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August In Review

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Section: Month in Review Geography: Canada Topics: social movements, climate change

September 8, 2007

August In Review

Climate camp-outs, resource resistance, deep opposition to integration, and wiki crimes

by Philip Neatby

Press, police and protesters in Montebello, Québec. Photo: Rob Maguire

Ontario Supreme Court Judge Gordon Thomson issued an injunction ordering the removal of members of the Algonquin and Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nations, who have been occupying a uranium mine near Sharbot Lake since June 29th. According to Christopher Reid, the Toronto-based lawyer representing the Algonquin protestors, the land is Aboriginal Title Land, protected by the Canadian constitution, and is unceded territory. The protestors have vowed to continue their occupation of the mine despite a $77 million lawsuit by Frontenac Ventures, which had been exploring the site. Many non-native residents of nearby towns have supported the occupation of the mine, and some have refused to pay taxes to their local town councils, demanding that they take a stand against the exploration.

Mohawk demonstrator Shawn Brant has been released on bail, but faces nine criminal charges related to his role in organizing a blockade of the 401 highway in Ontario during the June 29th national day of indigenous protests. Brant’s bail conditions prohibit him from attending any political demonstration and placed him under effective house arrest for thirty days.

One hundred members of Tahltan First Nation blockaded Shell workers from accessing a coalbed methane exploration site located in the Tahltan Sacred Headwaters territory in Northern BC. Shell responded by filing an injunction to stop the blockade, which was adjourned indefinitely by BC courts.

The Australian Senate has passed a series of bills allowing the government to “encroach upon, invade, and determine the lives” of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory of Australia. Critics of this collection of new laws, which include a takeover of 73 indigenous settlements on five-year leases, alcohol and pornography bans, restrictions on welfare spending, and increased police presence in traditional indigenous areas, accuse the Australian government of manipulating high rates of child abuse in NT regions in order to carry out a virtual land grab.

Palestinian and international solidarity activists celebrated a victory this week after the Israeli supreme court issued a decision that would change the route of the 425 mile apartheid wall, circumventing the West Bank town of Bil’in. In addition to petitioning the supreme court, villagers and international supporters have staged weekly protests against the wall’s construction over the past two years, arguing that it would effectively sever residents from their farmland. Meanwhile, clashes between Fatah and Hamas forces continued in the West Bank as deadly Israeli incursions continued. Three children were killed near Beit Hanoun by an Israeli missile on August 29th.

The August summit between Stephen Harper, Felipe Calderon, and George W. Bush, leaders of the three NAFTA countries, was met with thousands of protestors in Ottawa and Montebello. Demonstrators gathered in opposition to the Security and Prosperity Partnership. In the midst of the demonstrations, Communications and Energy Paperworkers Union head, David Coles, was captured on video outing a likely police provocateur prompting calls for a public inquiry into police infiltration of demonstrators from across the Canadian political spectrum, from the Council of Canadians to the editors of the Globe and Mail. Comparatively little outrage was expressed at the unprovoked police use of rubber bullets and tear-gas against demonstrators in the early evening of August 20th. Individual acts of sabotage of property belonging to corporations represented in the North American Competitiveness Council occurred prior to the meetings. Those targeted included CN Rail, Bell Canada, and CIBC.

The province of Saskatchewan has rejected joining the Trade and Investment Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), which allows greater freedom for private enterprises to sue local governments for ‘trade restrictions.’

A crowd of trade unionists chased Nova Scotia Premier Rodney Macdonald, New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer through the streets of downtown Moncton, New Brunswick as the three premiers set out for a morning jog. The trade unionists were part of a 24-hour rally outside of a conference of Canadian Premiers against the proposed Atlantica trade zone.

A coalition of Ontario labour organizations won a partial victory, after the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty announced plans for the province to adopt a living wage of $10.25 per hour by 2010. The Ontario wage currently stands at $8 an hour.

Chilean trade unionists staged large and disruptive demonstrations against the neo-liberal policies of the Michelle Bachelet government, calling for higher pensions, better public transport, a ‘living wage,’ subsidised housing, and a halt to rising food and electricity prices.

