a sense of resignation to decay. We are not going to be able to develop. We’re not going to be able to advance … These coups, two of them in Mali, two of them in Burkina Faso, one in Niger, one in Gabon, these coups … represent the frustration of their populations. And that’s a reality. That’s hard to take away. And that’s why millions of people across the Sahel have been coming out to defend these coups.”

Tune in to my conversation with Vijay Prashed on summits, coups and an empowered Global South that says, “we are not afraid of the West anymore.”

About today’s guest:

Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, Vijay Prashad is an historian, journalist, researcher, activist and a prolific writer. He has over 30 books to his name, including: The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World; The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South; Red Star Over the Third World; and Washington Bullets: A History of CIA, Coups, and Assassinations. He is the chief correspondent for Globetrotter, a columnist for Frontline News and chief editor of Leftword Books.

Transcript of this episode can be accessed at or here.

Image: Vijay Prsahd / Used with permission.

Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased.

Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (Podcast Announcer); Bob Luker (Tommy); Grace Taruc-Almeda, Karin Maier and Jim Cheung (Street Voices)

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

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

Host: Resh Budhu.

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Categories: F. Left News

Join the Wondrous Tree Fellowship and save the trees in your community!

Rabble - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 06:00

Each year, we here at rabble ask our readers: “What are the organizations that inspire you? Who are the people leading progressive change? Who are the rabble rousers to watch?” Every year, your responses introduce us to a new group of inspiring activists. This is our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ series. Follow our rabble rousers to watch here

Up next on our rabble rousers to watch list of 2023 is the Wondrous Tree Fellowship, a community-based environmental group based in British Columbia.

We spoke with Nancy Furness, an organizer with the fellowship, about the work they are doing to educate and inspire the community around them on forest protection and the healing powers of nature.

Nancy Furness of the Wondrous Tree Fellowship. A conversation with Wondrous Tree Fellowship organizer, Nancy Furness

Editors’ note: This interview has been edited for length. Can you tell us about the work that you’re doing with your organization?

Nancy Furness: Wondrous Tree Fellowship is a community-based group that works to raise awareness and appreciation around all the wonderful things that trees do. Trees help mitigate the effects of a rapidly-changing climate by storing carbon, provide valuable ecological services and are integral to human physical and mental well-being. 

We strive to protect trees in our own and neighbouring communities using the three-pillared approach of education, advocacy and celebration. 

We provide free, public education on the roles that trees play by hosting guided tree walks, salmon-cycle walks, workshops on the health benefits of trees, kid’s nature art days, movie nights, and knowledgeable speakers. We’ve created a local museum exhibit and display boards for community events. Both elementary and high schools invite us to lead nature walks, pollinator workshops, and foraging workshops. 

Advocacy takes the form of attending environmental rallies, and organizing our own protests including Lost Species Day at local MLA’s offices and Farewell to a Tree rallies. We meet with elected representatives at all levels and are frequent contributors to our community papers. 

We also work collaboratively with other environmental groups and municipalities to host the ‘TriCites Urban Forest Forum’ series where we bring experts, elected representatives, city staff, arborists, environmental consultants, students, and members of the public together to discuss how to best address challenges of increased development, population pressures, and effects of a rapidly changing climate on the health of our regional urban forest. Reconciliation is always on our minds too. We recently collaborated with a Tsartlip First Nation artist, other local artists, and BC Culture Days to produce a short, nature-based film ‘Weaving our Story Towards Reconciliation.’

May Day Parade | Photo courtesy of the Wondrous Tree Fellowship.

Despite busy schedules, we never forget to take time to celebrate. We get creative and participate as a ‘Walking Forest’ complete with the Green Man, Forest Fairies, walking trees, colourful mushrooms and forest creatures in the annual May Day Parade. We also celebrate the Winter Solstice with Celtic costumes and a winter hike in the forest. Several years ago we hosted a Jack-o-Lantern Festival which drew an enthusiastic crowd of over 4,000 people. 

We never turn down the opportunity to take someone on a walk in the forest – what better way to celebrate nature! How did you first get involved in activism?

NF: I have personally been a life-long activist participating in many environmental groups. My first involvement was a high school walkout protesting the Amchitka nuclear bomb testing in 1971 just prior to the formation of Greenpeace. I witnessed then the power of standing up and speaking out.

Many years later, I was fortunate to connect with folks in my neighbourhood who share my connection to and love of nature. We watched together as healthy, mature trees in our municipality were being replaced by concrete and parking lots. We stood up and spoke out. 

Despite meeting with the elected representatives and decision-makers and organizing a protest, we were unable to save a single tree from downtown clear-cut developments. In the end, we lost over 200 trees from our once leafy, small downtown core.

We realized then that we had a lot of hard work ahead in raising awareness and sharing our knowledge and love of the urban forest not only with elected representatives, but also with children and their families. It was time to get the whole community involved.

Wondrous Tree Fellowship (with an appropriate acronym) was born out of the need to take meaningful action to stop the erosion of our urban forest. We have now grown beyond the borders of our own small community and are successfully engaging with neighbouring municipalities. What does being nominated as a ‘rabble rouser to watch’ mean to you?

NF: Wondrous Tree Fellowship is deeply honoured to be nominated as a ‘rabble rouser to watch’. It means that our work is being noticed and our voice will be heard by a larger community of engaged citizens. 

Activists rarely get the opportunity to share their stories through major media channels, so it is with gratitude and humility that I share ours with you.

I hope that by sharing our story and experiences we can inspire others despite challenges and barriers faced, to get creative and take action to make their communities better and healthier places to live. How do you take care of yourself and find the drive to keep going? 

NF: I’m a firm believer that the best way to take care of yourself and to keep going is to stay well connected to family and/or friends and to nature. 

Our group has formed an especially close and supportive ‘circle of friends’. We share a deep respect for each other and for the trees and natural spaces that surround us. 

When things get tough, we take care of ourselves by heading to the local trails where conversations and ideas flow easily. If we’re not in the forest, we might be out on the water in kayaks. 

The drive to keep going comes with the loss of liveability we witness in our cities each time a healthy, mature tree needlessly falls. What is one goal you have in the next year? 

NF: Our main goal over the next year is to continue to do the hard and rewarding work of fostering a deep connection between two vastly different organisms sharing one small planet. 

We will hold traditional events such as our Earth Day Tree Walk, Kids Nature Art Day, the Lost Species Day rally and the Winter Solstice Celebration. We will also continue to work collaboratively with other environmental groups on events such as the TriCities Urban Forest Forum (TUFF) series. Speakers for the next forum have already been confirmed – and will be announced shortly.   

Within the overarching goal of connection, we are in communication with several other groups doing good work to protect trees in their own communities. We hope to build on those relationships to form a broader network of support and collaboration. Building a coalition of tree protectors will give us all a stronger voice when we speak out for the trees. What do you wish people knew about the organizing you do? 

NF: The success of Wondrous Tree Fellowship depends on the knowledge, creativity, and passion of our members. Each of our members brings their own level of commitment to the table. 

We receive no funding from any level of government or corporation. Instead, support comes from the generosity of our members, the community, and honoraria received for educational workshops and speaking engagements. This creates challenges, but also really pushes us to organize in a non-biased, creative and collaborative way.  

We share resources and collaborate with our local libraries, artists, musicians, small businesses, educational facilities, community television, and other environmental groups to deliver successful programs and events. 

We also try to organize events that reach a wider audience. For example, we engage the writing community by holding story-writing contests – an anthology was even published of The Greatest Tree Stories Ever Told by authors from ages six to 95 from stories collected through our contests – “Knit-bombing” trees draws in avid knitters and ‘Yoga Under the Trees’ reaches out to the yoga community.

Our programs and events are organized in a way that is inclusive and without barriers. Events are offered at no cost to participants. I would like people to know that everything we organize is done in a spirit of love for nature and hope for the future. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Parliament returns with rhetoric and a bombshell allegation

Rabble - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 11:52

At the opening of the first question period of the 2023 fall parliamentary session, the supremely confident – in fact, almost smug – Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre jumped on the hot issue of housing costs. 

