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Historic framework reached as COP15 concludes

Wed, 12/21/2022 - 10:29

A historic and ambitious framework has been reached by 196 nations at COP15 to reverse biodiversity loss and protect 30 per cent of lands and oceans worldwide by 2030.

Currently, 17 per cent of lands and 10 per cent of oceans worldwide are under protection, according to the framework. 

More than 12,000 delegates attended the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

The agreement, known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, came after 13 days of negotiations that were delayed for two years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It includes a commitment from governments to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous and traditional territories to protect biodiversity.

Along with commitments to reverse biodiversity loss, governments also agreed to eliminate subsidies that are harmful to nature.

On an economic scale, developed countries are expected to contribute $20 billion USD per year until 2025 before increasing to $30 billion until 2030 to help developing countries with their biodiversity frameworks.

The agreement features four goals and 23 targets, including the reduction of pollution to levels that no longer harm biodiversity and ecosystems by 2030, as well as working to eliminate plastic pollution.

One of the targets in the agreement requires governments to reduce pesticides and other hazardous chemical inputs in agriculture, forestry, and other uses by at least 50 per cent by 2030.

In addition to protecting lands and waters, governments committed to cutting food waste in half worldwide while also significantly reducing over-consumption and waste generation of food products.

Putting nature ‘on a path to recovery by 2050’: minister

After reaching the agreement, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault compared the magnitude of the framework to the Paris Climate Accord signed by 194 parties in 2015.

“The health of our forests, oceans, animals, and all biodiversity, underpins the very strength and stability of our societies. We cannot take that for granted any longer,” he said in a Sunday statement. “Here in Montréal, we have set a new course. Now it is time to deliver.”

The framework, according to Guilbeault, will put “nature on a path to recovery by 2050.”

“This is a historic moment for nature, and it is our only chance to save what we love and hold dear, before it is too late,” he added.

READ MORE: ‘Canada has a lot on the line’: The future of biodiversity rests on COP15

Guilbeault will have a busy three years ahead, with the federal government committing to protecting 25 per cent of its lands and oceans by 2025

By 2030, Canada is slated to have 30 per cent of each designated as protected areas, a land mass almost as large as the European Union, according to Guilbeault. 

The federal government is set to develop new laws to ensure accountability to biodiversity commitments made at COP15.

Guilbeault also announced that Canada is allocating over $800 million for Indigenous-led conservation efforts, as well as $600 million for international biodiversity finance. 

Another $20 million will go towards expanding conservation in the Yukon.

Canada also committed to holding a feasibility assessment with First Nations and the Manitoba provincial government to designate the Seal River Watershed as an Indigenous Protected Area.

“Without such action, there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it has averaged over the past 10 million years,” the framework reads.

Environmental groups celebrate ‘win for the planet’

The COP15 agreement to stop and reverse global biodiversity loss by 2030 has been lauded by Canadian environmental groups and experts alike.

“This win for people and the planet will need a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to achieve these ambitious goals,” a Monday release from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) reads.

The organization credited Guilbeault, who himself was a climate activist before pursuing a political career, for his leadership in achieving lofty biodiversity agreements on a global scale.

CPAWS National Executive Director Sandra Schwartz is calling on the provinces and territories to work in tandem with the federal government and First Nations to help achieve the land and ocean conservation goals by 2030.

For Gauri Sreenivasan, the Director of Policy and Campaigns with Nature Canada, the country’s national action plan represents a blueprint for other countries to follow suit.

“This historic global deal provides hope that we can collectively halt the planet’s current path towards extinction in a way that centres Indigenous rights and knowledge,” Sreenivasan said in a statement. “Implementation of this agreement will be the crucial issue, and must start now.”

Melanie Snow, a Legislative Affairs Specialist at Ecojustice, says the new agreement “has the potential to reshape the world’s exploitative relationship with nature,” but called on Canada to make the 2020 nature targets “the floor rather than the ceiling.”

Snow also highlighted the need for the federal government to set clear timelines while also ensuring any protection and restoration efforts are decolonized.

“This law must be developed in ethical cooperation with Indigenous leadership and represents an opportunity to reimagine the role of Indigenous governance alongside our existing colonial system of laws,” Snow said in a statement.

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Categories: F. Left News

Canada sides with US in backing removal of elected Peruvian president

Wed, 12/21/2022 - 08:02

The Trudeau government is helping Washington consolidate a coup that has sparked a furious popular backlash in Peru. Ottawa is defending an unelected regime that has suspended civil liberties and imposed a curfew while deploying troops to the streets. Security forces have killed 24 (mostly Indigenous) protesters over the past week. 

On Saturday foreign minister Mélanie Joly tweeted, “Spoke with Peru’s Foreign Minister, Ana Cecilia Gervasi, to reiterate our support for the transitional government of President Boluarte.” 

Three days earlier Canada’s ambassador to Peru Louis Marcotte met Gervasi. Marcotte tweeted a photo with the message “Today with Minister Gervasi, reiterated support for the transition government of President [Dina] Boluarte to create consensus leading to transparent and fair elections that will bring social peace. Condemned violence and affirmed the right to peaceful assembly.” 

A Bloomberg article headlined “Peru Political Crisis Threatens to Widen Latin America Rifts” reported that “Canada’s Louis Marcotte said his nation would work with Boluarte ‘to strengthen democracy and social peace in full respect for human rights and the rule of law,’ Gervasi said.” 

Gervasi also released a statement to the media, reported CBC, about meeting Marcotte, which “reiterated Peru’s gratitude for the commitment of his country to work with President Dina Boluarte.” 

In “Canada takes sides as hemisphere splits over who rules Peru” the CBC’s Evan Dyer reports that the US, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica have expressed support for Boluarte while Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela and Colombia have all expressed some form of opposition to Pedro Castillo’s ouster. 

Canada immediately backed Castillo’s December 7 removal at a special meeting of the Organization of American States. As I detailed in “Ottawa backs removal of elected Peruvian president despite protests”, subsequent Canadian statements have increased support for Castillo’s ouster. By visiting the foreign minister Marcotte has made Canada’s position clear and echoed US actions. On Friday US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Boluarte and US Ambassador Lisa Kenna met with her on Tuesday. On Friday Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized Kenna for meeting Boluarte. 

In “Peru coup: CIA agent turned US ambassador met with defense minister day before president overthrown” Ben Norton details Washington’s hand in Castillo’s demise. A great deal remains unknown about the machinations behind Castillo’s removal but it’s clear this is at least the third time Trudeau’s Liberals have supported the ouster of a social democratic leader in the region. 

As I detail in House of Mirrors: Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy, they passively supported the 2016 “soft coup” impeachment of Brazilian Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff, which Lula da Silva’s recent election victory partly reverses. In November 2019 Chrystia Freeland actively supported the economic elites, Christian extremists and security forces who overthrew Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president. In a decisive rebuke of Ottawa’s support for the coup, a year later Morales’ former finance minister Luis Acre won the presidency, and the MAS party took a large majority in the Congress. 

For over four years the Trudeau government has engaged in a brazen effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government. But their bid to make marginal right-wing opposition politician Juan Guaidó president has failed. 

Large numbers of Peruvians have taken to the streets calling for Castillo’s release from prison and for new elections to be held. Many have also rallied in favor of dissolving an extremely unpopular congress and organizing a constituent assembly to rewrite a constitution adopted after Alberto Fujimori’s “self-coup”. On Friday two ministers in Boluarte’s government resigned to protest the repression while the prime minister was replaced. 

Hopefully the protesters succeed in spurring changes to redress the country’s extreme inequities and deliver another blow to the Trudeau Liberal’s bid to subvert social democratic governments in the region. 

Take one minute to stand in solidarity with Peruvian demonstrators by emailing Canada’s foreign minister and opposition critics to say, “No Canadian backing for an unelected regime that is killing protesters”.

The post Canada sides with US in backing removal of elected Peruvian president appeared first on

Categories: F. Left News

Reviewing the state of healthcare in 2022

Wed, 12/21/2022 - 07:42

If you feel like yelling about the state of healthcare in Canada, say Aarrgghh.

In January 2022, the pandemic took an unforeseen turn in Canada with the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant. COVID seemed to be everywhere, infecting people regardless of vaccine or mask status. And with some one-fifth of the population resisting vaccination at the start of 2022, the number of admissions to hospitals was once again threatening to overwhelm acute care facilities.

We were between a rock and a hard place. Why? Because messaging about vaccinations lost impetus when even the vaccinated were affected by Omicron.

We were once again trying to flatten the curve. And the only thing that could help defeat Omicron – and the earlier Delta variant – was to increase the number of people vaccinated and to continue with masking, hand-washing, social distancing and isolation/quarantine when necessary. This was old news, but it did not make either the rock or the hard place any softer.

This old news repeated in February. Hospitals were still overwhelmed and the situation in congregate living situations was dire. Vaccines and masking became even more newsworthy, when the so-called Freedom Convoy descended on Ottawa, and several Canadian/U.S. border crossings, at least initially as a protest against these public health mandates.

Vaccines were already free. What if masks were, as well? Research was not yet and still is not available on the cost-savings to hospitals with reduced COVID admissions. In fact, these beds would not be empty even with reduced COVID admissions. People whose care has been delayed during the pandemic would occupy them. But from a public health perspective, free availability of proper masks could go a long way to ease the burden of remaining healthy.

March arrived with another shift in thinking. Omicron was losing steam. Infection rates, at least as reflected in hospitalizations and ICU admissions, were decreasing. Governments across the country reacted by reducing and/or eliminating health care cautions and restrictions. After dealing with COVID-19 for two years, Canadians could again enter restaurants, bars, gyms, theatres, and the like without proof of vaccination.

Not so for mask mandates. Most regions left the decision to wear a mask up to the individual. Canadians had to learn to live with COVID fear, but also to recognize that COVID fear did not have to be all-encompassing.

In the spring, Canadians began to look at COVID differently. The statistics did not accurately compare across regions, due to differences in definitions and in timing of reporting, among other things. The one certainty continued to be that those vaccinated fared better than those who had not had shots. Fewer vaccinated people became sick; those who did test positive were less sick and fewer were hospitalized. Of those vaccinated people who were hospitalized, fewer died. Still, a significant percentage of the population remained unconvinced.

With fewer restrictions and more personal responsibility, and encouragement from the travel industry, Canadians began to travel again. In addition to the almost daily changes announced by countries around the world, Canada began to receive lots of flak over the then mandatory ArriveCan app. Suffice to say, the app was neither user-friendly nor comprehensive.

