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Who are the rabble rousers to watch in 2023?

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 16:57

Each year, we ask our audience to share with us the organizations, activists, and changemakers they know who are doing incredible work in activism. And every year, we then have the privilege of highlighting a brand new group of people as part of our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ series. 

Our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ series is a part of rabble’s Lynn Williams Activist Toolkit. Our Toolkit, named after labour and social justice organizer, Lynn Williams, works to amplify the work of activists across Canada. is a publication which was created by progressive journalists and activists. So we understand that activism requires amplifiers to help build movements and create change. With our rabble rousers to watch series, we hope to achieve just that. 

There are so many amazing activists and organizations coast to coast to coast that our audience needs to learn about — and so we are turning to you, our community, for feedback. 

We want to hear from you. What are the organizations that inspire you? Who are the activists leading progressive change in your community? In 2023 and beyond, we want to continue to support the movements that make our communities stronger. 

Please use this form to nominate activists who have made a difference! Whose work should rabble be covering next year?

Nominations are open until midnight, January 2, 2023. As a special thank you, everyone who participates in our survey will be entered into a draw to win one of our limited union-made rabble tote bags.

If you’d like to support independent media today, consider making a donation at Every little bit counts!

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Categories: F. Left News

Canadian Online Publishing Awards 2022: rabble is a finalist in two categories

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 14:51

This week, the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPA) released the finalists for the 2022 winners selection. We are so pleased to announce has made the shortlist in two categories!  

Best Blog Column/Videocast/Podcast (Media): Natasha Darling’s feminist column 

Since its founding, rabble has been committed to sharing feminist content from a wide variety of voices.

The idea of sex work as a feminist issue is often left out of media’s coverage of feminism. And that is part of why rabble is proud to have introduced Natasha Darling as a regular columnist. 

READ MORE: Sex workers pursue challenge against harmful Canadian laws

Darling is a stripper and community-organizer in Toronto who writes under a pseudonym for her column on rabble. Darling’s monthly column focuses on smashing harmful stereotypes, sharing sex worker history, and advocating for sex worker inclusive legislation. 

Darling is here to make it clear: feminists must fight for the rights for sex workers.

You can read Natasha Darling’s column here

Best News/Sports Site (Media):

Since 2001, rabble has made a name for itself as a go-to place for progressive news and views in Canada. We cover the stories of transformative change and offer the perspectives and analysis that are often missed by other media.

Last year, rabble received the Silver Award in the Best Community News Site (Media) category. So we’re very excited to be recognized in the Best News Site category this year, alongside organizations with significantly larger budgets, like The Walrus and Global News. 

“I am extremely proud of our publication for the important journalism they do every day, reporting on stories of social change and the actors who make change happen,” says rabble editor Nick Seebruch. 

“As non-profit media, is a community-driven publication: we could not exist without the communities of content contributors, individual and organizational donors and partners and engaged audiences who permit our national publication to thrive and to create the original analysis and reporting that appears on our pages, as well as our flagship podcast rabble radio and monthly live political analysis show: Off the Hill,” says Kim Elliott, rabble publisher.  

Congratulations to the other publications who were also nominated! We wish you the best of luck! We’re so excited to be the company of such a diverse and thriving media landscape. 

COPA winners will be announced February 2023. 

If you’d like to support independent media today, consider making a donation at Every little bit counts!

And, don’t miss our next Off the Hill event! Happening December 14, 2022 at 7:30pm ET. Off the Hill is taking a look back to leap forward, as we close off 2022 and think ahead to 2023. Don’t miss out! Register for this free event today!

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Categories: F. Left News

Time to end Ford’s Hydro rate shell game

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 08:49

Electricity rates and supply are much in the news these days. Every chance Ford gets he blames the previous Liberal government for high hydro rates. Well, he is right about one thing: it was a previous government.

It was the previous Conservative government of Mike Harris who brought in hydro deregulation and turned every hydro utility in the province from a non-profit commission into a for-profit corporation. 

Ford also claims he has lowered and stabilized rates; he has not lowered rates by one cent. According to the Financial Accountability Office last February Ford has been spending $6.9 billion a year subsidizing hydro rates and looks to spend $118 billion more in the coming years, which might lower hydro bills a bit but not rates! It’s a complete sham. Pretending to lower hydro rates by taking money out of taxpayer’s pockets then putting it back into ratepayers’ pockets is just a shell game! 

Premier Harris went fishing with Kenneth Lay, chairman of ENRON. Promising lower rates, Harris then had Enron, who was convicted of one of the biggest corporate frauds in history, design our electricity market. Now called the Independent Electricity System Operator the IESO.

READ MORE: We must get on the conservation pathway

It is this market and hydro deregulation that is still, 20 years later, continuously driving up electricity rates. Electricity markets do one thing: they maximize profits and are notoriously easy to manipulate. Electricity is very much like water, a necessity of life, and should never have been turned into a for-profit commodity.

 The Ontario government is being pressured about the future supply of electricity. Ford has gone to his favourite private for-profit solution pushing for new private gas and nuclear generation.  

Just like Ford’s developer friends, we must not let Ford’s private profit friends dictate public policy, but that is exactly what’s happening now in the Ford Government.

Why did Ford break his election promise for conservation?  Legislating real conservation measures would greatly anger the for-profit companies that support Ford. Real conservation measures reduce demand, lower electricity prices, hurts profits and the electricity market. 

The Harris government spent more than $1 billion to set up the Enron designed market and spent more than $1.5 billion on the price cap to keep this failed experiment going. Ford has also been clinging to this failure with his billions in subsidies. Why not spend the $6.9 billion a year on conservation measures and green power, solar and wind farms? That would eliminate the need to build more CO2 emitting gas generators. 

Ford repeatedly says he is, “open for business.” Ford’s electricity plan is going to dramatically increase rates for business, driving businesses’ away to lower cost public power jurisdictions like Manitoba and Quebec.

The wind blows and the sun shines for free. There is a massive amount of private capital looking to invest in green power. Allowing private green power generation to feed into the electricity market would be a terrible mistake, greatly inflating rates.

In order to end Ford’s Multi billion-dollar shell game, we must close the Enron designed IESO electricity market and regulate rates. Hydro utilities must also be returned to public ownership and control. If not, it will always be a struggle to hold private owners to account. Public ownership and control are critical levers of control both for the economy and the environment.

Think hydro bills are high now? Talk about inflation! Ford’s plan to build more for- profit gas and nuclear plants to feed into the electricity market will only do one thing to rates, make them spike. We did not elect owners of developer companies or CEOs of private power corporations to government, so why are they being allowed to dictate public policy?

The People and businesses of Ontario cannot afford Ford’s electricity plan. 

Neither can the environment or our climate.

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Categories: F. Left News

There’s still something in the water

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 08:21

Bill C-226 tabled last fall by the returning leader of the Green Party of Canada would help address and prevent environmental racism across the country.

The bill was first introduced by former Liberal MP Lenore Zann in the last session of Parliament. It was approved by the House of Commons environmental committee before dying on the order paper when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a snap election and Parliament was dissolved.

Zann previously introduced a Private Members’ Bill known as the Environmental Racism Prevention Act while serving as an NDP Nova Scotia MLA. The bill didn’t make it past second reading debates without support from the Liberal government led by then-Premier Stephen McNeil. Zann would later cross the aisle and join the Nova Scotia Liberal Party before running for federal office.

The concept of environmental racism refers to the disproportionate impacts pollution and other environmental hazards have on Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities. From high cancer rates to respiratory illnesses and reproductive diseases, the consequences of environmental racism are wide-ranging, effectively carrying on the legacy of colonization.

Bill C-226 is also known as An Act Respecting the Development of a National Strategy to Assess, Prevent and Address Environmental Racism and To Advance Environmental Justice.

Environmental racism is the key theme behind the Elliot Page documentary There’s Something in the Water. The title comes from a book by Dalhousie University professor Dr. Ingrid Waldron, who participated in the production of the film currently streaming on Netflix.

The 2019 film follows Page as he returns to his home province of Nova Scotia to expose the ramifications of environmental racism. Page visits a Black community near Shelburne where contaminated well water has contributed to higher rates of cancer. 

The documentary also highlights the struggles faced by Indigenous communities in the province who have been affected by water pollution, and the fight to prevent a gas company from releasing salt brine into a local river.

How race, socio-economic status, and environmental risk connect

For Waldron, who co-founded the Canadian Coalition for Environment and Climate Justice (CCECJ) and serves as a co-director, Canada’s legacy of environmental racism can no longer be ignored.

“We have the stories on environmental racism in Canada but we need more data at the national level to help Canadians better understand the issue. Bill C-226 will allow for this data to be collected,” Waldron said in a June press release.

“People’s health and well-being are really impacted by environmental racism. The consequences of inaction are real now, and they will be worse in the future if we don’t do anything about it,” Waldron added.

Bill C-226 would require the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop a strategy to combat environmental racism by examining the connections between race, socio-economic status, and environmental risk.

In addition to reviewing the enforcement of environmental laws in each province, Bill C-226 would also allow possible amendments to federal laws, policies and programming to address environmental racism. 

Part of the appeal of Bill C-226 is that it involves community groups in environmental policymaking. 

It has been endorsed by several civil society groups, including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the David Suzuki Foundation. Advocates are also calling on the federal government to expedite the passage of the legislation as soon as possible.

Environmental racism and poor health outcomes

Dr. Jane McArthur, the Toxics Program director at CAPE, testified in front of the Environment Committee during their study of the bill.

Among the adverse health impacts related to environmental racism, McArthur says they can range from different types of cancer, to respiratory illnesses, reproductive issues, birth anomalies, asthma, diabetes, and a range of mental health concerns. 

One of the key elements to Bill C-226, according to McArthur, is the requirement to put in place and fund an Office of Environmental Justice.

McArthur explained that environmental racism has been around as a lived reality much longer than society has had a definition for it. 

Growing up in Windsor, ON, McArthur learned at a young age about toxic exposures in the community, on the border of Detroit, MI. She went on to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who were occupational health and safety researchers.

