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June in Review, Part I

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Issue: 61 Section: Month in Review

June 15, 2009

June in Review, Part I

Feds clash with Mohawks, agree on Free Trade with Peru, and fund Afghan police

by Dominion Staff

A soldier enforces the curfew imposed after the police massacre in Bagua, Peru. Photo: Ben Powless

Police in Peru massacred at least 54 Indigenous people and wounded more than 100 others in the Amazonian town of Bagua. More than a dozen police officers were killed. The massacre was the state's response to an extended mobilization against the implementation of the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement. In New York, activists chained themselves to the door of US Senator Chuck Schumer's offices to protest Schumer's vote in favour of the US-Peru deal. Activists in Ottawa picketed the Peru Embassy.

Canadian NGOs called on the Canadian Senate to halt the passing of the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement, which reached its third reading in parliament just two days before the bloodshed. "If people are being killed on behalf of Canadian investors to promote and protect investment projects on Indigenous land, then their blood is on our hands," said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada.

The Cornwall border crossing on Akwesasne territory. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

The Mohawk community of Akwesasne, including all three band and tribal councils as well as both longhouses, protested the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) attempt to arm border guards at the Cornwall crossing, which lies within the Akwesasne reserve. The CBSA withdrew personnel from the border post shortly before the midnight deadline set by the Mohawk community on Sunday, May 31. Police blocked the bridge that serves as a border crossing between Canada and the US.

On "National Reconciliation Day," Akwesasne band council Grand Chief Tim Thomson accused Public Safety Minister Peter van Loan of being a "liar" for claiming to have consulted with the community of Akwesasne about the plan to arm CBSA agents.

A week later, Mohawks in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory shut down the Skyway Bridge in solidarity with the struggle in Akwesasne. The CBSA plans to arm all 4,800 border guards by 2016.

Tyendinaga police and the Ontario Provincial Police violently broke up the Skyway Bridge blockade and arrested 13 men on charges of mischief. Three were hospitalized and released back into police custody. Women from Tyendinaga re-took the Skyway Bridge until the release with conditions of the majority of the men—including minors—was confirmed later that afternoon. At least five men, including prominent activist Shawn Brant, were detained at Quinte Detention Centre in Napanee over the weekend pending further investigation into additional charges.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) destroyedat least two Chevron pipelines in Nigeria's Delta State. The Nigerian Army's Joint Task Force responded to the bombings by launching counterattacks, which affected thousands of community members. "I have seen over 5,000 people displaced, over 2,000 people looking for where to hide and 1,000 people dead," said Dr. Chris Ekiyor, the leader of the Ijaw Youth Council.

Royal Dutch Shell settled out of court with the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the families of eight other leaders who were executed by the Nigerian military government in 1995 for protesting the oil company's activities in their territory.

The Federal Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian government must "issue [Abousfian Abdelrazik] an emergency passport in order that he may return to and enter Canada," and "arrange transportation for [Abdelrazik] from Khartoum to Montréal, Canada, such that he arrives in Canada no later than 30 days from the date hereof." Abdelrazik, a Canadian citizen who has been living in the Canadian Embassy in Khartoum since April 2008, was jailed and tortured while visiting Sudan. He has been cleared of all charges by the government of Sudan, CSIS and the RCMP, but the federal government has not allowed him to return home.

A former Soviet KGB agent took sanctuary in a church in Vancouver to avoid deportation to Russia. Commentators from Vancouver's South Asian community noted that the media's treatment of Mikhail Lennikov was more sympathetic than it was in the case of Laiber Singh, an economic refugee who returned to India last year. "Media hostility towards Singh in the past reflects discriminatory attitudes of the mainstream towards people of colour in this country," wrote journalist Gurpreet Singh.

It was revealed that the US Transportation Security Administration would start verifying the gender of passengers boarding flights in the US against their identification. "Many of us...who endure questioning if particularly zealous agents notice a mismatch between a gender marker and their perception of our gender will now enter airports certain of an unavoidable gender check," wrote Dean Spade, a transgendered lawyer from the US.

Fifteen members of the Olympics Resistance Network (ORN) were visited by officers from the Vancouver Integrated Security Unit over a period of 48 hours. "This is a clear effort to intimidate and monitor people who have concerns about the negative impacts of the Games on our communities," said ORN member Cara Fisher.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez visited Montreal and Ottawa to promote the stalled free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia. In Montreal, Uribe was met by more than 100 protestors. Canwest News Service ran a story timed with Uribe's visit, which indicated that the Colombian government had discovered established groups of supporters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, a guerilla army in Colombia) in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced that Canada would spend an additional $12 million to pay the salaries of Afghan National Police officers in Kandahar.

Public Works Minister Christian Paradis announced that the Conservatives will improve communications with the aerospace and defence industries in an effort to streamline military procurement procedures. "We want to make sure industry is part of the solution given the investments that are coming in military procurement," said Paradis. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the government is slated to spend billions on new equipment, including supply ships, fighter aircraft, armoured vehicles, and helicopters.

The Organization of American States invited Cuba to rejoin the group, having been removed in 1962. The Cuban government rejected the offer.

The merger of tar sands giants Suncor and Petro Canada was approved by shareholders in both companies. The deal, worth approximately $22.2 billion, needs a green light from the Canadian government before it is finalized.

The New Democratic Party won a majority in Nova Scotia's provincial election.

Hot weather and continued lockdowns exacerbated living conditions for prisoners at Matsqui Prison near Vancouver, BC, who have been forced to remain in their cells for 23 hours a day since May 11. "There are no toilets in cells. [Prisoners] are having to wait hours, in some cases, to use the toilet. Some are using buckets and throwing it out the windows," said lawyer Donna Turko. The lockdown began after prisoners protested having their work hours extended from eight to 12 hours a day.

A NAFTA tribunal ruled in favour of the Quechan people, recognizing their sacred space and dismissing Glamis Gold's (now Goldcorp) claim that the State of California's and the United States' moves to regulate hard-rock mining on public lands infringes on the company's rights.

Barack Obama named a new US Ambassador to Ottawa. David Jacobson fundraised for Obama's election campaign and is widely considered an "Obama insider." Ottawa will be Jacobson's first posting as a diplomat.

A cargo ship was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Oman.

People in Hong Kong and around the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4. Journalists were banned from Tiananmen Square, which was heavily surveilled by police.

On the same day, the Polish government celebrated 20 years of post-communism. The state-sponsored celebrations, which included a concert by Kylie Minogue, were picketed by Polish anarchists who view the last 20 years in Poland as "20 years of widening class divisions."

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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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