Despite intense pressure to eliminate it, the Government of Canada persisted. It even threatened fines of several thousand dollars and potential incarceration for not following the app’s guidelines. Thousands of these threats were ultimately acknowledged as due to a glitch in the system, which did nothing to increase the app’s popularity. The requirement to complete the app was ultimately lifted in October 2022, after almost two-and-a half years.

There is only so much COVID news that is new. From the start of the pandemic in December 2019, many other aspects of the health of Canadians had been cancelled, put on indefinite hold or forgotten about. In the summer of 2022, the media and the public began to push back at the lack of availability for other healthcare issues.

Nightmare stories circulated about overflowing emergency rooms. Some ERs were so understaffed that they were closed entirely. The shortage of family doctors and nurse practitioners left some five million Canadians with no ongoing healthcare provider. People turned to emergency rooms when even virtual and walk-in healthcare clinics could not handle the traffic. Patients spent hours and some, days, in hospital waiting rooms and hallways.

Staff burnout contributed to the situation, as did demographics. Many baby boomer healthcare workers, burned out from two years of COVID on top of many years of shortages, either retired or resigned.

Provincial and territorial governments looked for band-aid solutions. They announced fixes to bring the healthcare system back to its pre-COVID stance. Defining that as a goal was and is part of the issue.

The provincial and territorial ministries of health insist that the problems result from a shortage of money from the federal government. The federal government wants the other levels to report on the healthcare outcomes for the additional funds demanded. More money won’t solve the myriad issues of a hospital-based and a fee-for-service insurance system.

We are at a healthcare stand-off of significant proportions. This year is ending with COVID-related cases rising yet again. Rates of vaccines and boosters are decreasing. At the same time, hospital emergency room visits and admissions for seasonal flu and for pediatric respiratory viruses are overcrowding facilities once again.

Shortages of over-the-counter medications for cold and flu symptoms leave parents with little choice when a child is very ill. This is particularly true in Ontario, where funding for virtual paediatric appointments was slashed and such services have essentially shut down. If the family has no doctor or nurse practitioner, and no virtual options, the emergency room is the only thing left. Waits seem endless, with children crying and coughing and gasping for breath.

In the past 12 months, very little has changed that encourages Canadians to be optimistic about our healthcare system in general and COVID in particular. Perhaps it is time for a time-out. Perhaps the provincial and territorial government premiers should be forced to sit in an emergency room for hours, to see for themselves how dire the situation is.

Would they then see things differently?

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Categories: F. Left News

Urgent EI reform needed to weather economic storms

Tue, 12/20/2022 - 07:43

“There are economic storms ahead and for many workers, a difficult winter,” wrote the Inter-provincial Employment Insurance Working Group in a letter penned to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet dated December 12. The group is calling on the federal government for urgent action on Employment Insurance (EI) reform. 

Without an adequate EI system, the upcoming “economic storms” could mean disaster for many low-income people, the groups is arguing. 

Kevin Love, the senior lawyer at the Community Legal Assistance Society in B.C. (CLAS), said that for many people, the current EI system does not do enough. CLAS was one of the many organizations that signed the joint community and labour letter for EI reform. 

“What we see is people who are paying into the system off every dollar they earn but then when they need it, the system’s not there for not there for them.” Love said, “The situation is particularly bad for women, and racialized folks.” 

Love emphasized that only 40 per cent of unemployed workers have access to EI, leaving many out to dry when unemployment rises. 

The working group is calling on the government to expand access to EI benefits. Right now, the number of hours of insurable employment required to qualify for EI is based on unemployment rates. In many regions, this means many workers need to have worked at least 700 hours to qualify for EI, which the working group said is too high. The working group also wrote that the disqualification rules are “harsh” and leave out many vulnerable workers. Migrant workers and employees misclassified and independent contractors are also excluded from the benefit. 

Jared Ong, an organizer and case worker with the Workers’ Action Centre in Toronto, said that the current system works for those who have permanent full-time jobs. However, all other workers are left in a state of precarity. Ong said that when EI applications go bad for workers, they go “very, very bad.” 

Ong recently worked with a cleaner in the food processing sector who was injured at work. He said this worker returned to work with the understanding that there would be accommodations for his injury. However, the employer did not accommodate this cleaner appropriately and he was forced to quit his job. Ong said that when the worker first applied for EI, he was rejected. 

“Just recently, during the appeal, he was told Employment Insurance accepts his position. It took months from the time that he actually had to quit to get a successful EI claim, which is too long,” Ong said. “As a result, this worker ended up doing gig work food delivery to try to make ends meet during the time.” 

Ong said that properly addressing these difficulties caused by the accessibility of EI will promote decent work for all. 

“I feel that people would have a lot more confidence leaving bad jobs. If people knew that they can get by for a few months after leaving a bad job, they would be much more willing to leave bad bosses,” Ong said. 

While expanding access to EI will help many workers. The reforms the inter-provincial working group wants extends beyond eligibility. The group is also calling for the benefit rate to be substantially increased. 

“Even on the EI rate right now, which is only 55 per cent of your weekly income maximum, it’s hard for workers to pay the rent, buy food and support their families,” Love from CLAS said. “We need the rates to go up. But even that little bit is better than nothing, which is what a lot of the workers are getting right now. It can truly mean disaster for workers and their families when they have nothing at all to support themselves when they find themselves unemployed.” 

The Liberal government promised in 2021 that if re-elected, they would build an EI system that works for everyone. The government published a report in April of this year saying that EI access needs to be improved. As 2022 draws to a close, workers are still waiting for this modernized EI system. 

The Inter-provincial EI Working Group has said that the system is the single most powerful automatic stabilizer. Still, as inflation rises and Canadians need financial support more and more, the government is still dragging its feet. 

“The government has promised to reform this system. We’re taking them at their word,” Love said. “We think they’re serious and they’re going to do this. We don’t have a date and we don’t know when we’re going to see the change that’s been promised. But workers need to have it happen sooner rather than later.” 

With each day, the situation for unemployed workers becomes more dire. On Monday December 19, labour organizations planned a pan-Canadian day of action to ensure workers’ needs will not be ignored. 

“EI reform means security and it means stability,” Love said. “This is one of our most important social programs and serves a really important purpose in providing financial help in what can be the worst time of a worker’s life.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Rule-breaking UCP politician welcomed back to inner circle in Alberta

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 09:16

When then municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard was busted by media when she returned from a mid-pandemic Hawaiian vacation at the end 2020, it was billed the first United Conservative Party (UCP) scandal of 2021. 

Now that it’s been revealed Allard was covertly appointed as “parliamentary secretary for civil liberties” by Premier Danielle Smith last week, one could argue the MLA for Grande Prairie has a chance to be at the centre of the first UCP scandal of 2023 too! 

Then again, there’s two weeks left until New Year’s Eve and at the rate Premier Smith’s been going, that’s plenty of time for two or three additional scandals, maybe more. 

Rumours started circulating late last week that Allard had been appointed to the role of building the case for recognizing pandemic vaccine refuseniks as, in Premier Smith’s notorious words, “the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”

Saturday, media reports confirmed her appointment. 

Needless to say, unannounced appointments of parliamentary secretaries to cabinet ministers are unheard of in Westminster-style democracies. 

Appointing elected officials to cabinet roles in secret is the sort of thing you’d expect from a paranoid government in chaos and on the verge of collapse, like … Well, never mind that thought just now. 

Whatever it means, the Smith Government has now fessed up. The premier’s press secretary admitted that, yes, Allard is indeed now a parliamentary secretary reporting to Justice Minister Tyler Shandro.

Her picture has now also appeared on the Alberta Government website’s cabinet section, linked to a potted biography that gives no explanation of why she was appointed or what her duties might be. Well, maybe there’ll be a press release on Monday. 

She will work, the CBC reported, on “further protecting private property rights,” “campus free speech,” and complaining about federal firearms restrictions. 

In other words, dog-whistles that keep the UCP base in a mood to vote and donate. 

By the way, “campus free speech,” for those of you who missed it, means the “right” of right-wing ideologues, anti-abortion extremists, racists, and homophobes to disrupt educational institutions on post-secondary campuses. 

Former premier Jason Kenney accepted Allard’s resignation from cabinet after only 132 days as a minister on the first Monday of 2021, January 4. The prevailing view at the time, however, was that she wasn’t given much choice in the matter. 

He also accepted the resignations of another cabinet minister and a top political aide, and demoted four MLAs, all for taking unauthorized vacations while the rest of us were instructed to hunker down at home to control the spread of COVID-19.

Allard’s lame excuse at the time was that “we have been going to Hawaii for most of the past 17 years since our youngest child was born.” She posted a Christmas video on Instagram four days before her return from Hawaii and tagged her location as the “Alberta Legislature Building.”

The other cabinet member was up-to-then parliamentary secretary Jeremy Nixon, MLA for Calgary-Klein. He is now Smith’s minister of seniors, community and social services. 

With both Allard and Nixon back in the bosom of the Alberta cabinet, the clear message to the premier’s supporters is that not only have they been forgiven for their irresponsible behaviour during the pandemic, but are recognized as being among that “most discriminated-against group.” 

If Allard is now responsible for civil liberties, perhaps she can look into the Smith Government’s plan to incarcerate people living with addictions in Edmonton and force them to receive injections of opium addiction medications.

Duncan Kinney, writing in the Progress Report, asked: “Are Danielle Smith and the UCP really going to force people to put Suboxone or Sublocade into people’s bodies after all the fuss they kicked up over bodily autonomy and COVID vaccines?”

This would certainly seem to be wildly at odds with the premier’s hostility to mandates that required citizens to be receive COVID-19 vaccinations in order to hold certain jobs, take part in some public activities, or use some modes of public transportation. (No one in Alberta was ever forced to be inoculated.) 

Now that Allard has been appointed Alberta’s Civil Liberties Czar, I’m sure we all look forward to her response to this question. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Smith destroyed the relationship Kenny tried to build with First Nations

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 08:33

Say what you will about Jason Kenney and his ideas, he made progress on persuading First Nations communities to buy into his vision of Alberta’s future. 

Danielle Smith blew it all to smithereens in 64 days.

That’s the length of time between the day Ms. Smith was sworn in as Kenney’s replacement to the day the chiefs of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations declared it was clear from their discussions with Alberta’s new premier about her Sovereignty Act that she “does not understand our Treaty or our inherent rights nor does she respect them.”