“I was aware of the impacts of toxic exposures, and air pollution and industrial emissions in my community,” McArthur said. “And as I became more aware and learned, I recognized the combination of systemic racism along with those industrial environmental exposures.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Tahltan’s decades-long struggle to protect Sacred Headwaters

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 07:55

Many people likely don’t know about the close connection between residential “schools” in Canada and ongoing resource extraction on Indigenous lands. In 1951, the federal Ministry of Mines, the “Indian” Agent, the Catholic Church and wealthy business owners coordinated to remove Tahltan children from their homes and families, as part of an attempt to get at the rich stores of minerals in the Sacred Headwaters in northern British Columbia.

That’s just one of many revelations in the powerful new film The Klabona Keepers, about the Tahltan Nation’s struggle to protect the Sacred Headwaters, or Klabona, from mining.

(The film, co-directed by my grandson Tamo Campos, is a collaboration between non-Indigenous filmmakers and Indigenous elders, who were given ownership of the intellectual property. All proceeds go to youth programming at the Klabona Sacred Headwaters.)

Drawing the connection between the not-so-distant past and the present, spokesperson Rhoda Quock says (as quoted by her husband Peter Jakesta), “They stole the children from the land. Now they steal the land from the children.”

It’s a story we hear too often, but rarely told with such passion as by the elders and families in this film.

The Sacred Headwaters are where the salmon-filled Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers originate. It’s one of North America’s last intact freshwater ecosystems. The Tahltan, who have lived in the area since time immemorial, know it as Klabona. It’s a vast area, rich in bears, caribou, moose and other wildlife — and, yes, fossil fuels and minerals.

The film portrays the area’s immensity and beauty, and the Tahltan people’s ongoing relationship with its land and waters. It’s a relationship governments and churches tried to break when they took children from their families and communities and forced them into residential institutions throughout the 1990s. These horrific abuses and rights violations were aimed at extinguishing languages and cultures, and dividing people from each other to ease the way for industrial and mining interests.

In Klabona, as in so many places, having families and communities torn apart took a tremendous toll, and many who were in the institutions or relatives of those taken turned to alcohol to numb the pain and loss they suffered.

But as more mining companies started moving into Klabona, many Tahltan realized it was time to reclaim their strength, to protect the land and thus themselves from those who would destroy the mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes they have lived in harmony with for millennia. Elders from the village of Iskut, the Klabona Keepers, took on the responsibility.

It’s been an ongoing struggle with mixed success. After much opposition and protest, the Red Chris copper-gold mine on the northwest side of Klabona started production in 2014. But by occupying drill sites, protesting and blockading, the Tahltan prevented Fortune Minerals from developing a massive open-pit coal mine on Mount Klappan in the heart of Klabona. That eventually led to the 2017 Klappan Agreement, which protected 286,000 hectares from major industrial activity. But mineral exploration continues to increase outside of the protected area.

The more we learn about Canada’s history and the appalling racism behind the push into Indigenous territories in search of exploitable wealth, the more we see how Indigenous Peoples have been paying the price and reaping few of the benefits of our extractivist economy — from fracked landscapes in northern B.C. to polluted lands and waters in the oilsands to the mercury-poisoned rivers of Grassy Narrows and beyond.

The Western way of seeing compartmentalizes and reduces phenomena to their constituent parts, often ignoring the bigger picture. But everything in nature is interconnected, so even seemingly insignificant actions can have cascading effects.

In many ways, Western science is just starting to catch up to the knowledge of peoples who have lived in place for thousands of years. We need to expand our vision and in doing so recognize that most or all of today’s crises — from climate disruption to biodiversity loss to growing inequalities — are rooted in the same blinkered mindset and values.

We can no longer afford to elevate the economy over the planet’s life-support systems. Consuming more and chasing endless growth does not bring well-being or happiness; embracing with wonder and love the phenomenal interconnections that bring us together on this small, generous world is better for individual, community and planetary health and well-being.

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

Learn more at

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Categories: F. Left News

NatureBus tour shows ordinary voices can be heard to halt nature loss

Wed, 12/07/2022 - 05:30

If you happened to be walking in Vancouver’s Stanley Park a few days ago, you might have glimpsed a very large Chinook Salmon sitting on the pavement near Nature House. It was there to pick up some mail.

The salmon was actually a shuttle bus, decorated with large, colourful images of the iconic fish (the work of Canadian artist Patrick Thompson). It was one of three “NatureBuses” that are currently making stops across the country to collect messages of support from Canadians for a plan to restore nature. The messages will be delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Montreal at this week’s start of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the UN Convention on Biodiversity (“NatureCOP”).

Call it a special delivery for nature… from ordinary citizens.

The problem with big UN events like NatureCOP is that citizens don’t always feel they have a say in the proceedings. These affairs sometimes feel like the stretch limousines of the conference world, with ordinary folks relegated to waving from the sidewalk. But the NatureBus tour has shown that we can make our voices heard inside the big vehicle, even if it’s crowded with VIPs on smartphones.

READ MORE: Good COPs, bad COPs

Each NatureBus stop has brought together local conservation groups and nature lovers to celebrate nature, raise awareness and have fun. The three NatureBuses are traversing different regions of the country—BC, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. Each is decorated with a species at risk, such as the Loggerhead Shrike, Blanding’s Turtle, Woodland Caribou, the aforementioned Chinook Salmon and the wonderfully named Bohemian Cuckoo Bumble Bee. Artist Patrick Thompson created the images with help from children, the acknowledged experts in wild bus design.  

At every stop, the buses collect messages of hope and support for a strong nature agreement and a Canadian action plan to halt and reverse nature loss.  In Montreal, the messages—thousands of letters and pieces of artwork—will be delivered to the Canadian Government, and a few of our favourite ones displayed at the Canadian Pavilion at NatureCOP.  

All that mail represents one big wave of resolve. Oceanographers talk about the “fetch” of a wave—the distance over which wind blows in one direction. If a strong wind blows over a long fetch, you get a powerful wave. The NatureBus wave covers a fetch almost as large as Canada, and when it breaks in Montreal, expect a big splash. With the evidence of Canadians’ commitment clearly before them, decision-makers at NatureCOP will hopefully be under serious pressure to deliver.

And the world badly needs an agreement in Montreal.   

We don’t have to look far for signs of the biodiversity crisis.  Last week saw the release of the report Wild Species 2020: The General Status of Species in Canada, which found that one in five wild species in Canada is at risk of extinction. Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, was quoted at the press conference as saying that the clock is ticking for species. “Extinction is a very chilling word,” said Mr. Duguid. “Once something is gone, it is gone forever.”

Well said, Mr. Duguid. Except that the Canadian government has no detailed plan for halting and reversing nature loss. Delegates at COP15 are hoping for a new global agreement—the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)—which will lay out the path for countries to take in order to save nature. That path will be different for each country. In Canada, we need a comprehensive national action plan that includes protecting 30 per cent of land and ocean by 2030 through Indigenous-led conservation, restoring degraded ecosystems and other nature-based climate solutions, ending subsidies harmful to nature, ensuring equitable access to nature, and building new tools and laws to ensure accountability to these targets.  

While almost none of the GBF is officially agreed upon, over 100 countries, including Canada, support an ambitious response to the biodiversity crisis. That response must entail (among other things)  measurable action across 21 proposed targets to restore and protect nature, in a way that fully respects Indigenous rights. Done properly, and financed equitably, we can stop the extinction and set humanity on a path to live in harmony with nature.

It’s not pie in the sky; it’s life and death. And If leaders can recognize their responsibility to this outcome in Montreal, then the world may just be able to pull it off.  

So let’s not miss the bus on this one.  NatureCOP provides a once-in-a-decade opportunity for people and the planet.

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Categories: F. Left News

Journalism for Change fellow 2022/23: Kiah Lucero

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 17:26 is excited to officially welcome Kiah Lucero as the Jack Layton Journalism for Change fellow for Winter 2022/23.

Based in Calgary, AB., Lucero completed her BA in Communications from Mount Royal University in 2020. During her time there she worked on the faculty-led publication The Calgary Journal and also worked as an intern at the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

In her final semester, Lucero worked on an investigative journalism project that explored water infrastructure in First Nations communities.

“Storytelling has always been a passion of mine and when I found journalism, I knew this is where I want to be. Journalists play an important role in a democratic society—especially in today’s current political climate with waning trust in the media, honest and transparent reporting is vital for a functioning society. I want to bring underreported stories to light and encourage public discourse,” Lucero says.

“On behalf of myself and the rest of the team here at rabble, I would like to say that we are very excited to work with Kiah as this year’s Jack Layton Fellow. Kiah has demonstrated a keen interest in covering labour news, a beat which is at the core of rabble’s identity. I look forward to editing her work and sharing it with our readers,” says editor Nick Seebruch. 

A fellowship inspired by hope and social justice 

In partnership with the Institute for Change Leaders, debuted the Jack Layton Journalism for Change Fellowship in 2017, named after the late former leader of the federal New Democratic Party who inspired all of Canada with his message of hope, solidarity and unwavering dedication to social justice. 

The fellowship supports journalists at the beginning of their careers who have a passion for social justice-centered reporting. 

This year, our fellowship is joined in support with the Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation. Thanks to their generous support, we are able to offer an improved stipend and longer work experience period for Lucero.  

Learn more about the fellowship here: 

Don’t miss a single story by Lucero in the coming weeks! Be sure to sign up for rabble’s weekly newsletter now!

Want to help us support more fellows like Kiah in the future? Support the Jack Layton Fellowship today at

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Categories: F. Left News

Smiths’ partial Sovereignty Act walk back shows power of UCP MLA’s

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 12:09

Given everything that’s happened up to now, no one should be surprised by the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s awkward flip-flop on Premier Danielle Smith’s rapidly deflating “Sovereignty Act.”

Think about it: Rank and file UCP MLAs, many of whom were not all that comfortable with the idea of being led by Smith in the first place, have rarely had such power.

The premier and her advisors have so disastrously fumbled introduction of the UCP’s legislative centrepiece, the so-called Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act, that they’ve handed caucus members worried about what her program will do to their re-election chances a short-lived opportunity to do something about it. 

Since it must be obvious to many in the caucus that neither Smith nor the radical advisors who helped her win the party leadership vote give a fig whether most Calgary MLAs can get re-elected, of course they were going to use this unexpected leverage to try to get the premier under control and restore a little sanity to the government’s legislative program. 