Business opposition to President Evo Morales reached a boiling point in Bolivia as opponents staged a 24-hour business strike in the country’s comparatively wealthy eastern departments. Two people were injured in the eastern city of Santa Cruz in a popular market that had not taken part in the strike, while a riot police officer was injured during clashes between government supporters and opponents in Cochabamba. Opposition leaders claim the strike was organized to defend 'democracy and freedom’ but ministers within Morales’ government claim that the issue at heart was the access of a privileged elite to profits from the country’s natural gas and other resources.

In Haiti, grassroots activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, head of a human rights organization known as the September 30th Foundation, was kidnapped after a meeting with an international human rights delegation. Multiple Demonstrations in Haiti’s capital have occurred in response, demanding that Haitian and UN authorities investigate the kidnapping, and secure the safe release of Pierre-Antoine. Pierre-Antoine was reportedly considering running for a Senatorial seat in Haiti’s upcoming elections.

On the two-year anniversary of Hurrican Katrina, over two dozen public housing residents and activists took over the Housing Authority of New Orleans offices. They demanded that the government reopen public housing buildings that housed more than 5000 prior to Hurricane Katrina. Today, less than a quarter of those previously housed in these buildings have been able to return.

Following a successful class action lawsuit against the city of Seattle as a result of arrests of demonstrators during the 1999 ‘Battle of Seattle,’ the District of Colombia has agreed to pay $1 million in damages to about 120 protesters. The protestors were arrested during a Sept. 27, 2002 demonstration against the fall meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as the invasion of Iraq. Another class action, representing 400 additional demonstrations arrested during the same demonstration, is still pending.

In the UK, as scientists predicted a record low in arctic sea ice cover, climate camps in Heathrow and throughout the UK
besieged corporations that activists claimed were profiting from climate destruction resulting from unrestrained airline travel. During the week of direct action, activists occupied the headquarters of the Department of Transportation, brought an airport reserved for private jets to a standstill, and blockaded the Heathrow offices of the British Aviation Authority. The BAA currently plans to allow the continued, unrestricted expansion of air traffic through Britain’s chief airports despite the potentially disastrous effects upon the global climate. Prior to the camps, the UK government urged police to employ their “counterterrorism powers” to search for potential demonstrators at Heathrow airport.

In Iraq, a new public opinion poll has found that more than two thirds of Iraqis oppose the privatization of the country’s oilfields. According to the poll, this opposition to privatization crosses religious boundaries. Some 66 per cent of Shi'ites, 62 per cent of Sunnis, and 52 per cent of Kurds support government control of the oil sector.

The Senlis Council has released a report indicating that there remains little evidence that Canadian aid is reaching medical facilities in Kandahar. Said Norine Macdonald, CEO of Senlis:

"We could not find evidence of CIDA's work or CIDA-funded work at the hospital. We were not able to find the maternity project, or evidence of the $5 million that CIDA says it has given…the situation in the hospital remains desperate."

Senlis also contracted the polling firm Ipsos Reid to conduct a poll of Canadians, which found that 79 per cent of Canadians favour a “fair trade morphine” program in Afghanistan, whereby the international community would license the purchasing of poppy from Afghan farmers in order to produce legal morphine for sale on the international market. The poll also found that 82 per cent of Canadians opposed the US policy of chemical spraying of poppy crops of impoverished farmers.

A software application designed to monitor editorial changes made on Wikipedia has traced the origins of thousands of such edits. Many originated from such organizations as the CIA, the Israeli government, the Republican Party, and Dow Chemical. Among the many specific edits traced by the Wikiscanner software are the alteration of an entry on casualties in the Iraq war by the CIA, the deletion of full paragraphs about the West Bank wall by a computer connected to the Israeli government, deletion of references accusing Amnesty International of being ‘anti-American’ by an Amnesty Internation IP address, and the removal of aerial images of Guantanamo Bay by the FBI.

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