While most of the rest of Alberta includes the territory of Treaty 7 and Treaty 8 First Nations, it is highly unlikely at this point that their view of their relationship with the premier and her party is any different. All have condemned the so-called Sovereignty within a United Canada Act

Winning over communities that did not traditionally support Conservative political parties was long recognized as one of the former Alberta premier’s talents.

As a Conservative MP in Ottawa and one of prime minister Stephen Harper’s key lieutenants, Kenney was given the job of winning the hearts of Canada’s most recent immigrant communities. 

As the National Post, the Pravda of Canada’s Conservative movement, put it in 2011: “Politically, he has succeeded in out-Liberaling the Liberals, charming ethnic communities by attending thousands of banquets across the country.

“The massive effort paid off as the Tories broke through in a number of heavily multicultural urban ridings in the 2011 election, especially in Greater Toronto,” the Post’s writer continued. 

Even a harsh critic of Kenney’s career must concede that this is largely true. 

After he entered Alberta politics in 2016 and soon succeeded with his plan to unite the Wildrose Party and the Progressive Conservatives and defeat the governing NDP, Kenney turned that charm on Alberta’s First Nations.

He clearly understood that he could not succeed with his dream of Alberta at the centre of a spiderweb of pipelines moving ever outward without significant buy-in from the First Nations whose territory, recognized in treaties with the Crown in the 19th and 20th centuries, encompasses all of the province. 

In Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin MLA Rick Wilson, premier Kenney chose an Indigenous relations minister who was an empathetic and sincere listener. 

“We’ve really been active in trying to promote working with Indigenous people, making sure that we do become those partners in prosperity that we talk about,” Mr. Wilson told a reporter.

Then Smith with her Sovereignty-Association talk won the leadership of the UCP in October, after Kenney had effectively been pushed out by the radical Take Back Alberta PAC.

She soon bigfooted her way into the former premier’s efforts to cultivate a relationship with First Nations with a string of patronizing commentary, a much-doubted claim to have Indigenous ancestry, and statements about tearing up constitutional ways of doing business with Ottawa that obviously caused deep disquiet among First Nations leaders. 

“By using the word ‘sovereignty’ in the name of this proposed Act, Premier Smith should not pretend to have authority over sovereign First Nations,” the chiefs of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations said in a news release back on November 23.

“Treaty is the highest law to govern the land now known as Canada, its resources, and our Peoples,” that news release continued. “We understand the proposed Act as a ploy to access resources and extract them at an unrestricted rate, leaving the land unprotected.”

But the chiefs’ pleas to reconsider the act barely received a response, let alone meaningful consultation. 

Indeed, while Smith kept Wilson on as minister, an unnamed official in his department revealed to media that Indigenous Relations was cut out of the process completely from the get-go. 

The breach created by Smith culminated with the chiefs’ statement Wednesday that “We do not agree that an invitation on the day of the Throne Speech is an inclusive approach to hearing Albertans and Indigenous voices in a meaningful way for such a dangerous piece of legislation.”

As veteran Alberta political reporter Graham Thomson argued in a thoughtful column in the Toronto Star Thursday, in Alberta’s First Nations Smith “has finally met a political foe she cannot ignore, ridicule and demonize.” 

This is true. Although we mustn’t count on her government not to try all three if she can’t persuade First Nations leaders to change their minds upon hearing a few glib promises.

This breach is sure to have been made deeper by the fact Bill 1, the Sovereignty Act, passed by the Legislature on December 7, was given Royal Assent on Thursday. So, for the moment, it is the law of the land – at least until the courts get to take a run at it.

Chances are good Alberta’s First Nations will play a significant role in giving the courts that opportunity. 

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, where a conservative government that often takes its lead from Alberta has also introduced an unconstitutional bill similar in concept to the Alberta Sovereignty Act, First Nations chiefs warned that if the legislation is not scrapped, there will be a sharp response in 2023. 

“If all else fails, we will blockade,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron.

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Categories: F. Left News

Alberta is protecting ‘law-abiding’ gun owners from having to obey the law!

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 07:54

Welcome to Alberta where you can now be a law-abiding citizen while defying the law!

Says who?

Says Tyler Shandro, minister of justice, who announced that the province will be taking over handling charges under the federal Firearms Act so people who violate the act but who our United Conservative Party (UCP) government thinks ought to be able to violate the act won’t be charged under the act when they violate it. 

You know, because they’re law-abiding firearms owners.

Surely this is something new and unique in the annals of justice? 

To put this another way, as Premier Danielle Smith did in the government’s press release headlined “Alberta takes back constitutional jurisdiction” (which isn’t what’s actually happening here, but never mind), our UCP government is going to make Alberta safer by taking over enforcement of a federal gun safety law and not enforcing it.

Smith’s actual potted press-release said quote: “As government, we do all we can to ensure the safety of Albertans. The federal government’s firearm ban does not stop illegal guns from crossing the border and making it into the hands of criminals. Instead of targeting criminals, the ban targets law-abiding firearms owners. Taking back Alberta’s constitutional jurisdiction and the authority to handle charges under the Firearms Act is one more way our province is pushing back against federal overreach.”

If you parse this paragraph, you will notice that each sentence isn’t really connected to the next one. 

It starts talking about public safety. Then it drops the subject of Ottawa’s new gun-safety rules (which a reasonable person could argue are unlikely to be effective) and instead makes the case that smuggling guns is a bigger threat (which may or may not be true). Then it says the law targets law-abiding gun owners (tautologically untrue, unusual in rhetoric). Then it says the government is pushing back against federal overreach – although whether this law is federal overreach has not been established. 

Are you confused? Don’t worry about it. You’re supposed to be. 

Anyway, it’s going to get even more confusing, and we’ll get to that in a minute. 

But first, here’s part of Shandro’s press release quote: “By taking back our constitutional jurisdiction, we are not only asserting Alberta’s rightful place in Confederation but also better serving Alberta’s law-abiding firearms community.”

This contains an important point, although possibly not the one Shandro ought to be making if he values his political survival in his suburban Calgary riding. To wit: Since Smith became premier, the UCP has been completely captured by the Q-adjacent, anti-vaxx, anti-gun-control nuts of the Take Back Alberta political action committee. 

As such, the party is now taking a National Rifle Association (NRA) line on gun control, so you bet the UCP is “better serving Alberta’s law-abiding firearms community.” It has, however, no more interest in serving Albertans concerned about public safety when it comes to guns that it did when it came to masking to prevent circulation of respiratory diseases or requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against infectious disease.

Smith and her apparent bosses at Take Back Alberta think this is a winning issue in Calgary. It’s said here that is far from certain. 

Be that as it may, Teri Bryant, Alberta’s “Chief Firearms Officer,” who was hired last year by then-premier Jason Kenney’s government to obstruct federal firearms laws, had a speaking part in this little drama too.

“Having provincial jurisdiction to handle firearms offences makes sense and is in the best interests of Albertans’ rights and safety,” she said supportively in the news release, and more of the same in the news conference. 

You’ll notice the key factoid here that is not mentioned in the release, to wit, that the UCP government will be directing Crown prosecutors not to enforce a law party leaders don’t agree with. 

READ MORE: Kenney’s habit of advocating U.S.-style gun laws bears remembering 

Wait, wait! Said Shandro in response to a reporter’s question at his news conference: “There is no direction to prosecutors in these matters. There’s advice. There is no direction, and there should be no direction.” After all, he conceded, prosecutorial independence is constitutionally entrenched. 

But while insisting the province’s directives are mere advice, a mere protocol, he also said: “The protocol states that it will not be in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution of a charge of the possession of a banned firearm where the following factors exist: First, that the accused lawfully obtained the firearm or prohibited device before May first 2020. Second, that the firearm or prohibited device was reclassified as prohibited on May 1st, 2020. And then third, the accused has not been charged with any other offence in relation to the possession or use of that firearm.”

Of course it’s a freakin’ directive. 

And don’t forget, owners of guns declared illegal have until next October to turn them in, and be compensated for them.

Well, whether Smith, Shandro, Take Back Alberta and what’s left of the UCP like it or not, Ottawa can still lay charges under its own legislation if it chooses to.

That would probably suit Smith in her desire to pick fights with the federal government to the better to pursue her sovereignty-association agenda. 

Whether gun safety is the right hill to die on, metaphorically speaking, to pursue that agenda is another matter entirely. 

Shandro, meanwhile, sounded at times like a man who had an inkling he may be signing his own political death warrant. 

No doubt the federal government will get back to him in due course. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Off the Hill: A look back to leap forward

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 06:00

From rabble’s December 2022 ‘Off the Hill: A look back to leap forward’ panel. Join guests MP Leah Gazan, Chuka Ejeckam, El Jones and Karl Nerenberg. With co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies.

From the Freedom Convoy, to major action in Canada’s labour movement, to the ongoing war in Ukraine, to political leadership races on the provincial and federal levels… Our esteemed panel reflected on a year that had no shortage of newsworthy events, and then asked: what does this mean we can expect for the year ahead? 

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

Meet our guests

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

Libby Davies is Off the Hill’s co-host and author of Outside In: a Political Memoir. She served as the MP for Vancouver East from 1997-2015, and is former NDP Deputy Leader and House Leader.

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

Chuka Ejeckam is a writer and policy researcher. His work focuses on inequity and inequality, drug policy, structural racism, and labour. He is a columnist for

El Jones is a poet, author, journalist, professor and activist living in Halifax. In November, she published “Abolitionist Intimacies” – a book which examines the lives of those incarcerated and exposes injustices in the criminal justice system.

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


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Categories: F. Left News

Who’s hungry… and why? Food banks, food insecurity and ending hunger for good

Mon, 12/19/2022 - 06:00

On this episode of the Courage My Friends podcast, Neil Hetherington, CEO of The Daily Bread Food Bank and Maria Rio, director of development and communication for The Stop Community Food Centre discuss the current state of food insecurity in Canada’s largest city, how we got here and what we need to end decades of hunger.

Of the growing reliance on Toronto’s food bank system, Hetherington says:

“What is startling is the fact that there are over 9,000 new registrants to the Foodbank system in the Toronto area, served by Daily Bread and North York Harvest each month.. almost 10,000 people are putting up their hand and saying, “I am in a position where my income does not meet the expenses that I have and I need to rely on food charity this week or this month. …Prior to the pandemic, 15% of the people that came to the food banks were employed fully. That number has doubled to 30%. And just around 50% of food bank users have a post-secondary education. And so people have done what we told them to do growing up. Go get an education, grab a job and you’ll be fine. You’ll get that house with a white picket fence. And that’s not the reality.” 

