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January in Review, Part II

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Issue: 58 Section: Month in Review Geography: Earth

February 1, 2009

January in Review, Part II

Obama takes office, US bombs Pakistan, Vancouverites protest police violence

by Dominion Staff

Residents of Vancouver's Downtown East Side and their allies took to the streets demanding that the police stop harassing people in the neighborhood. Photo: Dawn Paley

The Stephen Harper Conservatives released their budget, which contains $40 billion in infrastructure-related "stimulus" spending. The federal budget forecasts that Canada's deficit will reach $85 billion in five years. “Only 5 per cent of today’s budget is actually devoted to tax measures to help vulnerable low income Canadians. In the coming recession, the government will help you adjust the colour palette of your kitchen, but if you’re poor you’ll be on your own,” said David MacDonald from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff asked for amendments to the budget. "We have a new coalition now on Parliament Hill -- it's a coalition between Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff," said NDP leader Jack Layton, declaring the death of the proposed majority coalition for Canada.

People living in Vancouver's Downtown East Side protested against the "Significant street sweeps [that] have been occurring in the DTES from increased and aggressive ticketing for things like jaywalking to complete gentrification of Pigeon Park." The street sweeps are part of the Vancouver Police Department's longer term plan of "cleaning up" the DTES before the 2010 Olympic Games.

The Council of the Haida Nation formalized a limited partnership with NaiKun Wind Energy Group Inc. for the development of offshore wind power in the Hecate Straight. The wind project is subject to pending environmental permits.

The RCMP continued to approach opponents of the 2010 Olympics. The police are seeking informants among Natives and settlers who are speaking out against the games.

George Walker Bush left the office of the President of the United States of America, and Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the US. Delivering the benediction at the inaugural ceremony in Washington, DC, Reverend Joseph Lowerey said, "I'm ... certain that we will continue to pray for that day when black will not be asked to get back, brown can stick around, yellow will be mellow, the red man can get ahead, man, and white will embrace what is right! Amen!"

Days after being inaugurated as president, Barack Obama approved US air strikes in Waziristan, Pakistan, which killed at least 22 people.

The government of Ontario legislated striking teaching staff at York University back to work after more than three months on the picket lines. During the 77 day strike, the university only negotiated with the striking workers for 12 days.

The City of Vancouver proposed changes to the city's Charter for the 2010 Olympics that may curb the civil liberties of people opposed to the games. Included in the discussion at City Council was that "new powers are required to provide a sufficient deterrent to prevent the installation of illegal signage or graffiti during the Games."

Israel's attacks on Gaza continued until a ceasefire was declared by Israel on Jan. 17. Hamas declared a ceasefire the next day. A group of Montrealers occupied the office of Quebec Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand. The primary demand was the Charest government's withdrawal from the Quebec-Israel accord, which establishes economic ties between the two jurisdictions, but does not require that Israel respect international law. Students at the University of Alberta set up a mock Israeli checkpoint in order to raise awareness about the realities that Palestinians face on a daily basis. Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that he will request the International Criminal Court file genocide charges against Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for Israel's attack on Gaza.

Ontario mayors demanded to know why they were not informed of a radioactive spill which took place in December at the National Research Universal reactor in Chalk River.

A woman from San Miguel Ixtahuacán speaks at a protest in San Marcos, Guatemala. She is one of eight women who has had criminal charges pressed against her on behalf of Montana Exploradora de Guatemala, a subsidiary of Vancouver's Goldcorp Inc. Photo: COPAE

More than 100,000 activists from around the world gathered for the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil. Among them were more than 1,300 Indigenous delegates, who joined together to make a human banner that read "SOS Amazon," to raise awareness about environmental threats to people living in the Amazon region. Venezuelan and Brazilian leaders Hugo Chavez and Lula da Silva attended the WSF instead of heading to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual meeting of the world's economic elite.

