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December in Review, Part I

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Issue: 57 Section: Month in Review Geography: Earth

December 15, 2008

December in Review, Part I

Workers take factory back, homeless take houses back, Canadian delegates undermine climate talks

by Dominion Staff

Over fifty young activists with the group Plane Stupid blocked the runway at Stanstead Airport to bring attention to CO2 emissions caused by air travel. Photo: PlaneStupid.com

Eight thousand delegates from around the world gathered in Poznan, Poland, to decide how the international community will address climate change.

The UN conference on climate change was criticized by Indigenous delegates for shutting out their voices from the decision making process. "We may also need to discuss at some point of time the ecological debt that especially industrialised countries have with [Indigenous Peoples]. Consultations with us often only take the form of simply informing our communities," Ben Powless, a member of Six Nations who was in Poznan during the conference, told IPS.

The Canadian youth delegation in Poland set up a photo display of the Alberta tar sands. The display was torn down by officials at the request of the Canadian government delegation.

A report by Environmental Defence was released, which stated that tar sands production was releasing billions of litres of contaminated water into Alberta's groundwater every year.

The Climate Action Network, an international NGO, named Canada the country most active in blocking, stalling or undermining the UN climate negotiations in Poland.

CNN announced it would cut its entire science, technology, and environment news staff. The announcement came a week after NBC announced it was axing the entire staff of the "Forecast Earth" environmental program. The Dominion is currently seeking Health and Science & Technology editors.

Over fifty young people belonging to the group Plane Stupid locked themselves down at London's Stanstead Airport in order to delay flights and bring attention to the CO2 impacts of flying. Fifty-seven activists were arrested and later released.

The Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation band council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ontario, Frontenac Ventures Corporation, and the Algonquins of Ontario. Frontenac Ventures wants to explore for uranium in Ardoch Algonquin Territory, but has been prevented from doing so by blockades that eventually led to arrests and the imprisonment of Robert Lovelace. "Although Algonquin and non-Algonquin neighbours have found common ground in protecting the land, this latest attempt at divide and conquer will result in years of distrust and enmity," read a statement from the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, which maintains its opposition to uranium exploration.

Barriere Lake First Nation acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway was sentenced to forty-five days in jail in addition to the fifteen he has already served in pre-trial detention. He was charged with three counts of mischief and breach of conditions when participating in peaceful blockades intended to draw attention to the violations of the rights of Barriere Lake by the Canadian and Quebec governments.

"We've been in a recession for 13 years," Chief Bill Wilson of the Squamish Nation Band Council told Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl during a meeting. Chiefs say a two per cent annual cap on new spending means that they cannot keep pace with inflation, much less provide adequate services for the fastest-growing populations in Canada.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation took the Alberta government to court for granting rights for tar sands development without consulting the First Nations who hold treaty rights. "Parts of our traditional lands have been completely changed by industry," Chief Allan Adam wrote in an affidavit. "These lands were once hunting and trapping grounds, but now they are covered by oil and gas wells and blanketed by seismic lines roads and pipelines."

Frank Paul was dragged into the RCMP station just hours before he was dumped on the sidewalk and left to die. People in Vancouver commemorated his death on December 6. Photo: CCTV

The Conservatives introduced sweeping new changes to Canada's immigration system. A list of 38 professions for new immigrants was introduced, which is expected to severely limit the chances of many people wishing to permanently immigrate to Canada. “The 2009 plan includes up to 156,600 immigrants in the economic category, another term for temporary workers who can come to take Canadian jobs but the government can kick them out whenever it pleases," reported the South Asian Link News Paper.

The latest federal quarterly report on Canada's role in the war in Afghanistan showed that insecurity in the country is rising. "In Afghanistan generally, and in Kandahar specifically, this summer was especially violent. Numbers of insurgent incidents reached levels higher than in any year since the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001." Stockwell Day, International Trade Minister, stated that the increased violence was because summer is "fighting season" in Afghanistan. The United Nations estimated that 1,445 civilians were killed in the conflict during the first eight months of 2008.

The Supreme Court of Poland ruled that seven Polish soldiers accused of the deaths of Afghani civilians would be brought to trial in Poland, overturning a lower court ruling that dismissed the case.

Governor General Michaëlle Jean prorogued parliament for seven weeks upon the request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The decision to prorogue parliament delayed until January the vote to decide if a coalition government will form. Google searches for 'coalition' and 'prorogue' hit a new high.