Poilievre suggested prime minister Trudeau has, over his eight-years in office, single-handedly “doubled the rent, doubled mortgage payments, and doubled the needed down payment.”

“It took him eight years to cause this housing hell,” the leader of the opposition thundered. “How long will it take to fix it?”

In the Conservative leader’s view, one person and one person alone must take 100 per cent of the blame for a crisis in affordable housing that has been building for decades. 

That person is the current prime minister.

Neither greedy landlords nor profiteering real-estate corporations figure in Poilievre’s calculations. 

Nor do any of the policies of predecessor governments. 

Poilievre never mentions the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin Liberal government, which pulled the federal government out of social housing business, nor Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, who doubled down on their Liberal predecessors’ cuts and pushed full-steam ahead with the financialization of rental housing.

Nor does Poilievre offer even the slightest criticism of the provincial governments, most of which, these days, are Conservative. 

Justin Trudeau got himself in trouble, not too long ago, when he was so impolitic as to point out that housing, in Canada, is primarily a provincial responsibility. 

The fact that Trudeau happened to be accurate didn’t help – in part, perhaps, because federal governments of all stripes have for many decades used their spending powers to get deeply involved in areas of provincial jurisdiction. 

Consider, for example, the deep federal involvement in health care and post-secondary education funding, which goes back to the 1960s.

The Accelerator Fund and a break on the HST

In parliament Trudeau did not resort to arcane jurisdictional arguments. Instead, he pointed to his government’s very recent housing deal with the city of London, ON, the first agreement under the umbrella of the federal Housing Accelerator Fund. 

The Trudeau government created that $4 billion Accelerator Fund more than a year ago, in its 2022 budget. The Fund’s stated goal is to fast-track the creation of 100,000 new notionally middle-class homes across Canada by 2024-2025.

But the Accelerator has been slow to accelerate. The very first Fund agreement, with the city of London, is for $74 million, and will build 2,000 homes. It is but a tiny step toward the goal of 100,000 homes under construction a year from now.

The prime minister did not explain, in touting the deal with one mid-size Ontario city, why it has taken so long for the government to put the Accelerator Fund into action.

The Liberals’ other housing initiative, this one aimed at the rental market, is to remove the federal portion of the HST from new rental construction projects. 

A number of provinces, notably Ontario, have signaled they will do the same with their (much larger) portion of the sales tax.

The Liberal announcement garnered much praise for that move. 

Their New Democratic partners were muted in their response. They welcomed the announcement, but expressed concern that the tax relief was not targeted at construction of affordable rental homes.

For the Conservatives, the HST is not the tax that counts. They have the tax on pollution, the carbon tax in their sights.

Pierre Poilievre wants Canadians to believe everything that ails this country economically – especially inflation – can be blamed on the carbon tax. 

The only time the Conservatives talk, even indirectly, about the environment and climate change is when they promise to “ax the tax”.

In the House, Poilievre tried to yoke the Bloc Québécois to the Liberals on the carbon tax issue. In French, he asked about the notional Liberal support for a Bloc proposal that the federal government “radically” increase the carbon tax.  

(Poilievre seemed to be referring to a Bloc suggestion, two years ago, that carbon taxes be increased from $23 per tonne to $30 per tonne in provinces where greenhouse gas emissions are above average. That would mean more tax for Alberta, but not for Quebec.)

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault took the carbon tax question. 

In contrast to the Conservative leader, the minister directly addressed the wildfires which afflicted Canada this past summer, offering sympathy and condolences to the victims.

Guilbeault ignored Poilievre’s political jab at the Bloc. Instead, he underscored the need for “responsible” governments to both “invest in the fight against climate change” and “support Canadians during these difficult times.”

Liberals distract from rhetorical antics in the House

The first day of the new parliament seemed destined to feature a starring role for a triumphant Pierre Poilievre basking in favourable poll numbers and his widely praised performance at the Conservatives’ end-of-summer convention.

But the Liberals managed to create two major distractions from the theatrics on the Hill.

Industry minister François-Philippe Champagne and other government officials met with the CEOs of Canada’s largest grocery chains with a view to controlling food-price inflation. 

The price of basic foodstuffs has been increasing at a far greater rate than inflation overall, while the food retail giants are making near-record profits.

After a two-hour meeting the minister emerged to say the companies have agreed to work with the government to “stabilize prices” – whatever that might mean.

The jury’s out on that deal. 

The Trudeau government is making vague threats about some kind of excess profit tax if the food retailers do not play ball, but it is not the sort of thing Liberals have ever shown an inclination to do. Nor is it clear such a tax would have any impact on prices.

The bigger distraction from the first day’s onslaught of Conservative rhetoric was Trudeau’s surprise announcement at the end of question period.

The PM told fellow members of parliament Canada had expelled an Indian diplomat for his role in the murder of a Canadian citizen, Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot on June 18 of this year, outside a Sikh temple in Surrey BC.

Trudeau’s shocking announcement elicited reaction and headlines worldwide. Here at home, the opposition parties expressed not a word of dissent. 

Pierre Poilievre said: “If these allegations are true, they represent an outrageous affront to Canada’s sovereignty. Our citizens must be safe from extrajudicial killings of all kinds, most of all from foreign governments.” 

The New Democrats’ Jagmeet Singh got personal. He talked about his own Sikh upbringing: 

“I grew up hearing many stories that said if someone raised concerns about human rights violations in India, they might be denied a visa, or that if they went back India, they could suffer violence, torture and even death … but to hear the Prime Minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between a murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil and a foreign government is something I could never have imagined.”

Singh than added:

“I want to speak directly to people of Indian descent who have come to Canada and who spoke justice and spoke truth to power, and who challenged the oppressive practices of India: caste violence, violence against women, systemic abuse of minority communities and systemic abuse of the poor. I want to speak directly to those activists. Governments around the world are trying to silence them. The Indian government, and the Modi government specifically, is attempting to silence them, but truth cannot be silenced. Justice cannot and will not be silenced.”

Strong words. 

In other situations, some might have called out Jagmeet Singh for being “anti-Indian” and too sympathetic to Sikh extremists. That is no doubt the official Indian government view.

But on Monday, in the wake of the prime minister’s announcement, nobody contradicted the NDP leader. 

Still, the fallout from this event is just beginning. 

India has, as expected, retaliated by expelling a Canadian diplomat. It is not yet clear, however, how this new and exacerbated conflict between Canada and the world’s most populous country will evolve.

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Categories: F. Left News

Military PR hails Canada’s role in war against Vietnam

Rabble - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 07:21

A military museum celebrating Canadians who fought in Vietnam highlights the Department of National Defence (DND)’s propaganda apparatus and Canada’s role in the horrendous US war. 

Recently, the Canadian Forces’ Lookout Newspaper reported on an exhibit at HMCS Alberni Museum & Memorial. It noted: 

The memorial contains the names of 149 Canadians who were killed in Vietnam while serving with the United States Armed Forces (USAF), seven soldiers Missing In Action (MIA), two Canadian military personnel killed in action while serving with the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC), and two Canadian soldiers who were reported MIA with the ICSC who were not volunteers fighting with the US military. 

Rob Purvis, Canadian Vietnam Veterans Association President and founder, organized the travelling memorial’s visit to HAMM and said the names are unknown to most Canadians. 

Over 20,000 Canadians volunteered to fight or participate in the USAF operations in Vietnam.” 

Lookout Newspaper is one of dozens of DND papers, journals, websites, social media accounts, etc. HMCS Alberni Museum & Memorial is sponsored by the Organization of Military Museums of Canada, which is backed by DND’s Directorate of History and Heritage. 

DND’s Directorate of History and Heritage, HMCS Alberni Museum & Memorial and Lookout paper are part of the military’s vast propaganda apparatus, which includes hundreds of full-time public relations officials, multiple educational institutions and funding for university programs, think tanks and war commemorations. As I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s government, corporations, media and academia sell war and exploitation, the Canadian military has by far the largest public relations apparatus in the country. 