Otherwise, they must surely understand, the chances of many of them remaining in power will soon be gone. It’s surely too late already for them to go into an election with any other leader. 

This would explain why it was the UCP Caucus that issued yesterday’s press release announcing amendments to the act would be put before the Legislature, and not the government, as would be the normal procedure (so don’t go looking for the release on the government’s website. You’ll never find it there). 

The release, which sounded as if it were written by a committee of legislators, began:

“This morning, Alberta’s United Conservative Caucus voted to propose amendments to Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act, to clarify that any changes to existing Alberta statutes that are outlined in a Resolution and introduced and passed by the Legislative Assembly under the Act, must also be introduced and passed separately through the regular Legislative Assembly process (first reading, second reading, committee of the whole, and third reading).”

The claim that this is a mere clarification, of course, is a fiction, albeit an understandable one. The meaning of the words of Bill 1, as presented to the Legislature, was quite plain. 

The release continued: “The proposed amendments would also clarify that the harms addressed by the Act are limited to federal initiatives that, in the opinion of the Legislative Assembly, are unconstitutional, affect or interfere with Alberta’s constitutional areas of provincial jurisdiction or interfere (sic) or violate the charter rights of Albertans.” 

This solves one serious problem with the act. It does not solve another: That any such attempt to usurp the courts, which in Canada’s system of democracy are responsible for determining the constitutionality of any legislation in the event of a jurisdictional dispute between levels of government, is sure to fail in the courts. 

So, as the amendments are described caucus press release, the act is still unlikely to make the cut. 

The third paragraph went on: “‘These proposed amendments reflect feedback we’ve received from Albertans who want to see aspects of Bill 1 clarified to ensure it gets across the finish line,’ Chief Government Whip Brad Rutherford said.” (Translation: They held a gun to my head and yelled about the calls they were getting from CAPP and the Chamber!) “‘I’m pleased that the voices of our MLAs and Albertans are being heard and respected.’” 

Anything’s possible in a chaotic situation like this, but it seems unlikely any government whip, the party official tasked with ensuring caucus discipline in the Legislature, could be pleased with such an outcome, let alone having to put his name to it. 

Finally, the release concluded: “Rutherford expressed disappointment with the NDP’s decision to vote against Bill 1 before even seeing it last week, as well as the NDP’s failure to propose any amendments they feel would strengthen the bill during legislative debate” … yadda-yadda … Rachel Notley … yadda-yadda … Trudeau-Singh coalition … yadda-yadda … etc. 

This from the party that wore earplugs in the Legislature when the Opposition spoke and invented the Summer of Repeal, which, if memory serves, came two summers before The Best Summer Ever – which arguably wounded former premier Jason Kenney seriously enough to make Smith’s already troubled premiership possible. 

So Rutherford may have been disappointed, but he certainly couldn’t have been surprised. 

The NDP argues that the entire act should be dropped, and promises it will be revoked if the Opposition party wins the next election. 

Perhaps whoever in the UCP Caucus demanded the amendments didn’t fully trust the Premier’s Office to take care of this delicate business once Smith had been pushed into agreeing to partly defang her legislation – not that the courts wouldn’t have gotten around to doing the same thing sooner or later anyway. 

The threat that backed the push, of course, must have been a message to the premier and her inner circle that if they didn’t do as instructed, enough MLAs would vote against the bill to defeat it. 

This wouldn’t necessarily have brought down the government at a highly inopportune moment, but it would have been a heavy and ill-timed blow nonetheless. 

I can’t recall a situation in Alberta or any other jurisdiction where a government’s signature piece of legislation was so sloppily written and unpopular that it had to be rewritten multiple times on the fly. 

One caveat: We haven’t seen the actual wording of the amendments yet, so everything may change again tomorrow!

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Categories: F. Left News

Polytechnique survivors denounce crass attempt to profit off of tragedy

Tue, 12/06/2022 - 10:39

The week of the 33rd anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, survivors and the school are speaking out against a crass attempt to profit off of the tragedy.

The Canadian Coalition for Firearms Rights (CCFR) recently held a sale on their website where they offered a 10 per cent discount on the sale of their merchandise if customers used the promo code “Poly,” a reference to PolySeSouvient. PolySeSouvient is a group that advocates for stricter gun control laws made up of survivors of the massacre, their supporters, and family members and friends of the victims.

In a post on Twitter, École Polytechnique Montreal denounced the promotion as tasteless.

“We see this exploitation of a tragic event not only as a very tasteless provocation, but above all as an insult to the memory of the victims, as well as those injured, their families and the entire Polytechnique community,” the tweet reads.

The CCFR said in a statement on their website that the use of the promo code “Poly” was not in reference to the 14 women murdered by a misogynist man with a rifle at École Polytechnique.

“Concerning the discount code controversy: Our promocode was in no way a reference to the tragedy at Ecole Polytechnique. It was a two-week-old response to a Twitter account criticizing us for fundraising. Any suggestion to the contrary is blatantly false,” reads a statement posted by CCFR spokesperson Tracey Wilson on the CCFR website.

Wilson is referring to the PolySeSouvient/PolyRemembers twitter account which has been critical of the CCFR for their pro-gun advocacy.

#CCFR doing what #CCFR does best..

— PolySeSouvient / PolyRemembers (@Polysesouvient) November 20, 2022

Nathalie Provost is one of the survivors. She was shot four times during the shooting. She condemned the CCFR’s use of the promo code. A statement from Provost reads: 

“Using us as a promo code to buy gun merchandise is incredibly disrespectful, but very typical of this particular gun lobby group. That they’ve decided to do this so close to the Polytechnique anniversary is not surprising, as they’ve dismissed the massacre as an ‘anomaly’ that doesn’t even merit changing our gun laws, to prevent similar ones. They’ve been mocking us for years, calling us ‘pearl-clutching narcissists’ and even blaming us for gun violence. They insist we’re not real victims, that we’ve been ‘hijacked by demagogues’. They also lie about our goals, claiming we have a secret agenda to ban all guns, and they lie about our funding, saying we get salaries from government subsidies — all untrue.” 

Tensions running high over Bill C-21

Tensions between pro-gun control and anti- gun control advocates has been running high over the past couple of weeks due to different interpretations around the Trudeau government’s Bill C-21.

Bill C-21 was introduced by the Trudeau Liberals in the House of Commons in the spring of this year in response to a series of tragic shootings in the U.S.

The bill represented some of the strictest regulations on handguns in years, including introducing an immediate freeze on the sale and importation of handguns.

READ MORE: The freeze on handguns in Canada is now in effect. Is it enough?

Bill C-21 began drawing controversy last month when amendments to the legislation were introduced. Critics of the bill say that were it to become law it would ban a number of common hunting rifles and shotguns.

The bill would ban any rifle or shotgun that could accept a magazine of more than five rounds and also ban any gun with a muzzle wider than 20mm, and all guns that can generate more than 10,000 joules of energy when fired.

PolySeSouvient claims that these concerns are being raised by the Conservative Party of Canada and the gun lobby based on a very broad interpretation of the bill, but that the fine print in legislation does not target weapons used for hunting.

They claim that several hunting rifles that gun lobbyists claim would be banned under Bill C-21 are in fact specifically exempt.

Heidi Rathjen, PolySeSouvient’s coordinator and a graduate of Polytechnique who witnessed the massacre, says: 

“In technical terms, this file is very complex. It’s almost impossible to draw a clear line between assault weapons and hunting guns. Because of this, it would not be surprising to find that there are some models that have fallen on the wrong side of the line and, if that is the case, corrections should be made. But one thing is certain: the opponents’ interpretation of the legal wording is fundamentally flawed and, in some cases, deliberate – nothing but fear mongering in order to generate opposition among hunters.” 

A historic tragedy

On December 6, 1989 14 women were murdered and 14 others were wounded by an angry misogynist with a rifle.

The gunman had bought the rifle he used in the killings from a sporting goods store. He had told the clerk he intended to use the rifle for hunting small game.

In the aftermath of the shooting, more than half a million Canadians signed a petition asking the federal government to introduce gun control legislation. In 1995, the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien passed the Firearms Act which introduced, among other things, magazine size restrictions, restrictions on types of guns an individual can own and a requirement that all guns be registered with the government.

Even more than 30 years later, the movement that began in the wake of the massacre continues to fight for tighter gun restrictions and remember those who were victims that day of misogyny and gun violence.

The names of those killed are:

Geneviève Bergeron

Hélène Colgan

Nathalie Croteau

Barbara Daigneault

Anne-Marie Edward

Maud Haviernick

Maryse Laganière

Maryse Leclair

Anne-Marie Lemay

Sonia Pelletier

Michèle Richard

Annie St-Arneault

Annie Turcotte

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

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Categories: F. Left News

Non-state torture activists appeal to UN to recognize as human rights crime

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 10:40

Andrea Heinz is a grassroots feminist and activist living in Edmonton, AB and a victim of non-state torture. When she was 22-years-old, Heinz was in debt and on the verge of being unhoused.

An ad in the local paper said she could make thousands of dollars a week by providing adult entertainment. Thousands of men paid for sexual access to her body over seven years.

Many were cruel and violent, but Heinz was told that was just part of the job. The torture she endured was rebranded as kink or bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism (BDSM).

“Being paid for these acts skewed my perception leading me to believe that what was happening to me was acceptable when it wasn’t,” she said.

Heinz left prostitution 10 years ago, but still struggles with the effects of Non-State Torture (NST) including shame, anxiety, emotional flatness, and sexual dysfunction.

Patriarchal divide

For over 29 years Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson have been working with women like Heinz and shining a light on NST. Their grassroots, science-based research identified a clear patriarchal divide between state torture and NST. It’s that divide that makes victims of NST invisible.

Essentially, the difference lies in the fact that NST is a crime committed by families, strangers, traffickers, pornographers, and buyers of sex rather than agents of the state.

The patriarchal divide exists because in state torture the primary victims are men while in NST the victims are women and girls and the crime takes place in their homes and other non-military locations.

Yet, NST is a crime of torture that results in human rights violations.

When contacted by rabble, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, David Lametti’s press secretary, Chantalle Aubertin replied, “Canada is committed to playing a strong role in condemning and preventing torture domestically and internationally, part of which requires maintaining the integrity of the internationally-accepted definition of torture.”

