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July in Review

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Issue: 53 Section: Month in Review Topics: social movements, Indigenous, oil, food

August 1, 2008

July in Review

G8 feasts, pancakes go dry and "yellowcake" soars

by Dominion Staff

Activists suspend a banner that reading "World's Dirtiest Oil: Stop the Tar Sands." The action was done at the same toxic tailings pond that earlier this year killed 500 ducks.

Photo: © Greenpeace

The Federal Court of Appeal reversed a decision that had struck down an agreement banning refugee claimants from seeking asylum in Canada if they touched down on American soil first. The "Safe Third Country Agreement" was found by the Federal Court of Canada to be in violation of the Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The appeal court overturned the federal court's ruling, however, rejecting the argument that the US is not a safe country for refugees.

After children in the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake were punished for speaking Anishnaabe at the government-run school, parents and elders started an alternative school in the community. Two thirds of children in Barriere Lake, north of Ottawa, are now attending a volunteer-run school that focuses on traditional language and learning.

The Canadian government announced that it will give energy giant Suncor an additional $25 million grant (in addition to $22 million awarded in 2005) for the expansion of an Ethanol plant in Sarnia, Ontario. Suncor's second-quarter earnings this year were $829 million, a marked increase from the same period last year.

A publication ban was lifted on the preliminary inquiry into charges against Tyendinaga Mohawk spokesperson Shawn Brant, revealing police evidence that included wiretap transcripts between Brant and OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino. The taped conversations took place during the build-up to the First Nations blockade of Highway 401 in 2007. During the phone conversation, Fantino is quoted as saying "your whole world’s going to come crashing down" and threatening to "do everything I can within your community and everywhere to destroy your reputation." After spending two months in jail as what many considered a political prisoner, Brant was cleared of assault charges from a separate incident and released from custody. His trial for involvement in the blockade of Highway 401 is scheduled for January 2009.

Six people were arrested in Halifax for protesting the widening of a residential road to accommodate 300 additional cars per hour. Some demonstrators sat in trees slated to be cut down; they were removed by police, and the trees removed and ground up.

Temperatures hit all-time highs in Iqaluit several days in a row, peaking at 26.8 C. The normal temperature for this time of year is between 12 C and 4 C.

The Gwich'in may have to limit hunting of the Porcupine Caribou -- an important food and clothing source -- due to plummeting numbers. The last full count of the herd in 2001 showed 120,000 caribou, and the number may now be as low as 90,000.

The number of cruise ships in the Arctic have increased from 50 ships in 2004 to 250 ships in 2007.

The Governor General appointed 75 new people to the Order of Canada, including five "companions" -- the order's highest rank. The order's newly appointed companions include former prime minister Kim Cambell, billionaire businessman Wallace McCain and Architect Raymond Moriyama, who designed the new Canadian War Museum.

SaskEnergy applied for a gas rate hike of nearly 40 per cent, a raise that, if passed in October, will hit low-income families particularly hard if no subsidies are offered.

Goldsource Mines Inc., a junior exploration company, discovered coal in its search for Saskatchewan diamonds. The company's shares rose from 37 cents in late April to $14 per share. With energy costs on the rise, the company says a coal deposit discovery is more valuable than diamonds.

In Kanehsatake, a new band council was elected that includes a record number of women in the Mohawk community's local government. Priorities for the council will include education, especially preserving the Mohawk language. "Quebec's got Bill 101 to protect the culture and everything else," said new council member Sheila Bonspille. "We've got to protect our culture. In our education system, we have to protect our language."

Newly declassified government documents revealed that CSIS spied on Indigenous and activist groups in the summer of 2007. Targeted groups included the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty in Toronto, No One is Illegal, and Block the Empire in Montreal, and anti-Olympic activists in Vancouver.