Reflecting the imperialist character of military PR, the Lookout article ignored criticism of a war that left three million Vietnamese dead. The more than 20,000 Canadians who fought there were but a minor element of this country’s contribution to US violence in Southeast Asia, which included spying, delivering US bombing threats, testing chemical weapons and selling huge amounts of arms. 

Top Canadian officials repeatedly endorsed US violence. In 1965 Prime Minister Lester Pearson said, “the government and great majority of people of my country have supported wholeheartedly the US peacekeeping and peacemaking policies in Vietnam.” 

As the US military buildup in Vietnam grew, Canadian weapons sales to the US doubled between 1964 and 1966. Between 1965 and 1973, Canada sold $2.5 billion ($20 billion today) worth of war materials to the Pentagon. 

During its war in Southeast Asia the US tested Agent Orange at CFB Gagetown. A 1968 US Army memorandum titled “defoliation tests in 1966 at base Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada” explained: “The department of the army, Fort Detrick, Maryland, has been charged with finding effective chemical agents that will cause rapid defoliation of woody and Herbaceous vegetation. To further develop these objectives, large areas similar in density to those of interest in South East Asia were needed. In March 1965, the Canadian ministry of defense offered Crops Division large areas of densely forested land for experimental tests of defoliant chemicals. This land, located at Canadian forces base Gagetown, Oromocto, New Brunswick, was suitable in size and density and was free from hazards and adjacent cropland. The test site selected contained a mixture of conifers and deciduous broad leaf species in a dense undisturbed forest cover that would provide similar vegetation densities to those of temperate and tropical areas such as South East Asia.” 

As the West’s representative in the International Control Commission (ICC), which as part of the 1954 Geneva Accords was supposed to help reunify North and South Vietnam, Canadian officials “bolstered South Vietnam in defiance of the Geneva accords.” Canadian ICC officials also spied on North Vietnam for the US and even delivered US bombing threats to the North. In the foreword to my Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, Noam Chomsky argues that Canada’s former Prime Minister abetted war crimes by having Canadian ICC officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964. 

Half a century after the conclusion of the war a military publication and museum celebrates the Canadians who fought in a crassly imperialistic war that left millions dead.  

The lesson? Canada is and always has been a willing participant in colonialism, imperialism and empire. 

Remember, learn and work to change it.

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Categories: F. Left News

A common enemy: colonialism and imperialism

Red Pepper - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 00:00
Illustrations of Cecil Rhodes (1892) and ‘The Unemployed at the East-End of London’ (1886)

If imperialism is what happens when empires expand then colonialism is how they do it. Imperialism comes from the Latin imperium, which means sovereignty or political power. It is what happens when an empire, seeking to enrich itself, extends its reach through brute force into foreign territories for the purpose of extracting resources and labour. Colonialism is when they send settlers to do that work.

Empires have existed throughout history, but none were able to recreate the world in their own image to the extent that Europe has done. European expansion was rapid and dramatic: from 1876 to 1900, colonial powers’ possession of Africa’s landmass rose from 10.8 to 90.4 per cent. By the 1914 onset of war, Europe, its colonies and former colonies had control over most of the world’s population and 85 per cent of its territory.

These colonies came in myriad forms. Some were governed by large corporations, which prefigured the multinationals of today. India, for example, was governed by the East India Company, which acted as an arm of the monarchy; colonial Nigeria came into being under the Royal Niger Company. Other colonies, such as ‘administrative dependencies’, were governed through a system in which colonial administrators worked with native leaders they installed through a system of indirect rule. Others still were governed by settlers, the term ‘settler colonialism’ reflecting the Latin root of colonus, a farmer. Colonial settlers established new societies in a region, either eliminating or displacing its indigenous inhabitants in a quest for resources, land and cheap labour.

The late scholar Patrick Wolfe described settler colonialism as ‘inherently eliminatory but not invariably genocidal’. Demographers are only recently coming to terms with the scale of violence that Spain and Portugal inflicted through their genocidal conquests. Between 1492 and the mid-17th century, for example, the native population of the Americas fell from 50-60 million people to just five or six million, due to a combination of imported diseases and mechanisms used to control and exploit native peoples.

Imperialism and class rule

Imperialists governed territories they had not annexed through informal as well as formal means. Historians John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson famously proposed that ‘informal empire’ was preferred to annexation. Thus, the British empire’s formal governance, at its height, over a quarter of the world’s population was supplemented with the power it wielded over nominally independent countries through local intermediaries and financial domination. ‘Informal empire’ survives into the present – it is what Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, called ‘neocolonialism’. This requires local intermediaries – a ruling class aligned with the coloniser for its personal gain at the expense of the people.

By the 1930s, West Indian socialists such as C L R James, George Padmore and Amy Ashwood Garvey were spreading the gospel that ordinary people could overthrow empires. In his memoirs, James reflects that most people thought their campaigns for decolonisation after the second world war were crazy. With help from accomplices in the metropole, however, millions of colonised subjects joined trade unions, took up arms and fought for independence.

Meanwhile, Marxists from the colonised countries, like the Trinidadian trade unionist Padmore, made appeals to the Britain working class. ‘The colonial peoples,’ he wrote, ‘are the potential allies of the workers against a common enemy – the British imperialist class.’ For most workers in Britain, the empire was an abstract entity – a minority stood firmly in the anti-imperialist camp; the majority didn’t care. Imperialists, on the other hand, knew very well the link between class and empire.

After attending a meeting of unemployed people in London’s east end, where he heard ‘wild speeches’ and ‘cries for bread’, the mining magnate and former Cape Colony prime minister Cecil Rhodes candidly reflected in 1895: ‘My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, i.e. in order to save the 40 million inhabitants of the United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we colonial statesmen must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced in the factories and mines. The empire, as I have always said, is a bread-and-butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.’

For Rhodes and other capitalists, colonialism offered a solution to class warfare by creating new markets, occupying the unemployed and preempting demands for bread, socialism and revolution. Imperialism, then and now, was never in the interest of the working class – its ‘benefits’ accrued only to a small ruling class.

Imperialism, then and now, was never in the interest of the working class After independence

After 1945, most territories held by former colonial powers became independent. This process helped create the illusion that colonialism has come to an end. Through neocolonialism, however, the colonial global order has remained intact. Institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, working in the interests of the capitalist economic system, forced newly independent countries back into submission.

If such means failed, agencies such as the CIA worked to undermine socialist programmes, orchestrating military coups and killing socialist leaders. Figures who pushed for radical visions of decolonisation were assassinated, including presidents Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso and Patrice Lumumba of Congo. Meanwhile, former colonial powers weaponised foreign aid and incentivised resource extraction at the expense of newly ‘independent’ nations. France, for example, used stationed troop outposts and currency manipulation to control its ex-colonies.

In the 1970s, the co-founder of Guyana’s Working People’s Alliance, Walter Rodney, echoed Franz Fanon in arguing that local careerist, elite intermediaries – the ‘comprador bourgeoisie’ – kept colonialism alive. As the ‘Pandora papers’ (the 2021 exposé of global financial secrecy) reveal, such bourgeoise strata are responsible for helping to syphon $1 trillion out of Africa, through London, to private accounts in tax havens around the world.

Nonetheless, the struggle for decolonisation continues. We see it when Bolivian indigenous peoples fight against the corporate takeover of their territories, or when Palestinians fight for their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Across the world, people are opposing governments run by elites who hoard their money in the same tax havens as the international ruling class. Protests such as those seen recently in Lebanon, Haiti and Sudan are not only raging against corruption but against neo-colonialism. George Padmore’s insight still rings true: ‘Colonial peoples are the potential allies of the workers against a common enemy.’

