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Events in March

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Issue: 44 Section: Month in Review Geography: Earth

April 9, 2007

Events in March

Protests at Canadian Embassies, Kashechewan, Cité Soleil, Harper's budget and more

by Dru Oja Jay

Haitians demonstrate against "long term destabilization and the politicized aid program of Canada" at the Canadian Embassy.

Photo: Wadner Pierre

With spring floods on the way, leaders from the Kashechewan First Nation renewed calls for the federal government to fulfill its end of an agreement to relocate the northern Ontario community. Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice later officially denied the request. The community of Kashechewan was forcibly relocated to a flood plain of the Albany River in 1957. » 1, 2

Cuban head of state Fidel Castro issued his first editorial since his hospitalization in 2006. Castro warned against massive food shortages in developing countries if rich countries begin to import food crops like corn and sugar cane for the purpose of converting them into fuel. » 1

A general strike that lasted for most of January and February in the West African country of Guinea ended with a deal that appointed a new prime minister and lowered the prices of rice and fuel. Guinea has a full third of the world's known deposits of bauxite, or aluminum ore, but the majority of the population lives in poverty. During the strike, military forces fired on protesters, resulting in 23 deaths. Montreal-based Alcan Aluminum is a major partner of Guinea's state- owned mining corporation. » 1, 2

The corporate lobby group Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) lauded the Conservative government's proposed budget, singling out corporate tax cuts and incentives for praise. In a letter, CCCE President Tom d'Aquino expressed appreciation for "incentives for later retirement" and the "financial incentive for governments to eliminate their capital taxes," among others. The CCCE's membership includes most of Canada's biggest corporations, representing annual revenues of more than $750 billion, and $3.2 billion in assets. » 1

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) panned the 2007 Conservative budget in a report, saying that $18 billion over two years "is a lot of money to spend with such piecemeal results." According to the CCPA's researchers, most Canadians want more money spent on social programs, while a distinct minority want more tax cuts. The report says that new tax credits give "high-income Canadians" the "maximum benefit," while doing little to help those with very little taxable income in the first place. Also criticized were the absence of measures to increase affordable housing and a lack of action to address poverty among First Nations. » 1

In Haiti, protesters gathered at the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince to denounce "hypocrisy" and demand the return of former-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who has been in exile since he was removed by US forces in a coup d'état also backed by Canada and France. » 1

Residents of the Haitian slum of Cité Soleil have described what they called a "state of siege" imposed by UN troops. Dozens of people have been injured and killed during recent shooting battles between UN forces and gangs. In one battle last summer, UN troops shot 22,000 bullets. A declassified report revealed that the UN was aware that their fire would strike many "unintended targets" due to the flimsy construction of houses in the slum. Many photographs of Cité Soleil residents killed by UN fire, including women and small children, have been circulating. The killing has sparked debate in Bolivia, which contributes soldiers to the UN forces in Haiti. "How could we oppose similar aggression against Bolivia... if we endorse the military intervention in Haiti," asked Bolivian lawyer, journalist and former cabinet minister Andrés Soliz Rada in a recent op/ed. » 1, 2, 3, 4

Over 100 demonstrators gathered at the Canadian embassy in Mexico City to oppose mining activities by Metallica, a Toronto-based company, which they say are illegal. Demonstrators say that Metallica subsidiary Minera San Xavier is using 25 tonnes of explosives daily in exploratory work. The proposed mine, which has been opposed since the project was initiated in the state of San Luis Potosí in 1995, is on the hill of San Pedro. The hill has deep local significance and neighbours the community of Cerro de San Pedro. Leaders of local resistance movements say the mine would result in cyanide leaching into the regional aquifer, which supplies an estimated 1.5 million people. The demonstrators said that the mining is clearly illegal, but that Canadian and Mexican governments refuse to enforce the law. » 1, 2, 3

Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta, as seen from the air. Photo: Mark Elliott

A prominent London venture capitalist and major Labour Party donor has warned that the gap between the rich and poor could lead to a "violent reaction from those left behind." In recent remarks, Ronald Cohen said, "I think we're at the top of the cycle. I think the pendulum has swung too far." However, Cohen has also argued that the government has no role to play in wealth redistribution, arguing instead for charitable contributions from the ultra-rich. The Washington Post took note of London's new elite, estimating that $17 billion in bonuses were given to the city's "financial stars" in a matter of weeks, and detailing a story of one $36,000 tab for a "night of cocktails." » 1, 2, 3