Rio describes the current and increasing challenges facing organizations like the Stop Community Food Centre:

“The Stop is also being hit by inflation. So not only are we paying more for food because there’s decreased food drives and all those things. There’s more people coming to our services’s been an exceptionally challenging time. We’ve had to make really difficult decisions around how do we keep serving our community, but not go into an extremely unsustainable position as an organization? We have to remain open next year. as more and more people run out of other options, such as friends or using credit cards or predatory payday loan services, they’re turning to us and we’re kind of left scrambling to meet the need with less volunteer help, with less energy than we had two years ago and strain on our resources because our donors are also feeling the pinch.” 

Speaking to the importance of food banks, Hethrington says:

“What we have set out to do over the last number of decades is remind people that food banks are not the answer to food insecurity; we’ve never claimed that we are. But we do make food available this week for people. .. where we do claim that we are fighting to end hunger is around our advocacy efforts and taking a leadership position?” 

Reflection on Canada’s failed commitments to end hunger, Rio says:

“Canada first signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights at the UN, where they ratified the right to food, right to adequate food, clothing, and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.

And to know that we’ve been talking about this issue for so long, we’ve had so many consultations at all levels of government…we’ve known for a really long time that social assistance rates are abysmally low. That it’s a lot of newcomers who are experiencing these barriers. Racialized people, people with disabilities and an intersection of all those identities. We’ve known that for more than the 40 years that The Stop has been around, or food banks have been around.”  

About today’s guests

Neil Hetherington joined The Daily Bread Food Bank as CEO in January 2018. Beginning his career in project management at Tridel Construction, in September 2000, he made a career change by joining Habitat for Humanity Toronto, at the time as the youngest CEO of a Habitat affiliate in the world. His non-profit experience includes 16 years as CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Toronto. Then New York City, and two years as CEO of Dixon Hall, a multi-service agency serving thousands of people in Toronto. Neil holds credentials from the University of Western Ontario, Huron College, Seneca College, Harvard Business School, and the University of Virginia, Darden Business School and obtained his MBA from the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School in 2013. 

Maria Rio has over a decade of fundraising and non-profit experience. As a woman, a racialized person, an immigrant, and a member of the LGBTQ2+ community andfrom her early experience as a refugee, Maria’s experience shaped a passion for human rights  that fuels her drive to give back and make a difference in the lives of people of various marginalized and often intersectional and underrepresented groups. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ magazine. She was a finalist for the national 2022 Charity Village Best Individual Fundraiser Award. Maria also sits on the Board of Living Wage Canada.

Transcript of this episode can be accessed at or here

Image: Neil Hetherington and Maria Rio  / Used with Permission

Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased

Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (Podcast Announcer). Bob Luker (voice of Tommy Douglas); Kenneth Okoro, Liz Campos Rico, Tsz Wing Chau (Street Voices) 

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

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

Host: Resh Budhu

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Categories: F. Left News

Reflections on International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers 

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 12:57

Once again, December 17, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is upon us. Writing this column last year was hard. This year, it feels like I’m tempting fate. 

In November, a gay nightclub was shot up in the U.S. on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance. (Also, remember the whole fiasco with the Netflix documentary Dahmer?)

Earlier this month, the Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights, a gun lobby group, tried to use the Montreal Massacre to make money. December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, which itself is a commemoration of the Montreal massacre. The day after, I watched Indigenous women plead with Winnipeg police to search the city dump for the bodies of their family members who were murdered by a serial killer.

Our most vulnerable and marginalized community members are both individually and collectively traumatized by violence. 

I’m tired of being part of a “text me on when you make it home safe from the club” group text thread. I’m tired of living in a country where cops don’t bother to look for sex workers when we go missing, so we go out and look ourselves. I’m tired of looking at police mug shots and bad date lists, but it’s always better to see the devil coming. I’m tired of seeing missing persons posters. I’m tired of seeing the last picture of new angels smiling.

Violence against sex workers is gender based violence on steroids. 

It’s misogyny, colonial violence, racism, homophobia, mysogynoir, transmysogyny and xenophobia combined. This monster makes a hydra look like a friendly puppy. This monster is dead behind the eyes like a bad man about to make a bad decision.

The victims are generally women and femmes and the men often have a pattern of escalating domestic violence. (Originally used by lesbian, bisexual and queer women, femmes are members of the LGBTQ+ community who embrace and embody traditional feminine aesthetic ideals. Most sex workers present as femmes while at work due to demographics. The vast majority of sex workers are women and femmes, while the vast majority of our clients are straight men who seek out this aesthetic). Eustachio Gallese, who brutally murdered Marylene Lesveque in 2020, was let out on parole and giving express permission to see sex workers from the Parole Board of Canada even though we was serving time for beating his ex-wife to death with a hammer. 

This is how little our lives matter to those in power. They would rather see us dead. There is even a common phrase used by law enforcement for victims like us — “no humans involved.” When we defend ourselves, they put us in prison. When we work to escape poverty and challenge a religiously motivated heteropatriarchy with our mere existence, we risk losing our housing, our children, and our mainstream careers. We face all these consequences because we’re doing capitalism, but apparently we’re doing it wrong.

Two years after the incel terrorist attack in a spa in North York, where Ashley Noelle Arzagawas brutally murdered with a machete, City of Toronto by-law enforcement still hasn’t followed the common sense advice, and appeals to basic human decency from Butterfly, a sex worker-led advocacy group for migrant sex workers and their allies. They are still charging workers for closing their doors in an effort to more effectively screen clients. While those charges were dropped earlier this month when activists brought this to light, the point remains. Toronto’s law enforcement would rather we not close the door when we see the next man with a machete come to our place of work. (I don’t see them ticketing pharmacies who preemptively lock their doors after a string of robberies in their neighborhood.) 

The way celebrities who are victims of violent crime are treated is no better. Earlier this year, the court of public opinion devolved to something ugly and primal during the Depp v. Heard trial. Tory Lanez’s trial started this week. He has been charged with shooting Megan Thee Stallion in the feet back in the summer of 2020. The hate machine has already been churning since the beginning, and I’m afraid more hate, something even more sinister, is about to come.

Megan Thee Stallion is widely considered to be one of the best female rappers, ever. There is also some speculation that she used to be a stripper before becoming famous. Strippers have claimed her as one of their own, as have I. Megan Thee Stallion hasn’t publicly acknowledged her past as a stripper. This could be for a variety of reasons such as her trying to maintain good standing as she was already chastised by university administration for making twerking videos with her friends while she was completing her degree in health administration at Texas Southern University. Her mother was still alive at the time she rose to fame, or perhaps she wishes to maintain an aura of mystery while protecting privacy. Still, it is widely accepted that she has had previous stripping experience. Fans have come to this conclusion based on Meegan saying the only meat she misses is strip club chicken wings after transitioning to vegetarianism. She has friendships and professional collaborations with other strippers turned rappers such as Cardi B and City Girls. Strippers see their own bodies in Megan — those thighs are earned by seasoned strippers! Megan has not made any real effort to dissuade fans of this theory. One could say she skillfully dances around the subject.

It’s been reported that when Tory Lanez, who is also a rapper, shot Megan as she tried to exit his vehicle, he said, “Dance bitch.” I felt this deeply on many levels. First, the contempt in those words, as if his wish is her command, even in the face of death. 

I felt her pain in my feet. For many strippers, a serious foot injury means the end of our dancing career. Many of us avoid things like skiing in order to prevent injuring ourselves out of work. (We are systematically excluded from government benefits such as EI or the former CERB.) I myself quit cycling after the second time I got hit by a car — there’s only so much luck in one lifetime.

This shooting adds to the list of crimes my friends and I discuss in low somber voices. It’s this type of violence that fuels our nightmares. Megan admits in an interview that she initially lied and told the cops she had stepped on glass. She was concerned about how the police would react in the heat of the moment. During her darkest night, she had to do racial profiling mental math in an effort to protect everyone in the car, including her alleged shooter. 

The woman got shot and lost her mother to cancer in the same year. I cannot imagine what she’s had to overcome mentally and physically to keep making music and performing live when us mere mortals would break into pieces. 

If that’s not hard enough, she has had to deal with this while people were taking shots at her credibility. Most recently, Drake decided to diss her in his new album. The man who wrote many a strip club anthem is purposely using his platform to degrade the very type of woman that he purportedly pines for. 

It doesn’t matter if Lanez is found guilty or not. A guilty verdict will not unshoot Megan’s feet. It will not reverse her trauma. It will not untarnish her reputation. Most depressingly, even if he gets the maximum 22 prison sentence, it will not deter men from committing similar or even more violent crimes. A guilty verdict will further expose her to even more misogynoir. They will not let her forget that she’s now even more of a so-called ‘Angry Black Woman,’ even more of a ‘Lying Whore.’ 

These types of insults are weaponized against women, calling a woman a lying whore is a way for men to gaslight and discredit women. These words are intended to make us feel small and think twice about speaking out again. They promote misogynistic ideas like that “women are so evil – such vengeful, lying whores – that we cannot trust them to tell the truth.” The angry Black woman is weaponized mysogynoir. It suggests that Black women especially shouldn’t voice their opinions and when they do they are dismissed as just being “angry.” It suggests that Black women should know their place and not question the injustices around them.

This column isn’t about Lanez’s court case. If it’s about any court case, it’s about the current constitutional challenge the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform has launched earlier this year with the ultimate goal being the decriminalization of sex work in Canada.

Decriminalization is a step towards crimes against us being taken seriously. Perhaps, dare I say, it’s a step towards us being referred to as and treated as humans when we are victims of violent crime.

December 17th is a day when sex workers mourn, remember, and gather together to commemorate our peers who have been been taken from us by violent predators. It is a day that cements our resolve to continue to challenge and organize oppressive systems for those of us who despite it all, survived thus far.

It’s a day of an unspoken community promise:

I see you as a full human being, deserving of safety, dignity, respect and full and equal protection under the law.
I will do my best to keep you safe.
I will come find you. 

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Categories: F. Left News

New labour militancy from the folks who brought us the weekend

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 12:41

The public doesn’t usually warm to the notion of labour militancy — until reminded that, without it, weekends would be a lot shorter, or maybe not exist at all.

The truth is labour militancy has benefited all of us. It was instrumental in attaining the weekend, the eight-hour workday, the end of child labour, public pensions and public health care, and countless other gains that have dramatically improved the lives of working people and the broader public.