The World Transformed 2023 runs from 7-10 October

This article first appeared in Issue #241, Autumn 2023, ‘Pan Africanism’. Subscribe today to read more articles and support independent media

Categories: F. Left News

National rallies call for Winnipeg landfill to be searched

Rabble - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 12:57

Content warning: The following story contains details of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Individuals impacted by the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls can contact the MMIWG Crisis Line toll-free at 1-844-413-6649.

Monday, September 18 is an International Day of Action for Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples (MMIWG2S). Rallies are being held across the country to pressure the government of Manitoba to search a Winnipeg area landfill for the bodies of murdered Indigenous women.

A Winnipeg man was arrested in May of 2022 in connection with the suspected murder of at least four Indigenous women.

The remains of Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran, along with the remains of a third, unidentified woman who has been named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or “Buffalo Woman,” by the community are believed to be in the Brady Rd. landfill.

For more than a year, the Manitoba provincial government under Premier Heather Stefanson has resisted calls to have the landfill searched and the bodies recovered so they can be given a respectful burial and so that their families can be given closure.

READ MORE: Search demanded in Winnipeg-area landfill; government apathy condemned

Stefanson has cited concerns about the cost and safety of conducting such a search, which her government believes makes such an action unfeasible.

Sit-ins planned across Canada

Families of MMIWG2S and their supporters are organizing sit-ins and other rallies are being planned in major cities across the country including Ottawa (ON), Montreal (QC), Prince George (BC), New Denver (BC), and of course, Winnipeg.

Indigenous leaders, unions, and other non-profit organizations have spoken out in support of the day. A statement from Amnesty International Canada reads: 

“Indigenous grassroots organization Families of Sisters in Spirit and Amnesty International Canada, in a joint statement, have urged the Governments of Canada and Manitoba to listen to the urgent calls of MMIWG2S+ families, community members and advocates to immediately search and bring home the remains of Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, Marcedes Myran and Morgan Harris.” 

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) national office has offered to provide support to the City of Winnipeg to help support a search of the landfill.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) made a post in support of the day on X (formerly Twitter) as did NDP MP Leah Gazan.

Today is the national day of action to #SearchTheLandfill. In Ottawa, in #WinnipegCentre, and across the country, communities are gathering in solidarity with MMIWG2S, survivors, and families. No more excuses. Bring our relatives home.

— Leah ProudLakota (she/her) (@LeahGazan) September 18, 2023

Gazan is an Indigenous woman who represents the riding of Winnipeg Centre. Gazan has been a strong advocate on the issue of MMIWG2S in Parliament, including through her introduction of a motion to implement a national Red Dress Alert system to help prevent and solve cases like the one that led to this current tragedy in Winnipeg. Gazan’s motion passed unanimously in the House of Commons this past May.

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Categories: F. Left News

Yoga instructors face job insecurity with few protections

Rabble - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 11:59

When Taylor first read their termination notice, they were shocked and confused. A yoga instructor of five years, they were informed by their studio owner that they weren’t performing up to expectations.

Those feelings gave way to frustration and anger as they realized the claims were totally bogus. They put together a rebuttal, pushing back with facts proving they not only met the standards set out in their contract, but exceeded them. They mentioned the several times they had classes cancelled by the studio at the last minute and one class cancelled permanently only months into their employment.

This response was ignored, as was a follow up email. Despite being given a termination date set weeks in the future, they were banned from teaching effectively immediately.

All of these actions – the sudden termination, the manufactured reason, the lack of the response and all the cancelled classes were entirely legal,and apparently not uncommon.

From interviews, private conversations and anonymous responses to a survey, over two dozen teachers in Toronto as well as a handful of studio owners have made clear that the current yoga teaching system is not sustainable.

Despite its popularity, the yoga industry is largely unregulated, ungoverned and oversaturated. In a post-pandemic environment where costs are rising and more people are comfortable doing yoga at home, studios, whether greedy or simply cash-strapped, are underpaying teachers who have little protection or recourse. As a result, many teachers look out for themselves and seek creative, if not sometimes dubious, means to make money of their own. Everyone is tied to a system that doesn’t seem to work for anyone, but that no one person can truly push back on by themselves.

Taylor (who didn’t want to use their real name for fear of reprisal) said their situation is pervasive. 

“This is a huge problem,” said Taylor, adding that even though colleagues close to them went through similar experiences, “I don’t expect anyone to have to speak on my behalf for this.” 

They also made a comment that would be echoed by many people I spoke with about why they were alone in fighting back. 

“Teachers want to protect their jobs too. No one wants to lose their income,” added Taylor. “I’m just left to deal with it and move on.”

Contract struggles

Part-time positions are uncommon and full-time permanent opportunities are almost nonexistent for teachers (some studios may have full-time positions for managerial or administrative staff). Most teachers are independent contractors, with no rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). They are not afforded minimum wage, overtime pay, public holidays, vacation with pay, notice of termination or termination pay.

Being labelled an independent contractor alone is not the issue. In fact, a fair amount of teachers prefer this arrangement. However, persistent low pay and an increase in the number of teachers seeking jobs creates an untenable arrangement.

Currently, it’s common to be paid between $40 and $50 for teaching one class in Toronto, a wage that was higher before the pandemic. 

“It’s harder than it’s ever been, and already it was challenging,” said Jordan, who despite a history of being outspoken about this industry, opted to use a pseudonym. They attested to being paid anywhere from $60 to $100 in the past.

“As life has gotten more expensive, they are paying us less,” they added.

While some studios may offer attendance bonuses, there is more to just teaching an hour flow. An hour class needs to be sequenced in some cases, with music paired to the flow. Travel time and cost of transport needs to be considered. And it’s not $40 or $50 an hour; teachers tend to show up 10 to 20 minutes early and stay after. Some may have back-to-back classes at a studio, spaced 15 to 30 minutes apart, but that convenience can be hard to come by.

The per class rate quickly becomes diluted, making it difficult to piece together a reasonable salary working full time.

Jen Stackhouse, in addition to teaching yoga also works at, tried. Having earned her first teacher training certificate in 2003, she navigated the industry as a teacher and studio manager, but encountered universal problems trying to survive from working in the yoga industry.

“I tried for almost one year [to teach full time],” she said during a Zoom call. “I was teaching up to 25 classes a week, including nights and weekends, driving everywhere, really trying to make a go of it. One day I realized I was giving all of myself, and the reciprocity is not there, financially or energetically.”

“At the top of the list is you have to pay rent. I just wasn’t making enough money.”

This speaks to the apparent two paths to yoga teaching. The first is to hustle, bouncing around from studio to studio while offering workshops and private classes to put together a living. The second is to find a full-time job that lends benefits and better pay in order to support part-time teaching as a hobby or passion.

Stackhouse tried the former before succumbing to the latter, returning to work as a waitress to make money. 

“You’re teaching wellness, you’re teaching self-care, but you’re living in this chaos, trying to make end’s meet,” Stackhouse said.

Patricia McPherson, a teacher of 10 years, spoke of what’s needed to make this a full-time living. 

“I teach at five studios,” she wrote in an email. “When I was building my resume, I was teaching 13 to 15 classes a week to make rent. With time, experience and consistent discipline you will be able to provide value for a higher rate.”

McPherson currently teaches around 10 classes a week, transiting between CymeTree at Bloor & Avenue, Circle Pilates in midtown and others around the city. That movement across neighbourhoods is essential to success for teachers. 

Jaffer Hussain, a Toronto-based teacher of eight years, recommends teachers better understand the contract relationship and leverage that arrangement. 

“Teachers must accept the responsibility of being a business,” he wrote in an email. “They have the right to act like their own business, serve their needs first, ask for raises and choose to walk away if their rate isn’t met. Many teachers sign the agreement and walk in as if they’re an employee and build the entire studio-teacher relationship from this place.”

Like many others, Hussain hustles, teaching at Altea Active, Yoga Space, Good Space and Equinox while curating events and offering private and on-demand classes at his website. 

