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Events in May

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Issue: 46 Section: Month in Review Geography: Canada

June 1, 2007

Events in May

Robin Hood pepper sprayed, foreign oil workers kidnapped, security wall for G8 leaders, and more

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

Activists dressed as Robin Hoods disrupted a Conservative Party fundraiser in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Coalition Against Poverty

Prosecutors in the US are seeking "terrorism enhancements" for the sentences of 10 animal rights and environmental activists arrested for causing more than $40 million in damages to targets that included an SUV dealership, a meatpacking plant and a ski resort. "This is the first time in the history of the US that the federal government is seeking this enhancement for property crimes that did not result in injury or death to humans," said Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, Oregon. These enhancements could add up to 20 years to the existing jail sentence.

A wall 12 kilometres long and 2.5 metres high has been erected in preparation for the G8 summit to be held in Germany in June. The wall is intended to keep the expected tens of thousands of protesters away from G8 leaders when they meet in the idyllic bathing resort of Heiligendamm from June 6 to June 8. Sixteen thousand police will also be deployed to contain the protests, making it the largest security operation in Germany's history. In May, 900 police raided the homes and offices of activists all over Germany. Justified under the country's "anti-terror" law, the raids were subsequently condemned by a number of jurists and politicians who declared them to be out of proportion to any real danger to the state.

Thousands march in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal to demand “Status for All!”

Photo: No One Is Illegal Toronto

Greenpeace leaked a document showing that the US has raised serious objections to a proposed global warming declaration for next month's G8 summit, specifically mandatory emissions targets and language calling for nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 per cent by 2020. According to the US document, such proposals "are fundamentally incompatible with the (US) president's approach to climate change."

Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner announced that the province will not be setting absolute targets for greenhouse gas emissions, favouring intensity targets instead. Intensity targets allow overall emissions to grow as long as the greenhouse gas producer is using energy more efficiently. A recent provincial survey found that 90 per cent of respondents think the province should move quickly to adopt absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets for industry rather than intensity targets. Those who filled out the survey also rejected the ideas of nuclear power, carbon capture and storage and clean-burning coal. If recent economic growth rates continue, by 2020 the total emissions in Alberta will rise to 72 per cent above 1990 levels.

The proposed new Irving oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, which will double Irving's refining capacity in the city, will not undergo a fully comprehensive environmental impact assessment, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced. Irving’s current refinery in the city is already the largest in Canada, with an output that accounts for 75 per cent of Canada's gasoline exports to the US. The environmental impact assessment of the refinery will not look at greenhouse gas emissions. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick noted that Environment Minister John Baird flew to Saint John to meet with the Irvings about the project but has refused to respond to the organization’s concerns.

At least eight journalists from the Russian News Serviceresigned to protest a new policy that requires 50 per cent of stories to show the Kremlin in a positive light. Nightly news broadcasts in Russia increasingly feature lengthy footage of President Vladimir Putin speaking to officials and reports on the activities of the two deputy prime ministers seen as possible successors to the president when his term runs out next year.

Radio Caracas de Television (RCTV), a network critical of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, went off-air when its license expired on May 27. The television station was intimately involved in a military coup d'etat which suspended the Venezuelan constitution, closed down the elected national assembly and the Supreme Court, and took Hugo Chavez, the elected President, prisoner. When the government was returned to power by street demonstrations, RCTV did not report on it, cautioning people to stay at home. Thousands of people gathered in the streets for days, both opposing and celebrating the decision. RCTV's license has been handed over to TVes, a new "public" channel, which will operate with relative independence from the government.

The NewStandard, an online newspaper based out of the US is no longer in publication. The NewStandard, which published nearly 3,000 hard-hitting articles over the past three years, cited the fact that the publication "...never gained the level of support needed to provide sustainable jobs and to develop the readership it needed to thrive," as the reason for its closure. The NewStandard was founded on the belief that the dominant model and methods of profit-focussed news journalism have failed the public interests. Among the characteristics that made the publication unique was the fact that is was run by a collective of editors and journalists who refused to accept advertising or grant dollars as they believed it would detract from the paper’s independence. The NewStandard was funded 100 per cent by its readers.

Anti-poverty activists in Vancouver launched an eviction campaign against members of the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee. Protesters put board member Ken Dobell's belongings into boxes and threw them into the hallway outside his office. The action was carried out by members of the Anti-Poverty Committee who say that since poor people are being evicted from their homes to make room for the 2010 Olympic games, they will continue ‘evicting’ Olympic organizers from their offices.

Immigrants, refugees and their supporters took to the streets of Toronto to demand a national regularization program and a moratorium on detentions and deportations as well as access to city services regardless of status. The march was part of a week of actions for immigrants and refugees living in Canada and the US, and included actions in several American cities, Vancouver and Montreal.

Halifax anti-poverty activists dressed up as Robin Hood disrupted a Conservative Party fundraising dinner where supporters were paying $5,000 a table to eat in the company of Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, Preston Manning and John Hamm. The Robin Hoods snuck into the dining hall and disrupted the dinner with chants such as, "The cost of one table here could feed a family for a year!" The Halifax Coalition Against Poverty says police used aggressive force when attempting to evict the protesters, using pepper spray and batons, as well as punching and kicking activists.

About 150 family members and friends of missing aboriginal women held a rally in Edmonton to raise awareness of unsolved disappearances. Over the last 20 years, more than 500 aboriginal women in Canada have been murdered or have disappeared.

The federal government forced the Akaitcho Dene First Nations into not claiming areas where exploration companies want to look for uranium, says Western Arctic NDP MP Dennis Bevington. In a document obtained through access to information, dated August 11 2006, an official wrote to Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice, stating that the Akaitcho agreed to exclude land claims on sacred land in the Thelon Basin because "this addresses Canada's significant interest to allow the continuation of uranium exploration in the Basin." Although the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board recently rejected one company's bid to look for uranium in the Thelon Basin, it is ultimately up to Prentice to decide whether to accept or reject the Review Board's recommendation.

A plan by the Australian government to force Aboriginal children to learn English is being called racist by Aboriginal leaders. Tauto Sansbury, of the Aboriginal justice advocacy committee, said the idea was insulting and would reinforce old-fashioned stereotypes. "They still want to treat Aboriginal people the way it was back in the 30s and 40s, where they're the master and we're the servant.” The number of Aboriginal languages that existed in Australia prior to colonization is estimated to be about 600. Currently there are 200 different Aboriginal dialects across Australia, with about 20 in constant use.

A group of foreign oil workers were kidnapped in Nigeria. There have been more than 100 abductions of foreign workers in the oil-producing Niger Delta this year. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), responsible for many of the abductions, says multinational oil companies are making millions off oil in the region while local people continue to live in poverty. Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer.

According to Statistics Canada’s latest census on agriculture, the average farm size has increased from 608 acres in 1996, to 676 acres in 2001, and to 728 acres in 2006. As farms get bigger, the number of farms gets smaller; there are 17,000 fewer farms in Canada today than there were in 2001. The census also found that the average age of farmers has increased.

Outspoken Afghanistan MP Malalai Joya was suspended for saying Afghanistan's parliament was worse than a stable, noting that cows provide milk and donkeys carry loads. "They are worse than cows and donkeys -- they're dragons," said Joya in a television interview seen by parliament. Joya is a feminist and staunch critic of the West for aligning itself with Northern Alliance warlords who now hold seats in parliament. She has survived four assassination attempts and reportedly never sleeps two nights in the same place.

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right on

this was really helpful. i hope the dominion keeps doing this in months future.

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