Leonard Peltier, a Native elder and American Indian Movement activist who has been a political prisoner for more than 35 years, was moved from one prison to another, where he was severely beaten. His family was not informed of the incident, and Peltier was placed in solitary confinement.

Edmontonians held a memorial event for the 47 homeless people that died on the city's streets in 2008. There are approximately 3,000 homeless people in Edmonton.

Human Rights Watch criticized a US government report on an August 2008 incident in Herat province, Afghanistan, where scores of civilians reportedly died in a US air assault. According to HRW, the Callan Report counted far fewer civilian casualties than other reports. Afghanis accused the US-led coalition killed 25 civilians in ground and air attacks during a battle with insurgents in Kapisa province. US troops with air support also killed up to 22 civilians in Laghman province, according to President Hamid Karzai. Media reports revealed a visit to Washington by four prominent Afghan leaders. Widespread speculation holds that the four are being groomed as a "dream ticket" to replace Karzai. Elections are scheduled for August 2009.

The International Labour Organization predicted that global job losses stemming from the economic crisis could mount as high as 50 million by the end of 2009. Starbucks announced that they will cut 7,000 jobs and close 300 stores because of losses, and Boeing, the aerospace company, said that they plan to cut 10,000 jobs. Mining giant Rio Tinto announced that they would be closing their Beauharnois smelter in Quebec, resulting in the loss of 220 jobs.

High profile Pakistani human rights activists traveled to India to lobby for peace between the two countries. "For 10 years peace groups have worked to create an atmosphere for both governments to commit that peace is 'irreversible.' That’s why even after Mumbai, there’s been no war," said Swami Agnivesh.

Moscow announced that Russia plans to build "warm water" naval bases in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

China issued a policy document indicating that it will modernize and expand its military. "We call on the US to remove the obstacles to the growth of military relations between the two countries and to create favourable conditions for the healthy growth of military relations," said Hu Changming, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Defense.

Carlos Slim, a billionaire who made his fortune off of the privatization of Mexico's telephone networks, upped his stake in the New York Times by $250 million, making him the second largest investor in the paper, which is struggling financially.

An FBI interrogator alleged that Omar Khadr "came around to saying" that he recognized Maher Arar in a photo that he was shown by the FBI in 2002. Arar's former lawyer Lorne Waldman said that the allegation "was 'exactly like' the damaging leaks that came out during the Arar inquiry that [Commissioner Dennis O'Connor] later deemed to be unfounded," reported the Toronto Star.

The government of England announced that they would take $545 million from state coffers to bail out the costs of constructing the athletes' village and media center for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The People's Council of San Marcos (CPSM), Guatemala, held a march against mining, hydroelectric projects, and racism towards Indigenous People in Guatemala.

Three off-duty cops from Delta beat up a newspaper delivery man and allegedly robbed him of $200 in Vancouver. Firoz Khan accused the cops of making racial slurs about him while they beat him up, saying "We don't like brown people, buddy." Two of the three cops have since been charged with assault and robbery, though Khan and others believe that the officers should be charged with a hate crime.

Five members of the same family were killed in a house fire on the Chemainus Reserve on Vancouver Island. A recent report by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, responsible for all housing on reserves, shows that the death rate from fires is ten times higher in First Nations communities than it is in settler communities. "First Nations people are forced to live in housing that should be condemned. Quite frankly these houses are fire traps, they're death traps," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs told the CBC.

The Bank of Canada admitted that Canada is entering into a recession. "Major advanced economies, including Canada's, are now in recession and emerging-market economies are increasingly affected," said a release from the Bank of Canada.

Colombia announced that they will station 27,000 soldiers along the border with Ecuador on the pretext of improving border security. An entire military brigade was disbanded because of their involvement in the "false positives" scandal, when civilians are killed by the army and later dressed up to look like insurgents. Evidence surfaced that the US had pushed Colombia to use body counts as a yardstick in the war against guerrilla groups.