“There’s nothing wrong with a studio asking you to be there 15 to 30 minutes before and after [class] if you can leverage that time to build meaningful connections with the students coming insaid Hussain. “Too many are afraid to ask for a raise, to announce their social handles at the end of class, to simply market themselves. All of this fear gives owners more power and control.”

Still, there are teachers that prefer the flexibility and freedom of being an independent contractor, though many have alternative sources of income and protection, most often in the form of a full-time job. While teachers are split on their desired employment status, most agree their needs to be an organized entity that advocates for teachers.

Studio control

Studios can take advantage of this hustle. Teachers need to be active on social media to build a brand, and studios easily piggyback off this without offering compensation. Teachers also spoke of having to answer phones, coming in early to sign in clients and staying late to clean up. In some cases they may be the only person working at the studio, meaning they have to wait until class is about to start to lock up and close doors and then be the first to open things up again.

Many mentioned doing other work for free because of the potential for advancement if they did, or the potential for punishment if they didn’t. A common practice by studios is to hold free “community classes,” welcoming individuals who may not be able to pay for a class to enjoy a practice. What isn’t disclosed is most of the time these studios do not pay teachers; the burden of the free class is put on teachers while the studio gets attention for their apparent altruism. Studios employ common phrases, saying “you’ll get exposure” and “build your brand.”

Some studios may offer compensation for cancelled classes, but any guarantees must be written into the contract. If they’re not in there, you just have to trust the owner. 

Stackhouse recalled working for a studio that promised a pay increase within a year. After twice asking for more money and twice being denied, she quit.

“It was in my contract that if you resigned or were taken off the schedule, there was to be a month’s notice,” recalled Stackhouse. “I wasn’t given that. Just before I walked into a class I was told this will be your last.” 

She mentioned teachers coming to her after she resigned, confiding in her that they felt underpaid and disrespected, but didn’t want to speak up for fear of losing out.

The pandemic hurt studios, with some shutting down and others scrambling to create online classes to stay afloat. Hussain lamented those closures, but also argues that teachers are business too, and they in their own way had to “close.”

“They had to lose their entire income during the pandemic,” Hussain wrote. “And yet many were asked to come back at less than pre-pandemic rates to ‘help’ the studios out; meanwhile the cost of everything else in life went up.”

“It’s unfair to have teachers pay the price while studios have raised prices for the customers at the same time. If you can’t afford to pay your teachers, you can’t afford to be in business,” Hussain added.

Stacy Chong, owner of Toronto Yoga Co., which will be celebrating its five-year anniversary this fall, talked about how being a teacher can and does inform studio operations to create a more equitable and comfortable environment for everyone. 

“I knew deep down I didn’t want there to be competition between teachers,” she said. “The stress of being sick, of going on vacation, of taking mat leave, of having to travel across the city…It’s stressful for them, and it’s stressful for the front desk. It’s just not realistic.”

Chong, who still teaches at two other studios as an independent contractor, solicits input on issues like branding and pay structure. She also allows long-term teachers to choose between being part-time employees and independent contractors.

Suspect programs

One anonymous teacher referred to the industry as a “pyramid scheme.”

At the top is the Yoga Alliance, a global body of sorts based out of Virginia that seems to have a monopoly over teaching training certification. In 2010, about 10 years after it was founded, Yoga Alliance set forth a core curriculum for groups to train students. If you register with Yoga Alliance to become a Registered Yoga School (for an initial $640 USD and yearly dues after that), you can train others to become Registered Yoga Teachers. 

Diane Bruni was a vocal advocate of yoga in Toronto from the time she founded the studio Downward Dog right up until her passing in 2021. Credited with popularizing yoga in the city while adding a modern touch to the experience, Bruni was beloved by teachers and honest about the business side of the industry.

“I resist the Yoga Alliance, and consider it a useless organization that charges yoga studios for a certification that means almost nothing,” wrote Bruni in a blog post from June 4, 2015. “Every year we were sent reminders to pay the renewal fees. After a few years, I realized that Yoga Alliance had never followed up to confirm that we were teaching what we had described. No studio owner I knew had ever been called or contacted by the Yoga Alliance, except when the time came to pay dues.”

Still, a Registered Yoga School can train students to obtain their 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher Training Certification, a tuition in Toronto that typically runs between $3,000 and $4,000.

One way by which many studios save money is through so-called “Energy Exchange,” a program which offers free classes or memberships in return for unpaid labour. While Ontario does not specify outlaw Energy Exchange, the means by which many studios conduct this program raises questions about its legality.

The ESA is clear that just because an employee calls someone an independent contractor, a volunteer or an intern does not mean those designations are accurate. It is the duties performed and the relationship between the parties that determine employment status.

Like teachers, some energy exchanges have full time jobs elsewhere, so they often don’t mind the arrangement. Others are hopeful teachers, eager to please and optimistic their unpaid work will earn opportunities in the future.

Teachers often offer private lessons at a higher cost, which allows them to continue teaching at studios, while also holding pop-ups and workshops.

Where it gets murky is the prevalence of “coaching.” It’s the natural evolution of a gig economy where everyone needs to find ways to monetize their skills. Coaching is an unregulated industry, where individuals sell their experiences, education and insight to others. You can go down a rabbit hole of Instagram pages of yoga teachers finding them also working as somatic movement coaches, self-love coaches, intimacy coaches, or creativity coaches. 

Retreats are also common, wherein a teacher or group of teachers acts as a travel guide and organizes a trip somewhere in the world to practice yoga. It can be a mutually beneficial experience for the mind and body, but it can also act as paid vacation for teachers while students pay a high cost for the convenience of not having to do anything but show up. Studios also get in on retreats. As of this writing, YogaTree is collaborating on an event where a couple can spend over $1,500 on a 48-hour yoga retreat  to Rice Lake, just two hours from Toronto.

What can be done?

While independent contractors are not allowed to unionize, precedent suggests that yoga teachers are, in fact, dependent contractors. In 2020, the Labour Board of Ontario released a historic decision on the gig economy allowing couriers of the food delivery service Foodora to unionize. The parallels between that industry and the yoga industry are many.

Dependent contractors are those who perform work for others with whom they are economically dependent, with duties and responsibilities more closely resembling an employee than an entrepreneur.

Firstly, the Board argues that the Foodora App is essential to worker’s success in the industry, that is. They are dependent on it, but Foodora wholly controls and operates it. It could be argued, similarly, that teachers are dependent on studio spaces for work. They may bring their own mats, playlists or even props, but the studio is necessary for bringing people together.

The Board ruled that couriers “[working for multiple platforms] is not entrepreneurial activity… It is hard work. And hard work must not be mistaken for entrepreneurial activity.” Yoga teachers work for multiple studios. Like teachers, “Foodora couriers do not have the opportunity to increase their compensation through anything other than their labour and skill”

Looking to other industries may help with the answer. Hairstylists, for example, often have the choice between being part time employees and independent contractors, with pros and cons to each. They also enter into a mutually beneficial relationship to the studio with a business model that encourages them to promote each other.

Regulation seems paramount. Hairstyling is one of only 23 compulsory trades in Ontario. In order to be certified, you must complete an apprentice program that includes in-school and on-the-job training. Non-compulsory trades, of which there are 121, do not require apprenticeship. In both cases, though, there are expectations set forth by the province.

Registered Massage Therapists, meanwhile, are governed by the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO), which develops standards, practices and rules within the industry; notably, they are given authority through the regulated Health Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991. That teachers are dealing with someone’s physical wellbeing suggests that perhaps this industry should be covered under the same or similar act.

Whatever the exact solution, action needs to be taken. 

“We have amazing studios, amazing teachers,” said Chong. “I think for the most part everybody is here trying to do the right thing, the good thing, but we are all bogged down with the way that it’s been. I think everyone wants to provide a way out.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Remembering Peter C. Newman, a deceptively complex buffoon

Rabble - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 11:27

I’ve been reading the obits on Peter C. Newman — editor and columnist for the Star and Maclean’s, and bestselling author- who died last week at 94. I’m surprised to find him more compelling in retrospect than I did during his lifetime, including my own interactions with him.