It’s worth keeping this connection in mind as the union movement — sidelined and subdued for decades — is finding its sea-legs and starting to reassert itself.

Certainly, its stunning victory last month in its clash with the Ford government has rekindled workers’ dreams of reclaiming some of the ground they’ve lost during the past four decades, when corporations have dominated and imposed their pro-market agenda.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s overreach — in picking on lowly paid education workers and using the soft-touch skills of an axe murderer in invoking the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause — helped CUPE win over the public, unite the labour movement and convince Ford he had no option but retreat.

Of course, there could be a backlash if labour strife escalates, especially if mainstream media commentators go on to depict workers as selfish and indifferent to the public’s suffering.

Commentators are remarkably quick to depict striking workers as holding the public hostage, while never noticing that business interests routinely hold us hostage when they threaten to leave the country if their taxes are raised.

In the case of such business threats, we’re told that the only answer is to submit to the demands of the hostage-takers and keep their taxes low. In the case of workers, however, we’re told never to give in to hostage-takers — it only encourages them.

With or without public support, labour militancy may soon be pressing up against the brick wall of a recession, which is being deliberately induced by the Bank of Canada to crush inflation.

In fact, wage gains have not been a major source of recent inflation, while corporations have taken advantage of inflation to pad their profits, notes economist Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work.

Even so, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem has singled out workers for discipline, advising businesspeople at a Canadian Federation of Independent Business event last summer to hold wage increases in check. The audience seemed only too happy to oblige. “You bet! We’re on it, sir!”

As the corporate world and the Bank of Canada form a mighty phalanx to block labour advances — only in the interest of fighting inflation, of course! — labour’s battle to make up for years of lost ground becomes tougher.

And labour is pushing not just for higher wages, but for a shakeup of players at the power table.

While white men continue to dominate the corporate world, women and minorities have surged into leadership roles in the union movement, where there’s an appetite for breaking down traditional power structures.

Labour’s role in these battles is key. It is the only force in society sufficiently strong and organized to effectively champion the broad interests of working people, while pushing back against the crushing weight of corporate power.

Labour takes on these battles because equality — improving conditions for everyone — is baked into its agenda.

This aspiration for a better world for all was captured beautifully many years ago by J.S. Woodsworth, the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (forerunner of the NDP), when he wrote: “What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all.”

Woodsworth, a Methodist pastor, became a staunch advocate for organized labour, and was arrested for controversial editorials he wrote supporting the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

The corporate version of his credo might well be: “What we desire for ourselves is the only thing that matters, so get out of our way.”

After decades of corporate triumphalism and gluttony, a little labour militancy in the spirit of J.S. Woodsworth isn’t something to fear but rather embrace.

This column was originally posted in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

Harassment, imprisonment of journalists hits record highs worldwide

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 08:33

It has been an unprecedented year for press freedom violations. 

The onslaught of harassment, intimidation, persecution, and violence against the most vulnerable and precarious journalists in the industry has only amplified. 

Coalition For Women in Journalism (CFWIJ), which has helped more than 600 journalists, women leaders, and activists to safety since October alone, and has been tracking journalism rights violations faced by women in the industry. 

It is not just online abuse and harassment women in journalism are facing — though it certainly makes up a large portion of it. 

What makes these journalism — and often human rights — violations so egregious, the CFWIJ argues, is not the acts themselves. It is the fact that most abuse against women in journalism is often done with impunity. 

According to CFWIJ data, at least 12 women journalists were murdered in 2022, as of November 25.

READ MORE: How newsrooms can handle attacks on journalists

In the same period of time, researchers logged a minimum of 97 incidents of women journalists being held under the custody of law enforcement, up from 63 in 2021. That number includes 42 who were arrested in 2022 only, as well as others who were released. The CFWIJ says Iran is the most punitive country for women in journalism so far this year, with 35 arrests.

Additionally, they tracked 49 different organized troll campaigns carried out against women in journalism. 

Of the 12 female reporters who have been killed so far this year, four murders occurred in Mexico. Three women journalists were killed in Ukraine as well as two others in Palestine. Other countries with a fatality include Iraq, Chile, and Afghanistan.

The 12 deaths are on track to match 2021 as the deadliest year for women in journalism on record, double the number of fatalities in 2020.

There have been at least 79 women journalists subjected to legal harassment in 2022, while 77 female reporters were physically assaulted while working — most of which the CFWIJ say are by the police.

While Turkey topped the list of countries with the highest number of violations so far this year, Canada is on track to be the most likely country for female reporters to be subjected to major online trolling campaigns.

2022 on track for record of number of journalists jailed

On Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released their annual census of reporters incarcerated across the globe.

As of December 1, the census showed 2022 is on track to break the record for the number of journalists jailed around the world. 

The census found that 363 reporters were taken into police custody in the first 11 months of the year, up by 20 per cent compared to last year. 

The five countries where persecution of journalists was most common were Iran, China, Myanmar, Turkey, and Belarus. 

The census pointed to the rise of increasingly oppressive efforts by authoritarian governments to silence journalists as a main contributor to the record-breaking total.

At least 22 of the 49 reporters arrested in Iran were women, reflecting the prominent role female reporters have played in covering a women-led uprising in the wake of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s suspicious death in police custody.

The census highlighted the wide variety of tactics authoritarian leaders are using to weaponize press freedoms. Aside from imprisoning reporters, governments are also creating “fake news” laws, arbitrarily using legislation to criminalize journalism, and the exploitation of technology to spy on reporters and their loved ones.

Online harassment of female journalists unprecedented

A December 1 panel at Carleton University unpacked the unprecedented rise in online abuse facing journalists, especially racialized women in journalism.

The panel included three female reporters who have been subjected to widespread, systematic trolling campaigns for simply doing their job — the Toronto Star’s Saba Eitizaz, Global TV’s Rachel Gilmore, and Hill Times columnist Erica Ifill. They were joined by federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who has publicly called for an end to the harassment of reporters, adding the federal government is committed to protecting press freedom in Canada. 

In 2021, moderator and CBC President Catherine Tait noted, Reporters Without Borders found that the vast majority of journalists agreed the internet was “the most dangerous place for journalists.”

Data showed nearly half of female reporters reporting self-censorship to avoid exposure to violence and one-in-five either considering not renewing their contracts or leaving their job altogether.

In her opening remarks, Tait noted that “society will need to change to ensure that this behaviour is simply deemed unacceptable, just as human trafficking and drunk driving are.” Global News’ Online Editor-in-Chief Sonia Verma agreed, noting she’s told her staff they have no obligation to be on social media anymore.

But for freelancers like Iffil who don’t aren’t unionized with salaries and benefits, leaving social media could be fatal to an already precarious career. 

“This idea that you can just be off social media, I’m sorry, it’s for people who don’t understand media,” Iffil responded. “This idea that we can make this choice to just step away from the noise is ludicrous. It does not reflect an intersectional look at media today.”

“You cannot compare people’s existence as who they are and who they want to be to drunk driving,” Ifill said.

Ifill pointed out that the same freelancers who help build the content of some of the country’s biggest media organizations do so with no institutional protection, adding that those who are most likely to be freelancers are racialized, queer, trans, disabled or otherwise underrepresented in an industry failing to follow through on a promise of “diversity of voices.”

Eitizaz agrees. She knows about the harassment and persecution of journalists all too well.

“Safe has now become an alien word to me,” she said, calling it ironic considering she came to Canada to seek safety. 

Eitizaz fled Pakistan after her reporting on state complicity in human rights abuses led to “a horrific, organized online hate campaign” against her. So when the same thing happened to her in Canada, she was shocked but not surprised.

“I was doxxed, I was vilified, assaulted by misogynistic, ethnophobic violent abuse — just like here,” she said. “The police didn’t believe me. They didn’t help me — just like here.”

“Giving up space and disengaging from this will not disengage from the hate,” Eitizaz said. “The hate follows you until the systemic issues are addressed.”

All three women shared stories of reporting graphic and threatening emails, messages and videos, only to be told by law enforcement that they don’t fall under any offenses of the Criminal Code. 

Eitizaz highlighted the fact that, due to the dismissiveness of law enforcement and media organizations, many vulnerable journalists were left to their own devices to combat the hate they were receiving. 

“I think that burden should not have been on us,” she said. “I can’t even post my work without having to think about what repercussions I’m going to be dealing with.”

Speaking at the panel, Mendicino directly called the harassment and intimidation both racist and misogynistic, as well as intentional and criminal. He pointed out the same journalists receiving these kinds of hatred are the same ones who are forced to break through barriers to make it in the industry.

Mendicino acknowledged the role of journalism as one that is a “democratically essential responsibility to tell stories from perspectives that have not historically been told.” He added it’s the federal government’s responsibility to be a “bridge to law enforcement” to keep all spaces, including online ones, safe for everyone.

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Categories: F. Left News

The uneasy relationship between medically assisted death and suicide

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 07:05

Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) law — had been set to include mental health issues starting next March and even consider extension to “mature minors.” The government now says it is seeking a delay in making those changes. The bill has gone from a progressive example of social compassion to a potential model for neoliberal cost-cutting, by killing people instead of housing or caring for them.

That’s breathtaking, metaphorically at least. “MAID is the new society safety net,” said a despairing 65-year-old Canadian quoted in an article in Common Sense (now called The Free Press).

MAID was historically a liberal or left cause. Its igniting moment came in 1994, when the brave NDP MP Svend Robinson helped his friend Sue Rodriguez, who was in life-ending agony with an incurable disease, to die. Robinson was investigated but not charged. He received his income from public funds but wasn’t acting in his parliamentary role.

It’s characteristic of what’s happened since then that the useful, critical piece in The Free Press — a basically right-wing U.S. journal — was by a conservative Canadian National Post columnist, Rupa Subramanya — though I’m not suggesting right and left is what this discussion is about: it totally isn’t.

Justice Minister David Lametti recently muddied the waters by seeming to suggest MAID is a matter of providing equal access to suicide, for those without the means to do it on their own. Some MAID advocates expressed shock at his equation but MAID is assisted suicide, and in the past was often called that — though only within stringent limits and in conventional medical cases.

Suicide itself is a vaster category. It’s a permanent element in human existence. Hamlet said the question was to be or not to be, but suicide brought him up short. (“Ay, there’s the rub.”) Until recently, media wouldn’t even speak the word. They’d say someone “died suddenly,” or “at their own hand.” The movement for MAID had to overcome that opprobrium, and it succeeded. But its backers may’ve forgotten they did so by limiting it solely to terminal cases.

