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Growing calls for Alta. NDP to pursue tougher communications strategy

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 08:37

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley gave a rip-roaring speech to the party faithful in Edmonton Saturday, but a consensus is emerging among the commentariat and many voters that the Opposition party’s communications strategy is failing and time is short to fix it. 

The same day, veteran political commentator Charles Adler, a conservative who has grown disillusioned with the extremist direction taken by Canada’s conservative parties in recent years, took to social media to note polls predicting a United Conservative Party (UCP) majority in Alberta’s May election are probably right. 

“No surprise,” Adler observed tartly. “Danielle Smith’s comms team ruthless & relentless. Rachel Notley’s comms team Lugubrious & Lethargic.”

It may have been a surprise to some readers that a frustrated Brian Mason, leader of the Alberta NDP from 2004 to 2014, immediately noted his agreement. 

“I couldn’t agree more,” Mason tweeted soon after. “If the NDP doesn’t up its comms game immediately, they will lose the election in May. There’s too much at stake to keep fumbling around. Clearly, they need outside help.” (It was Mason who said that, by the way, although he has been reduced to tweeting from @bmasonNDP2 since encountering problems with his original @bmasonNDP Twitter account a few weeks ago.)

“I don’t think there’s a coherent NDP communications strategy,” Mason told me from his retirement home in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. “I’m getting very nervous. They’re showing no signs of an effective communications strategy in the lead-up to the election.”

“You have to define your opponent clearly,” he added, noting that the UCP’s communications staff has been quite successful at putting most of the truly outrageous statements by Premier Smith behind them. 

READ MORE: Notley vows reinvestment in health and education in nomination speech

By contrast, Mason said, “Rachel is one of the NDP’s best assets. She is seen as competent and is well liked. Contrasting her with Smith, who is seen as more extreme and increasingly dishonest, is an obvious comms tactic.

“I’d like the NDP to hit that one hard,” said Mason.

But “the NDP’s focus is all over the place,” Mason continued. “They need to define three or four issues that will move the vote we need to move, and hammer them home repeatedly.”

An example, perhaps, is the “A Better Future for Alberta” signs hoisted by party supporters at Notley’s nomination meeting in Edmonton Saturday.

Readers will recall that Jason Kenney’s successful slogan – “Jobs, Economy, Pipelines” – was repeated relentlessly. As a political message it was powerful and effective, at once defining the newly created UCP as being for those things, and by false but persuasive implication, the NDP as against them, or at least hopelessly ineffective at making progress on those files. 

So, it’s said here, that “Jobs, Healthcare, Education,” would be a more effective NDP catchphrase than “A Better Future,” better though the future might be under Notley’s leadership. 

Read the comments on yesterday’s post on this blog, and you’ll see the same thoughts are in the minds of readers.

“As an NDP supporter I am underwhelmed by what I have seen so far in the party’s public offerings,” says one comment. “To me, the NDP is in a fight for its life as a party and for the future of the province. I find their communications and their strategies so far uninspiring and low key.”

Says another: “At the moment, the worst issue facing Notley and the NDP is themselves. The messaging seems to be off. … None have hammered home the reality that Smith intends to withdraw every single spending initiative (the UCP) reluctantly presented in their last budget.”

Not only is the NDP’s milquetoast messaging coming under fire for its lack of fire, but despite the party’s $7.2-million war chest from record-breaking donations it’s been slow off the mark with the tough campaign required for a non-conservative party to win against Alberta’s skewed electoral math, where conservative rural ridings hold disproportionate power. 

“The whole idea you can wait till the writ dropped to spend any money makes no sense to me,” Mason told me. “You really have to start early!”

“You need to start well before the official campaign to convince people of what your message is,” he explained, and despite raising more money than it ever has before, the NDP has been keeping its powder dry even though the shooting from the other side has already started, setting the UCP’s narrative in the minds of many voters. 

Former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk, a fierce NDP opponent during the 14 years he was MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs, shares Mason’s fears about the damage Premier Smith will do to Alberta if she is given a four-year mandate. 

Lukaszuk said he believes many Progressive Conservatives like himself can be persuaded to vote for the NDP because the prospect of four years of Danielle Smith as premier is so dire, and because NDP Leader Rachel Notley was “a very pragmatic premier” between 2015 and 2019.

Out of politics since he was defeated by the NDP’s Nicole Goehring in 2015, Lukaszuk says “I think I am not the only PC looking at this election knowing there are only two options. And PCs willing to be objective will have a hard time voting for the UCP.”

But to win over those Progressive Conservative voters, Mason’s former rival told me, “the NDP really needs to lay out its policy and convince voters that they are the rational choice.”

“The NDP needs to have a professionally managed communications campaign that personalizes their policies and shows Albertans what the impact of their policies versus UCP policies would be.”

And that needs to start now, he added. “I don’t think it’s too late, although it’s getting to be extremely late.”

Whether many other Progressive Conservatives are willing to publicly back the pragmatic leadership of Notley, as Lukaszuk hopes, remains to be seen. 

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Categories: F. Left News

The federal budget has to fund housing and shelter rights

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 08:12

Home. What does it mean to you?

If you have the opportunity, pick up any child’s book and it will tell you the answer. Or consider the words of this young boy in the film Home Safe Toronto who told Miloon Kothari, the UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing what home means to him:

“When you have a home, it’s exactly like a protection, sort of like a force field from stuff that are dangerous. So, sometimes, when you are homeless…if you know that you’re getting a decent home and you’re going there soon, you kind of get overwhelmed with happiness and that’s what a lot of people want now.”

There are two indisputable rights related to home.

One is that there is a right to housing. The second is that, should personal, environmental, or economic crisis take away your right to housing, you have the right to safe and adequate emergency shelter.

In the academic and intelligentsia world of people and organizations committed to ‘housing for all’ there is a well-developed strategic push to a rights-based approach to housing.

The Advocacy Centre for Tenants in Ontario (ACTO) is a case in point.

“The right to housing is more than simply the right to shelter. Housing is not a commodity. It is a fundamental human right. Everyone should have a right to safe, adequate, and affordable housing,” reads a statement from ACTO.

ACTO’s advocacy has included global work. In 2016 they travelled to Geneva where lawyer Kenneth Hale and Michael Creek, a prominent advocate with lived experience, made the case to the UN Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights on the urgent need for justice on the crisis of homelessness in Canada and the need for the state to recognize housing as a human right.

On the national front ACTO led a group of applicants and served a legal notice on the provincial and federal governments. Their 10,000 pages of evidence demonstrated that governments’ action and inaction violated not only several international treaties and covenants to which Canada is a party, but also violated two sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: section 7, the right to life, liberty and security, and section 15, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis, among others, of race, gender, family status and physical or mental disability.

The case was crushed when the Ontario Superior Court dismissed their Charter challenge in 2013.

ACTO continues to fight locally for this right utilizing public forums, rallies, submissions to government bodies, a coroners’ inquest, even joining legal action against the City of Toronto during the pandemic.

There are notable steps forward in the campaign for a right to housing thanks to the work of ACTO and people like David Hulchanski, Bruce Porter, Leilani Farha and Emily Paradis among others.

In 2017 the federal government announced a national housing strategy.

In 2019 Bill C-97 passed the National Housing Strategy Act which includes the right to housing in law.

In February 2022 the federal government appointed Marie-Josée Houle as the country’s first Federal Housing Advocate.

You will have noticed there has not exactly been a building boom in social housing.

Five years in the federal Auditor General reported numerous problems with the National Housing Strategy including the construction of non-affordable rental housing and minimal accountability to reduce chronic homelessness 50 per cent by the 2027–28 fiscal year.

The second right, the right for shelter has been a long and brutal struggle bookmarked by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee’s (TDRC) declaration that homelessness was a national disaster in 1998 and memorial services held across the country. While not named as a rights-based campaign, it inherently has been exactly that.

Along with TDRC, groups like the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and Le Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) and city-based networks in Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, and Ottawa waged robust and passionate campaigns for shelter. These included inquiries, rallies and marches, testimony to government bodies, occupations, even civil disobedience such as bringing housing into Tent City in Toronto.

In the absence of a national housing program (as opposed to ‘strategy’), homelessness has reached the level of a public health emergency across the country.

Toronto’s Board of Health passed a motion to declare homelessness a public health emergency and open additional 24/7 respite centres. However, the effort was defeated at City Council on what was the last day of John Tory’s reign as mayor.

There is no right to shelter, in law or municipal practice in Canada.

Even a global pandemic did not motivate a response from federal, provincial, or municipal governments to provide funding to fast-track people from shelter or outdoors into safe housing. Instead, there were dribbles of federal money through the Rapid Housing Initiative that resulted in modular housing units, which mostly ghettoize unhoused people.

Furthering concerns about the use of National Housing Strategy dollars, Gaetan Heroux has written in rabble about at least one questionable use of federal COVID housing funds to purchase a building from a developer.

The pandemic laid bare municipal governments’ intransigence by refusing to provide the most basic public health measures for those displaced by eviction or full shelters: public washrooms, fountains turned on in parks, water delivery and garbage pick-up at encampments. Beyond pure neglect was the vile and violent nature of encampment evictions by city officials, unionized civic employees and police in multiple jurisdictions. We all live in Displacement City.

Archaic shelter practices worsened and dehumanized people including seniors, people with disabilities, women, trans individuals, and families with children: bunk beds for 50–60-year-olds (as if they are at camp), families with children forced to sleep in program offices in shelters (and remember for a long period of time in the pandemic schools were closed), no gender separation or privacy in congregate settings. The list goes on.

The ’regular’ shelter system remains inadequately resourced and archaic. A second and lower tier of shelter, or respites that are usually congregate spaces, does not meet UN Standards for Refugee Camps. A third tier, the warming and cooling centres are unambitious efforts that purport to provide shelter. Toronto is poised to bring the volunteer faith based Out of the Cold program (shuttered during the pandemic) back, lowering the bar further – a perfect example of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine metaphor.

The recent campaign in Toronto for more 24/7 respite sites further exposed the malevolence of both politicians, six figure bureaucrats and a super-powered mayor.

The evidence of need is overwhelming: shelters running at 99 per cent capacity, over 100 people per day turned away by the city’s intake line, hundreds living in encampments, warming centres operating at capacity, displaced people seeking refuge in emergency rooms or on public transit.

Everyone can see the problem. It’s a post-apocalyptic scene.

The biggest mobilization of citizens I’ve ever witnessed on this issue took place when emergency room doctors spoke out, thousands of people signed petitions, a faith-based social justice group Stone Soup Network was born and city council chambers were filled for budget day with an organically boisterous crowd.

While Toronto city council voted homelessness was not a public health emergency and there was no need for an additional 24/7 respite, the mobilization forced city council to include funds in the budget for a 24/7 site which is now operating, albeit in an inadequate facility at Metro Hall, the former seat of Metro government. It has no showers, no special comforting amenities. It’s just a room and some cots and it is full.

Over 20 years ago, when I was particularly crushed by the news of yet another homeless person’s death, I spoke to TV reporters at Metro Hall and without thinking said “What do we have to do to get action, bring the body here?”