He was in fact a bit of a joke and buffoon. He came from an era of large-living journalists — authors like Pierre Berton, Richard Gwyn, Walter Stewart, Peter Gzowski — who’d been imprinted by Ben Hecht’s The Front Page. They could indulge in self-mythologizing because they worked for big, rich institutions. It’s what made the mass media massive, along with their monopoly on information.

They may’ve envied Newman’s power and success but wouldn’t have wanted to be him. He was too obviously insecure and striving. They mocked him behind his back and compiled lists of his most preposterous images, like the “raindrops that were wilting (former prime minister Brian) Mulroney’s cowlick.” Newman provided an endless supply. He didn’t hang much with those guys, or wish to. He wanted to use the power of media to reach loftier heights, as he saw them.

He tended to the gnomic; in fact it was his normal. I once wrote a sketch for a radio satire show on how he intended to change Maclean’s to MacNewman’s since he produced most of its content, including a weekly feature called “The Human Newman,” where he mused about jazz he played on headphones at 4 a.m. when he rose to write his books. I was doing a piece for him and he called (there was no internet) to say only: Um, be sure to put your humour in. He considered me politically dicey and sent me to see former finance minister and Bay Street eminence Walter Gordon, with whom he hobnobbed. Gordon explained to me that capitalism was important in Canada.

After I did a nasty piece for a minuscule left journal on Barbara Amiel, his star writer at Maclean’s, he waved me to his table at Gracie’s on Queen Street West to say he’d loved every word and if I repeated that, he’d deny it. But I digress.

I think he, like iconic theatre critic Nathan Cohen, and Berton, yearned for a grander, gaudier Canada and when one didn’t materialize, tried to embody it themselves: Cohen by being a theatrical figure who carried a pearl-handled cane to openings which he called “pure affectation”; Berton by colourizing Canadian history (we too had pirates, in the Thousand Islands!). Newman craved a more flamboyant journalism, like Tom Wolfe’s in the U.S.

As I say, there were other journalists with inflated egos but Newman was unique. He had, for instance, an appealing awareness of his own egomania. He said he and second wife Christina McCall, had a “religious difference. I thought I was God and she didn’t.” As with many penetrating, nay devastating, insights that people voice and then ignore, he never let it get in the way of living his self-obsessed existence, but he perceived it lucidly.

That suggests he was more complicated than it seemed. He liked to call himself a court jester, a complimentary European term for one who speaks truth (through humour) to power. Indeed there may’ve been much of the Mittel-European manoeuvrer and schemer in him: individuals and nations squeezed between greater powers who learn to use craft and flattery to survive. It would explain some of his scuzzier traits, like sucking up to the rich. Another journalist of that era, Ian Adams, wrote, of another media figure, that he’d got so far up the Canadian Establishment’s rear end he caught a glimpse of Newman’s heels.

But Newman was 11 when he arrived here, a Jew fleeing Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. He felt he never quite mastered English and titled his autobiography, Here Be Dragons, based on ancient maps of the “new world.” His contradictions were unconcealed, but that too may have been part of his cunning, his strategies for survival and success in spite of ever lurking perils.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

The battle of the labour songs

Rabble - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 07:15

For the first time in history a song produced by a singer with no chart-success history debuted as Billboard’s #1. The song was sung by the American folksinger, Oliver Anthony. But the British singer Billie Bragg sang back saying that complaining was not enough and that Anthony should join a union.

In other news a new General Secretary for the International Trade Union Confederation will be acclaimed. RadioLabour will be starting English as an Additional Language lessons for unionists.

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

The antidote to climate doomism? Get involved!

Rabble - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 07:00

Today, Friday September 15, a worldwide climate strike is happening. In Canada, people are joining the fight against climate change on Parliament Hill, calling for the government to end the funding of new fossil fuel projects. The strike on Parliament Hill is organized in part by Fridays for Future Ottawa.

On rabble radio this week, rabble labour reporter Gabriela Calugay-Casuga speaks to Shana Quesnel. Ahead of this day of action, the two discuss why strikes like this are crucial and the importance of youth becoming involved in climate action.

Shana Quesnel is a fifth-year student at the University of Ottawa in history and political science. She is passionate about climate activism, a scene she has been part of since 2021. She is currently a volunteer for Fridays for Future Ottawa and also the co-president of Climate Justice uOttawa.

If you like the show please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. And please, rate, review, share rabble radio with your friends — it takes two seconds to support independent media like rabble. Follow us on social media across channels @rabbleca.

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Categories: F. Left News

Terrorism on September 11 in Chile

Rabble - Fri, 09/15/2023 - 03:48

On September 11, 2001, terror struck the United States. Three thousand people were killed that day, and many more died afterwards, from the pollution at Ground Zero in New York and in the two long wars that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At the time, the Democracy Now! news hour broadcast from the garret of an old firehouse in Manhattan’s Chinatown, just blocks from the World Trade Center. On the program that morning, just as the planes struck the two towers, we were discussing the link between terrorism and September 11 – 1973. That was the day that the democratically elected government of Chile was violently overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup d’état.

President Salvador Allende died in La Moneda, the presidential palace, that day, as General Augusto Pinochet rose to power. Allende was elected in 1970, pledging to nationalize critical sectors of the Chilean economy, like copper mining, long controlled by foreign multinational corporations while most Chileans were impoverished.

Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship lasted 17 years. Many of Allende’s supporters were arrested, tortured and imprisoned. At least 3,000 were killed or disappeared, and tens of thousands were tortured. The United States government fully supported the coup and the brutal dictatorship that followed.

President Nixon’s National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger said to aides in a meeting on June 27, 1970, several months before the Chilean election, “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Kissinger predicted, correctly, that Chileans would elect Allende, a democratic socialist. After Allende won, Kissinger and President Richard Nixon funded and fomented discord, destabilization and chaos in Chile. Much of what is publicly known about the U.S. role in the coup comes from declassified documents pried out of the CIA and other agencies by the National Security Archives, based in Washington, D.C.

“Literally within 24 hours of the coup, [Kissinger] was in discussion…on how to help the Pinochet regime consolidate,” Peter Kornbluh, head of the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project, said on Democracy Now!

“Even as people were being killed and their bodies dumped in the street and rounded up and put into a concentration camp at the stadium and bodies floating in the Mapocho River here in Santiago. Kissinger convened this committee, and we have the declassified memoranda of conversation. The officials there just started joking about the coup.”

For Chileans, the coup was no joke. Ariel Dorfman, 31 years old at the time, was a cultural adviser to President Allende. He was one of the last to see Allende alive.

“I was supposed to be at La Moneda that morning and dawn,” Dorfman recounted on Democracy Now!

“I was supposed to have slept the night there, because…you had turns where you’re supposed to receive the news whether there was a coup happening. I switched places with one of my dear friends, who in fact was captured at La Moneda on the 11. He was tortured and then executed. So, I’m, in a sense, a survivor because of him, or at least so I felt all these years.”

When asked about the U.S. sponsorship of the deadly coup, Dorfman was emphatic: “Kissinger is a war criminal. We all know that.” Dorfman said.

“How do you do a counterinsurgency against a people who are armed with the vote, who are armed with their consciousness, who are armed with their desire for liberation and love for one another in solidarity? And so, he understood that he had to destroy Allende, because if Allende’s example would have spread through Latin America, then U.S. interests would have been terribly compromised.”

Pinochet’s mass murder reached beyond Chile’s borders, to the heart of U.S. power. On September 21, 1976, one of Allende’s former ministers, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated in a car bombing in Washington, D.C. His assistant, 25-year-old Ronni Moffit, was killed as well.

Despite almost two decades of dictatorship, Chile survived the Pinochet era committed to democracy. While still divided, the Chilean people have sent progressive candidates to office, from former president Michelle Bachelet. She and her mother were tortured under Pinochet; her father, an air force officer, was tortured to death.