Let me rattle on a bit. Those who want to die ultimately have, I think, a right to it, even including cases that qualify as mental ill health. There can be a certain dignity in that choice, sometimes the only dignity which distraught people feel is left, and they may merit some complicated respect for it.

But any role of the state should be highly restricted. MAID was about foreseeable death; its extension, if it eventually passes, will be about intolerable life. A medical category gets replaced by an existential one. Of course people in despair deserve compassion and care — but a bureaucratic, state-run, professionally administered lethal process doesn’t qualify as that.

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called despair the sickness unto death, but he spoke metaphorically; calling a MAID doctor to deal with it is a category error. There’s also the fact that medical personnel have (albeit rarely) engaged in serial murder. But it doesn’t take a lot of them to do a lot of damage.

As well, we know that MAID is a source of income, and of a sense of power too, to which doctors aren’t immune. As for MAID being — as one shrink said — about respecting human dignity: why should medical doctors know more about that than, say, a single working mom? Let them treat what they trained for. Death and dignity are matters for humanity at large, in its fragmented multitudes.

I don’t normally “weigh in” on topics for their own sake, but this feels different. Perhaps because I remember adolescence; it lingers so resolutely. (Life is like high school with money, as Frank Zappa is said to have said.) I’d have grabbed at almost any explanation or solution for the multiple hells it seemed to generate.

It’s also to do with the slippery slope argument, which usually creeps me out but it comes down to that here. It’s a perilous process we’ve begun scuttering through. The mere fact that these debates spring up like weeds shows how murky the terrain is and why discussion should be allowed to flourish, versus getting cut off by precipitate legislative deadlines.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

What does 2023 have in store for Canadian politics?

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 04:00

This week on rabble radio, we feature a segment from our most recent Off the Hill political panel. This month, our theme was ‘Off the Hill: Looking back to leap ahead.’ From the Freedom Convoy, to major action in Canada’s labour movement, to the ongoing war in Ukraine, to political leadership races on the provincial and federal levels, our panel reflected on the major news events of 2022 and wondered aloud: What does this mean we can expect for 2023?

Our December panel included MP Leah Gazan, Chuka Ejeckam, El Jones and Karl Nerenberg. Co-hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies.

Also – don’t miss next week’s episode, when we’ll be reviewing highlights from our top rabble radio episodes of the year! Will your favourite episode make it on our list? Tune in next week to find out.

Do you know a rabble rouser to watch?

We are now accepting submissions for our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ of 2023. Tell us about the activists in your community who have made a difference, and whose work you think rabble should be covering. Nominations are open until midnight, December 31, 2022. Everyone who participates in our survey will be entered into a draw to win a rabble tote bag.

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Categories: F. Left News

The right to join a union is a human right

Fri, 12/16/2022 - 03:28

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everybody has the right to join a union.

The Declaration was written by the Canadian legal scholar John Humphrey who was the Director of the UN’s Human Rights Division. Its proclamation is celebrated every December 10th.

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

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Categories: F. Left News

Understanding the Zionist extremist win in Israel and what we can do

Thu, 12/15/2022 - 13:53

On November 1, after four years of deadlock, Benjamin Netanyahu won the Israeli elections by inking a deal with the fascist Religious Zionism party and forming an alliance with far-right politicians Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

Now Itamar Ben Gvir is poised to become head of the brand new National Security Ministry, a planned portfolio that will include overseeing the police and Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Ben-Gvir is reviled and renowned for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including brandishing a pistol and encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian stone-throwers in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood. Before he became a lawyer, he was convicted of offenses that include inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.

In his new role, he would oversee the police, among other things, enabling him to implement some of the hard-line policies against the Palestinians he has advocated for years.

The last four years of deadlock have basically been a contest between right-wing Zionists and more left Zionists. A just and equitable solution for Palestine has long since disappeared from the top of the agenda. Now this election promises a future that we dare not imagine.

Understanding the vote

“A strange thing happened last Tuesday. As the election results came in, two things became clear. One, Netanyahu’s rightist-religious bloc had won a sweeping, unassailable victory. Two, it had done so without fundamentally changing the actual numbers of votes.” Haviv Reting Gur of theTimes of Israel writes.

According to analysts, Netanyahu’s 64-seat majority is almost entirely a function of the electoral threshold, which caused the disappearance of well over a quarter-million votes below the cutoff.

READ MORE: Anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism

It was feared that many of the Palestinians who are eligible to vote in Israeli Knesset elections would choose not to. Before the election, polls predicted no more than 39 per cent of Palestinians who have the right to vote in Israel would show up at the polls. To be clear, Palestinians have no problem voting – in municipal elections, turnout is regularly higher than 90 percent – but the level of anger and disillusionment with the Knesset is high.

The threat posed by Netanyahu’s agreement with Ben-Gvir, actually galvanized 55 percent of Palestinians eligible to vote to turnout to the polls.

However, it did not stop the monstrous result.  Now Ben-Gvir is head of National Security and the impact on Palestinians promises to be devastating. Governments around the world made a few cautionary statements but now are having receptions for him.

Do not sit and watch helplessly or turn away as things get worse and worse for Palestinians.  Here are some campaigns to support at the moment and demand justice.

Keep standing against the demolitions: Since 2009, over 13,000 Palestinians have had their homes demolished in the West Bank alone. Ameer Makhoul, who has worked with housing rights for Palestinians for decades estimates that Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular are facing home demolition policies which may affect 60,000 residences.

At the end of November 2022, Israeli forces destroyed a school in Masafar Yatta. Masafer Yatta, which falls in Area C, is a region south of Hebron, where some eight villages, home to more than 1,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, are facing imminent forced displacement by Israeli authorities based on a May 2022 ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice. The Israeli Army has argued that the Palestinians are living in an Israeli army “firing zone”.  Meanwhile people of Jewish descent have been allowed to move into the area and have been abusing the Palestinian residents. See the videos and take action on the #SaveMasaferYatta campaign.

The most recent report on demolitions from the UN Office on the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs details.

Israel is poised to arrest leaders of Palestinian Civil Society organizations: In the early morning of August 18, 2022 Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) raided the offices of six respected Palestinian human rights organisations.

The organisations were shut down after the raids and now operate under constant threat of being arrested. These organisations provide legal aid and confidential information was stolen from them.

Al Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees continue to face attacks but are battling on and working to defend the rights of Palestinians.  Support them because they are needed more than ever.

Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel: The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. Find out which countries continue to invest in Israel and stop supporting them and build campaigns to build the BDS movement. There needs to be economic pressure to change systemic discrimination and apartheid policies.

Watch for the escalation of violence by Israeli settler gangs: Ben-Gvir promised to settle “Judea and Samaria”, referring to the West Bank. Promises like this will further ignite tensions between these new resistance groups in the West Bank and the right-wing settlers, many of whom come from the Haredi communities.

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Categories: F. Left News

‘Canada has a lot on the line’: The future of biodiversity rests on COP15

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 13:03

As delegates from across the globe gather in Montreal for an international climate meeting, the need to protect Canada’s nature and prevent biodiversity loss is greater than ever.

The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) began last week and is slated to conclude on December 19. The purpose of the event is to set out new goals and create an action plan to protect the environment over the next decade while reversing as much biodiversity loss as possible worldwide.

Canada’s federal government is pushing for an international collaboration on a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, with a goal of having 30 per cent of targeted lands and oceans conserved by 2030, something the government of Canada and more than 100 other countries have committed to.

The CBD dates back to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where 150 world leaders signed the agreement to promote sustainable development and recognize biodiversity loss affects food security, medicine, fresh air, water, shelter and a clean and healthy environment. 

As The Guardian reported last week, the global biodiversity summit also marks the biggest police operation in Montreal in two decades.

The summit has been met with criticism from environmental experts and advocates, who organized mass demonstrations in Montreal to bring awareness to the biodiversity crisis.

‘Canada has a lot on the line’: minister

In his opening remarks to COP15 participants, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault warned there are one million species currently at risk of extinction around the world. 

“When we conserve or restore forests and wetlands, we help nature, and we help nature help us, by sequestering carbon, cleaning our water and air, and providing rich ecosystems for life,” he said.

While every country has a role to play in protecting biodiversity, Canada has a lot on the line. Guilbeault noted the country is “home to 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water, 24 per cent of wetlands, 25 per cent of temperate rainforest area, and 28 per cent of the remaining boreal forest.”

The minister touted the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment, including more than $5 billion in spending committed to nature action, with at least 20 per cent going to nature-based initiatives outside of Canada.

Guilbeault also stated all efforts to protect the environment must be done “in full partnership with Indigenous peoples.”

Canada’s decision to host the conference comes after more than two years of delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Inger Anderson, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, COP15 is “but a few days to act decisively and with principle.”

Anderson says action “must be bold, not bracketed.” She pointed out the pandemic delays gave governments more time to plan their responses to biodiversity loss. 

“Let us not squander that,” Anderson said.

Species at risk have doubled since 2002: WCS

For scientists with the organization Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCS), the country’s vast wilderness isn’t enough to prevent the biodiversity crisis.

With half of the global area for natural ecosystems lost, along with the biomass of wild animals dropping by 82 per cent, the sense of urgency to preserve ecosystems is greater than ever. 

In a December 8 news release, WCS noted its national list of species at risk has doubled since it first began in 2002. Even more concerning is the fact that few endangered species are “on the road to recovery.”

Pointing to a new report’s findings that thousands of wild species in Canada could disappear without government intervention on the biodiversity crisis, the release added that wetlands and woodlands in the country’s southern regions have been “reduced to small fragments.”

The release pointed out that Canadian wildlife provides the ideal breeding habitat for billions of migratory birds each year.

Canada’s biodiversity is also being jeopardized by a growing dependence on more Northern regions of the country to extract resources like oil, threatening “some of the planet’s largest and most intact forests and peatlands.”

Scientists with WCS Canada are studying ways to protect vulnerable wolverines and lake sturgeon. They’re also working to save bats from deadly disease, as well as reducing the impact of growing ship noise on marine mammals.

With tens of thousands of lakes and rivers, along with the world’s longest ocean coastline, WCS says Canada’s role in combating the global biodiversity crisis is critical.

“The fact that this country still has globally important intact wild areas is really a result of Indigenous stewardship,” the release reads. 