I was reminded of that when I watched the movie Till, based on the true story of the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi. In the film, Mamie Till-Bradley displays the mutilated body of her murdered son Emmett to the media and public to show the truth and the hate of racism that had killed her son.

20 years later Canada’s policy disgrace of homelessness and housing is visible to all.

Many call that social murder.

I repeat: What do we have to do to get action?

Writer Larry Scanlan answers that question in an op-ed he wrote: “The simple fact is that more of us have to care about the suffering of others for these catastrophic circumstances to change. Where is the groundswell of outrage and anger, the holding of politicians’ feet to the fire?”

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Categories: F. Left News

Loblaw CEO gaslights House committee on excess profits

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 07:46

Jagmeet Singh was tough when he grilled Loblaw CEO Galen Weston III on Wednesday March 8. 

But the New Democratic leader allowed Weston to slip away from one key accusation, to wit, that Loblaw made excess profits of a million dollars per day in 2022.

The key word here is excess. Singh said he got the word and the figure of $1,000,000 from the work of “a professor.” 

Weston pushed back. He “disagreed” with “the professor.” And that was that.

Loblaw’s Weston was appearing before a House of Commons committee to answer questions on food inflation. 

The committee had invited Weston and the heads of two other companies, Empire (which owns the Sobeys chain among other properties) and Metro, to answer questions about food inflation. 

Together with Loblaw, the three corporations dominate the food retail market in Canada.

Members of parliament on the committee suspect those dominant players have driven food costs for Canadian consumers beyond the increases wrought by supply chain disruptions and other factors outside their control. 

Singh sat in for the NDP’s member of the committee, British Columbia MP Alistair McLeod, and chose to focus his attention exclusively on Weston. 

Loblaw is the largest and most profitable of the three companies.

The New Democratic leader kept asking Weston how much profit was “enough,” at a time when many Canadians have trouble paying inflated prices for food.

The Loblaw chief insisted his company’s big profits are not, mostly, a result of food prices. Rather, he argued, Loblaw owes its handsome profits to a spike in prices for pharmaceutical products and other goods and services it offers, such as banking. 

Moreover, Weston added, the profit on what he called a $25-dollar basket of groceries is a mere $1. 

A buck out of $25 doesn’t sound like much, when you put it that way. But it sounds like a lot more when you re-define that one dollar as a four-per-cent profit margin.

Four per cent is not too shabby for a high-volume industry such as grocery retail. 

One economist told this writer he was surprised to learn Loblaw’s profit margin is so high. He had thought it was more in the one-per-cent range.

READ MORE: Economist debunks supermarkets’ claim they’re not profiting from food inflation

Research by respected, non-partisan experts

The unnamed professor to whom Jagmeet Singh referred when questioning Weston is Sylvain Charlebois, an oft-quoted expert who heads the Agri-Food Laboratory at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

And the million-dollar-per-day excess profit number the New Democratic leader cited comes from a study Charlebois co-authored with his colleague Samantha Taylor: “Canadian Grocers – Measuring Greed in the Era of Consumer Distrust.”

The two authors point out that all three grocery chains earned record profits in the first half of 2022, but Loblaw’s were by far the biggest: $436 million. That profit outperformed Loblaw’s best profit of the past five years by a considerable margin, $180 million. 

There are just about 180 days in a half-year period. And so, Charlebois and Taylor were accurate when they concluded the profit-in-excess-of-the-previous-high Loblaw realized in 2022 amounted to, wait for it – $1 million per day.

The Dalhousie researchers note that Loblaw’s quarterly total revenue for 2022 was a whopping $12.9 billion. In that light, a mere million per day in excess profit might not sound like much. 

Weston made allusion to his company’s high volume and total sales in his verbal fencing match with Jagmeet Singh, until he switched gears in frustration and decided to dispute the NDP leader’s figures.

In their study, Charlebois and Taylor also deal with Weston’s claim that his company’s profits are mostly from non-food items and services, by examining Loblaw’s financial statements.

The two authors point out that in Canada publicly listed companies such as Loblaw must report their finances according to a set of rules known as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). 

IFRS rule 8.2 states that in their reports companies may lump together their various activities as long as those “operating segments” have “similar economic characteristics”. 

The IFRS definition of similar, Charlebois and Taylor explain, isn’t vague and open-ended. It is narrow and strict. 

The IFRS stipulates that the various segments of a company must be similar in all respects, which include “the nature of the products, services and production processes, as well as the methods used to distribute the products or provide the services.”

Loblaw chooses to report financial results for all of the products and services it sells in aggregate or bundled form. The company does not report food profits separately from cosmetic or other non-food profits.

Charlebois and Taylor are dubious about this practice, which, they say, quite likely defies IFRS rules:

“We find it interesting that Loblaws can justify food and non-food (healthy, beauty, apparel, and other general merchandise) as a combined operating segment … It is unclear how food retail and drug retail are similar in nature, sales or production.”

Over to the Competition Bureau

So far, no government agency has required of Loblaw that it more scrupulously respect financial reporting standards. The federal Competition Bureau is now looking into multiple aspects of the retail food industry and it might impose such a requirement in the future.

The Bureau will also be interested in the degree to which the three retail behemoths, which sell 80 per cent of grocery products in Canada, collude to control the market. 

One MP on the House committee noted that all three companies had decided on the very same day to end so-called hero pay for employees who had worked through the darkest days of pandemic restrictions.

That looked like collusion to the MP, but the CEOs all said they had reached that decision independently. The Competition Bureau will no doubt take note.

As for food prices, Charlebois and Taylor conclude that they simply lack adequate data to determine the precise extent to which Canadians are paying more for food as a result of the retail giants’ – especially Loblaw’s – excess profits. 

Here’s how the two experts put it: 

“We based our analysis on publicly available data, aggregated such that we will likely never be able to prove or disprove Greedflation amongst Canadian grocers. This will remain the case until they are willing to open their books for additional analysis … We conclude that based on the performance of their gross profit, Loblaw Companies Limited are outperforming even their best gross profit performance in recent years. At the same time, many Canadians face tremendous financial hardship attempting to satisfy their basic needs of heat, shelter, and food.”

It is a pity NDP leader Singh did not haul out this report when Loblaw’s Weston tried to gaslight him and his fellow MPs by dismissing the accurate numbers the NDPer had cited.

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Categories: F. Left News

Alta. regulator & Imperial Oil downplay province’s largest toxic tailings spill

Mon, 03/13/2023 - 09:13

One of the largest toxic tailings spills recorded in Alberta’s history left Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) in a dire situation. On February 4, an overland breach of 5.3 million litres of toxic tailings spilled from the Imperial Kearl mine into the Athabascan watershed.

But the impact of Imperial Oil’s tailing ponds run deeper. Since May 2022, four separate tailing leaks at Imperial’s Kearl mine site have been seeping into the Athabascan watershed, leaving the people of ACFN wondering why they were left in the dark for so long.

“[ACFN are] angry that they’re only finding out about this. The community people literally didn’t know. They’re rushing around to inform the community people that there’s this huge, massive toxic spill that happened,” said Jesse Cardinal, executive director of Keepers of the Water in an interview with

Both Alberta Energy Regulators (AER) and Imperial Oil failed to inform surrounding communities of the imminent danger. Under the impact and benefit agreements made with ACFN, Imperial Oil is obligated to address any adverse effects from industry activities on Indigenous communities.

Official statements from AER and Imperial Oil continued to minimize the environmental impact, claiming that the overland spill did not affect the waterways or any wildlife in the region. According to AER’s statement, Imperial Oil is compliant with the Environmental Protection Order (EPO) that was issued on February 6 to address the overland spill.

“The reality is [that] the peatbogs, marshlands and fens go right into the groundwater systems and into the aquifers in the region. [Imperial Oil] have done no studies to look at how expansive the impacts of this breach were,” said Eriel Deranger, a member of ACFN and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, in an interview with

When ACFN did a flyover of Imperial Kearl mine and the cleanup site, the toxins were still present—they also spotted moose near the site where the oil spill and the ongoing tailing leaks are taking place.

“This raised the alarm bells for the community to ask everyone to ensure that they are not harvesting animals from in and around that region. We are now looking to test any of the harvests that they may have from the last year from the region,” said Deranger.

ACFN raise concerns on traditional food supply and the environmental impact

Traditional food is crucial for Indigenous communities, including ACFN. Hunting and harvest seasons last year-round for ACFN, and Indigenous people have relied on traditional food to keep them healthy ,Cardinal said. But now with the discovery of ongoing tailing breaches since last year, the ecosystem and wildlife living in those areas are possibly compromised.

“That’s the irony in this all is that people don’t fully understand how traditional foods keep us healthy. If you have, like low iron, then you eat the liver of the moose—their     ‘s is different, and so when we eat the organs, there’s a reason why we’re eating them … Our food is our medicine,” said Cardinal.

ACFN are currently in the process of collecting food from the community for further testing.

Again, ACFN and Indigenous communities are left to raise the alarm on the environmental and human impact of tailing ponds despite extensive research noting the risks of these operations.

“We’ve known for decades that tailings are dangerous to the ecosystem and they’re prone to these types of breaches and leaks. There was a call to phase out because of that, a commitment from industry and government to make that happen—and it has not happened,” said Deranger.

A report from AER indicated that oilsands tailing ponds have actually increased by 90 million cubic metres in 2020.

“In fact, the tailings have grown. The incidents are so regular that communities are—we are desensitized to these impacts [when they] happen. That people just like shove it off,” said Deranger.

Trust is broken, once again

Although AER and Imperial Oil have stated they want to improve relations and consultations with Indigenous communities, Cardinal and Deranger have doubts—with their inaction and lack of communication, the damage has already been done.

Now, Deranger has warned about the provincial government’s efforts to amend tailing management policies which would permit industry to dump tailings back into the water system.

“They don’t want to report this stuff or say that it’s a problem because it would affect their ability to examine this legislation that they’re currently trying to push through—and this legislation’s bottom line is to save money for the industry,” said Deranger.

The ongoing tailing leaks at Imperial Kearl mine were swept under the rug by both AER and Imperial Oil—these incidents went largely unnoticed for nine months. In terms of Imperial Oil’s containment and cleanup efforts, they are unsustainable to say the least.

“What’s concerning is what else is happening all over Alberta? It’s become so normalized to contaminate our environment that we have become so disconnected to the land and water—so arrogant that we think that we are above nature that we can just continue contaminating and that it’s going to continue keeping us alive,” said Cardinal.

These continued efforts from industry to subvert Indigenous rights, while putting profit over people is nothing new—and Cardinal is tired of it.

“You get angry and shocked. But now at my age, I see this has been a systematic, ongoing tactic of the government to try and impose their colonial structures and powers on Indigenous people,” said Cardinal. “This has been ongoing in history. That’s literally why we’re alive today because Indigenous people have been on the frontline to push back against genocide for centuries now—we’re still here and we’re going to continue pushing back.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Notley vows reinvestment in health and education in nomination speech

Mon, 03/13/2023 - 08:43

Vowing to reinvest in education, make “bold reforms” necessary to fix health care, and put an end to plans to fire the RCMP and gamble with Albertans’ pensions, NDP Leader Rachel Notley accepted the nomination for her Edmonton-Strathcona riding Saturday. 