Chile’s current president is 37-year-old Gabriel Boric. He was a leader of Chile’s student protests over a decade ago, and won a surprise victory over a right-wing opponent last year. President Boric is planning a side trip to Washington, D.C., while attending the United Nations General Assembly this month, to visit the scene of Orlando Letelier’s assassination.

Terrorism is a crime, whether committed on September 11, 2001, or in Chile on September 11, 1973 and beyond. Henry Kissinger, now 100 years old, should not be hailed as an elder statesman, but should face prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Categories: F. Left News

Teachers’ unions reject Ford’s anti-trans rhetoric

Rabble - Thu, 09/14/2023 - 11:36

At his annual “Ford Fest” on Friday, September 8 Ontario Premier Doug Ford continued to signal his government’s willingness to persecute trans and other 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in the province’s school system.

Ford told a crowd of hundreds of supporters that parents should be informed if a child chooses to change their gender pronouns in school, accusing school boards of engaging in indoctrination.

“It’s not up to the teachers, it’s not up to the school boards to indoctrinate our kids,” he said.

Ford’s comments come just two weeks after his Education Minister Stephen Lecce publicly stated his support for policies requiring parents to be informed if their child asks their teachers to address them by different pronouns.

READ MORE: Stephen Lecce signals Ontario will adopt anti-trans policies to public outcry

While Ontario has yet to actually enact such a policy, two other conservative provincial governments have done just that this summer.

First New Brunswick’s Premier Blaine Higgs, then Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe both implemented policies requiring that students receive a parent’s permission to change the pronouns by which they are addressed at school if they are under the age of 16.

Critics of these policies point out that trans students might not be ready to come out to their parents and may not even feel safe doing so.

A study by the National Institute of Health in the US found that trans youth who were addressed with their correct pronouns had a significant reduction in suicidal behaviour and ideation.

Unions say Ford is putting students’ lives at risk

Both the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) slammed Ford for his anti-2SLGBTQIA+ comments.

A statement from the EFTO reads: 

“Premier Doug Ford made it clear that he has no idea what “school boards actually do” when he dismissed their law-abiding efforts to protect 2SLGBTQ+ students’ rights. In an attempt to deflect from the ongoing Greenbelt scandal, he made dangerous, inflammatory remarks that put students, educators, and others at risk of great harm … 

In a perfect climate, all students go home to a safe and supportive environment, but we know this isn’t the case for all.” 

The OSSTF also highlighted how not allowing students to choose how they self-identify could put them at serious risk both academically and physically.

“Denying students their autonomy to choose how they self-identify can affect their sense of self-worth and can cause emotional and social distress, leading to negative mental health outcomes, such as self-harm, bullying, and other forms of exclusion. In turn, this distress can adversely impact a student’s achievement and success in school,” reads a statement by the OSSTF.

The OSSTF said they would actively fight any policy that put 2SLGBTQIA+ students at risk.

“If the Ford government attempts to enact this harmful rhetoric as public policy, OSSTF will vigorously defend its members in exercising their professional judgement in creating safe schools and upholding the Ontario Human Rights Code,” the OSSTF stated.

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Categories: F. Left News

Unpacking workers’ hopes and fears with AI and labour

Rabble - Thu, 09/14/2023 - 11:25

In the wake of a “hot labour summer” that saw many workers fight for the livable wages they deserve, it may be deflating to hear about the rising threat of AI and automation. 

Employers and corporations, ever focused on profit, are looking at the use of technology to help companies cut what is often their biggest cost: labour. But technology booms do not need to be anti-worker, they only pose a threat when used in a certain way. 

Rising automation and AI are being used in creative industries in a way that threatens workers across Canada and the US. 

Actors represented by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) continue to be locked out of commercial productions. At the same time, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) remain on the picket line for fair wages. Amidst all this, the conversation around AI has dipped in and out of headlines.

READ MORE: How technology is being used against actors and performers

According to ACTRA president Eleanor Noble, AI could pose a very big threat to actors. SAG-AFTRA, WGA and ACTRA have all expressed concern over AI being used to copy a performer’s image or replicate a writer’s style. 

“For performers our product is our voice, our face, our image, our being,” Noble previously said in an interview with “For writers, it’s the writing skills. If we do not have any control over our product, if we are not consenting to and not being compensated for the use of our image or for being copied in some way that is just immoral and unethical.” 

For postal workers, automation has also become a rising threat to people’ livelihoods. 

The National Grievance Officer at the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Carl Girouard, put out a statement last month outlining how the Canada Post’s use of technology goes against the interests of workers. Girouard said that the Canada Post is trying to grow its parcel business by “modernizing its facilities and equipment.” This modernization amounts to the testing of new technologies like automated guided vehicles, robotic parcel arms, autonomous mobile robots and even follow-me robots for letter carriers. 

“For postal workers, these new technologies are a clear threat,” Girouard wrote. “While technology could be utilized to make the work easier or more ergonomic, it is mainly used to eliminate workers and jobs and increase the employer’s control of the workplace.” 

AI could lead to widespread surveillance of workers

The risks related to automation and AI go beyond the elimination of jobs. Professor Paul Gray from Brock University’s Labour Studies Department, said that the growing use of AI and other new technology in the workplace could mean more widespread, intense and minute surveillance of workers. 

“There also has to be the demand for transparency around AI algorithms and data,” Gray said. “A lot of the so-called AI machine learning is basically just observing and reproducing the behaviors of human beings, for example how they interact on the internet.” 

Gray said that transparency around algorithms used in AI could help avoid the amplification of human biases. He pointed to Amazon’s experience while testing the use of algorithms during the hiring process

“They found consistently that [the algorithm] was biased against women,” Gray said. “Any candidate that identified as a woman was ranked lower than an equally qualified male candidate. Even after several rounds of trying to fix the problem, this consistently occurred. They ended up scrapping it altogether.”

With all these threats related to AI and automation, where do the benefits come in? According to Gray, one side of the debate argues that AI could be beneficial if society adapts to a “post-work” world. The crux of this argument is that automation could lead to mass unemployment, but this need not be a bad thing.

A post work world

“In a post-work world the majority of people, or at least a significant minority, can’t find work,” Gray said. “So people will point to potential solutions to a situation like that. There are some debates around a universal basic income as one of the policy responses to that idea.” 

This view of a post-work world can seem pretty inviting. As Justice for Workers Guelph put it, “automation promised to make work easier and free more time for leisure activities.” 

However the post-work world is not the only possible outcome of rising AI and automation. Gray said that he believes the other side of the debate to be more true. AI and automation will have profound impacts on work and employment, but it does not mean mass unemployment is inevitable. 

“Some forms of work might be rendered obsolete,” Gray said, “but the introduction of new technologies also tends to create new forms of work as well.” 

Gray pointed to the concerns that arose as computers became more integrated into the workplace. While some feared mass unemployment, the computer eventually allowed many new kinds of jobs to be possible. 

When employers around the world were surveyed for the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report, 50 per cent of survey respondents expected that technological change would lead to job creation. One of the jobs created is data work. 

“I don’t think many people appreciate how much ongoing labor underlies AI and tends to be made invisible,” Gray said. 

There is a task based labour force that helps develop machine learning systems. There is ongoing labour to fix problems with the technology and a large number of people inputting information into technology. 

However, the mere creation of jobs is not enough to soothe workers’ worries. As data work rises, we must ensure that this industry contains decent work opportunities. 

“A lot of that work has been organized to be precarious, contingent, temporary and contract labour. It’s often paid by the task, not periods of time. It often offers very low wages,” Gray said. 

The Data Workers Union, created by the Institute of Human Obsolescence (IoHO), has highlighted some of the issues data workers face. The organization wrote on their website that they fight for the end to exploitation of the production of data and for workers to gain control over its ownership. They are also exploring the possibility of a basic income for data workers, rather than a per task payment system. 