Set out in section 269.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the definition specifically states that a charge of torture, “Would apply to a government official or any person acting at the instigation of, with the consent of, or with the acquiescence of such an official.”

‘Official’ refers to a peace officer, public officer or member of the Canadian Forces. And, there in lies the problem – it does not include individual members of society who torture of their own volition.

Non-state torture and the Criminal Code

By not distinguishing NST in the Criminal Code, Sarson and MacDonald believe that society diminishes the human rights violations survivors endured and keeps women and girls silent, powerless, and invisible. Simultaneously, the concealment of NST enables perpetrators to avoid punishment for their acts of torture.

Aubertin went on to say, “In other words, the Criminal Code already contains crimes that capture the kind of conduct associated with private torture, most notably the crimes of aggravated assault and aggravated sexual assault, while existing sentencing provisions already provide a range of aggravating factors that could apply in a case of private torture.”

Reality is, the Criminal Code not a viable option because a NST survivor would have to charge each torturer for every individual act of sexual assault or aggravated assault they committed – often spanning decades.

That would mean police laying hundreds, if not thousands, of individual charges resulting in decades of litigation and potential appeals.

With 0.003 per cent of sexual assault cases ending in convictions in Canada, pursuing this legal avenue is futile.

The father and mother of Sara, who’s name has been changed to protect her privacy, along with government employees were involved in her torture and trafficking that started as a child and only stopped when she was an adult.

Lynn, who’s name has also been changed for her protection, married a man who became her torturer. Her husband and three male friends kept her captive in a windowless room until she escaped. On duty police officers were involved in her torture and were part of the criminal protection of her four captors.

These women from Nova Scotia and Ontario respectively, figure prominently in MacDonald and Sarson’s book, Women Unsilenced: Our Refusal To Let Torturer-Traffickers Win (2021), detailing their work with victims living with, leaving, and recovering from NST.

MacDonald and Sarson are asking state parties to work collectively to create a declaration that can work as a model strategy to raise global awareness and to put an end to NST.

Wanda, Canadian, was tortured as a child until the night she tried to commit suicide. She was trafficked by her parents to a premier, judges, doctors, nurses, social workers and councillors. The punishment for refusing to cooperate was even more torture.

Wanda, like most NST victims, was taught never to tell. Instead, she was indoctrinated to commit suicide if she ever thought she was going to divulge the torture. This is a common practice in NST.

John Winterdyk is a Professor of Criminology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. He has been studying modern day slavery, or human trafficking, since Canada signed the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking of Persons, Especially Women and Girls in 2002.

He first learned about NST when he heard a presentation by MacDonald and Sarson in 2017. Winterdyk wants legislation that allows for proper attention and redress.

NST is more than abuse or assault because it’s always life threatening. Many women and girls die from their injuries and that needs to be recognized in law.

Meagan Walker, former Executive Director of the London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) in London, Ontario has been an avid supporter of MacDonald and Sarson’s work.

In fact, the LAWC was the first shelter to add NST victimization to their intake form in an effort to collect information on the number of women self-identifying as having experienced NST.

Non-state Torture is still torture

In one year, 62 per cent of women and girls being prostituted, trafficked and/or sexually exploited reported being tortured by their trafficker and/or sex purchaser.

In June 2018, Walker presented a brief on Trafficking In Canada to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that included, “The experiences shared with front-line service providers, police and health care practitioners are so heinous that vicarious trauma counselling is necessary. Some are not able to remain employed in their professional fields.”

During her 25 years as executive director, Walker says that many women presented and shared their experiences of being tortured. Yet, she observes, “There is no legislation in Canada to validate their torture, although many judges will report women being tortured. There really is no way for those women to have their cases pursued through the courts in Canada on the ground of NST.”

Walker believes education about NST is imperative to allow everyone in society to understand the differences between NST, assault and aggravated assault.

That education needs to be survivor centred and rooted in feminist ideology. It needs to be shared with individuals, physicians, and the criminal justice system.

Peter Crib is married to a survivor of NST and residential school. He says, “NST is fueled by the misogynist toxicity that we live in these days. And, until that is addressed, the male dominance that takes place everywhere in our society, then this is going to go on for a very long time.”

UN must recognize all forms of torture

The UN has condemned torture in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhumane and Degrading Punishment or Treatment (ratified in 1987).

Signatory states agree torture is illegal, but NST is not included under that umbrella.

From November 14 to 17, the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice hosted a four-day exhibit at the UN Rotunda in Vienna to raise awareness of NST. The exhibit featured MacDonald and Sarson’s video, Persons Against Non-State Torture, their ground-breaking book and other materials that document the stories of survivors.

“Our next step as members of the Working Group of NST, within the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, is to develop a UN Declaration on Ending Non-State Torture,” said Sarson and MacDonald via email.

To that end, Sarson and MacDonald will attend the UN in Vienna on December 7 and as keynote speakers addressed the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The hybrid meeting, Non-state torture: Enforce the Human Rights of Women and Girls, brought the issue before the principal policymaking body of the UN that addresses crime prevention and criminal justice.

Because NST is such a heinous act, MacDonald and Sarson once worked in a silo. Now, their work has international recognition and support. Their quest to have NST named a human rights crime has gained world-wide momentum and there is finally light at the end of this very long, dark journey.

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Categories: F. Left News

AB NDP won’t get sucked into the UCP’s effort to fix Sovereignty Act

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 08:37

Alberta’s New Democratic Party has refused to allow itself to get sucked into the vortex Government’s effort to fix its unfixable Sovereignty Act. 

Nope, “this bill is beyond saving,” NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous told a short and sparsely attended news conference in Edmonton Sunday morning. “It must be revoked.”

Sounding rather like those moderate progressive conservatives who ran Alberta for so many years, Bilous’s news release began with the statement that “Alberta’s NDP stands with investors, job creators and workers against the chaos created by Danielle Smith’s job-killing Sovereignty Act and will not support amendments to the legislation.”

The Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act (ASWAUCA), as Premier Smith’s government has absurdly called its signature first bill, is the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s screw-up. It’s not for the NDP to try to salvage.  

Friends of the UCP have been parroting the party talking point that the NDP really ought to be a sport and suggest some amendments to Bill 1. That way the Opposition could own a piece of UCP’s colossal error and get to wear some of the egg that rightly belongs on Ms. Smith’s face. 

The NDP was not prepared to bite. “The absolute last thing we need right now is weeks of backtracking and clarifications,” said the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA who served as minister of economic development and trade during Rachel Notley’s NDP government. 

“That just brings more uncertainty,” he continued, noting that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have all publicly fretted that the ASWAUCA would drive investors and workers out of Alberta. 

“It’s time to restore peace of mind for investors,” said Bilous, who does not plan to seek re-election in the next election. “It’s time to restore confidence in our laws and our economy.”

Therefore, he said, “we will not support undemocratic legislation that is already hurting our province’s economy and reputation.” If the UCP won’t drop it, he added, the NDP will revoke it if it forms government.

Meanwhile, it’s very hard to believe, as Premier Smith claimed on her Corus radio program Saturday, that her government never intended the legislation would give the UCP cabinet unlimited power to change laws without consulting the Legislature.

Nevertheless, Smith assured her radio listeners that the bill’s problems are just a matter of “awkward wording.”

As unlikely as it may seem that a Canadian provincial cabinet could be so egregiously incompetent it wouldn’t have guessed that voters and investors might get wound up about the replacement of the legislative oversight of cabinet decisions, a fundamental change in Canadian government, that’s more likely than the premier’s sloppy wording story.

Premier Smith herself introduced the bill. She had to have been briefed on its contents, even if she didn’t bother to read it. She knew what was in it. 

Not only was the bill’s intent clear to anyone who took the trouble to read the draft legislation, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro admitted in Smith’s presence that usurping the role of MLAs by letting cabinet act unilaterally was precisely the plan. 

Here’s a clip from a government news conference on the legislation last week:

Reporter: “We had a tech briefing with officials. We asked this question directly. We said that once the motion’s debated in the Legislature and the majority of MLAs vote on it, and then it goes to cabinet, and there’s directives within that motion, then the cabinet ministers have the ability to unilaterally, if they so choose, to change legislation. … We confirmed that over and over with officials. So can you just say yes or no, that’s correct, and if it’s not, explain why it’s not?”

Shandro: “That is correct.

A slide illustrating the process still on the government website shows the same thing. Its final point reads: “Cabinet, working with the relevant minister, can amend any enactments, including legislation, orders or regulations.” (Emphasis added.) 

So there is no question that this was precisely the intention of whoever drafted the legislation, and that elected officials understood it. It defies credulity that Smith and her briefers hadn’t read it.

The assumption must have been either that Albertans wouldn’t notice or that groups that normally line up to support Conservative governments – the business community, for example – would support it.

The UCP has a history of deceptive law-making, University of Alberta political scientist Jared Wesley pointed out, having used similar practices to push their curriculum, coal, and COVID policies.

That said, no one – not even the United Conservative Party MLA from Cow Flop-Gopher Creek – could have imagined that the Opposition would overlook the flaws in the ASWAUCA.

So the simplest and most likely conclusion is that someone persuaded Ms. Smith, or she persuaded herself, that this would actually fly with her supporters.

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Categories: F. Left News

The Sovereignty Act – is turning into a disaster for Danielle Smith and UCP

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 08:17

With the thoughts that you’ll be thinkin’
You could be another Lincoln
If you only had a brain.

—    Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz

Could Danielle Smith have handled introduction of her “Sovereignty Act” better?

Answer: Yes. 

Like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, though, this would have required that she only had a brain.

This is a way of asking, Could Alberta’s premier have handled the introduction of the act technically known as the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act – hereinafter known as ASWAUCA, pronounced “ass-woke-uh” – any more badly?

This is not to say, of course, that Premier Smith actually lacks a brain. Indeed, I’m quite sure she has a very fine one. 

It is only to say that she obviously didn’t use it. 

This is probably because she listened to someone like Rob Anderson, who used to be her Wildrose Party deputy leader, was more recently chair of her successful United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership campaign, and is now executive director of the Premier’s Office. 

Anderson is one of the authors of the “Free Alberta Strategy,” which most recently articulated the concept of an Alberta sovereignty act.