More than 1,000 people packed the atrium of the Productivity and Innovation Centre at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton to lustily cheer Notley’s nomination – and her nominators, Raj Pannu, who served as Edmonton-Strathcona’s MLA from 1997 to his retirement in 2008, and seconder Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, the party’s candidate in Edmonton-Rutherford.

Many of the party’s candidates from throughout Alberta were on the stage as well.

By any measure, it was a rousing speech suitable for the start of an election campaign in which, as Notley put it, “the choice in front of Albertans as we head into this election is stark.”

She excoriated Premier Danielle Smith and the record of the United Conservative Party (UCP). 

“Instead of demonizing teachers, firing educational assistants, cutting supports from vulnerable students, and forcing them to learn the most backwards curriculum in 50 years,” she promised, an NDP government would reinvest in classrooms, hire more teachers and educational assistants, and write a better school curriculum than the almost universally criticized version introduced by the UCP. 

And “instead of letting costs for families run out of control like the UCP did when they gave the big car insurance companies permission to jack up your premiums, or when they put in fake relief for the utility prices they allowed to go up, relief that you have to pay back when the polls close, we will do better.

“We will get your insurance costs under control, we will deal with skyrocketing utility rates to bring your costs down now and long after the election,” she said – sometimes barely audible over the cheers from the crowd. 

“Instead of multibillion-dollar handouts for big corporations, Alberta’s NDP will set the policies that draw new investment and create the jobs of the future,” she continued. 

“None of this ‘RStar’ free cash for Danielle Smith’s donors who don’t want to clean up after themselves,” she said. “We will lead our energy industry into the future.”

“Instead of fighting with health care workers and making Albertans pay more for their health care, even as it becomes harder to access, we will make the bold reforms necessary to ensure another million Albertans have access to doctors and family health teams,” Notley said. “Because we know that better health care starts with better primary care. It starts in the doctor’s office.”

“And friends, speaking of health care, only Danielle Smith could look at what’s going on around her and still try to tell Albertans, ‘the crisis is over’! The crisis, over? Seriously? I dare her to look in the eyes of the nurses and support workers on their second mandatory overtime shift, nearing collapse, and tell them the crisis over,” Notley went on to say.

“The truth is,” she added, “Danielle Smith doesn’t have the answers because she’s never spoken to those Albertans … who know what really matters.” How else, she asked, can we explain unpopular UCP schemes like replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force or eliminating the Canada Pension Plan? 

“They won’t say it out loud, but the UCP braintrust is absolutely coming for your pension,” Notley stated. “But, my friends, know this: Alberta’s NDP will be there and we will never let the UCP or Danielle Smith get their hands on it.”

It’s hard to argue with Notley when she says that “when the UCP’s primary campaign strategy is to keep their leader away from the microphone, that’s how you know that you cannot trust her or her party to run this province.

“On all the issues that matter to Albertans in this election – health care, education, affordability, jobs – Danielle Smith is the wrong person to tackle them,” she said. 

Notley described the moment after the NDP’s election loss in 2019 when she decided to stay on as party leader and fight the serial reversal of NDP policies wrought by the UCP, including the right of students to form Gay-Straight Alliances in their schools. The UCP legislation that removed that right was known as Bill 8. 

Said Notley: “It was in the middle of the summer of 2019, not long after the election, when every single UCP MLA, giddy with excitement, walked down the front steps of the Legislature and started splashing around in the fountains as if they were the cast of Friends!” 

The photo appeared on the screen behind her. 

“Looks like they’re having fun, right? Folks, let me tell you, these are the faces of the UCP about 30 minutes after they passed ‘Bill Hate’ and removed the right for kids to form a GSA at school,” Notley said. “This is how your UCP Government celebrated the decision to end protections against bullying for children who just needed a place to feel safe! And, my friends, that lit a fire in me!”

Albertans are better than this, Notley asserted, and “New Democrat values are Alberta values …”

New Democrats, she said, believe “that public education is the great equalizer. “And that public health care is something to be cherished, improved, and protected, at all cost. “That in a fair and prosperous economy, every single worker deserves fair pay, fair benefits, a safe workplace and fair representation.” (None of the dire predictions about the $15 minimum wage introduced by the NDP came true, she noted.) 

“And, finally, we believe in respect for the dignity and human rights that each and every one of us was born with. Those are our values, and those are Alberta values,” Notley concluded. 

NOTE: Click here to hear my recording of Notley’s nomination acceptance speech. Sound quality is imperfect and applause at times makes it difficult to hear what she is saying. Nevertheless, most of it is there. DJC

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Categories: F. Left News

Environment minister: Alta. regulator’s inaction on spill “worrisome”

Mon, 03/13/2023 - 08:27

Ottawa can afford to speak softly on constitutional matters because it carries a big stick.

Readers following the federal reaction to the constitutional nonsense, starting with the Smith Government’s so-called Sovereignty Act and now seeping into new legislation emanating from Alberta these days know that the feds are unfailingly polite and emphasize Ottawa’s willingness to try to work with the United Conservative Party (UCP) government for the good of all. 

After all, no one in the federal government wants to give Premier Danielle Smith an opportunity to crow about getting up their nose.

Still, while federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault spoke softly Thursday about the Alberta Energy Regulator’s disgraceful nine months of silence about the flow of toxic sludge from Imperial Oil Resources Ltd.’s Kearl oilsands mine 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, there was a hint of steel in his remarks. 

Guilbeault called AER’s failure to report the pollution to Environment Canada, or to the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation that are most impacted by the risk from the spill of water containing arsenic, dissolved metals and hydrocarbons, “very worrisome,” which has to be in the running for understatement of the year. 

“For over half a year, the Alberta regulator did not communicate with Environment and Climate Change Canada, nor did they communicate with the Indigenous nations,” Guilbeault told media in Ottawa Thursday. Alberta has an agreement with Ottawa that all such incidents must be reported to Environment and Climate Change Canada within 24 hours, he said. 

No such thing happened. Last month, there was an additional release of 5.3 million litres of polluted water from an overflow of an industrial wastewater storage pond. The AER has now placed non-compliance and environmental protection orders on the company. 

Both First Nations say their members harvested food on Crown land near the ongoing release of pollution without knowing about the hazards because nobody bothered to tell them. This makes the public silence of the oil company, the AER and the provincial ministers responsible for the energy and environment portfolios all the more deplorable. 

“Our systems are failing Indigenous peoples, clearly,” Guilbeault said. “And we need to find solutions.”

For her part, Alberta Environment Minister Sonya Savage, who was energy minister at the time the flow of wastewater from the Kearl mine began, claimed in a statement late last week that she and Premier Smith had only been briefed on the situation by the AER “in the last 24 hours.” 

If that’s so, that’s yet another shocking aspect to this story and suggests that the system is so full of holes the AER is barely capable of doing its nominal job. 

“Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault was offered a briefing today by our government but did not take that opportunity prior to releasing his statement on the matter,” Savage’s March 3 statement continued huffily. If true, you can hardly blame him. 

So where’s Ottawa’s quietly carried big stick, you wonder?

Listen carefully to Guilbeault’s remarks: “We can’t investigate what we don’t know. There are many problems with this, but we can’t send enforcement officers to do water sampling if we don’t know that there’s a leak, and if we’re not notified as per our agreement that we have to be notified within 24 hours.” (Emphasis added.)

These words have the sound of being carefully chosen. Ever so politely and indirectly, the minister is saying: We know Alberta cannot be trusted to keep its agreements. And B.S. unconstitutional legislation like the Sovereignty Act and changes to trespassing legislation will not stop federal officials from doing their jobs.

As University of Calgary environmental law professor Martin Z. Olszynski has pointed out on social media and in media interviews, changes planned by the UCP to the Petty Trespass Act and the Trespass to Premises Act supposedly intended make it an offence for federal inspectors – say of toxic spills sites in Alberta – are just performative pish-posh. 

Here’s the thing: As Professor Olszynski put it succinctly in a tweet, “In the event of a conflict between valid federal and provincial laws, the federal law is deemed paramount. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.”

That is to say, in well-established federal constitutional law, the doctrine of federal paramountcy says that where there is conflict between provincial and federal laws, “the federal law will prevail and the provincial law will be inoperative to the extent that it conflicts with the federal law.” It’s the same deal in the U.S. Constitution, and Australia’s too, in case you were wondering. 

Federal paramountcy applies to laws in which compliance with the both laws is impossible, but also with legislation where the provincial law is incompatible with the purpose of the federal law, thereby frustrating the federal Parliament’s intention. 

This is clearly the intention of both Alberta’s proposed trespass legislation and its ridiculous new Firearms Act. Supposedly the latter, Bill 8, allows Alberta’s justice minister to enact regulations about how federal law is administered in Alberta.

Alas for Alberta, in the unlikely even it ever actually tries to enforce this performative legislation, provinces can’t just wish federal regulatory regimes away.

As Olszynski told me, the Supreme Court if Canada has already confirmed that firearms regulation is valid criminal law. “The province can try pass its own law based on property and civil rights, but even if that’s successful, if there is conflict with the federal law (e.g. these guns are banned), federal laws prevail.”

It’s the same deal, as he told the Canadian Press, with the trespass laws if they’re used to try to keep federal inspectors from trying to carry out their lawful duties.

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Categories: F. Left News

Women who are leading the way in addressing toxic workplace culture

Mon, 03/13/2023 - 07:47

I saw the beginning of 2023 started out for three strong resilient and intelligent professional women like past years did perhaps for others like them – speaking up and against toxic workplace cultures. On January 19, 2023, Jacinda Ardern, shocked the citizens of New Zealand and many of us around the world by announcing her resignation. In her dignified style she referenced exhaustion among other reasons for her decision.

 “I know what this job takes and I don’t have enough left in the tank,” she said. 

Later in the month, Whitney Sharpe, a Sales Executive, posted a video on TikTok that went viral as she calmly called-out a vendor for “locker-room talk” about her during a business meeting. Topping off the month of January 2023 was American Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), who skillfully articulates her views on “the racism and incitement of violence against women of colour in this body”.

There are many women like AOC who show-up for work dealing with toxic workplace cultures, there are many like Whitney Sharpe that display courage in calling out harassing behaviour, and there are those like Prime Minister Ardern who know when their capacity is compromised and decide it’s time to leave. As a racialized woman who has two careers: co-raising two humans and working in the People & Culture/Human Resources space, my heart sometimes aches from reading and experiencing toxic workplace cultures, it is sometimes afraid for individuals newly entering the workforce, and sometimes my heart is angry and simply fed-up – how is it that these toxic workplace environments still exist? 

What is a toxic workplace environment? 