“I think, the discussions around automation and AI in particular, are often dominated by quantitative considerations instead of qualitative ones,” Professor Gray said. “It’s quantitative, because people are asking, ‘Will there be more or less work?’ I think the much more relevant question is qualitative. What kinds of work are going to be available? What kind of qualitative changes are going to be introduced to work by the increasing prominence of these kinds of technologies?” 

Organizing as a defence against automization

Gray said that the answers to his questions are not set in stone. Workers need to organize so that the qualitative changes to their lives will be in their favour. 

The work is already underway, ACTRA is calling for “guardrails” around the use of AI in creative industries. Meanwhile CUPW has said that they are working with the Canadian Labour Congress to address their concerns around automation at the Canada Post and push the federal government to adopt pro-worker laws around AI, automation, and other new technologies.

“New generations of workers are trying to adapt classic organizing methods to their relatively new kinds of workplaces,” Gray explained. “Workers who want to organize online digital task based work, for example, are searching out forums. These forums are used to hear from current workers about their experiences and to get advice as people make their decision about whether or not they want to try to pursue this kind of work.” 

This organizing effort underlines that automation doesn’t need to be a threat to workers. Gray said that AI and automation can have social benefits. Although job loss is a risk, there is also the hope of greater work-life balance, more ergonomic work and the creation of new jobs. 

“Whether or not these technologies are introduced in humane ways depends more on social relationships and the balance of power. Workers need to organize to ensure that they have as much of a say as they can get in how these technologies are used,” Gray concluded.

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Categories: F. Left News

Global youth climate strikes taking place this weekend

Rabble - Thu, 09/14/2023 - 08:06

When I met climate activist Greta Thunberg in 2019, I apologized for what she’s had to do and has done so successfully as a young person: raise the alarm about the catastrophic consequences of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It shouldn’t be youth’s job. Parents and elders should be warriors for the children’s future so they can be free to live full lives — to explore the world outside the protective nest, meet new people, form new friendships, learn about the world, find what they like and don’t like.

It’s never too late for the not-so-young to pick up the pace on climate action — but youth are tired of waiting for grownups to do the right thing. This month marks another round of global youth climate strikes, over the September 15 to 17 weekend. Young people are demanding a “rapid, just, and equitable end to fossil fuels.” That includes no new fossil fuels, a rapid, just and equitable phase-out, new commitments for international cooperation, an end to “greenwashing,” holding polluters responsible for the damage they’re causing and halting fossil fuel corporate capture — “corporations writing the rules of climate action, bankrolling or participating in climate talks, or undermining the global response to climate change.”

If older generations truly cared about our children and grandchildren and those yet to be born, we’d listen up and stop delaying. We can’t let the fossil fuel industry and its allies continue to block and stall climate action.

The world has put off acting on the climate crisis for so long that we now have months — if not weeks and days — rather than years, to seriously turn things around. Every molecule of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere today remains for hundreds of years, fuelling the ever-increasing, unpredictable events we’re already seeing worldwide: floods, droughts, heat domes, atmospheric rivers, melting polar ice, heating oceans, growing numbers of climate migrants… Every delay in rapidly shifting to renewable energy increases costs and challenges and sets us up for accelerating severe consequences.

The youth climate strikes are timely. As they wrap up, oil and gas industry representatives will meet in Calgary, from September 17 to 21, for the World Petroleum Congress, billed as “Energy Transition: The Path to Net Zero.”

On September 20, representatives from around the world will gather in New York for the Climate Ambition Summit, convened by United Nations secretary general António Guterres to “accelerate action by governments, business, finance, local authorities and civil society” and demonstrate “that there is collective global will to accelerate the pace and scale of a just transition to a more equitable renewable-energy based, climate-resilient global economy.”

And from November 30 to December 12, representatives from almost all nations will meet in the United Arab Emirates for COP28, the 28th UN Conference of the Parties on climate change.

Those events and others should provide a spark of optimism for youth — and everyone who cares about our collective future. But young people know optimism isn’t enough, especially in the face of industry greenwashing. That COP28 is being held in an oil-producing country known for serious human rights violations and is being headed by an oil industry executive has led to cynicism and calls for a boycott.

The Petroleum Congress’s focus on the energy transition and net zero leans heavily on technologies and products that will keep profits rolling in — such as carbon capture and storage, which is expensive, largely unproven and only captures production emissions and not the far greater emissions from burning the fuels. Most of the panels are made up of people from industry and oil-producing countries. And some focus on topics such as new technologies for expanded fracking!

The Climate Ambition Summit, with its focus on “ambition, credibility and implementation,” offers a bit more hope, and Guterres has been a powerful champion for climate justice and action, but as young people know, massive collective action is often needed to move politicians to act.

There’s no shortage of solutions, as research by the David Suzuki Foundation and others has repeatedly shown. We owe it to the youth, and to ourselves and this beautiful world, to support their movements, join their strikes and accelerate all our efforts to resolve the climate crisis.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington.

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Categories: F. Left News

Union slams Poilievre’s use of PA system on WestJet flight

Rabble - Wed, 09/13/2023 - 13:28

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)’s Alberta division is calling on federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and WestJet to apologize to the passengers and crew of a flight out of Quebec City, QC to Calgary, AB after Poilievre was allowed to use the plane’s public address system to make a political speech on the flight.

“WestJet’s own work rules state clearly that no one other than operating crew are to use the public address system,” reads a statement from CUPE Local 4070 president Alia Hussain, which represents cabin crew employees at WestJet.

The union emphasized that it was the company, WestJet, and not that cabin crew that allowed Poilievre to make the speech, implying that this was not exactly a spontaneous stunt by the Conservative Party leader and his campaign team.

Crew had no say on the matter

“It’s very disappointing that WestJet management let a politician use the public address system on a recent flight for his political statement. It is doubly disappointing that WestJet is now trying to assign blame on the cabin crew for this event. The cabin crew had no input into this decision,” Hussain’s statement goes on to read.

In a video of the speech that was posted by Poilievre to X (formerly Twitter), he speaks generally about “common sense” and an end to “turbulence,” metaphorically speaking.

“Hello everyone, this is Pierre Poilievre. Very happy to join you on this WestJet flight back to my hometown of Calgary. Are you ready for a home you can afford? Who’s ready for some common sense,” Poilievre says in the video. “Who’s ready to give a big thank you to the WestJet pilot and crew. The pilot is warning of a little bit of turbulence, but it will only last about two years, at which time we will have a totally new crew and pilot in charge of the plane. We will get through the storm. Safely land, in our home, the country we know and love. Your home, my home, our home, let’s bring it home.”

There's a little turbulence on the horizon.

But a new crew is on the way for the country we know and love. Let's bring it home.

— Pierre Poilievre (@PierrePoilievre) September 11, 2023

Hussain slammed WestJet for putting the cabin crew in a position where they had to take a political stance, one that they may not even agree with.

“A plane’s cabin crew should never be put in a position of having to take a political stance. Giving Mr. Poilievre a platform showed bad judgement by WestJet. Mr. Poilievre showed bad judgement [by] taking that opportunity. It is the cabin crew who deal with passenger complaints. Westjet management and Mr. Poilievre should not have put them in that position,” Hussain’s statement reads.

“WestJet management and Mr. Poilievre owe passengers and crew an apology,” the statement concludes.

WestJet distances itself from stunt

In a statement on X, WestJet CEO Alex von Hoensbroech played down the event, saying that the plane was mostly filled with delegates that had attended the Conservative Party convention that took place in Quebec City this past weekend.

READ MORE: Poilievre’s rhetoric impresses many, but what about his policies?

At the same time however, he said that WestJet would be reviewing its policy on this issue.
“In response to the impromptu comments of Pierre Poilievre on one of our airplanes. This flight was specifically added to assist with demand for the CPC convention, and was largely filled with their delegates. The leader of the party was given the opportunity to greet delegates onboard (which is not unusual), but this was not a political endorsement nor should it be interpreted as such. We are non-partisan by nature and will revisit our policy on this,” reads von Hoensbroech’s statement on X.

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Categories: F. Left News


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