The final version of the Sovereignty Act would have “a whole head of very sharp teeth,” Anderson vowed last month after the original concept of a provincial law to ignore federal laws was widely mocked and condemned as patently unconstitutional. “It will be very meaningful, and it will change the dynamic.”

He meant the dynamic with Ottawa, though, not with Alberta voters and UCP supporters.

Smith and Anderson are well known in conservative political circles in Alberta to bring out the worst in each other. This probably explains why the premier didn’t use her head, or even her political lizard brain, in the introduction of ASWAUCA, and hence the growing troubles she has with it now. 

Long before ASWAUCA was drafted, many of the independantiste ideas the legislation was supposed to deliver were found in Stephen Harper’s notorious 2001 manifesto, the so-called Firewall Letter.

Harper went on to be the Conservative prime minister of Canada for nearly a decade and never uttered another peep about the Firewall manifesto, which suggests the strategies laid out in the letter to Ralph Klein were principally intended to discomfit the Liberals in Ottawa and, secondarily, to drive Premier Ralph Klein’s Alberta government further to the right. 

But then, unlike either Smith or Anderson, Harper was obviously a very stable genius, to borrow a phrase. 

Klein, who may not have been very stable and certainly wasn’t a genius, nevertheless had excellent political instincts, and immediately threw the Firewall Letter into the shredder, where it belonged. 

So what went wrong with the introduction of Smith’s Sovereignty Act – a key part of her success in her campaign to lead the UCP, which required her to court the far-right fringe of a party that has been sliding for a while into immoderation?

Answer: Mainly, she introduced it.

But, someone is sure to think, she had to! She’s promised it. And her most enthusiastic supporters would have demanded it. 

However, just because she’d promised it and her fans thought it was a good idea doesn’t mean actually putting it in writing and introducing it to the Legislature was also an idea with merit.

In fact, this was the worst course of action she could have taken. It should have been obvious – indeed, it was obvious – that an Alberta sovereignty act in any form would have been an unpopular and destabilizing idea. 

Now, I understand that some of Smith’s advisors appear to think a certain amount of destabilization is a good idea. 

But when the Calgary Chamber of Commerce is screaming at you from the rafters about the uncertainty you’re introducing and the Opposition keeps rising in the polls, the instability you’ve cooked up is probably not having the kind of effect you’d anticipated.

Moreover, no matter how cowed Smith’s UCP Caucus appears to be right now, rewriting the act into a Trojan horse for making the Legislature all but irrelevant by allowing the Cabinet to rewrite legislation at will without re-submitting it to MLAs for a vote has to be causing a certain amount of angst among government MLAs.

I mean, what politician has a goal of legislating themselves into irrelevance? 

To those who say ASWAUCA doesn’t do what I say it does, I advise them to read Bill 1 itself, not the government’s press release. 

Of course, the bill could still be amended. But for the time being, ASWAUCA deserves the unease it has caused, and the growing discomfort with it on the right – which must be worrying, among other things, about what might happen if it remained on the books and fell into the hands of a more woke government, even for a moment. 

So what should Smith have done? 

The answer, as any student of politics surely understands, would have been to say she wasn’t going to introduce a sovereignty act just yet – but that, by gosh, she would the instant it was required. 

That would have kept the threat on the agenda, the NDP Opposition on its back foot, and the government’s allies in business comfortable with continuing their financial and moral support. 

It’s too late now. The government has left itself with the choice of eviscerating its own legislation by amendment and looking like it’s flip-flopping and running for the exits, or sticking with it, and quite possibly sealing its doom whenever the next election takes place.

Not a good choice.

In the end, Scarecrow turned out to be the wisest person in all of Oz. 

Smith? Not so much, probably.

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Categories: F. Left News

Good COPs, bad COPs

Mon, 12/05/2022 - 07:19

Two Conference of the Parties (COPs) are following each other this fall – the climate change COP 27 last month in Egypt and the biodiversity COP 15 this month in Montreal. These global environmental summits have been held for nearly 30 years, following the signing of climate change and biodiversity treaties at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

COP 27 was a bad COP. Hundreds of oil and gas lobbyists flew to a Red Sea resort to block effective action to slow the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. They succeeded, increasing the likelihood that billions of residents of planet Earth will experience extreme weather events and climate-induced ecosystem collapse in their lifetime.

Writing in the Guardian, Bill McGuire called the climate COP “a bloated travelling circus that sets up once a year, and from which little but words ever emerge.” In the Globe and Mail, Eric Reguly said “Today’s carnivalesque events have proven expensive, climate unfriendly, chaotic, stressful – and largely useless… Time to kill them off.”
Can the biodiversity COP 15 be a good COP?

For this to happen, governments must follow both western science and traditional knowledge. Many people have heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body created in 1988 to assess the science related to climate change. Although the IPCC received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, its repeated warnings about the costs of climate inaction have been ignored.

Few people are aware that a non-UN biodiversity equivalent to the IPCC was created in 2012, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

IPBES says that the time for incremental measures to address the twin climate and biodiversity crises is past.  IPBES scientists are working on a transformative change assessment that will be released in 2023.

Political leaders included the concept of transformative change in the Kunming Declaration adopted at part 1 of COP 15, held last October in China.  The Declaration says that “urgent and integrated action is needed, for transformative change, across all sectors of the economy and all parts of society.”

To understand integrated action and transformative change, think of a forest. Think of the electrically sensitive network of fungal hyphae linking trees together, exchanging energy and nutrients with them. Fungi are waste management heroes, transforming discarded roots, branches and leaves, making them available for a new generation.

Now consider the current reality. To grow crops and expand urban settlements, we kill fungi (fungicide), plants (herbicide), insects (insecticide), and ultimately Mother Earth (matricide). Gas-powered death machines hasten extinction. Bad COPs make sure there’s plenty of fuel to keep them going.

Biodiversity scientists speak of “habitat loss” – a polite term. Our feathered, furry and fishy friends must lose their homes so we can have our own. But if we keep slicing bits off Mother Earth, she won’t be able to continue to feed and nurture us, her children. We’re all connected in one big web of life.

Think of Ontario. Developers give a provincial premier a few hundred thousand in campaign donations, buying new laws and policies. Clear the fields and forests. Drain the wetlands. Build houses and roads.

Money is a drug. It’s addictive. Politicians and developers feed incestuously off each other. Economic growth trumps rational behavior. We’re a civilization of drug dealers. Negotiate. Make the deal.

Speaking of negotiations, COPs are all about removing brackets and producing a clean text. There could be a bit of drama at COP 15 over whether to keep Mother Earth in the first paragraph of the Global Biodiversity Framework – biodiversity’s equivalent of the Paris climate accord. Here’s how it reads at present:

Biodiversity is fundamental to human well-being and a healthy planet [for peoples living in harmony with nature and Mother Earth.] It underpins virtually every part of our lives]; we depend on it for food, medicine, energy, clean air and water, security from natural disasters as well as recreation and cultural inspiration, [and supports all systems of life on earth], among others.

Mother Earth is in brackets.  Will they come off, or will she be deleted?

Indigenous peoples will be speaking up for Mother Earth at COP 15. Here’s how the Assembly of First Nations puts it in Honouring Earth:

First Nations peoples have a special relationship with the earth and all living things in it. This relationship is based on a profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth that guided indigenous peoples to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity.

There’s more. Read it. Western science and traditional knowledge can work together. Transformative change plus a spiritual connection to Mother Earth can save us.

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Categories: F. Left News

Reviewing 2022: Don’t miss rabble’s last Off the Hill panel of the year!

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 13:12

Our last Off the Hill current affairs panel of 2022 is happening on December 14, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Join us for “Off the Hill: Looking back to leap ahead.”

This month, join guests MP Leah Gazan, El Jones, Karl Nerenberg, Chuka Ejeckam and co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies.

Off the Hill is taking a look back to leap forward, as we close off 2022 and think ahead to 2023.

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 will reflect on a year that had no shortage of newsworthy events, and then ask: what does this mean we can expect for the year ahead?

Register for this free event to interact and share your questions with our panelists.

And mark you calendar for Off the Hill on December 14, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Off the Hill is a fast-paced live series which focuses 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. Our series focuses on how to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill.

Meet our Off the Hill panelists

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

‘Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy’: From UN Peacekeeper to U.S. Sentinel State

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 12:29

In a recent article in the Ottawa Hill-Times, journalist David Crane asked an important question: “Is Canada trying to match or outdo American hostility to China?”

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (CIPS), announced in Vancouver recently by Liberal foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly and other ministers, answers that question unequivocally:

“China is an increasingly disruptive global power” begins the CIPS assessment of China.

True enough if taken in isolation. Insidious, however, in the way it is used in this report.

“We are not just going to engage the Indo-Pacific, we are going to lead,” stated Joly in her opening remarks. In this case, leadership seems to imply being tougher on China than anyone else. In its two-page assessment, the CIPS lists a litany of China’s alleged misdeeds and that, it would seem, is all there is to say. Not a word about its impressive economic achievements; nor that China is Canada’s second largest trading partner; nor about lifting 800 million people out of poverty, as recognized by the UN; not a peep about its development of solar power generation, documented in a Lancet study. Frankly, any teacher would be compelled to give a failing grade to the Canadian government’s assessment of China because of the obvious bias.

“We will challenge China whenever necessary, and cooperate if we must,” is the government’s new mantra. Frankly, the CIPS is an embarrassment, a strident polemic, not diplomacy. If implemented it will definitively end any possibility of substantive Canada-China cooperation on the environment, an imperative in the face of the global climate emergency. It also increases the possibility of war and the use of nuclear weapons, the other existential crisis of this era.

In terms of concrete actions, the CIPS charts two main priorities – increase funding to Canada’s military/spy agencies, and provide a large infusion of cash to finance infrastructure projects in the region.

A closer examination of the fine print shows the five-year military/spy funds (what the government euphemistically terms “Promoting Peace, Resilience and Security,” includes:

The HMCS Vancouver docked in Kure, Japan in October of 2022. Photo credit: Canada’s Embassy in Japan.
  • nearly $500 million to increase the Canadian military’s presence in the region;
  • and more than $227 million for Canada’s to bolster national security agencies (including CSIS, CSE, RCMP, and CBSA).