Students and collaborators continued to resist the closure of D-Q University, the only tribal college in California and the only indigenous-controlled institution of higher learning outside of a reservation in the United States. Water and electricity services were shut off this past month after violent police raids and arrests of students and elders earlier this year. D-Q was founded in 1971 after the occupation of a former US Army communications facility by Native and Chicano youth and activists.

A native protester was arrested in Brantford, Ontario, after over 150 Six Nations people and supporters blocked a Kingspan Insulation truck. Kingspan is building a warehouse facility on land that protesters say belongs to Six Nations.

Authorities in Guerrero, Mexico, agreed to pay 14 indigenous men US$3,400 in compensation for being coerced into having vasectomies. More than a dozen countries, including Canada and the United States, have in the past sterilized men or women without their knowledge or consent.

Guatemalan campesinos faced kidnappings and multiple violent attacks by paramilitaries associated with the biofuel agribusiness Ingenio Guadelupe. Farmers were planting crops on their traditional land when the first attack took place. The community was attacked the following day during a demonstration to protest the violence. Two company managers, and members of the paramiltary security force that accompanied them, fired into the peaceful crowd. The Inter American Development Bank is supporting the development of biofuel industry in Guatemala.

A homeless count in Calgary found that more than 4,000 people do not have a home, including almost 200 families -- an increase of 18 per cent over 2006. July 1, Quebec's traditional moving day, left 11 new families homeless in Montreal, according to activists. Two homeless men died in Toronto, prompting a protest of the city's refusal to address poverty.

"Subjective Atlas of Palestine," a book that "challenges the one-sided approach of the Western media," received a prestigious Dutch award for best-designed book.

US war resister Robin Long was deported to the United States where he faces punishment for refusing to participate in the Iraq War. Long was deported after Canada's Parliament voted to allow US war resisters to stay in Canada.

The number of names on the US government "terrorist" watch list surpassed one million. The watch list has resulted in the delay or cancellation of flights for thousands of people. In one notable case, a flight carrying Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, was diverted from its destination. The man who penned such songs as "Peace Train" and Moonshadow" is barred from entering the United States.

Another man died after being stunned by a Taser in Winnipeg. Robert Dziekanski's Taser-related death at Vancouver International Airport last year has sparked a number of probes into the use of the weapon.

New evidence called into question the RCMP's commitment to get to the bottom of the Taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski. Email exchanges obtained by the CBC indicate that the head of the RCMP and the BC Premier have offered their support to the officers involved, before the provincial inquiry into Dziekanski's death has begun.

The European Union proposed an import ban on products derived from seals that it deems to be "inhumanely killed;" the legislation would exempt products from traditional Inuit sealers. Inuit say that despite the exemption, the import ban would destroy the sealing economy in the North. Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami said she was angered by animal-rights activists who are "ignorant of and callous towards Inuit culture."

President Bush signed the FISA Amendment Act into law, allowing the government to spy on emails, phone calls, web surfing and other communications without warrants. Numerous democrats voted for the bill, including Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada is considering making HIV a reportable disease, which would make it mandatory to report cases to public health officials. "There are huge privacy concerns that are raised when people with HIV go through the system, particularly given the fact that HIV is not something that is easily spread," said Michael Battista, a Toronto immigration lawyer.

Beijing's 170,000 recyclers are being pushed out of their homes and livelihoods as part of China's "sanitization" of the city for the Olympic Games. Most of the people who scour the city for scraps to be reused and resold are migrant workers. The homeless, the mentally ill and prostitutes are also being targeted.

China is implementing extraordinary security measures in preparation for the Olympics. According to the state media, an anti-terror force of 100,000 and hundreds of thousands of police and security guards will be deployed in Beijing and other cities hosting Olympic events.

In Canada, wheat farmers are cashing in with wheat prices more than double what they were two years ago. The increase in price is due partly to biofuel production worldwide. An Internal World Bank report obtained by the media says biofuels are responsible for raising global food prices by up to 75 per cent.