On March 17, the fourth anniversary of the most recent US invasion of Iraq, thousands of people protested in more than 37 cities, demanding an immediate end to the US occupation of Iraq. Many groups also demanded that Canadian troops withdraw from Afghanistan immediately and some called for an end to the "US-Canada military partnership." » 1

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that "American, European and Arab officials" he spoke to said that aid money directed to the Siniora government in Lebanon has ended up funding Sunni radical groups. "We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence and we're spreading the money around as much as we can," a senior intelligence official told Hersh. » 1

Health Canada filed a complaint against John O'Connor, a doctor working in Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta who linked acute increases in cancer rates in the majority-native population to arsenic and other chemicals dumped by tar sand development in the area. The complaint has fuelled speculation that O'Connor is being silenced for challenging the Alberta oil industry. Health Canada has not disclosed details of the complaint. The Alberta Medical Association recently passed a resolution supporting O'Connor, and he has received support from First Nations groups. » 1

Herb Norwegian, Grand Chief of the Deh Cho First Nation, called for Alberta's legislators to take immediate action to stop the pollution from tar sands development making its way into northern watersheds. "You're talking about annihilation of people's watershed if it's not done properly, and three years is not soon enough [to take action]," Norwegian said. "You'll probably have a couple hundred people dead from Lord knows what happens from the stuff that's coming out of the tar pits." » 1

Tanya Reinhart, an Israeli linguist and well-known critic of Israel's occupation of Palestine, died on March 17 at the age of 63. Reinhart's contributions to linguistics were described by former thesis supervisor Noam Chomsky as, "original and highly influential." Reinhart's work extended into literary criticism, media studies and most famously, political activism. Reinhart was subject to heavy criticism for supporting a call for an academic boycott against Israel. She called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and was the author of Israel/ Palestine: how to end the War of 1948, and The road map to nowhere : Israel/Palestine since 2003. » 1, 2

US Democrats have opted for a "slow bleed" strategy in Iraq, which news reports say aims to reduce the number of troops available to the Bush Administration, while providing over $100 billion for the ongoing occupation of Iraq. The decision has opened up a rift between a grassroots American antiwar movement on one hand and Democrats and NGOs on the other. "The Congress that was elected to end the war just voted to fund the war," one commentary begins. Advocacy group MoveOn.org was subject to the ire of many activists when it represented its 3.3 million members as being in support of the Democrats' bill based on a poll that gave members the choice between the bill and doing nothing. » 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Google.com removed satellite images of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from its map site, baffling many who had been using the images to track the state of the city's reconstruction or check on their own homes. The images were replaced with satellite photographs of the city before the hurricane hit. Chikai Ohazama, a Google product manager, told reporters that he "personally" was not asked to change the photos, but that the company gets many requests to update and change images that the company provides. » 1

A restaurant in Toronto's Cabbagetown neighbourhood is fighting an attempt to revoke its liquor licence. Activists fighting the decision with owner Victor Jiang call it part of an effort to drive low-income people out of the neighbourhood. "This is about removing the places where poor people gather socially," the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty wrote in a statement. Activists say that many establishments that are being shut down are operated by immigrant people and point out that many don't have the capital to open up bars and restaurants that cater to "yuppies." » 1

Around 125 Mohawks from the Bay of Quinte community in Ontario seized a gravel quarry and set up a blockade on a small part of a disputed tract of land. They say that 827 acres of land known as the Culbertson Tract was illegally taken from their nation in 1827 and want the gravel pit's operations stopped until land claims are settled. "The quarry is something that strikes at the heart of the issue," said Mohawk activist Shawn Brant. "It's very difficult to have negotiations at a time when they're taking out 10,000 truckloads of our land [annually]. It's an affront to our process." » 1, 2

A Mohawk woman from the community of Akwesasne went into hiding, defying an arrest warrant from the Superior Court of Ontario. Katenies, a grandmother and researcher for Mohawk Nation News, was cited for border violations. She served the courts with a "Motion to Dismiss," insisting that the question of whether Canada has any legal authority over the Mohawk people be resolved. She had crossed from the Canada to the US while inside Mohawk territory to visit her daughter, but refuses to recognize the boundary. » 1, 2

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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