Indigenous Peoples must have central role in protecting biodiversity: Greenpeace

Ahead of COP15, climate advocacy organization Greenpeace International urged world leaders to recognize Indigenous rights as a necessary first step to developing a Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Greenpeace said the summit will only be successful if the final text of the framework includes “explicit recognition for Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ rights and central roles in protecting biodiversity globally, including prior and informed consent.”

The non-profit is also advocating for an allocation of at least $100 billion U.S. dollars each year by developed countries for developing countries.

“It is impossible to talk about biodiversity conservation without mentioning Indigenous Lands,” said Dinamam Tuxá, executive coordinator for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil in a news release.

Tuxá noted that global areas managed by Indigenous Peoples are “among the most conserved,” despite their small percentage of the world’s population. But even with impressive conservation rates, Indigenous communities “remain outside the decision-making process and without our rights to our territories.”

Amnesty International agrees.

The environmental organization noted in a news release last week that 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity is found on Indigenous-managed lands. 

Amnesty International is also calling for any agreement to be met with a guarantee that “subsistence land-users have access to land, are protected from forced evictions, enjoy an adequate standard of living, and are consulted on all decisions that impact their rights.

Indigenous representatives at the convention are restricted in their ability to provide consent, only having the right to speak and make suggestions with no guarantee their recommendations are honoured. 

“The loss and degradation of biodiversity threatens human and non-human life and is a major source of human rights violations, including the right to life,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, in a statement.

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Categories: F. Left News

We are nearing the end of a very bad year

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 12:27

To those of us who live in affluent countries the year 2022 seemed particularly tumultuous. 

That’s because this past year we experienced some of the conflict and contagion that routinely afflicts poorer countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued unabated throughout the year, lasting far longer than any medical expert or political leader had expected. 

In the global South communicable and infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, cholera and tuberculosis are commonplace. 

COVID-19 broke the mold. It has attacked the affluent West more fiercely and with a greater death toll than it did most developing countries. We are not used to being so favoured.

Nor are we used to active and bloody wars waged in our part of the globe.

Since the end of World War II there have been multiple wars in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Western countries, especially the U.S., were deeply involved in most of those. 

But until the Russians invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, none of those wars took place on European or North American territory, with the exception of the localized ethnic conflicts of the 1990s in parts of the former Yugoslavia.

The Ukraine war has shaken our sense of security here in the normally sheltered and affluent North. 

The war in Ukraine has so discomforted us that at its outset some U.S. reporters noted how out-of-the-ordinary and, indeed, shocking, it was for such a war to be happening not in some primitive and backward place such as Iraq or Afghanistan but in civilized Europe. 

Television comedian Trevor Noah attacked that bigoted and condescending view in a cutting monologue  . 

The story of a convoy

The pandemic and the Ukraine war dominated news in 2022, even here in Canada. 

In this country, government-mandated COVID health measures provoked some of the most virulent backlash anywhere in the world – in the form of the truckers’ convoys that blocked border crossings and occupied Ottawa for nearly a month. 

The recent hearings of the Public Order Emergency Commission have confirmed what many suspected at the time, back in January and February of 2022. 

Politicians and public officials at all levels of government were at a near total loss as to how to deal with this new kind of illegal activity.

READ MORE: Absence of leadership to resolve Ottawa occupation is glaring, especially from Ford

Ontario premier Doug Ford refused to take part in meetings with the city of Ottawa and the federal government.

Ford’s minister in charge of the provincial police, Sylvia Jones, flagrantly gaslighted the city of Ottawa when she claimed falsely the province had assigned 1,500 Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers to Ottawa to assist the overwhelmed local police. The true figure was closer to 100.

People in politics have short memories, or, perhaps, can be very forgiving. After the provincial election in June, Ford rewarded Jones’ stellar performance with a promotion to the health ministry.

The Ottawa police chief during most of the convoy occupation, Peter Sloly, seemed genuinely fearful of the occupiers. There were intimations, at the time, Sloly could not count on the loyalty of many members of his force. Evidence to the Commission has subsequently confirmed that suspicion.

As for Jim Watson, mayor of Ottawa during the occupation, his idea of leadership was to emulate British pre-World-War-II prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who thought the best way to deal with Adolf Hitler was to appease him.

Watson used the good offices of Doug Ford’s former chief of staff Dean French to try to reach a back-channel deal with the occupiers. 

Watson wanted the truckers to move their giant idling vehicles out of residential areas and onto the streets immediately adjacent to Parliament, which were already crowded with pollution-spewing trucks.

It was a fruitless effort because the occupiers did not constitute a coherent group with which one could negotiate anything. 

The city could have taken legal action to end the incessant honking and idling, but did nothing, out of a ridiculously misplaced desire to avoid offending the invaders. A young downtown resident took matters into her own hands and succeeded in getting an injunction that stopped the honking.

At the outset of the convoy affair, federal Conservatives decided to imitate their Republican counterparts south of the border by vocally and visibly supporting the occupiers. 

Canada’s Conservatives thought there would be political benefit to them, just as such Republicans as congressman Mo Brooks and Senator Josh Hawley thought they could earn the gratitude of Donald Trump’s supporters by egging on the mob that invaded Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021.

The man who would become Conservative leader in the fall of 2022, Pierre Poilievre, was one of the most active in support of the convoy. Poilievre’s only concrete suggestion to the prime minister was that he should legitimize the tactic of illegally invading the centre of Canada’s capital by negotiating with the occupiers.

In mid-February, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act. Shortly after that, police forces from around the country joined with the RCMP and Ottawa police to oust the occupiers. The operation was conducted professionally and with virtually no violence.

Then, mere days after the streets of Ottawa were once again clear and open to all, on February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Ukraine not about defending “western” values

Russia’s Vladimir Putin thought it would be a short and quick operation, but the war is still going on. 

Following Putin’s invasion, the West rallied quickly to Ukraine’s defence, but the rest of the world took a more cautious stance.

There are few world leaders, anywhere, be it in the North or South, who would openly approve of one country so blatantly breaching another’s sovereignty as Putin did in February of 2022. 

If the Russians succeed in their action and eliminate Ukraine as an independent country, most believe it will set a terrible precedent.

But countries in the global South have a hard time swallowing the pretense of the wealthy North to the effect that what is happening in Ukraine is a struggle to uphold “our western values.” Historian Margaret MacMillan is among many in the West who has used that phrase.

People around the world would have the right to ask which noble western values motivated the slave trade, the seizure of land from Indigenous peoples throughout the world, and the Holocaust?

Canada has strong ties with Ukraine and its people. We have the largest Ukrainian diaspora outside of Russia. But our influence is limited. We are not a major military player. If peace ever returns to the region, we could have a greater role to play in reconstruction.

NDP-Liberal agreement, and victories for the right in two largest provinces

In 2022 the domestic political agenda included an unprecedented confidence and supply agreement by the governing Justin Trudeau Liberals and Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats signed in March.

This deal does not create a coalition government; there are no NDPers in Trudeau’s cabinet, and the two parties do not caucus together.

Singh got Trudeau to agree to enact a number of NDP policies in exchange for the New Democrats’ voting with the Liberals on crucial measures where defeat would mean an election.

The deal is to last until 2025. A few months in, the New Democrats could point to some achievements, such as a dental care payment for children of uninsured families and an increase to the Canada Housing Benefit.

Of late, the crisis in health care, especially for children, has rattled the NDP. It is now echoing the provinces’ demand that the governing Liberals contribute a lot more money for heath care.  

New Democrats say the Liberals must live up to their 2021 election promises on health care.

Those include: a $6 billion top-up to the Canada Health Transfer to support the elimination of health system waitlists; $3.2 billion to the provinces and territories for the hiring of 7,500 new family doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners; $4.5 billion to establish a Canada Mental Health transfer; and $1.7 billion to ensure personal support workers are paid $25 an hour.

The Liberals are, perhaps, justifiably leery of handing over money to provincial governments without any guarantee of how they will actually spend it. 

Ontario’s Doug Ford gleefully caused his government to forego billions in revenue each year when, on the eve of the provincial election in June, he abolished the province’s automobile registration fee.

Other premiers, including those of Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec, have courted voter support with similar populist payouts. They handed out cheques worth multiple billions of dollars, regardless of recipients’ actual need or income. 

What guarantee would the federal government have that Ford – or any other provincial premier – would not take increased federal health transfers with one hand, while cutting taxes or capriciously handing out billions in bribes to voters with the other?

Ford’s registration fee gambit worked last June. He was re-elected with an increased majority which has allowed him to shed the kindly Uncle Doug persona he adopted during the pandemic and pursue divisive policies hostile to workers’ rights, the environment, and democratic norms

In October of 2022, Quebec’s François Legault also won re-election, and also with a massive, increased majority.

While Ford fashions himself as the friend of real estate developers, small business people and, especially, the car commuters of suburban Ontario, Legault has modeled himself, in large measure, on Maurice Duplessis, who was the near-dictator of Quebec for nearly a quarter century, from 1936 to 1959.

Duplessis fashioned an ideology that combined a sort of backward looking, negative and defensive nationalism, with culturally conservativism and laissez-faire economic policies.

Legault has focused on reducing the size of the Quebec state and demonizing immigrants, and it has worked, except on the island of Montreal.

In the years to come Legault and Ford will constitute a formidable right-wing duo, managing the governments for 60 per cent of Canada’s people.

The deaths of two giants

Elsewhere in Canada, with the exceptions of Newfoundland and British Columbia, governments of the right are in power at the provincial level. But in Alberta and Manitoba that might soon change. 

There is a chance that by the end of 2023 three of Canada’s provincial governments will be led by New Democrats.

And while we’re on the subject of New Democrats, 2022 saw the deaths of two giants of the movement for social democracy in Canada.

Bill Blaikie was a long-time federal NDP MP from Manitoba and, for a while, a provincial cabinet minister. He was one of the last of a dying breed, a progressive United Church minister who was inspired by the doctrine known as the social gospel. 

Alexa McDonough led both the Nova Scotia New Democrats and the federal NDP from 1995 to 2002. 

Arguably she helped save the political movement for social democracy in Canada. In the election of 1997 when she revived the NDP, and helped it win 21 seats. In the previous elections her party had lost party status and almost disappeared from the political map. 

Younger Canadians will now have to carry the torch those two passed on for progressive ideas and policies. 

We’ll see what they can accomplish in 2023.

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Categories: F. Left News

Progressives can triumph in Alberta—by being Canadians

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 09:18

Danielle Smith is the worst thing to happen to Alberta since Jason Kenney. 

It’s been slightly over two months since she assumed the leadership of the United Conservative Party.