Aid agencies estimated that by December, 3.5 million Somalians, or half the country's population will be in need of life-saving aid due to displacement and hunger. Aid workers, however, are fleeing the country for safety and security reasons.

Pancake-lovers on Prince Edward Island were out of luck as none of the Island's maple syrup producers made syrup this year. Nation-wide, this has been the worst year for maple syrup in four decades, due to unusual weather and rising fuel costs.

Hopi and Dine (Navajo) communities held emergency town-hall meetings after the Office of Surface Mining rejected their request for an extension to the period for public comment on the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for Peabody Coal's plans to re-open and expand their coal mine in Black Mesa. After years of protest in the northeastern corner of the Navajo Nation, the Environmental Protection Agency granted an air permit for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant proposed by Houston-based Sithe Global Power and the Dine Power Authority. The Governor and Attorney General of New Mexico immediately announced a legal challenge to the EPA decision.

Workers at Drummond's Pribbenow coal mine in Colombia ended their six-day strike after being granted a pay increase.

In Cauca, Colombia, the Indigenous guard detained mine exploration workers working for Vancouver's Cosigo Resources Ltd. for trespassing on their territory.

A controversial copper mine was approved near Carmacks, Yukon. In Yellowknife, the city is seeking compensation for the contaminated Giant Mine site. One of the biggest issues is the 237,000 tonnes of poisonous arsenic trioxide dust left over from 50 years of gold production.

Indigenous people of the Bismarck-Solomon Sea met to discuss seabed mining in their seas by Canadian-based mining company Nautilus Minerals. The group declared their rights "to Free Prior Informed Consent over anything potentially impacting our land." Due to the experimental nature of the mining, the group opposes the government of Papua New Guinea's decision to grant Nautilus a contract.

Farmers in Northern Mexico are worried that a mine owned by Canada’s Minefinders Corporation Ltd. will destroy their grazing land and their ability to maintain a traditional livelihood.

The former top executive of Canadian mining company Inco Ltd. says Canada is not supportive enough of "global industry champions."

Goldcorp Inc.'s Marlin Mine in Guatemala was unable to operate at full capacity for over a month due to opposition by local residents and anti-mining activists. One community member intentionally damaged a power line on her property that supplied the company with electricity and protesters then blocked the mining multinational from fixing it.

The Federal Chambers of Tucumán in Argentina brought criminal charges of environmental contamination against Julián Rooney, Vice-President of Bajo La Alumbrera, Argentina’s largest mining operation. The ruling is a result of a complaint filed ten years ago that Alumbrera dumped millions of litres of toxic liquid waste into a canal used by animals and farmers.

Four people were arrested in Tennessee for protesting against mountain-top-removal coal mining.

In Bogotá, the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal came out with a guilty verdict against 43 multinational corporations active in Colombia. Canadian union leaders attended the judgement of the Tribunal. The labour leaders denounced the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Paul Moist, National President of CUPE, told The Dominion that "the proposed free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia is all about enabling the corporate agenda."

Cameco plants in Port Hope, Ontario, will be refining "yellowcake" uranium from Iraq -- remnants of Saddham Hussein's nuclear program. Port Hope has been refining uranium for decades. The industry has employed many people and has also made parts of the town radioactive. Cameco only admitted last year that uranium, arsenic and fluorides have been leaking into groundwater, likely for decades.

After two heated public meetings, the New Brunswick government announced that it will limit uranium exploration and staking of claims. The number of staked claims for uranium in New Brunswick has more than tripled in the last three years and many residents have found flags on their land. "There's no scientific basis for the public fear of uranium exploration but mining companies do recognize the government must calm its citizens," said Dave Plant, spokesman for Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

The US House Natural Resources Committee exercised rarely used emergency powers to ban uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. The decision affected more than a thousand mining claims on one million acres of land adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park. Meanwhile, an industry analyst claimed that a recently discovered undeveloped uranium deposit in Virginia is the largest in the United States and the seventh biggest in the world. The industry lobbied to lift the state's uranium mining ban, while local environmental and indigenous activists worked to maintain the ban and enact local ordinances. New uranium deposits were also found in Botswana, leading one company to speculate that the country may hold eight per cent of the world's uranium.