In order to unpack this beast of toxicity at work, a definition is handy. A toxic workplace environment is a specific recipe of norms and behaviours which result in people feeling and being psychologically unsafe, bullied, harassed, discriminated against, isolated, and stressed. 

In toxic workplace environments employees consistently experience negative behaviours, attitudes and interactions; examples include gaslighting, gossip, micromanagement, and favouritism. 

Toxic workplace environments can also be caused by lack of capacity or resources, unrealistic expectations and lack of trust within teams or between management and employees. They are literally the polar opposite of humanity, inclusion, and belonging at work. I believe there are three core ingredients – what I consider to be the underbelly – that contribute to toxic workplaces environments: systemic discrimination, condonation, and espoused values versus enacted values. 

Systemic Discrimination 

Systemic discrimination is deeply rooted behavioural patterns, policies and practices that result in favorable outcomes for one group of people while unfavorable outcomes for others. Also known as ‘institutional discrimination’ it’s possibly the most significant contributor to a toxic workplace environment. Why? Because, when something is ‘systemic’ is pervasive – it’s in every nook and cranny of a workplace and worse it’s wreaking havoc on and causing harm to employees. 


When nothing is said, when excuses are made, when ‘group-think’ results in group-behaviour and is not called out, condonation is in full-affect. Defined as accepting an employee’s behaviour, condonation shows up not addressing the behaviour immediately, allowing an employee to remain in their position even after misconduct has been proven, or when an employer fails to “discipline employees who have engaged in similar conduct“. The point being that tolerating, allowing, or not consistently addressing behaviours that are resulting in toxic workplace environments is irresponsible. In fact, employers have a moral and legal obligation to provide safeguards for employees that cultivate workplace environments that are safe and free from bullying, harassment, violence and discrimination. 

Espoused Versus Enacted Values 

Espoused values are the ones that an organization publicly professes through such things as  mission or vision statements, statements of intent, or manifestos. Enacted values, on the other hand, are the values that are actually practiced or demonstrated. They are the values that are reflected in the actions and decisions of all employees regardless of title or role.   

In other words, espoused values are what organizations say they believe in, while enacted values are what they actually do or demonstrate through their actions.Toxic workplace environments will exist when espoused values do not align with enacted values. 

What’s Needed to Dismantle Toxic Workplace Environments 

As I’ve stated above, organizations have a moral and legal obligation to create a safe and healthy work environment with and for employees. The ‘with’ is important folks – take a “nothing for us without us” approach and be truly collaborative with employees. Listen to them and incorporate what they have to say. Take a proactive approach to identifying and addressing potential issues that could lead to a toxic workplace environment. Some strategies include: 

  • Cultivate a clear and positive workplace culture: This includes setting clear expectations for behavior, promoting positive communication, and recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work. It can also include zero-tolerance policies and ‘real-deal’ enacted values. 
  • Encourage and model open communication: Employees should feel comfortable discussing their concerns with their managers without fear of retribution. Regular check-ins, pulse-check surveys, and focus groups can help management to identify areas of concern and work to improve them.
  • Provide learning experiences for all employees (again regardless of title or role). Everyone is responsible for humanity in the workplace. Training that not only elevates employee emotional intelligence should be balanced with training on acceptable behavior in the workplace, how to recognize toxic behavior, and what to do when it occurs.
  • Follow existing legislation and be mindful of jurisprudence while implementing policies and procedures that are specific to your organization: Clear policies and procedures should be in place to address issues such as bullying, discrimination, and harassment. In Canada all provinces have workers compensation entities who provide fabulous guidance in these areas. Employees should be aware of these policies and procedures and have a clear understanding of the consequences of violating them. 
  • Provide support for employees: This includes providing access to resources such as employee assistance programs, mental health services, and flexible work arrangements.

Stagnant mindsets and ignorance are contributing to toxic workplace environments, but the workforce is changing and demanding better. Outside of using common sense, human rights exist for a reason and must be taken to heart. And if nothing else, remember the words of the legendary Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

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Categories: F. Left News

Anthology explores how sex work intersects with conventional jobs

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 09:41

Sex workers, the vast majority of whom are women, are stigmatized and devalued by society for the work that they do. When they try to move into other careers, their new lines of work are often devalued and their only choice seems to be to keep doing sex work to supplement their income.

In a new anthology, sex workers write about their transition out of sex work into mainstream jobs, reflecting on how their past experiences in sex work informed their views on joining the conventional workplace.

In January, I wrote about how sex workers are represented in mainstream feminist Canadian literature. Today, I’m going to discuss sex workers speaking for themselves in the anthology Working It: Sex Workers on the Work of Sex, edited by Matilda Bickers with peech breshears and Janis Luna. The book is both edited and written by current or former sex workers.

The contributors are taking back the narrative. We are so often imagined by others, and while there are some great representations of sex workers in mainstream literature, they are few and far between. For every When we Lost our Heads, there are at least five books that reduce us to one-dimensional characters. Nothing beats lived experience. This is especially true when the writing is about marginalized communities.

The collection includes poems, interviews, essays, and even some visual art! The topics are also wide-ranging — we learn what it’s like to be an Indigenous survivor of the foster-care system in Sudbury, who aged out of the system and started sex work. We hear about sex workers’ first realizations that they can use their bodies and charm to make money and earn a living. We learn about what it’s like to come from a long line of sex workers. We get a history lesson in stripper labour organizing in the U.S.

Although the contributions cover a variety of subjects, the stories about transitioning out of sex work will be my focus for this review.

Who can afford to retire?

While there isn’t a lot of research about sex workers “retiring,” there is a theory that sex workers don’t retire in the same way that other workers do. If you’re a banker or a teacher, you get a party with a sheet cake and start collecting your pension. While some sex workers retire, never to return, many of us retire partially or very gradually. This could mean only dancing once in a blue moon when you’re busy with a day job or not taking any new clients.

In this book, many of the contributors went back to sex work for money to live on while doing clinical placements in school — there are jokes about the social-work-student-to-sex-work pipeline. Others moved on to nursing or care work; both also require unpaid clinical placements. All of these jobs are traditionally coded as women’s work.

I believe that all tuition should be free, to encourage low-income and otherwise marginalized folks to pursue education and graduate without student debt. I also firmly believe that all students on placements and internships should be paid at least minimum wage, and ideally a living wage. But unfortunately, our neoliberal capitalist system doesn’t agree with me.

It seems like traditionally male occupations pay their students — most apprentices in the skilled trades are paid, as are engineering students. But future teachers, nurses, social workers and other health-care professionals (with the exception of doctors, who were traditionally male) are expected to work for free for a thousand-plus hours and still pay for the pleasure in tuition fees.

In Waiting to be Rescued from my Office Job (the title itself is a sarcastic jab at prohibitionists who want to “rescue” sex workers), Emily Warfield writes about her job as a legal secretary. She’s of the opinion that the 9-5 grind slowly kills you and I agree! She misses having free time for herself; now she only has a couple of hours in the evening to eat dinner and prepare for the next day. The boredom and monotony of never-ending spreadsheets and the literal backache she gets from her office job grind away at her sense of self.

She’s looking forward to going back to school and becoming a social worker, but to pay her bills during placements she’s going back to sex work, because it’s a job that fits her life in a way that few jobs do. Janis, one of the book’s editors, replies with her own story: she turned to sex work to pay for grad school because her job as a youth counsellor for LGBTQ+ students didn’t pay a living wage.

Sex work and emotional labour

How I Ended Up Being a Social Worker at the Veterans Administration, a conversation with Eden, was the piece that I felt most personally. Like Eden, who worked at a strip club close to Fort Hood, I also spent years working at a strip club close to a military base in small-town Ontario. Like her, I noticed a lack of mental health supports for soldiers, and while dancing for these men, I sometimes took on an informal counsellor role.

It’s heartbreaking to dance for a 19-year-old boy, who grew up in the Maritimes with no real job prospects so he joined the army. Only this Saturday, he has fear in his eyes because on Monday he learns what war zone they’re shipping him off to. I took off his baseball cap and kissed his forehead. I told him I’m a good witch and my kiss will protect him. He was comforted.

I’ve also seen men and boys who came back and their eyes told me they saw things in Iraq or Afghanistan that they couldn’t unsee. Like Eden, I think those conflicts were bullshit “wars” that were really about imperialist attempts to control the global oil supply.

There were, of course, times when I told soldiers that I’m not qualified to give advice, but I’m happy to listen. But in my heart, I was mad about it. Why am I doing unlicensed emotional labour when this should be the military’s job? Why are women always left to pick up the pieces?

Eden eventually retires from dancing and becomes a social worker who works with soldiers and veterans. As time passes, she’s unable to reconcile helping soldiers while knowing that although they are often from vulnerable backgrounds, part of being a soldier involves going to places with even more vulnerable people and inflicting trauma on them.

No such thing as unskilled work

The piece Intimate Labor by Matilda Bikers was my favourite. It is so well written! She begins by talking about her “maddening hobby,” which is to ask “civilians” (what we often call non-sex workers), mainly strip club customers, what amount of money it would take for them to give a lap dance. The sums are always absurdly high, and it seems like the drunk patrons who try to get on stage and spin around the pole don’t understand the concept of actual stripper math — which entails converting your $100 hydro bill into five dances, the duration of 15 to 20 minutes of non-stop lap dancing, if you dance $100 worth of $20 lap dances for one client.

I’ve had versions of this conversation with my civilian friends when they tell me they’re broke and want to get into sex work. They fail to understand that their idea of sex work is more of an erotic fantasy than actual work. You can’t magically conjure up a series of regular, respectful clients. They don’t understand when I tell them that scenario entails kissing many frogs and that kind of clientele takes years to build.

Bickers moves on from dancing into full-service sex work, then into care work. She denounces the idea that sex work and care work are unskilled jobs. And I agree with her: the barriers to entry into both are relatively low, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of skill to do the job.

At her care work job, she has a particularly gross and boundary-pushing patient who sexually harasses her while she changes his diaper. Her male supervisor gaslights her when she brings it up, in the same way that many club managers often dismiss strippers’ complaints about difficult customers. She finds herself doing math in her head, asking how much money she could charge this boundary-pushing patient if he was her client and she was a sex worker. Would she even want to take this man as a client?

A while back, I read a series of open letters in support of sex workers written by mainstream feminist organizations in the 1970s, which denounced the violence sex workers face. The letters are called “All the Work We do as Women.” Since then, that phrase has been in the back of my thoughts.

Sex workers are pursuing education, we are volunteering and doing community work, we are caring for our children and sick relatives. Sex work is a way to have the time to do all these things and still have time to rest and pay your bills.

It’s not us who should face widespread stigma and condemnation — what should be condemned and criticized is a system that devalues all the work we do as women.

The book is all sorts of amazing, with beautifully written firsthand accounts of what it’s like to be a sex worker and how sex work informs workers’ outlook on conventional jobs they have later in life. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore to buy Working It: Sex Workers on the Work of Sex!

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Categories: F. Left News

Pay transparency is not enough to close the gender pay gap

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 08:19

It is hard to understand why the B.C. government is so reluctant to enact pay equity legislation. Other provinces did this a long time ago, and they are much better than B.C. in having lower gender pay gaps.