Compared to some of the military powers in the region, this is a small amount, but its significance lies elsewhere. It signals that Canada’s first priority in Asia is to bolster its military and spy network to confront China. Peacekeeping under the aegis of the UN is not even an afterthought. Also distressing is the distorting nod to feminist foreign policy, allocating funds for a “regional Women, Peace, and Security initiative” in the hope of securing social license for its agenda.

On the trade and investment front, the biggest single allocation of funds is a three-year injection of $750 million to FinDev Canada, (Canada’s development finance institution) to help develop “high-quality, sustainable infrastructure” in the region. The mandate of FinDev is not providing governmental assistance directly but rather “supporting the private sector in developing markets to promote sustainable development.” In addition, these funds are to be channeled not through existing financial bodies in Asia but through the new U.S.-led G7 “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.” a parallel initiative dominated by the U.S. Frankly, this is a move sponsored by the U.S. and Canada to bring another institution from outside the region to discredit and bypass China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In a similar vein, Canada’s trade strategy does not build on existing networks in the region but tries to bypass them. For example, it could have come in and supported the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), that includes 15 East Asian and Pacific nations of different economic sizes and stages of development including China; or the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), formerly known as the Bangkok Agreement that has been operating for nearly 50 years. But no, like its financial initiative, it wants to join another parallel initiative, the US-sponsored Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, and/or reinforce the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), a regional grouping originally sponsored by the U.S. that excludes China.

A New Sentinel in a Global Empire

Has China become a major power and is it throwing its weight around in the region at times? Yes.

Is publicly accusing it of being disruptive and bulking up for a military confrontation the way to deal with it? Only if you’re aiming for war.

Preceding the release of the CIPS, specialists in Asia Pacific affairs gathered in two conferences in Ottawa, HardTalk: Canada and the Asia Pacific and the East Asia Strategy Forum 2022. Almost all of the invited speakers, regardless of political stripe, were clear – a policy based on containing China or trying to isolate it was wrong and counterproductive. That advice has been ignored. Furthermore, early drafts of the new strategy prepared by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) were unacceptable according to minister Joly. Then, who were Joly and the cross-departmental group that finalized the strategy listening to, if not from specialists with extensive experience in the region or from GAC?

There are hints in the CIPS itself. It repeatedly asserts it is not “engaging” in the Indo-Pacific alone but is doing so with its closest allies including “the United States, the European Union, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.” The CIPS in fact represents a global strategy emanating from the U.S. When Trudeau and Biden met in Washington in early 2021, they announced the “Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership” that included working “to more closely align our approaches to China…” and reinforcing their commitment to NATO and “the Five Eyes community”.

Indeed, while the CIPS was being developed, NATO representatives gathered in Madrid in June where they adopted a new ‘Strategic Concept’ that they believe made “far reaching decisions to transform NATO.” Though intended initially as a military alliance for Europe directed against the Soviet Union (with U.S. and Canadian participation), it has expanded continuously, and is now based on what it calls a “360-degree approach.” In other words, the whole world is now its purview. Not only will it confront Russia, it will confront terrorism wherever it needs to, it will deal with “conflict, fragility, and instability in Africa and the Middle East,” and, most crucially, address the “systemic challenges posed by the PRC to Euro-Atlantic security and ensure NATO’s enduring ability to guarantee the defence and security of Allies.” Indo-Pacific partners Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea participated together in a NATO Summit for the first time.

The Empire doesn’t rest. The stakes are too high.

Far from being a made-in-Canada plan, the CIPS seems to be one spoke in the wheel of a global plan directed by the United States. Herein lies the great folly of the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has allowed NATO to assume the mantle of righteousness, rendering the U.S. into only one of a large coalition defending Ukrainian sovereignty. Both NATO and the CIPS center “the rules-based international order.” But missing from both is the “UN-based international order.” No accident.

The UN-based international order is enshrined in the UN Charter, the foundation of modern international law. The Charter bans “the threat or use of force to” to resolve conflict with few exceptions. It also demands the UN Security Council and other UN-supported institutions set the rules. This is unacceptable to NATO and to the CIPS. They want to set the rules and use their militaries to enforce them. Canada, with its new strategy, is in fact turning its back on the UN.

The world has no desire to be under the thumb of empires. If that is China’s ambition it will fail. But as we monitor China, we should be ready to understand the history of the present. In that regard the CIPS is miserably deficient.

In the run-up to the release of the CIPS, foreign minister Mélanie Joly provided a preview in a major speech at the University of Toronto. In the Q&A session afterwards, she claimed the “rules-based international norms” established in Asia maintained “peace and stability since the Second World War”. In effect, she is suggested that we forget:

  • the three million who died in the Korean War
  • the additional three million who died in Vietnam
  • the one million who died in Indonesia in 1965 after the US-engineered coup
  • the Okinawans who were dispossessed by the US military and continue to fight to this day to get rid of the huge US bases on their islands
  • the thousands of Pacific Islanders who saw their islands seized and used for nuclear testing by the US, to now have them inundated by rising sea levels as a result of global warming for which both Canada and the US are historically responsible.

Joly’s view of history can only be described as Eurocentric and a complete failure to recognize the elephant in the room – the existence of an empire formed over the past 175 years, beginning with Admiral Perry first forcing unequal treaties on Japan with his gunboat diplomacy. Today, the US maintains its empire with force.

According to the recently renamed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, its forces include “375,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel including the U.S. Pacific Fleet of approximately 200 ships (including five aircraft carrier strike groups), nearly 1,100 aircraft, and more than 130,000 sailors and civilians; Marine Corps Forces, Pacific with two Marine Expeditionary Forces and about 86,000 personnel and 640 aircraft; U.S. Pacific Air Forces comprises of approximately 46,000 airmen and civilians and more than 420 aircraft; U.S. Army Pacific has approximately 106,000 personnel, plus over 300 aircraft and five watercraft; more than 1,200 Special Operations personnel; Department of Defense civilian employees in the Indo-Pacific Command AOR number about 38,000.”

Much of this is arrayed against China and has been for over seventy years. The US is continually realigning the empire’s profile. Recently this has included:

  • the signing of AUKUS (Australia/UK/US), a trilateral military pact for Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines to deploy against China. The deal caused a furor as it involved Australia tearing up a multi-billion-dollar contract with France;
  • reinforcing the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad), a militarized alliance that includes the US, Australia, India, and Japan to confront China in the Asia Pacific;
  • the CIA establishing a new “China Mission Center” to take on what the agency’s director, William Burns, described as “the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st Century, an increasing adversarial Chinese government.”

The Empire doesn’t rest. Nor does the resistance. The Global South is refusing to follow NATO in its sanctions against Russia, including many countries in Asia, India in particular. The U.S. and its main allies are desperate to shore up support.

The flags of Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) members.

That is why foreign minister Joly and the CIPS erase the elephant in the room and demand instead that we worry about China. Peoples in Asia and the Pacific are capably and actively dealing with China. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for example, has been dealing with China on its own terms. They have convened meetings of the ASEAN+3 (ASEAN plus China, Japan, and South Korea) group, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and various trade agreements. But rather than reinforce these regional initiatives, Joly and the CIPS sets out not to support Asia, but to impose an Anglo-American parallel agenda, an effective roadblock against regional integration. In its Eurocentricity, the Anglo-American alliance fears an “Asia for the Asians.” What we get instead is a plan to reinforce an Anglo-American empire in the maternalistic/paternalist guise of rescuing ‘Asia’ from China.

Of course, the US Empire in the Asia Pacific did not come into existence by itself. It first arose as part of an Anglo-American alliance fashioned out of the British empire and its settler colonial offshoots – the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These latter four states, founded through the genocidal elimination of Indigenous peoples to provide land for white settlers and corporations, together with their decrepit mothership, the U.K., remain tied together in the so-called “Five Eyes.” As Edward Snowden so bravely revealed, the U.S. NSA and the Five Eyes spy alliance today represents the largest and most sinister spy network in the history of the world. And now Canada wants to reinforce it, including posting more spies in Asia.

The respected Australian analyst, Clinton Fernandes, recently wrote Subimperial Power: Australia in the International Arena. In it, he suggests that Australia has become increasingly dependent on the U.S. economically and otherwise. In joining the Quad and AUKUS recently, it is refashioning itself into what he calls a ‘sentinel state’ – joining countries such as South Korea and Japan that are closely tied to the US national security state.

Canada, it would seem, is aspiring to become another U.S. sentinel state in the Asia Pacific.

The Impact on Asian North Americans

The intensifying demonization of China seen in the CIPS and U.S. global policy will only further exacerbate racist attacks on those racialized as Asian in North America.

In Canada and the U.S., the anti-China campaign has given rise to a dramatic rise in anti-Asian racism. The initial tide arose with Trump and his association of the COVID-19 pandemic with China, spurring a huge increase in hate crimes against Asians, or those perceived as ‘Asian.’ In the U.S., this culminated in the horrific murder of eight people in spas in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian women.

The U.S. department of justice under Donald Trump also began the China Initiative, a campaign to prosecute scientists in the U.S. allegedly spying for China. This led to charges against dozens of scientists, mainly of Chinese descent. According to World University News, “none have been convicted for economic espionage, or theft of trade secrets, or intellectual property.” According to a study by the University of Arizona’s Jenny J. Lee, Xiaojie Li and the staff at Committee of 100, the China Initiative was a clear case of racial profiling and had a chilling effect not only on scientific endeavours but also on Asian American communities at large. More must be done by universities, they state, to combat institutional racism that is inflamed by anti-China rhetoric.

Organized resistance to the program, by those accused and by groups such as the Asian Pacific American Justice Task Force (APA Justice), the Brennan Center for Justice, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, resulted in the Biden administration cancelling the program in February 2022 though profiling of Chinese American scientists still continue.

In Canada as well, racism directed against those seen as Chinese or Asian exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong anti-racism movement coalesced as part of the anti-racist uprising of 2020, which helped to push back aggression against racialized communities. Still, racist attacks on Chinatowns continue, against those who dissent from one-sided assessments of China, and most severely, against Chinese Canadian scientists.

In a recent study, Dr. Xiaobei Chen of Carleton University has made the case that “despite state multiculturalism, foreign policy making can function as an institutional conduit for reproducing systemic racism, which not only exacerbates social divisions but also prevents a form of intercultural understanding in which individuals truly see one another.”