People rioted in ten cities throughout Greece, including Thessaloniki, Athens, Corfu and Crete, to protest a police killing of a young man. Conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis rejected demands that early elections be called. Greek police ran out of tear gas.

Montreal Police announced that Jean-Loup Lapointe, the constable who shot and killed 18-year old Fredy Villanueva, would not face criminal charges. Protesters gathered in the Montreal North park where Villanueva was killed to shoot dice, a reference to the dice game Villanueva was playing before he was killed by police.

Unions in Italy held a general strike to protest against President Berlusconi.

Legislative elections in Ghana were inconclusive, with both favorite candidates achieving less than the required 50 per cent. The second round of elections will be held in late December.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited India for defence and energy talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The leaders of the two countries signed a nuclear deal that will see Russia building four reactors in southern India.

Ten anti-war advocates were convicted of trespassing in Burlington, Ontario. When charged, the advocates were attempting to dialogue with executives at L-3 Wescam. Wescam is one of the largest military manufacturing facilities owned by Canada’s L-3 Communications.

The government of BC approved a controversial coalbed methane project to be operated by BP. The municipal government of Fernie, the town closest to the proposed project, rejected the project out of concern for local ecosystems.

The Bank of America announced that it will "phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal."

The Bush administration gave a "gift" to the coal sector by easing rules, allowing them to dump their waste in streams.

A memorial rally was held in Vancouver to commemorate the killing of Frank Paul, Kyle Tait, Dudley George, and other people killed by the RCMP or while in police custody. In the Yukon, Raymond Silverfox died while in custody of the RCMP.

BC's criminal justice branch announced that no charges would be laid against any of the four police officers involved in the 2007 taser killing of Robert Dziekanski.

The former head of NASDAQ, Bernard L Madoff, was arrested for fraud after allegedly admitting to running a pyramid scheme worth $50 billion.

President Rafael Correa declared that Ecuador would default on its 2012 global bonds, worth $31 million. Correa stated that the debt was incurred illegally by previous governments.

Workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago began an occupation of the factory after it was shut down when the owners could not secure enough credit to continue operating. "These workers are to this struggle perhaps what Rosa Parks was to social justice 50 years ago," said Reverend Jesse Jackson when he visited the factory. "This, in many ways, is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence."

The Miami-based group Taking Back the Land helped homeless people move into foreclosed homes. Advocates in Cleveland worked with the city to allow homeless people to legally move into and repair empty, dilapidated houses. In Atlanta, some property owners are paying homeless people to live in abandoned homes as a security measure.

A group of 39 temporary foreign workers building Vancouver's "Canada Line" won a multimillion dollar discrimination case at the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal ordered SELI Canada, SCNP-SELI Joint Venture and SNC Lavalin Constructors (Pacific) Inc. to pay each worker $10,000.

The panel working on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline report announced that their report, which was originally meant to be finished in 2008, would not be released until December of 2009. Were it to go ahead, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline would stretch 1,200 kilometers from the North West Territories to Alberta.

Canadian Business Magazine released their list of the 100 richest Canadians. The Thomson family, which controls the Thomson Reuters news agency among other assets, is the richest family in Canada. Their net worth is $18.45 billion.

Six First Nations in BC demanded that the province implement a First Nations Review Process for Enbridge's Northern Gateway project. "Gateway is a major project with significant risks. Yet the federal government is advancing a decision-making process for Gateway without any provision for addressing Aboriginal Rights and Title. This is unacceptable," said David de Wit, Natural Resources Manager at the Office of the Wet'suwet'en. The Haida nation also rejected the Enbridge pipeline.

Translink, Vancouver's transit authority, announced plans to use sniffing dogs to sniff transit users presumably to see if they are carrying prohibited substances. The BC Civil Liberties Union called the plan "a massive intrusion into the rights of transit users."

Canadian mining company Pacific Rim announced it will sue the El Salvadorian government for millions of dollars under CAFTA-DR (Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement) for not granting the company a mining license. Pacific Rim will be using its U.S. based subsidiary Pac Rim Cayman to file for arbitration under CAFTA, because the U.S. is a signatory to CAFTA, and not Canada.

A UK study found that Britons rank sex as their favorite free activity.

The Dutch government announced that they will cut the amount of brothels in Amsterdam by half, and do the same to the city's marijuana cafes.

A young Chinese woman went temporarily deaf in one ear after kissing her boyfriend. "A strong kiss may cause an imbalance in the air pressure between two inner ears and lead to a broken ear drum," warned the Shanghai Daily.

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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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