The B.C. government tabled new legislation, the 2023 Pay Transparency Act, and says it will move the province toward pay equity. Why not just do it? Rather, B.C.’s government is inching forward in closing the horrendous gender pay gap in tiny, little steps.

Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity Kelli Paddon says, “People deserve equal pay for equal work.” Indeed they do, but as she should know, B.C. has had equal pay legislation since 1969 (the last province to get it), and it hasn’t worked. That’s because equal pay basically means being paid the same for the same job and, since the labour force is largely divided by gender, and men and women perform different jobs, the legislation is ineffective.

That is why other jurisdictions have turned to pay equity, which evaluates labour according to “equal pay for work of equal value” within an establishment. This equal value is recognized on the basis of the skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions of the job. Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick enacted this legislation in the 1980s, and Quebec in the 1990s. The federal government has had some version of it since 1977.

All jurisdictions in the world that have pay transparency enacted pay equity legislation first. That is important, as has been noted by the OECD and the ILO, because only with pay equity do workers have recourse to address discriminatory pay.

B.C.’s gender pay gap is big and ties with Alberta as being the largest in the country. The government says it’s 16.7 per cent, which means women earn 83 cents for every dollar a man earns. The gap is undoubtedly bigger if all working women are considered.

The point of pay transparency is to have businesses of a certain size report about their differences in pay by gender in specific groupings. The hope is that companies that perform poorly will be either enlightened and then be motivated to perform better, or embarrassed, something that also might force a reconsideration of pay differences. That’s it — no new legislation to make companies pay women and men the same for comparable work.

The big problem is that once people know their company discriminates, there isn’t much they can do about it. They might individually be able to make a legal case (if they have the skill and money to do it), but they can do that already with equal pay laws. The difference between pay transparency and pay equity is that with pay equity employers are required to fix big pay discrepancies through pro-active measures.

When the B.C. government was having consultations on pay transparency in the autumn of 2022, it floated the idea that other groups might be included because, as is well-known, wage inequality is greater for Indigenous people, those with disabilities, and those identified by racialization, ethnicity, or religious affiliations. That inclusive language is not in the new legislation.

There are some welcome features in the new legislation, such as prohibiting employers from firing people if they talk about their wages with other employees, and in prohibiting employers from demanding pay history from someone applying for a job. But these are things that could easily have been put in Employment Standards Legislation by the minister of labour years ago.

The B.C. government certainly has done things for women that are important, including reducing child-care costs, increasing the minimum wage, and most recently making prescription contraception free of costs. All of these actions recognize the need to support women’s work. That is why it’s so hard to understand the reluctance to enact pay equity. Since Ontario enacted pay equity legislation 35 years ago, B.C. has had four NDP governments, and still no pay equity.

The 2023 Pay Transparency Act is a serious opportunity missed. Considering the slow pace expected for getting this legislation up and running, it’s unlikely that pay equity will occur before the next election.

This article was originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

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Categories: F. Left News

Premier won’t commit to help Edmonton mayor with city’s social woes

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 08:06

Danielle Smith’s office doesn’t really seem to have put a lot of effort into describing the Alberta premier’s meeting Tuesday with Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

Smith was accompanied to her gab session with the mayor of Edmonton by three Calgary MLAs, the ministers of municipal affairs, community and social services, and mental health and addiction.

Rebecca Schulz, Jeremy Nixon and Nicholas Milliken were supposedly responding to Sohi’s carefully documented concerns about the short end of the stick that Alberta’s capital city gets compared to Calgary when it comes to provincial social services funding.

We can’t really fault Schulz, Nixon and Milliken for being from Calgary, since the only United Conservative Party (UCP) minister from Edmonton is the only elected MLA from the city: Kaycee Madu, MLA for Edmonton-South West, minister for skilled trades and professions, and one of Ms. Smith’s redundant deputy premiers.

This does raise an interesting question, though. Where the heck was the only minister from Edmonton when this important meeting with Edmonton’s mayor took place? 

Sohi put his concerns in a long and well documented letter to the premier making the case that, “compared to Calgary, Edmonton receives lower financial and service support, despite experiencing significantly greater social pressures and challenges.”

“Edmontonians facing houselessness, mental health illnesses, and the drug poisoning crisis require a more immediate and robust response,” he wrote. “The effect is particularly profound for Indigenous peoples and the unhoused population who are disproportionately and severely impacted by drug poisonings and houselessness. 

“The underinvestment in tackling these issues not only have a human cost, but severely impact businesses and organizations operating in the Downtown core and other business districts impacted by the social disorder,” the mayor’s letter added, putting the responsibility for the deplorable state of the Alberta Capital’s downtown where it belongs, on the level of government that calls the shots, has the bucks, and is responsible for mental health, homelessness and the drug crisis.

This is particularly striking when we look at the UCP’s February 28 budget. The province appears to be awash in cash, which is being directed in greater volume toward Calgary, the electoral battleground in the May 29 provincial election. 

Well, at least the presence of the ministerial trio, especially in the absence of Madu, is a back-handed admission of this responsibility. 

In addition to publishing a cheerful photo, sans Nixon, on the government’s website, someone from the Premier’s Office penned a 137-word collection of anodyne platitudes, plus a reflexive complaint about high city property taxes, for the website. Well, make that 171 words if you count the wordy sub-head.

Whether this was supposed to be a news release, a policy statement by the premier, or something else is not completely clear. It was mysteriously labelled a “readout,” whatever that means, in its headline. 

In response to Sohi’s seven specific and quite clearly defined requests for provincial funds to alleviate the triple crisis dogging Edmonton, there was nothing in the response. 

The statement from Smith’s office concluded with a homework assignment, perhaps in hopes of making Sohi stop complaining. “Premier Smith committed to working with the city of Edmonton on the issues they raised, but identified the need for detailed plans to address their specific asks.” (Emphasis added.)

This is just a mildly rude way of saying, you do our work, please, so we can put off making it obvious we’re not going to do anything for Edmonton until the election’s out of the way. 

As befits a former member of the federal Liberal cabinet, Mayor Sohi took a page from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strategy book and responded politely, calling the meeting, his first with the premier, “very positive,” and saying “I feel that we were heard and at the end of the meeting.”

Meanwhile, presumably, the province will continue to use its “Public Safety and Community Response Task Force” made up of political allies on Edmonton City Council and UCP supporters like Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee to try to undermine the mayor.

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Categories: F. Left News

When “Multicultural Day” targets some cultures for rejection

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 07:36

In an effort to promote cultural awareness, Halifax’s Park West School recently organized an event where students were invited to dress in ways that represented their ancestral culture(s).

Considering that the school website boasts of being “one of the most multicultural schools east of Montreal; with almost 60 countries represented in our school community,” the event seemed like a great idea.

It is worth noting that the school website also asserts, “We are rich in diversity.  We respect, value, and celebrate diversity in all its forms.  […] We offer students a nurturing environment in which to learn and grow in a culture of acceptance.”

Evidently, the website failed to mention that the said celebration and acceptance do not apply to students of Palestinian ancestry.

This became clear when several Palestinian-Canadian students chose to don the Palestinian traditional scarf, or keffiyeh during this activity. Instead of being “celebrated” and “accepted” in a “nurturing environment,” these kids were accused of wearing something “representing war colours.”

This accusation came directly from the school principal, Ms. Benedette Anyanwu, who told students to remove their keffiyehs. Students who did not respect the administration’s admonishments to remove the keffiyehs were told to report to the principal’s office.

Anyanwu’s act of accusing teenagers of wearing “war colours” simply because they wore a keffiyeh is a textbook example of anti-Palestinian racism. Such acts contribute to the erasure of Palestinian culture and history in Canadian learning institutions.

READ MORE: Multicultural day at Halifax school, except for Palestinians

Associating the keffiyeh with the term “war colours” denotes not only abject ignorance and cultural insensitivity, but the most hurtful of stereotyping for Palestinian-Canadians. The term “war colours” evokes aggression, violence and, let’s be honest, terrorism. These kids do not deserve to be accused of such nonsense by their school principal. The Palestinian-Canadian students in Halifax are there because their families fled or were forced to flee their homeland in Palestine at the hands of Israel’s military.

Had Anyanwu or other Park West School staff bothered to do the minimum of research, they would have found that the keffiyeh has a rich cultural tradition going back centuries that has nothing to do with war. Anyanwu should also know that many cultural symbols – including the red poppies that many Canadian wear in November – literally are symbols of war, and that this alone does not qualify them for condemnation. 

The incident comes on the heels of another anti-Palestinian incident in a Canadian school. Late last year, during a Holocaust education event, a guest lecturer at Montreal’s Westmount High School told students that allegations of Palestinian abuse at the hands of Israelis are “a bunch of crap,” and “big fat lies.” The guest-speaker, an American private investigator, added that Israel is “doing everything but abusing the Palestinians.”

These are not isolated incidents. They are reflective of a pervasive and institutionalized anti-Palestinian racism in Canada. Whether it’s spewing misinformation or, in the case of Halifax’s Park West School, making kids feel ashamed and rejected by banning and slandering the keffiyeh, these incidents should be recognized for what they are: outright racism.

The Arab-Canadian Lawyers Association provided a rigorous definition of anti-Palestinian racism in its  landmark report in 2022. It describes anti-Palestinian racism (APR) as “a form of anti-Arab racism that silences, excludes, erases, stereotypes, defames or dehumanizes Palestinians or their narratives.” Among the examples they cite include is “Defaming Palestinians and their allies with slander such as being inherently antisemitic, [or] a terrorist threat.”

After issuing a sincere apology to the students and the Palestinian-Canadian community, Park West School and the Halifax Regional Center for Education (HRCE) should work to incorporate provisions prohibiting anti-Palestinian racism in their equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) frameworks.

While institutional equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) principles must incorporate anti-Palestinian racism, Park West School and the HRCE should recognize that even the most rigorous EDI policy will fail if rooted in ignorance.  The institutions should heed the assertion on Park West School’s own Diversity Policy, which states, “Knowledge generates understanding and understanding generates acceptance.”

After Anyanwu has reviewed the EDI frameworks of her employer, I invite here to Google the word Keffiyeh and do some reading for a few hours.  After that, she can reward herself at the local shwarma shop with some falafel and hummus. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Spies: catch them if you can and punish them if it’s illegal

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 06:40

I’m mystified by the extensive deference and respect for the spies and security agencies responsible for the leaks in the China election interference inferno.

Doesn’t anyone know the record of “trained security professionals?” They missed the crack-up of the Soviet empire, 9/11 and Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

They got Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan wrong. In their British heyday they missed many double agents, then the traitors themselves regretted defecting. Up here they facilitated Maher Arar’s utterly unjustified abduction and torture. They didn’t do so well on the Ottawa convoy either.

It isn’t equivalent to surgery or plumbing, it’s more like consulting. Anyone can do it and no one knows what it really is. If Canadian spies were any good, they’d have anticipated Meng Wanzhou’s arrest and found a way to prevent her flying into Vancouver, so avoiding the Two Michaels. That would’ve been useful.