Unlike in the United States where there was a concerted effort to stop the China Initiative, in Canada the situation is less clear. Many people in racialized communities hesitate to speak out on foreign policy out of fear they will be accused of being spies for China or, alternatively, come under pressure from nationalists.

Canada’s spy agencies have come to the fore in this recent period: CSIS, responsible for analysis and operations, and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), responsible for information collection. A recent report illustrates how the COVID-19 pandemic created “a pivotal moment” for CSIS, and so today they aggressively assert: “Spies are no longer wearing trench coats, they’re wearing lab coats.” The agency has created new programs including “Academic Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement” and taken to social media, establishing YouTube channels, and offering support against certain cybercrimes, all the while spreading fear of “foreign actors”—a term that apparently does not include the United States.

CSIS Director David Vigneault.

For over a year now, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada has been imposing compulsory CSIS self-screening by all Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Alliance grant applicants. This interference in research was developed by CSIS in collaboration with major research institutions including the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, Universities Canada, and Vice-Presidents of Research.

Resistance is continuing but so far Canadian institutions, academic or otherwise, have failed to speak out publicly in support of those facing persecution. It seems we still have not learned from the lessons of the Japanese Canadian/American uprooting and internment. Racialized groups are extremely vulnerable to changing foreign policies.

Beyond Empires

A strange disconnect seems to exist between the local and global.

In both Canada and the United States, powerful movements of resistance have arisen to contest domination and oppression. In the former, Indigenous resurgence in the past decade (Idle No More, Attawapiskat, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children, recognition of the Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves, repatriating social programs, Wet’suwet’en landback, and much more) continues to have huge impacts. The 2020 anti-racist uprising and environmental justice movements are having major reverberations throughout Canada, as is the movement for LGBQT2S+ rights.

In the United States, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, defense of abortion rights, environmental justice and the fight for Asian American and Latinx rights, as well as voting rights have brought millions into social action.

Yet on the international front, with few exceptions, the movement against the American empire is weaker than in the past. This weakness can be attributed to the capacity of the liberal state to both distort and deflect, to manufacture consent that allows the state to exercise control over international affairs. Thus, the invasion and war lost in Afghanistan is distorted to be a just ‘war against terror’ or to liberate the women of Afghanistan; once lost, it becomes a war to save the Afghanis who collaborated with the U.S. and its allies. Or, in the just war of resistance against the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, performance distorts matters so that NATO responsibility in provoking the war is considered unjustifiable dissent, even treasonous.

In regard to deflection, the China bogeyman performs this role in the Asia Pacific, the latest in an endless march of enemies justifying the never-ending wars waged by the American military, with an ever-evolving assortment of allies. Herein lies the real danger today. On the one hand, the current campaign tells a partial truth about China, its illiberal nature and human rights abuses, reinforced by continual racist stereotyping that draws on a long history of anti-Asian racism in both Canada and the United States.

Much remains to be done.

John Price is Professor Emeritus (History) at the University of Victoria, author of Orienting Canada: Race, Empire and the Transpacific, and active with Canada-China Focus.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, and a world-renowned linguist and political commentator,

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Categories: F. Left News

Bill 124 decision a victory in fighting Ford’s “manufactured crises”

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:44

Celebrations swept across Ontario’s labour movement after an Ontario court decision that struck down premier Doug Ford’s controversial wage restraint bill, Bill 124. Experts and labour leaders say that amidst a nursing shortage and underfunding of schools, the decision provides vital protections for bargaining rights moving forward. 

President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, JP Hornick, said that this decision has chipped away at the legislation that has manufactured crises for workers in Ontario.

“Justice Koehnen clearly spells out in the decision that the government had other ways to save money and chose to exercise unconstitutional legislation instead,” Hornick said. “The government is making it  very, very clear what their priorities are for spending. Those priorities are not programs that benefit Ontarians.”

Bill 124, which was introduced and passed in 2019, capped compensation increases for public sector workers at one percent per year.

“The legislation did not just cap wage increases to one per cent. It kept total compensation changes to 1 per cent,” said Chris Rootham, a partner at Nelligan Law who co-teaches employment law at the University of Ottawa in an interview with “That’s an important distinction because it affected more than just wages, it affected health benefits, it affected performance pay, it affected vacation, improvements and it affected other forms of days off. What the legislation did is it essentially said anything that has a cost associated with it is part of the one per cent.” 

Rootham said that this cap forced employee representatives at the bargaining table to make some difficult decisions between benefits and wage increases in some cases. The 80-page decision points to a “chiling” example from the Service Employees International Union. In this example, the union negotiated for drug, dental and vision care in exchange for a zero per cent wage increase. 

The decision also said that the government did not have sufficient reason for imposing the bill. Rootham said that he thinks this is a fair conclusion. He situated Bill 124 among other wage restraint legislation and said the Ontario bill was not formed under the same conditions as others. 

“Restriction of collective bargaining rights historically in Canada has been a response to a crisis of some sort,” Rootham explained. “Federally, there was one as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. There was another one in the early 1990s as a response to a more legitimate fiscal crisis. In this case, when the government introduced this in 2019, there was no economic crisis. There was no fiscal crisis at that point. It was a’ we want to do this and therefore we’re going to’ circumstance.”

The bill, introduced at a time that did not provide much justification for wage restraint legislation, has also been blamed for exacerbating labour shortages in the healthcare sector. 

“Bill 124 capped public sector compensation at one per cent, at a time when inflation is higher than it has been in forty years,” Said Patty Coates, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). “It has had a devastating impact on all frontline workers and especially on the longstanding staffing crisis in Ontario’s health care system. By suppressing wages and limiting or denying frontline workers the supports they need to do their jobs without burning out or becoming completely demoralized, the Ford government made a terrible situation even worse with Bill 124.” 

Limitations have also created difficulties in the education sector. Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) recently endured a rocky bargaining process with the government where wage increases and funding for other services were a big concern. 

READ MORE: Bill 28 is an act so unconstitutional it comes with the notwithstanding clause

In a press release, CUPE Ontario said that investing in good jobs for education workers will improve services for students and close equity gaps in education. Despite this, Ford continued to underfund schools. 

“It’s outrageous that there was yet another report that showed the financial accountability officer saying they underspent by $3.5 billion,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “That’s money dedicated to services we all rely on that the government has refused to spend.” 

Amidst these difficulties in public sector workplaces, the decision on Bill 124 may force Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives to read the room, according to Hahn.

As public sector unions continue to push for fair deals amidst rising inflation, this decision has set out clear rules that the government must play by, according to professor Sara Slinn, associate professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Professor Slinn highlighted that coming out of the pandemic, governments may be facing some significant financial restraints which may make using legislation to avoid bargaining and strikes an enticing option. But this decision demonstrates that this option is no longer available to governments.

“Governments are going to have to be more careful about imposing wage control legislation,” professor Slinn said. “Now that we’ve got a pattern of strong decisions, finding quite substantial charter protection with respect to and therefore some significant limits on the government’s ability to impose wage control legislation.” 

The Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF) are currently in bargaining. This news has created better opportunities for fair deals. 

Karen Littlewood, president of OSSTF, received the news while she was at a Sheraton Hotel for bargaining. She said she feels encouraged to know that bargaining will continue to happen at the table and not in the legislature. 

“You can bargain back and forth,” said Littlewood, “but when you both end up in a place where you’re maybe not so thrilled with the deal, you can’t go ahead and say ‘I’m going to legislate a deal.’ This is not the way that we should be bargaining.”

Professor Slinn said it’s hard to predict anything concrete that may happen so soon, especially with the government’s intention to appeal the decision. However, professor Slinn said that if any unions had bargained reopener clauses in their agreements while the challenge to Bill 124 was ongoing, preliminary discussion on reopening bargaining may start soon. 

This decision came on the heels of CUPE Ontario’s victory against Bill 28 which attempted to legislate education workers into a collective agreement. These recent victories have reinvigorated the labour movement.

“This was a moment where we had to decide this is the line in the sand,” said Fred Hahn from CUPE Ontario. “I was enormously proud to be part of the labor movement. When people made that decision.”

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Categories: F. Left News

Keeping politics out of sports may be a hopeless affair

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 11:32

It’s always been easy to lampoon the mix of politics and sports, like the infiltration of NFL football with Cold War rhetoric in the 1960s (the long bomb, the blitz). In the 1971 film Bananas, Woody Allen had Howard Cosell from “Wide World of Sports” broadcast a political assassination — “it’s all over for El Presidente!” — from the “little dictatorship of San Marcos in Latin America.”

It’s also easy to decry the manipulation of sports by politicians and governments, from the 1936 Berlin Olympics to today’s World Cup. It puts fans in a terrible position. Take Iran and the rage at the regime there. As a nurse whose son “loves” his country’s team said, “I wondered where I had made that huge mistake in bringing him up. How could he back the mullahs’ team?”

This is a hopeless dilemma for fans who love their country and their team. I once tried hoping the Blue Jays wouldn’t win a World Series while Brian Mulroney’s government were pushing a free trade deal with the U.S. Why? I could picture him crowing, “This shows we can play in the American League and win!”

Those stakes were high enough, but Iran’s are immensely higher. Ordinary people want a way to express love of country without having to commit to an odious regime. Of course the mullahs try to co-opt those emotions. “May God make [the team] happy,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. It also serves them to have outlets for popular anger. It gets way too confusing. I once had a director of a play of mine about the Montreal Canadiens try ending it with players angrily stripping off their uniforms and equipment — not to show contempt for hockey, but for how commercialism and professionalization distort it.

Try explaining that. Poor fans, poor players, poor audience, poor country.

I also find myself wondering if we make a mistake — full of good intentions and love of sports — by trying to separate the politics from the games.

Back when I was a grad student, I was impressed by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga’s 1938 book, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element of Culture. He dared to say that how a society plays reveals more than stuff like class or institutions. That’s partly because play is done freely, so it shows what people truly care about and desire. Huizinga felt that forms of play actually generate cultures and societies, but I always found the metaphorical implications of play for the rest of life to be the most powerful part of his book.

In their recent book The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow take the theme much farther. They argue and document how play and games may have been the origin of fundamental social forces like agriculture and politics. (I admit I’ve been living under the shadow of their book for months.)