In Ecuador, Indigenous people demonstrated against large scale mining projects and faced repression from the government of Rafael Correa. "Where does the biggest danger to the citizen revolution lie? In the infantile left, the infantile pro-indigenous movement, the infantile ecological movement, which have become active again, holding meetings to push for an uprising opposed to mining," said President Correa.

The UN's World Food Program announced that staple food aid to Zimbabwe will be cut by half. Zimbabweans dependent on the WFP rations will see their daily calorie count fall to a mere 600.The U.N. blamed a decrease in humanitarian funding and an increase in the number of people in need for the cut.

One of Russia's top human rights lawyers was assassinated along with a journalist working for Novaya Gazeta in Moscow. Lawyer Stanislav Markelov worked on legal defense for high profile cases of anti-Kremlin Chechnyans, and Anastasiya Baburova was the fourth journalist working for Novaya Gazeta to be murdered in Russia since 2000.

A million people took to the streets in France to protest against the handling of the economic crisis by the right wing government of Nicholas Sarkozy. The French government has been accused of criminalizing social movements using anti-terror legislation.

The New York Times reported that regardless of the worst financial crisis in decades, Wall Street executives and bankers took home $18.4 billion in bonuses in 2008.

In Afghanistan, thousands of people protested against Hamid Karzai and the ongoing occupation by US and NATO forces. The protests were held because of a recent spike in civilian deaths at the hands of occupying troops.

The Canada Border Services Agency barred William Ayers, the co-founder of the Weather Underground, from entering the country to give a lecture at the University of Toronto. The executive director of the Centre for Urban Schooling, who organized the event with Ayers, "believes [he] was turned back because of a 1969 conviction after an anti-war demonstration," reported the Toronto Star.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice announced that the federal government would be willing to pay part of the cost of construction the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. The feds did not specify how much they would contribute to the project, which would be Canada's largest construction project, involving ExxonMobil Canada, Shell Canada Ltd. and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group. The project proposal is still with the Joint Review Panel, which may release its results as early as March.

The International Court of Justice ruled that the US again violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in the execution of Mexican citizen Ernesto Medellin Rojas. Fifty-one Mexican citizens are currently on death row in the US.

The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) earned 50 per cent of the popular vote in legislative elections in El Salvador, compared to 40 per cent for Arena, the conservative party. Arena, however did win the mayoral race in San Salvador, El Salvador's capital and largest city. The FMLN's candidate for the presidency, Maurcio Funes, is the favorite to win the March 15 presidential elections in the small Central American nation.

Twenty-two people were killed when a car bomb was detonated in Mogadishu, Somalia. African Union soldiers were accused of indiscriminately firing on civilians in Somalia after the blast. There are 3,000 AU soldiers stationed in Somalia.

Jorge Lopez, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights activist and computer consultant in Guatemala, was charged with the attempted murder of a transgendered sex worker. Lopez, Vice-President of OASIS (Organization to Support an Integral Sexuality In the Face of AIDS), and editor-in-chief of their magazine, Vice Versa, had sought police protection for the victim shortly before the attack, and later submitted complaints about police misconduct against sex workers. Last year, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission claimed there is an "apparent policy of persecuting sexual rights activists" in Guatemala. Lopez was kidnapped in 2003 but escaped from the car he had been forced into.

Paramilitary police units brought to Canadian miner Barrick Gold's North Mara mine in Tanzania following the civilian uprising last month shot and killed Muhono Marwa Gibare, a village youth. Gibare was shot in the back while running from the police. Two other youths, Nyakebayi Chacha Nyakebayi and Maswi Bokobora Muhono Marwaaway, were wounded in the same attack. Eight villagers have died violently in North Mara since July 2005. After last month's uprising, hundreds of riot police were deployed to the mine and dozens of villagers – especially the youth – have been arrested and charged with a variety of offences.

We are now producing our Month in Review in collaboration with CKUT's news collective, an independent campus community news source that you can listen to at 90.3 fm in Montréal or online at ckut.ca.

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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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