On the issue of a public inquiry, I’m agnostic. Why agnostic? Because everyone agrees everyone tries to influence everyone else’s elections. Canada did it in Venezuela and, appallingly, in Honduras. The U.S. does it everywhere, especially Ukraine. China does it here.

So the point isn’t to find out if they do it. They did. It’s to catch them if you can and punish them if it’s illegal. That would suggest it’s a policing issue, not an inquiry. Put the right cops onto it and stamp it out, wasting no time.

On the other hand, if Justin Trudeau is possibly a Chinese double agent intent on creating a “communist dictatorship” here, as Pierre Poilievre came close to saying in the House this week, that’d definitely be stuff for an inquiry.

There’s much murk here.

It’s not always clear when the reporters at the Globe and Mail or Global TV, who were shown but couldn’t keep the leaked items, paraphrase what they saw or suddenly quote from the documents. Or even the precise nature of the documents that the reporters did see.

The Globe and Mail reporters say China “uses Canadian organizations to advocate on their behalf,” though that would be normal for Ukraine or Israel. Then they write, “while obfuscating links” to China. But who’s being quoted here?

Elsewhere, CSIS seems to be paraphrasing Vancouver’s Chinese consul when it mentions “China’s efforts to influence” voters. But it’s unclear if CSIS then directly quotes the consul saying those efforts worked “while still adhering to the local political customs.” And even that wouldn’t necessarily imply law-breaking.

By contrast, claims about illicit campaign funding seem straightforward and should lead to charges.

What I found most distressing personally are reports, in the Star, about Chinese officials intimidating people here — such as Uyghurs, who work on human rights issues in China — via threats to their families back there. That seems to jibe with what’s known about China’s genocidal policies in Xianjing. I don’t know if it’s illegal. I hope so. Still, it has nothing to do with Canadian elections.

This leaves a question about why China’s actions provoke such an intense response compared to others’.

This week Liberal MP John McKay called China “an existential threat to Canada” out to “turn us all into vassal states.” McKay reflects an era when there was a stronger right wing in the Liberal party. He belongs to a global group called the “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.” Needless to say (whataboutism alert) there is no Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on the U.S., though it has about 800 foreign military bases while China has one.

The Yellow Peril was a common term used in the 19th century by leaders like Germany’s Kaiser and reputable academics. It survives in Trump’s use of Kung Flu and other detritus. As someone said, the balloon didn’t help.

These currents then play into the quite separate, genuine distress Canadians felt over the Michaels, which wouldn’t even have happened but for the ineptitude of the government and our “professional” security geniuses.

These are devious waters we’re attempting to negotiate. No one’s good will should be taken for granted.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

Providing abortion care in prison and the need for universal contraception coverage

Fri, 03/10/2023 - 06:30

This week on rabble radio, national politics reporter Stephen Wentzell is joined by Dr. Martha Paynter. Paynter last joined rabble radio in June of 2022 to talk about the misconceptions people have about access to abortion in Canada and the other threats facing reproductive justice in the country. Today, Wentzell and Paynter discuss a new guidebook for providing abortion care in prison, a new jail facility being built in N.B., and the need for universal contraception coverage in N.S.

Dr. Martha Paynter is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of New Brunswick. She is the affiliate scientist for the Nova Scotia Women’s Choice Clinic. In addition to this, she is the founder and past chair of Wellness Within: An Organization for Health and Justice. She is also the author of Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada.

Join us for Off the Hill this month

The federal budget for 2023 is soon to be announced. Who decides the budget? Who influences it? And where does all that money go? Last year’s budget was aimed at growing the economy in Canada and making life more affordable and equitable. But did it? Our guests will dissect these questions and more in our Off the Hill panel this month.

Guests include MP Leah Gazan, rabble columnist and policy researcher Chuka Ejeckam, economist David Macdonald and rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg. Hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies.

Save your spot for this free event today! Join us this March 23, 2023, 7:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM PT.

Advocating for Palestine in Canada, book webinar

Through the experiences of the contributing authors, Advocating for Palestine in Canada offers a first-hand view into the complex social and historical forces at work in one of the world’s most urgent issues, and one which also has huge implications for freedoms enjoyed by Canadians.

This webinar will feature contributing authors from the book to share their unique views and wide experiences on advocating for Palestine in Canada, revealing a solid civil society movement in the face of strong institutional opposition. Our panelists share how they came to Palestine activism, why they continue and where they see the movement going.

Save your spot for this event here.

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

The power and promise of International Women’s Day

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 12:44

March 8, International Women’s Day, arrived not a day too soon, as women, half the world’s human population, still endure varying degrees of oppression, violence, inequality and discrimination.

This day’s living history is steeped in struggle and celebration; a day when women protest with courage and tenacity. From the Taliban to Texas, men wield words and weapons to subjugate women. Solidarity and action, to protect and liberate women, are needed now more than ever.

Systemic oppression of women may be worst in Afghanistan. Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, calls the Taliban’s treatment of women “tantamount to gender apartheid.” In an update to the UN Human Rights Council on March 6, Bennett said, “The Taliban’s intentional and calculated policy is to repudiate the human rights of women and girls and to erase them from public life…authorities can be held accountable.”

That same day, in a remarkably brave protest, Afghan women held a “read-in”: sitting on the ground outside Kabul University, they opened books and began reading, defying the Taliban’s ban on education for women and girls.

“Those women who protested yesterday in Kabul know what they’re facing…they might be killed,” Zahra Nader said on the Democracy Now! news hour. She is an Afghan-Canadian journalist and editor-in-chief of Zan Times, a media outlet that covers human rights in Afghanistan.

“They are still willing to take that risk, because that is what’s going to bring them hope. This is a fight for them, to resist…even if that comes at the cost of their own lives.”

Next to Afghanistan, in Iran, nationwide protests continue, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody last September 16. Amini was arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police, accused of not wearing her hijab properly.

The Iranian government has responded to the protests with a harsh crackdown, arresting thousands. Four men have been publicly executed so far, simply for protesting. Fourteen more face execution, according to Amnesty International.

Now, a wave of apparent poisonings has struck Iranian girls’ schools. At least 290 schools have been targeted, affecting no less than 7,000 students.

“These horrific chemical attacks on girls’ schools…have to be understood as a punishment against women and girls who have been leading this nationwide revolt for several months now,” Manijeh Moradian, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Barnard College said on Democracy Now!

“In response, people have been protesting. The national teachers’ union called for nationwide strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations. This is a nation in revolt.”

March 8 is significant in modern Iranian history. The Iranian Revolution ousted the brutal U.S.-backed dictator, the Shah of Iran, in January, 1979. Millions of Iranians hoped for a democratic, secular future. Instead, the return from exile of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ushered in harsh, theocratic rule. On March 8, 1979, Iranian women rose up in protest against the Ayatollah’s new regime.

“Those women who poured into the streets on International Women’s Day 43 years ago rightly understood that the enforcement of mandatory Islamic dress code, mandatory hijab, was part and parcel of the erosion of all of the democratic promises of the revolution,” Professor Moradian explained.

She went on to link this history to today:

“In Iranian Kurdistan, in Saqqez, the hometown of Mahsa Jina Amini, the teachers are on strike right now, defending the right of women and girls to education but also condemning the broader state repression and the economic crisis that’s impoverishing ordinary people in Iran. Saqqez is where this uprising began in September, with the slogan ‘Women, Life, Freedom,’ – all about life and joy, [and] deeply connected to feminist movements and to International Women’s Day.”

Republican politicians in the U.S. decry the Taliban, including its treatment of women. But their apparent feminism only goes so far, as these legislators pass law after law attempting to control womens’ bodies, restrict reproductive health care and criminalize abortion.

In Texas, five women have sued the state after they were unable to obtain an abortion to terminate life-threatening pregnancies.

Four months into her pregnancy, plaintiff Amanda Zurawski’s water broke. She needed an abortion, but couldn’t find a Texas doctor willing to do it. She then developed sepsis, which could have killed her. She may never be able to give birth as a result.

The imprisonment of women for miscarrying, as happens already in El Salvador and other countries, may be coming soon to red states in the U.S.

International Women’s Day began as a socialist protest among striking mill workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, demanding not only Bread, but Roses.

Now, over a century later, in addition to Bread and Roses, women, gender non-conforming and trans and LGBTQ+ people are demanding education, bodily autonomy, equal pay and freedom from violence. The struggle continues.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Categories: F. Left News

Trudeau limply abandons effort to rein in drug prices

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 11:57

Contrary to the Ottawa buzz, our prime minister isn’t too woke; he’s too weak.

Politicians can be judged by how well they stand up to powerful interests — that is, how tough they are in defending the public against weighty forces trying to enrich themselves at public expense.

Some politicians clearly don’t stand up to powerful interests. Doug Ford, for instance, is too busy partying with them, serving them up juicy chunks of farmland for development or coveted space on Toronto’s tiny waterfront for a private spa. It’s all just one big stag-and-doe affair.

But Justin Trudeau purports to defend the public interest and manages to win over lots of progressive voters by appearing to do so. Out of the limelight, however, he’s weak standing up to the powerful — as we can see in the sad case of his feeble attempt to control spiralling drug prices.

This is a hugely important file — drug prices in Canada are among the highest in the developed world, contributing to inflation and rising health care costs. But correcting the problem means taking on the multinational drug industry which, through its patent monopolies, controls access to vital, often life-saving drugs.

Ottawa used to protect Canadians from Big Pharma’s monopoly power through “compulsory licensing” — which allowed generic versions of brand-name drugs to be produced under licence.

This highly effective system was scrapped by the Mulroney government due to pressure from Washington during free trade negotiations in the 1980s. Washington was championing the interests of the big U.S. brand-name drug companies, which always hated compulsory licensing. They preferred outright monopoly.

Bowing to U.S. demands, Mulroney replaced compulsory licensing with a regulatory body called the Patent Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB).

But the new system never worked very well for Canadians. Without compulsory licensing, the brand-name companies got to enjoy a longer monopoly period before the patent on a new drug expired and generic versions were allowed on the market.

Drug prices rose incessantly, with a year’s supply of insulin, for instance, reaching $2,500 — five times the 1985 inflation-adjusted cost.

The brand-name companies also failed to deliver on their promise that, without compulsory licensing, they’d increase their R&D spending in Canada; their spending (as a ratio of sales) has actually fallen by more than 70 per cent since 1995.

So, in 2017, proclaiming his intention to protect Canadians from “excessive drug prices,” Trudeau introduced reforms to make the PMPRB more muscular in order to save Canadians about a billion dollars a year in drug costs.

But the highly organized drug companies swung into action, determined to prevent the PMPRB from setting an international precedent for taking on Big Pharma.

The industry played hardball, delaying the introduction into Canada of half a dozen important new drugs — including for cancer and Parkinson’s — thereby effectively holding Canadians hostage in its war against the government’s attempt to rein in its profiteering.

The industry was able to draw on support from right-wing media commentators and patients’ rights groups — some of which are industry-funded — that blamed government for the drug delays.