A popular assembly convened in Argentina in response to the country's expanding uranium industry. The Indigenous Municipality of Tilcara in northern Argentina ratified legislation that prohibits open-pit metal mining, as well as the storage, use, sale, production, extraction and transportation of dangerous substances used in the mining process.

A new study by researchers from Cambridge and Yale found a correlation between International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs and mortality rates from tuberculosis (TB). According to the study, countries in the former Soviet Union that participated in IMF programs suffered greater deaths from TB, while those that dropped IMF programs saw improvements. The authors hypothesize that IMF policies force governments to spend less on health care and cut social programs to qualify for loans.

A World Bank Study reported that an estimated 105 million more people could drop below the poverty line due to rising food prices. G8 leaders met in Japan to discuss the crisis and enjoyed a six-course lunch followed by an 18-course dinner featuring milk-fed lamb and hairy-crab bisque.

After a five-month journey of over 8,000 miles, the Longest Walk 2 for the environment, the protection of sacred sites, and indigenous rights arrived in DC. The Manifesto for Change was presented to congressman John Conyers, who announced that the Congressional Committee on the Judiciary will hold public hearings on each of the issues addressed in the proposed resolutions.

Since May 2, 800 undocumented immigrants have occupied the Paris CGT (General Confederation of Labour). The protesters are seeking residence rights in France and are demanding the support of the CGT trade union. The Paris prefecture has insisted all applicants be forwarded through the CGT, but the union has only been prepared to take the cases of workers who belong to its ranks.

An upstart St. John's, NL-based newspaper, the Independent, announced that it has lost its financial backing and will close its doors if it does not find new sources of support. Despite regular growth in circulation, the weekly newspaper's editors say that their advertising sales have been undercut by Quebec-based Transcontinental, which owns both dailies and most weekly papers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I will call on a new generation of Americans to join our military, and complete the effort to increase our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines." That was the first of many statements by US Presidential candidate Barack Obama that upset his supporters with anti-war sentiments. In other appearances, Obama reiterated his support for continued war in Afghanistan and voted to grant broad wiretapping powers to the government.

Business owners in Vulcan, a small town in southern Alberta, said that high gas prices are revitalizing the community, as the cost of transportation has encouraged people to shop locally. "I think we have a little more life in us now," a grocery-store owner told the CBC.

Evo Morales asked the US to stop interfering in Bolivia's internal affairs. Bolivia's coca farmers were asked to sow food crops due to soaring food costs.

Ecuador and Venezuela signed a contract to build a new oil refinery on the coast of Ecuador. Ecuador's new constitution has been approved by the country's Constituent Assembly. During the drafting of the constitution, the Canadian ambassador has worked to protect the interests of mining companies.

If passed in a popular vote, Ecuador's new constitution will recognize nature as having the inherent right to "exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles," and mandates the state to protect and restore ecosystems.

Despite a year of record oil prices, shares in some oil companies have dropped in value as major oil developments have been taken over by local governments, particularly in Russia and Venezuela. In other areas, multinational oil companies are "moving down the value chain" as contracts are increasingly given to state-owned companies.

The Colombian army rescues Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages held by the FARC. After the military operation, Colombia was criticized for using the symbols of the Red Cross, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Four of Canada's largest oil companies announced combined profits of over $5 billion, leading to speculation about what executives might do with the money.

A penitentiary in New Brunswick started a program to train inmates to work as "roughnecks," or entry-level oil workers.

Greenpeace activists clad in hazardous-materials suits broke into a tar sands plant belonging to Syncrude near Fort McMurray, Alberta, and unfurled a banner reading "world's dirtiest oil: stop the tar sands."