Agriculture, they say, didn’t emerge at a particular moment, once and forever leading to effects like slavery, debt, monarchy and oppression. It coexisted for millennia with other forms of food provision. They call this phase “play farming.” Why wouldn’t people “toy” with various forms of production, this and that according to their needs and desires? At some point it took hold, but the question is why and whether that was inevitable. They offer tons of proof.

As for politics, especially the top-down, rulership type, it may’ve started in games that ended with a winner or king (like chess!), with little else at stake until borders and luxury goods developed. Societies fluctuated between different political orders for most of history, until recently settling into what we’ve got. This isn’t metaphor — it’s a real attempt to trace how we got to where we are.

I’m often embarrassed by how seriously I take what happens to the Leafs, Raptors or Blue Jays, in light of more serious things to agonize over. It lightens the guilt slightly if games are at the core of who we truly are.

This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

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Categories: F. Left News

Qatar’s World Cup is a lavish exercise in sportswashing

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 10:46

Regardless of whether one calls it soccer or football, the FIFA Men’s World Cup tournament underway in Qatar may be the most-watched sporting event ever. It’s predicted that by the time the month-long tournament ends on December 18, half the world’s population will have tuned in. One million fans are expected in this small, scorching desert peninsula in the Persian Gulf to watch teams from 32 nations compete. Since FIFA awarded Qatar the games back in 2010 (in a process suffused with corruption and bribery), planning and construction has occurred at a frantic pace. Seven massive new stadiums, a metro system, new roads, 100 hotels, over 100 practice fields and more have been built, almost exclusively by migrant labourers who work in Qatar with virtually no rights. The torturous, extraordinarily hot working conditions endured by workers are believed to have caused thousands deaths.

Abdullah Al-Arian, history professor at Georgetown University in Qatar said on the Democracy Now! news hour, “Football goes back to the colonial days, when it was being introduced by British and French officials as a way of instilling discipline and ‘civilizing’ the local populations.”

Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers is another consequence of colonialism. The “kafala system,” Al-Arian explained, “was the kind of migrant labour governance structure…put in place initially by British colonial authorities at a time when they were trying to preserve their own interests.”

He went on:

“They wanted to tie all of the migrant workers to their sponsorship, meaning that their employer would dictate the extent to which they would be allowed in the country, for how long. Things like changing jobs were not permitted without the permission of the employer. There was no real protection over things like a minimum wage or even safety considerations…this was a system that was then inherited by all of the independent states in the Gulf.”

In 2012, while in Qatar covering COP18, that year’s United Nations climate summit, Democracy Now! interviewed Devendra Dhungana, a Nepalese journalist investigating working conditions for migrant workers from Nepal. World Cup construction had just begun.

“We visited the labour camps, and what we saw was just unbelievable,” Dhungana said.

“More than 50 migrant workers are living in the 12 to 14 rooms with very little facilities — no running water, no AC in several places. They are living in very squalid conditions…50 people have to queue up in the morning to use one toilet.”

He concluded, “We expect to see more people will die working in the stadiums than the number of players playing in the Qatari stadiums.”

Geopolitics have also impacted the games. Qatar is an absolute monarchy. Like many dictatorships around the world, it enjoys the full backing of the U.S. government. Centcom, the U.S. military’s Central Command, has its forward headquarters just miles outside of Doha, at the Al Udeid Air Base. It’s the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, and only about 150 miles from Iran.

A U.S. soccer team social media post depicted the Iranian flag without the emblem of the Islamic Republic, to show solidarity with women protesters in Iran. Iran responded by demanding the U.S. be ejected from the World Cup. Meanwhile, the Iranian team itself took a courageous stand, refusing to sing their national anthem, ostensibly in solidarity with the protesters back home.

The international athletes and tourists flooding Qatar have also come into direct conflict with the ruling monarchy’s deep-seated intolerance. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. On the eve of the games, FIFA banned “One Love” rainbow armbands that several teams were promising to wear to express solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

“We’re definitely seeing sportswashing, where political leaders are using the sports event to try to deflect attention from human rights,” Jules Boykoff, a former U.S. Olympic and professional soccer player said on Democracy Now!.

“FIFA should…give some money to migrant workers and their families who haven’t been paid properly. Some of them have died, and they haven’t received proper compensation. So, if you win the World Cup, your team gets $42 million. That should be the bare minimum that should be then thrown in the direction of these families who have suffered so greatly because of the World Cup, that is giving so many people around the world so much joy.”

In a recent op-ed on the World Cup published in the New York Times, Abdullah Al-Arian quoted Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who wrote, “soccer is the field of expression permitted by secret understanding between ruler and ruled in the prison cell of Arab democracy.”

Soccer is called “the beautiful game,” but the 2022 World Cup should serve as a reminder that for many in the world, the fight for human rights, workers’ rights and equality is not a game. It is deadly serious.

This column originally appeared in Democracy Now!

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Categories: F. Left News

Reflecting on 20 years since Grassy Narrows blockade

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 08:44

Sixteen years ago, I took my mom and two still nursing children on a trip to northern Ontario. It was a lot –four of us cramped into three airplane seats with busy bags, my mom’s purse full of snacks in twist-tied baggies, and a tiny, crappy CD player with 10 disks full of Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder. When our plane landed in Thunder Bay, nearly eight hours after we’d left the house, we were only halfway there. We had a six hour drive ahead of us. Well, six hours if your kids love sitting in their car seats and you don’t have to stop every 20 minutes. 

At the time, I was working on a project with Judy Da Silva studying the impacts of mercury contamination on the plants, animals and Anishinaabek living in the homelands of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wabauskang and Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) First Nations. I had been to Grassy a few times before and I knew what to expect – gorgeous lakes and trees, people with a fierce love of their culture and their community, and Elders with incredible knowledge of land and water that can only come from generations of living on the land in a communal practice that brings forth more life. 

This muted November morning, I’m sifting through my eroding memories of that trip. My heart studying the five decades of Anishinaabek organizing parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, children and youth, Elders and Chief and Councils, scientists, environmentalists, Church groups, reporters, doctors and allied politicians have engaged in to bring us to this present moment. 

I’m remembering the words of David Suzuki at Toronto Metropolitan University in 2018 at an event leading up to Grassy’s annual River Run action, his voice wavering and in tears, “My inspiration comes from the fact you haven’t given up.” 

READ MORE: Why we march with Grassy Narrows

And therein lies one of the foundational teachings Grassy Narrows has gifted us –do not give up. Do not expect things to come easy. Keep trying. 

An unwavering commitment to take care of their families and the network of life Anishinaabek worlds are enmeshed in has carried this community through broken treaty relations, relocation, the impacts of hydro-electric development, residential schools and child welfare practices, and of course, the eliminating violence of pollution. Starting in 1913 and continuing to present day, the pulp and paper industry in Dryden and Kenora has dumped an array of toxic substances, including the infamous 10 metric tonnes of untreated mercury in the 1960s and 1970s, and more recently bleaching waste that produces phenols, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), also known as dioxins and furans. Though this is only part of the story. In order to make pulp, one needs trees. Trees who share their time and space with bears and moose, blueberries and Labrador Tea. Trees have lived with the Anishinaabek long before their worth, our worth, was measured in dollars.   

On that same trip Judy drove me out to the Slant Lake blockade. The blockade began the same year my son was born, and it had taken me four years to visit. 

I remember at the time thinking it was remarkable that they had managed to block a logging road for four years. 

This blockade started out as a flash point. On December 2, 2022, after more than a decade of letter-writing, meetings, protests, petitions, speaking tours, and legal efforts to protect their homeland from further industrial development without their consent, young Anishinaabek lay down on the logging road to prevent large multinational corporations from destroying traplines, hunting grounds, berry patches, medicines and plant and animal habitats to supply mills in Dryden and Kenora with trees. And while Abitibi and Weyerhaeuser continued to log the more remote sections of Grassy Narrows’ territory, in the summer of 2008 Grassy Narrows and their supporters finally forced AbitibiBowater to give up their license to the Whiskey Jack Forest, and commit not to log without consent from the community. This halted all logging on Grassy Narrows territory.

A tremendous victory, and one that is fragile. Despite their 2018 Land Declaration, banning all mineral staking, exploration, mining, and logging in their territory, Doug Ford’s government is proposing to open part of Grassy Narrows territory to industrial logging in their upcoming management plan. The Ontario government has also allowed mineral claims by mining companies and prospectors to grow into the thousands while also granting drilling permits to companies despite the Land Declaration. 

Over the past two decades, what started out as a flash point response has transformed into much more than a refusal. This blockade is a generative site where people come together for ceremonies, feasts, drumming, praying and story-telling. It is a place that holds our dreams and visions for making a world that is grounded in care, enmeshed in the natural world and designed to bring forth more life. The Slant Lake blockade has been a place where like-minded Indigenous peoples, land defenders and those engaged in struggle have gathered and learned from the hearts and minds of people that have grown up or grown old with the blockade. It is a place that reminds me that the struggle to make Anishinaabek worlds that refuse exploitation and greed, is long and requires commitment, persistence and sacrifice. It is a place that reminds me that whether the blockade is Wet’suwet’en or Dakota or Anishinaabek, we are all fighting for the something that’s actually quite simple –the ability to say no to development in our homelands, so that we can live in a way that is counter to the forces that have thrust us all into our current climate crisis. 

This December 2, on the twentieth anniversary of the longest blockade in Canadian history, I’m thinking of all those that have passed on and who live with mercury poison and illness. I’m thinking of Palestinians, the Wet’suwet’en, Kayapo and Overhereo, and of Black feminist abolitionists in Canada dreaming worlds beyond and I’m thinking of those precious Anishinaabek that put words into action two decades ago and did what they had to do to pass their homeland to the next generation with as much sanctity as possible. I’m so grateful for Grassy Narrows challenging me to burst out of my scale-down visions of a better world and to remake the worlds of our ancestors where forests and rivers are our precious relatives. 

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Categories: F. Left News

Climate change and unions in the global south

Fri, 12/02/2022 - 05:23

Labour unions in the global south are calling for a just transition to more sustainable economies through education. A report from the International Trade Union Confederation in the Asia-Pacific region.

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

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Categories: F. Left News


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