In that time, Smith has rammed an unconstitutional Alberta Sovereignty Act through the provincial legislature. She’s called for the revenue generated at national parks in Alberta to stay in Alberta. And she’s pushed for vaccination status to become a protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act, a move that panders to members and supporters of the separatist trucker convoys. 

In return, she’s earned the disapproval of a whopping 58% of Albertans. And for good reason.

Danielle Smith is wildly out of touch with the province she’s supposed to be leading.

Alberta separatism a fringe movement

Here’s what Smith doesn’t seem to understand: Alberta works best when Alberta works with the rest of Canada, including the federal government that Smith so despises. 

But guess what? Most Albertans understand this, even if our premier doesn’t.

In a recent poll, only 32% of Albertans agreed that “The Alberta Sovereignty Act is necessary to stand-up for Alberta against the federal government.” That figure was even lower in the key cities of Edmonton and Calgary, where, respectively, 27% and 29% of residents agreed with that statement. 

Those numbers are consistent with polling data for other anti-Confederation UCP policy proposals. 

In a spring 2022 survey, 55% of Albertans opposed creating a provincial police force. While in an October 2022 survey, 60% of Albertans opposed creating a new provincial pension plan to replace CPP. 

The numbers are even starker in polls about Albertans’ views on Confederation more generally. 

A spring survey found that only 19% of Albertans wanted the province to leave Canada, down from 29% in February 2019. That same survey found that nearly two-thirds of Albertans qualify as “federalists”: they want the federal-provincial relationship to continue functioning as it does now, without major constitutional or legislative changes. And importantly, these federalists aren’t just the dominant group amongst Alberta New Democrats—they also constitute a near-majority of UCP supporters.  

You see, here’s what Danielle Smith and the UCP don’t get: Alberta isn’t nearly as separatist or anti-Canadian as caricatures of the province make it out to be. 

Sure, separatist sentiments spiked after the 2019 federal election—commanding the support of 29% of Albertans. And yes, Alberta has a fringe separatist party pushing for a “Wexit.” But “Alberta nationalism” is a fringe movement even when its popularity waxes. It just happens to be a particularly loud one and to fit with stereotypes about who Albertans are, so it gets a lot of airtime nationally and locally. 

On the whole Albertans, even fairly conservative ones, don’t want Alberta to be its own country—either within or without Canadian Confederation. 

An opportunity for progressives, provincially and federally

Albertans don’t want the crap Danielle Smith and the UCP are force-feeding us. That presents a fabulous opportunity for progressives: not just to defeat the UCP in Alberta’s upcoming provincial election, but more importantly to win over conservative-minded voters who recognize the value of Confederation. 

Alberta’s progressives are a movement committed to national unity. We’re a movement committed to making Canada work as a country and an idea. We’re a movement committed to our province’s place within both.

And that makes us extremely competitive in “conservative” Alberta.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that left-leaning Albertans compromise on our progressive politics in a bid to “reach across the aisle.” There’s no point electing the NDP or any other leftist government if we have to sacrifice our key values in order to do so.

What I am suggesting is that progressives don’t have to.

By branding ourselves as the most Canadian and the most Albertan option on the political market, progressives can win in Alberta as progressives. And in the process build common ground with Albertans who identify with the centre and centre-right of the political spectrum—no small number of voters.

How to win in Alberta

Albertans want to be a part of Confederation.

What we find frustrating, however, is being written off as, well, political hicks by the rest of Canadians. 

We have a voice, and we want it to be heard. So of course, when we feel ignored, some of us turn to fringe political forces like the trucker convoys or Danielle Smith to make our views known. Which, of course, only further alienates our province from the rest of the country.

Most Albertans, however, lead lives of quiet political desperation.

Nearly three-quarters of us believe the federal government doesn’t care about issues important to Albertans. While a majority of us think our provincial government has been doing a poor job in areas like the economy, the environment, and health care. 

We’re hungry for political representation that works for us and our needs. Yet Canada’s progressive party, the NDP, has historically written us off in federal elections, even refusing to campaign here. Is it any wonder, then, that we turn out for the only parties—conservative ones—that have even pretended to take us seriously?

If progressives want to win in Alberta, they need to start offering Albertans what we want: representation at the provincial and federal levels. 

Listen to what we have to say. Bring our issues to the political table. Give us a place on the national agenda. Tell us you’ll speak for real Albertans, not some caricature of who we are or what we believe. And we’ll reward you with our votes.

What Albertans across the political divide are saying right now is that provincial sovereignty is bad for our province. Our real priorities are healthcare, education, and combating inflation.

We support leftist policy proposals like instituting a universal basic income, in overwhelming numbers. We oppose the privatization of our healthcare system. And, most significantly, we want to keep working with the rest of the country.

These are progressive priorities. Progressives just need to recognize they’re Albertan priorities, too, and they’ll start winning here.

The time is right now for left-leaning politicians to triumph in the Conservative heartland. Precisely because, like Albertans of all political stripes, we’re Canadians first and foremost. Let’s embrace that fact, make it the centre of our political messaging, and invest in the sort of activism and campaigning that will allow us to seize this moment in Alberta’s political history.

Let’s win.

It’s time the real Albertans governed

Maybe I’m wrong about Premier Danielle Smith. Given her history of crossing the floor when it suits her, maybe we should be counting down the days until she becomes an NDP. 

Maybe that’s why she’s introduced policies so deeply at odds with what Albertans really want: because she’s a deep-cover NDP operative working to alienate people from the UCP from within.

Alas, probably not.

She seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker into the caricature of Albertans as far-right separatists. But that’s a political fantasy, not the reality on the ground.

And if the polls are right, and the UCP keeps lagging behind the NDP in the key battleground city of Calgary, then Smith is going to be punished for believing it come the spring.

Too bad we’ll have to wait that long. It’s high time that real Albertans were allowed to govern.

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Categories: F. Left News

AUPE says Alberta Throne Speech overlooks education, senior care

Wed, 12/14/2022 - 09:15

Commencing the fourth session of the 30th legislature, the Throne Speech from the United Conservative Party (UCP) swore to address key issues afflicting Alberta and its working class. Affordability, strengthening the economy by increasing jobs and improving the health care systems were named as top priorities for the Alberta government. 

With inflation hurting Albertans, these commitments sound promising. However, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is skeptical about Premier Danielle Smith’s action plan especially considering the party’s history of wage stagnation, subpar handling of public health issues and plans for health care privatization. Representing over 95,000 Albertan workers in health care, education boards, government and other public sectors, AUPE said the Throne Speech overlooked many issues their members are facing.

“It was a speech that lacked more than what it actually contained. What it contained was a bit of a source of concern for us,” said Sandra Azocar, executive vice president of AUPE in an interview with

According to Azocar, the Throne Speech overlooked education and senior care, two sectors that many AUPE members work in. While the UCP did promise to improve the health care system, the speech failed to acknowledge any of the core issues that were painfully revealed during the pandemic. Improving senior care, for instance, can alleviate stress on hospital bed shortages—one of many issues that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed in Alberta’s health care system.

“When it came to health care, there was nothing there to address short-staffing which we believe is [a source of] all the problems that we’re currently seeing in the crisis. It’s something that was made worse during COVID,” Azocar said.

“As a result, now our members are in a position where they have absolutely no more to give and are continuously being asked to do more with less human resources available,” she added.

On top of staffing shortages, wage stagnation and poor working conditions have created a shaky foundation for the health care system and its workers. Consequently, these workers are stretched beyond their limits with little recognition.

“What all our members would like to see is wages that not only reflect the hard economic times, but also reflect the value of the work that we do. All our members are frontline workers, regardless of the sector that they work in,” Azocar said.

Empty platitudes and false promises of jobs     

If there is anything that the AUPE and the provincial government can both get on board with, it’s job creation, but that’s where the similarities end. Premier Smith continues to push health care towards privatization, arguing that it will create more jobs in the public sector. 

“We are working with our partners, including all of Alberta’s unions, to make sure that workers’ rights and safety are protected, and they have the skills they need to grow their careers and participate in Alberta’s robust economy,” according to an email statement from Alberta’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development to

The ministry added that health care jobs are increasing. As of last September, Alberta Health Services (AHS) has 1,800 more registered nurses from before the pandemic and 176 new doctors in the past year. With the Throne Speech’s promise for job creation, the UCP’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development said that they will continue to lower taxes and reduce red tape for business owners, making it “easy for businesses to come and set up shop in our province.” They added that they are on track to break venture capital records, reporting $509 million in investments this past quarter. 

“Our work isn’t done, and we are working hard to keep up our economic momentum, further diversify our economy, and help Albertans get the skills they need to succeed in their career,” the statement said.

Despite this increase of jobs in the health care sector, Azocar has her doubts—it’s not enough to fulfill the labour gap. Over time the demand for doctors, nurses and many other health care positions will grow due to an ageing workforce and population. More health care workers are needed to replace retirees and take care of the older generations.

To properly address staffing shortages, the provincial government needs work on retainment, recruitment and improving working conditions. She also warned how the “stealth privatization” of Alberta’s health care system will result in job loss within the public sector and diminished patient care.

“Anytime governments speak about fixing the economy and creating jobs—it’s always great words, great messaging—but then what we will always be concerned about is what kind of jobs are they talking about? We have seen a lot of privatization, especially in the area of laundry services” Azocar said.

Earlier this year, AHS privatized in-house hospital services resulting in 334 job layoffs. More recently, the privatization of medical laboratory services by DynaLIFE which critics are saying benefits corporate interest while leaving patient care in the dust.

Another adverse effect of privatization is losing more workers—especially when there’s a staffing shortage in the public health care system.

“In the meantime, what they do is they rob the public systems—we just don’t have enough people as it is. We can’t afford to lose more nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists into the private system,” Azocar said.

During the Throne Speech, Alberta Lieutenant Governor the Hon. Salma Lakhani expressed appreciation for health care workers across the province.

“To our front-line professionals, we thank you. We know you are tired, yet you soldier on to serve and love and care for all of us. We love and salute you. On behalf of all Albertans, thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Lakhani said.

For Azocar, these remarks were empty platitudes as Premier Smith is clear about her intentions to put health care in the hands of private entities. Until the UCP begins to listen to public health care workers and ceases their plans for privatization, the health care system will continue to suffer.

Alberta’s Health Minister, Jason Copping and Minister of Skilled Trade and Professions, Kaycee Madu were both contacted for an interview, but did not reply before publication.

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