Plans advanced for the construction of pipelines to carry natural gas from Alaska's north slope to Alberta's tar sands; to carry natural gas from the BC coast to the tar sands; and to carry bitumen from Alberta to refineries in Texas. The Carrier Sekani tribal council of interior BC is pushing for a review of pipeline plans with regard to aboriginal title. The pipeline brings the risk of environmental damage, while providing no permanent jobs to the region.

Former Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader Radovan Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade and is slated to go on trial for war crimes. No US, Canadian or NATO officials have ever been brought to trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, though NATO forces provided air support for major ethnic-cleansing operations targetting Serbs.

A subcontractor working for tar sands extraction operations owned by Suncor was killed on the job while moving a heavy hauler -- a house-sized truck used in strip-mining operations.

A ten-year-old boy was killed at a demonstration against the construction of the seperation wall in the West Bank village of Na'lin. A Canadian student was arrested and deported after taking photos of Israeli soldiers breaking up a protest, also in Na'lin. Israeli bulldozers and tanks invaded a refugee camp in Rafah, shooting a man twice in the leg. An Israeli rights group said that soldiers are rarely disciplined for offenses committed against Palestinians. Israeli soldiers invaded the city of Hebron, kidnapping five civilians and ransacking several houses. In Nablus, Israeli troops set fire to a furniture store. The sea near the Gaza strip was filling with sewage; officials say sewage treatment is impossible without steady electricity. Since Gaza power plants were attacked by Israeli planes in 2006, Gaza's power supply relies on Israel, which periodically cuts off supply to punish Gazans for rocket attacks. Israeli troops raided schools, orphanages, medical centres, and soup kitchens in Gaza, seizing supplies and posting closure notices. West Bank Palestinians were dealing with a chronic undersupply of water, due to a system which reserves the majority of water supplies for Israeli use. The Dahiyeh al-Salam neighbourhood in East Jerusalem has become a dump for Israeli garbage from West Jerusalem; human-rights complaints put a stop to some of the dumping; cleanup has not begun.

A project by the Israeli human-rights group B'Tselem distributed 100 video cameras to document the daily grind of life under occupation. The result is an archive of footage of Israeli settlers beating, abusing and humiliating Palestinians, with Israeli military often turning a blind eye, or participating. In one typical segment, an Israeli settler shouts "I will exterminate you" at Palestinians.

Almost 400 Afghan civilians were killed in July -- at a wedding and in the streets. Meanwhile, the Taliban continue to dominate the country, leading major attacks, distributing media and controlling roughly 60 per cent of Afghanistan.

In Saskatoon, potash workers demanded improved wages while the price of potash increases. Montreal hotel workers demanded job security. Workers at a Cape Breton gypsum plant threatened a blockade if they don't receive back wages. Toronto hotel workers staged a 45-minute wildcat strike to protest lagging contract talks.

3,000 workers lost their jobs when Bell Canada, Owens-Illinois and Air Canada decided to cut positions.

The subprime mortgage crisis in the US spread to Cuba after billion-dollar losses were reported at the two largest US mortgage providers. Canada saw its 2007 April surplus of $2.8 billion become a $500 million deficit in 2008. George W. Bush declared that ""Wall Street got drunk."

Mohawk elder Katenies again refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the Superior Court in Cornwall, Ontario, on July 14, 2008. Katenies and fellow Mohawk Nation News (MNN) editor Kahentinetha Horn were arrested and beaten by Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers last month as the two attempted to cross the US-Canada border, which lies within their community of Akwesasne.

Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, issued an unprecedented warning to 3,000 faculty and staff, advising them to limit their cell-phone use because of possible risk of cancer.

A New York City police officer was stripped of his gun and badge after an amateur video, taken by a tourist standing on the sidewalk, surfaced on the Internet showing the officer pushing a bicyclist to the ground in Times Square during a Critical Mass ride. The cycler was arrested by the officer and charged with attempted assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

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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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