In response, the Trudeau government kept limply retreating, setting a date to implement its reforms and then timorously backing off at the last minute. After years of retreats, and with only part of the original reforms still intact, the Trudeau government has quietly folded its tent, letting the industry have its way.

As documented in a recent investigative piece by Kelly Crowe in The Breach, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos wrote confidentially to the head of the PMPRB last November urging the board to suspend its reform process. The PMPRB chair resigned and has been replaced by an industry-friendly lawyer.

While purportedly championing the public interest, the government has secretly sided with the drug companies when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Big Pharma is an intimidating force that fights relentlessly, publicly and privately, to protect the interests of its shareholders. But is it too much to expect the Trudeau government to fight with similar zeal, publicly and privately, to protect the interests of its citizens?

This column was originally published in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News attends Toronto’s 2023 International Women’s Day March

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 11:33

On March 4, 2023, pk mutch joined an estimated 1600 people who attended the annual International Women’s Day in Toronto. She spoke to Carolyn Ferns, rally organizer; Emily, a social activist with CUPE; and rabble founder Judy Rebick.

This year, the theme of the rally was “Women, Life, Freedom” to show global solidarity with Iranian and Kurdish women’s struggles for their fundamental rights. 

Last Saturday’s International Women’s Day rally was the first in-person event since 2020 and the energy of the rally was energetic. 

Rally and march speakers and performers included: 

  • Dr. Catherine Brooks, Anishnawbe Kwe Elder
  • Chloe Tse, Ontario Health Coalition
  • Eagle Women Singerz
  • Gloria Turney, Personal Support Worker, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
  • Laura Walton, President of Ontario School Board Council of Unions
  • Leny Rose, President of Migrante Ontario
  • Minoo Derashan, Iranian activist
  • South Asian Women’s and Immigrant’s Services
  • Yolanda McClean Secretary Treasurer of CUPE Ontario and President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU)

Videography by Greg English. 

Video editing by Stephanie Davoli.

For more photos and coverage from this year’s event, please visit International Women’s Day Toronto’s site.

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Categories: F. Left News

Multicultural day at Halifax school, except for Palestinians

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 07:34

Recently, an incident which involved anti-Palestinian racism took place at Park West Middle school in Halifax.

On March 1, 2023 the school organised a multicultural day where students from different ethnic backgrounds were to celebrate their respective heritage by wearing traditional attire.

The event aimed to promote cultural understanding and diversity among students at the school.

However, the event took an unfortunate turn when the principal singled out six Palestinian students and told them to take off their kuffiya.

A kuffiya is a traditional Palestinian garment representing the Palestinian culture and identity.

The black and white chequered Palestinian kuffiya has become a symbol of identity for the country, representing a long history of resistance and strength.

The fishnet pattern represents the relationship between Palestinian fishermen and the sea. To many Palestinians, the sea represents freedom.

The sea waves represent the strength and resilience of the Palestinian people which is preserved after 74 years of illegal occupation.

The bold patterns represent the trade routes going through Palestine, which carved the history of trade in the country.

Following the principal’s demand to remove the kuffiya, one of the six students refused to take his off and as a punishment he was sent home.

This incident sparked outrage in the Palestinian community.

Maamoun Alhindi, a spokesperson for the six students at Park West says his nephew was called into the principal’s office and was told to take his kuffiya off because it represents “war.”

“She asked him to take it off [kuffiya]. He asked her why, she said it’s a sign of war,” said Alhinidi.

Alhindi says his nephew tried to explain the significance of the kuffiya but the principal did not listen. 

“She told him, I don’t care take it off [kuffiya] and go back to your class,” said Alhindi.

Alhindi says his nephew has not returned to school since the event took place.

“He [nephew] said I can’t go back, she treats me different. I don’t know why she say that to me. She is racist,” said Alhindi. 

Insincere apology 

Park West principal Benedette Anyanwu issued a statement Friday, saying that there were no bans on the kuffiya.

“I have heard some believe the incident resulted in a widespread ban [of the kuffiya],” Anyanwu  said. “I assure you that there are no bans on what students choose to wear to school.”

The local Palestinian community launched an email campaign with over 14,000 emails sent to the school board. 

Steve Gallagher, Halifax Regional Centre of Education (HRCE) acting regional executive director released a statement Saturday  saying that there is no “widespread ban” on the kuffiya.  

“Following the incident, many in the Palestinian and other communities came to believe that students were banned from wearing the [kuffiya], a traditional scarf, to school. This is not the case,” read the statement.

Alhindi said the statements were not directed to those impacted by the incident. 

“There is about 800 kids in that school so they sent it [email] to all families, they have not tried to call or contact the parents of the kids to solve that issue,” said Alhindi.

“It’s an open email to everyone, it’s not a direct apology,” he added. 

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) released a statement Saturday condemning the principal’s act and the school board’s response calling it, “anti-Palestinian Racism.”

Alhindi said this incident does not only affect students wearing kuffiyas. 

“My daughter, she is in that school but she wasn’t wearing the kuffiya but she get harm, she didn’t went to school, so, she [principal] even harm the kids even not wearing the kuffiya,” said Alhindi. 

Dozens of people rallied on Monday outside the Nova Scotia Ministers office demanding an investigation and consequences for the schools actions.

“And now, it’s not enough to silence voices, now they must strip away the identity of the Palestinian people by claiming the kuffiya has war colours,” said Rana Zaman while addressing the crowd on Monday.

Demonstrators rallied again on Tuesday in front of the Park West School.

“We want justice and an investigation,” said Alhindi. 

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) declined an interview. 

Anti-Palestinian racism in Canada

In Canada, the censorship of Palestinian human rights in academic institutions continues to prevail over the years. 

Javier Davila is a Toronto based educator and social equity advisor for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). 

In May of 2021,  Davila faced multiple smear campaigns for emailing teachers about Palestinian human rights and the difference between condemnation of Zionist ideology and anti-semitism.

I was suspended from my job, publicly smeared, defamed and harassed, and subject to multiple investigations, including by the police, all for providing resources to educators that centred Palestinian voices as part of my job as an equity advisor,” said Davila.

READ MORE: Anti-racism and the IHRA definition

Although Davila was reinstated after 5,000 educators, students and community members signed a petition demanding his return, he continuously faces daily attacks claiming false accusations. Davila said he is not surprised by the incident at Park West Junior High.

“I was not surprised. The erasure of Palestinian identity and its simultaneous connection to violence will remain a feature of our school boards until they take leadership from Palestinians and genuinely centre their narratives,” said Davila. 

“Systemic anti-Palestinian racism is not unique to the Toronto District School Board or to the Halifax Regional Centre for Education. It is embedded in the very fabric of our public-school systems, built on stolen land and the graves of Indigenous children,” he said. 

Davila says the teachers union should have been involved in this incident. 

“Where are the teachers’ unions? They have collective power and should be using it to call out anti-Palestinian racism at school boards,” he said. 

The incident at Park West school is the perfect example of racism Palestinians face on a day to day basis. 

“The letter from the Halifax school board, doesn’t name, detail, or contextualise the hate and violence that occurred against Palestinian students and acts as a form of erasure and gaslighting,” said Davila. 

Davila says anti-Palestinian racism is systematic and should be treated as such. 

“What does accountability look like to a people that has been stripped of their land, dignity and rights, occupied, colonized, ethnically cleansed and then has their identities and narratives erased by the very schools supposed to keep them safe?  That’s not for me to decide. But there’s a reason that administrator at Park West school felt they could dehumanize Palestinian students wearing a keffiyeh,” he said. 

In November 2022, the Thames Valley School Board in London, Ontario  faced criticism for using the “Free Palestine” slogan on clothing  as an example to incite violence. 

This incident caused great harm to the Palestinian community in London and eventually the school board quietly removed the example after a public outcry. 

What is Anti-Palestinian racism?

In April 2022, the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) published the formal definition of Anti-Palestinian racism.

The ACLA reported that “Anti-Palestinian racism is a form of anti-Arab racism that silences, excludes, erases, stereotypes, defames or dehumanises Palestinians or their narratives. Anti-Palestinian racism takes various forms including:

  • denying the Nakba and justifying violence against Palestinians;
  • failing to acknowledge Palestinians as an Indigenous people with a collective identity, belonging and rights in relation to occupied and historic Palestine;
  • erasing the human rights and equal dignity and worth of Palestinians;
  • excluding or pressuring others to exclude Palestinian perspectives, Palestinians and their allies;
  • Defaming Palestinians and their allies with slander such as being inherently antisemitic, a terrorist threat/sympathizer or opposed to democratic values.”
Anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia 

Although there is a large number of Christian Palestininas in Canada, many assume that Palestinians are Muslim because they are Arabs. 

Using Islamophobia as a way to describe anti-Palestinian racism is misguided, as it suggests that the only discrimination Palestinians face is Islamophobia and does not include Palestinians who belong to other religious groups. 

This assumption suggests that the Palestinian cause is a religious one between Muslims and Jews, when in fact it is a diverse ethnic group struggling against apartheid. 

Therefore this misconception contributes to the oppression of the Palestinian identity and ignores the existence of anti-Palestinian racism.

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Categories: F. Left News

Corus Entertainment/Global News layoffs put democracy at risk

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 07:12

A round of layoffs at Corus Entertainment last week has left a number of talented and hardworking journalists without a job including some from their flagship television news division Global News.

The layoffs come after a disappointing quarter for Corus, which saw a net earnings dip to $31.4 million, compared to $76.2 million in the same period in 2022.

While television segment revenue fell by 11 per cent to $401.5 million, radio revenue saw a slight rise, up $600,000 from the first quarter of 2022 to $29.7 million.

It’s the first wave of significant layoffs for reporters at Global News since July 2020, when Corus cut a number of digital positions in a move away from content focused on lifestyle and entertainment.

The layoffs at Global News follow a recent 11 per cent employee cut at PostMedia, as well as a slew of dismissals by Overstory Media Group. 

Corus, which launched its free ad-supported streaming service PlutoTV in November 2022, makes all of its profits from content, so it’s curious that many of those affected by the latest round of layoffs are part of digital content production.

High profile journalists cut

Among the most shocking names now out of work is national reporter Rachel Gilmore, who catapulted Global News’ TikTok coverage and broke key stories about the 2022 occupation of Ottawa.

“I poured my heart and soul into the work I did alongside amazing colleagues, and I dealt with some horrifying backlash for it,” Gilmore said in a Thursday tweet. “But I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Two weeks before being laid off, Gilmore was one of three reporters who received the Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award.

“It recognizes a journalist who made an important contribution to press freedom – and who has taken personal risks or suffered physical reprisals for their work,” she tweeted.

As part of her time at Global News, Gilmore spent two months living and working in Tunisia, where she helped trained women and girls tell their stories.

“I’m not sure what’s next. It’s a bit scary to be on my own, especially knowing how much hate is out there,” Gilmore tweeted. “But I know I’m not really alone.”

Gilmore faced significant harassment for her work for Global

While Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre campaigned to succeed Erin O’Toole in the summer of 2022, Gilmore found herself at the centre of a deliberate and targeted disinformation campaign, not just by conspiracy theorists like Jeremy McKenzie, but by the prospective future prime minister as well.

At the time, the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) condemned the “vile abuse” towards Gilmore, while pointing out the harassment extended to her loved ones.

READ MORE: Poilievre’s attacks on reporter ‘antithetical to democratic values’

Along with Saba Eitizaz of the Toronto Star and Hill Times columnist Erica Ifill, Gilmore faced an onslaught of vitriolic harassment for their coverage — with the abuse escalating to threats of rape and death.

But with Gilmore now out of a job, Global News no longer has the responsibility to ensure her safety, leaving the now unemployed reporter to deal with the ongoing misogynistic attacks alone.

On Sunday, Gilmore shared screenshots on Twitter showing some of the emails she’s received since she was laid off.

The sample ranged from sexist slurs and profanity to hoping Gilmore will become homeless, or worse, contract a fatal form of brain cancer.

“This is truly the definition of kicking someone when they’re done (sic),” she tweeted. “I am a human being.”

Union warns cutting journalism jobs hurts democracy

For Unifor, the union representing more than 800 media members at Corus, the changes at Global News aren’t just an issue for newsrooms, it also puts democracy at risk.

“It is becoming impossibly difficult for media workers to face the news of restructuring and layoffs on a regular basis,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne in a Thursday news release.

Calling journalists “the backbone of our democracy,” Payne added that Unifor will continue to support its members.

“We need to save local news by investing in newsrooms — not cutting them,” she said.

Randy Kitt, Unifor’s Director of Media, noted the CRTC has “allowed foreign broadcasters to systematically dismantle the business model for local news in this country.”

In a statement to, a Corus spokesperson did not answer direct questions about how many employees were laid off or if additional layoffs can be expected in 2023.

Instead, the statement spoke of “managing the post-pandemic climate” and “unexpected economic uncertainty” as factors that led to the staff layoffs.

“…[We] are conducting an enterprise-wide cost review, looking at all expenses and operations,” the statement reads, while adding that these decisions are “never easy.”

Corus confirmed “a small number of exits in various business areas and corporate functions,” while noting no station or office closures have been announced.

“We remain focused on the execution of our strategic plan as we make smart, targeted investments to ensure the long-term resiliency of Corus Entertainment,” reads a statement from a Corus spokesperson.

In a Friday tweet, CFWIJ founding director Kiran Nazish showed her support for the women who were laid off at Global.

“[T]his is completely a loss of journalism, the media’s ability to access and inform the public and hurts democracy,” Nazish wrote.

Nazish’s tweet followed a press release issued by the CFWIJ calling on Corus Entertainment to provide an explanation for the layoffs.

“This decision sends a chilling message to Canadian women journalists facing online harassment,” the release reads. “Media companies should support their female employees. Laying off women journalists in a vague restructuring effort is not acceptable.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Moon Time Sisters breaking down menstrual product barriers in far north

Wed, 03/08/2023 - 10:21

In honor of International Women’s Day, the Moon Time Sisters, an Indigenous-led menstrual equity group, are continuing their tireless efforts to support period equity for Indigenous communities in northern Canada. During the International Women’s Month, the conversation around period equity becomes more pressing. Menstruating is not a choice, yet access to period products is not a given for everyone. 

Nicole White.

Nicole White, the founder of Moon Time Sisters, started the initiative in 2017 as a result of reading a CBC story about young people missing school due to a lack of access to menstrual products. Since then, she has voluntarily worked to address the issue of period equity in northern communities and beyond. 

“Menstruation is a personal issue and journey, and what works for one person may not work for others,” said White. “We work in partnership with communities. They tell us what they need, what product they want, and if they are open to trying cloth pads, period underwear, we are happy to share education and the products with them.” 

Moon Time Sisters now has four chapters across Canada in Ontario, BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Each chapter collects donations for period products from donors across the provinces, which are then transported up north during. The organization has shipped approximately two million products to northern communities in the last three years alone. Evidently, without this collective effort, there would be a significant lack of menstrual products among northern menstruators.

White does one big drive in Saskatchewan during the fall to collect donations of menstrual products from generous supporters across the province. These products are then distributed to Indigenous communities that may not have access to affordable options. Stores up north often have higher prices for menstrual products, and some individuals have to travel to the nearest big city to purchase them at a more reasonable cost. This is an added expense that many people cannot afford. The Moon Time Sisters are committed to breaking down these barriers to period equity and ensuring that everyone has access to the products they need to manage their periods safely and with dignity. 

“A product that I could spend $5 on in Saskatoon would be $20 depending on the community up there”, said White. 

This means that, for families living under the poverty line, menstrual products are considered luxury items. Moon Time Sisters works in partnership with communities to ensure that they get the products they need.

Cherise Chrispen, a Moon Time Sisters volunteer in northern Saskatchewan, knows firsthand the struggles that menstruators face in accessing period products in northern communities. 

“It’s not easy, it’s not the same in smaller communities,” she said. “Mailing can get super expensive, and I don’t know how often courier companies would go there. If somebody lives further away, they would have to rely on people’s willingness to take products with them when they are already going there.”

Veronica Brown, Project Lead of the Ontario chapter, explains how the organization distributes products once they reach northern communities. 

“Each chapter does a drive at a different time,” she said. “During the drives, we take most of our products. Then we pull packing parties, everyone comes together, we count and repack the items, and ship them off to the northern airline depending on where they are going. All chapters have connected to someone in communities up north, they will distribute it. If they are going to a healthcare centre, they will do a community outreach. High schools distribute [them] in their bathrooms.”

Moon Time Sisters’ impact extends beyond providing access to menstrual products. The organization empowers northern menstruators and raises awareness around period equity. 

“Our society expects people to be performative every day,” said Chrispen. “People shouldn’t need to choose between buying Advil and pads. There are people who don’t menstruate anymore because they are having to choose between products and food. Moon Time Sisters is a super valuable resource. It’s important work for the north.”

“Understanding about period inequity in Canada and specifically within northern and indigenous communities is so important to bring around the table for access and affordability. When we talk about period equity for everybody, which is an important topic if we want to be successful as a society, we need to also bring about northern voices in that conversation,” Brown added.

The organization’s volunteers are making a significant impact in the lives of northern menstruators, who are often marginalized and face significant barriers to accessing menstrual products. As the world recognizes International Women’s Day,  work still needs to be done to achieve period equity for all.

Later this year, the Moon Time Sisters will be announcing a name change and will then be known as Moon Time Connections. The change comes as part of their efforts to be more inclusive and to work towards destigmatizing menstruation. The group worked closely with Two Spirit Elders to identify a respectful name that reflects their mission of bringing menstruation out of the shadows.

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Categories: F. Left News

Ron Liepert, colourful former Alberta cabinet minister, is set to retire

Fri, 03/03/2023 - 13:24

When Calgary Signal Hill Conservative MP Ron Liepert announced on social media on February 17 that he is about to retire, no one seems to have thought to thank the man for his greatest service to Canada.

He was, after all, the politician who handed Rob Anders, the worst Member of Parliament in modern Canadian history, his great big hat. 

For that alone, Liepert deserves the undying gratitude of Canadians of all political stripes and our best wishes for a long and happy retirement, much of which will presumably be spent in Palm Springs. 

“I want to thank my constituents for the trust they have placed in me as their Member of Parliament since 2015,” Liepert said in a news release also published on his Facebook page. He said he’d serve up until the next federal election.

Beyond that, the 73-year-old former broadcaster, who was a vice-president of the Alberta Legislature Press Gallery in 1977 and worked as premier Peter Lougheed’s Press Secretary from 1980 to 1995, didn’t have much very interesting to say beyond paying ritual obeisance to Conservative Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.

It would be easy to forget, then, that before he quietly put in enough time in the House of Commons to qualify for a nice Parliamentary pension, Liepert was a high-profile and often controversial figure during his seven and a half years as the Progressive Conservative MLA for Calgary-West. 

Liepert was appointed to three important cabinet posts by premier Ed Stelmach – education, health, and energy, arguably stirring up more trouble and strife than was really helpful in the first two portfolios. 

Leastways, after Liepert’s rocky terms as minister of education and minister of “health and wellness,” Stelmach had to send in cabinet’s old smoothy, the late Gene Zwozdesky, to pour oil on the troubled waters and smooth the feathers ruffled by the previous minister’s bulldog temperament.

It was on Liepert’s watch that nine health regions were dismantled and Alberta Health Services (AHS) was created. And he was on the job as health minister during the swine flu pandemic in 2009 when members of the Calgary Flames and their families managed to jump the line for vaccinations. An AHS official was thrown under the bus for that. 

As for Liepert’s contributions as an MP, the most exciting moment was probably his mid-pandemic trip to Palm Springs (near Los Angeles, where he worked as Alberta’s trade envoy from 1986 to 1991) which hardly made him unique among Conservative Alberta politicians. 

But a multitude of sins can be forgiven for eliminating Anders as a national embarrassment on April 12, 2014.

Anders, elected six times over 17 years for the Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative parties by the inattentive voters of the federal Calgary West riding, richly deserved the sobriquet “Canada’s Worst MP.”

Born appropriately enough on April Fool’s Day 1972, Anders was notorious for such antics as falling asleep on camera in the House of Commons and during Parliamentary committee meetings, suggesting NDP leader Thomas Mulcair caused the death of his predecessor Jack Layton, striking butchy poses with his latest firearms, and perhaps most offensively, being the sole MP to vote against honorary citizenship for Nelson Mandela after calling the South African hero a “terrorist.”

In his youth, Anders was a professional heckler for Republican politicians in the United States. And as recently as 2016 he was reported campaigning in Arizona for Donald Trump. 

Despite his often bizarre behaviour, Anders was a formidable campaigner, as his serial electoral victories in Calgary illustrated. During those years he defeated several high-profile challengers for the Conservative Calgary West nomination – among them, Alison Redford, who would later become Alberta’s first woman premier, and future PC cabinet minister Donna Kennedy-Glans.

When Calgary West was eliminated in the 2014 federal redistribution, Anders was forced to seek the nomination in Calgary-Signal Hill, which included much of the same territory. By then, even Stephen Harper seemed to have realized he had become a potentially dangerous embarrassment.

When Liepert won the nomination, that was the beginning of the end of Anders’ political career. He tried again to get the nomination in another Calgary riding in the fall of 2014, but by then his remaining appeal (and high-level support) had evaporated. 

His loss to Parliament was mourned by journalists and political commentators, who never tired of his serial idiocies, Liberal and New Democrat politicians for whom he was a useful foil, and the country’s most extreme gun nuts and social conservatives, whose causes he championed. 

Thankfully, Anders not been much heard from since his departure from federal politics. A brush with the law in 2020 came to nothing. He is now the president of something called the Firearms Institute for Rational Education – FIRE! Geddit? 

So, Ron Liepert, have a long and happy retirement. Canadians thank you for your service!

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Categories: F. Left News


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