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March in Review, Part I

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Issue: 69 Section: Month in Review

March 15, 2010

March in Review, Part I

Aboriginal programs face cuts, Greenpeace faces grassroots and Canadian government faces new lawsuit

by Dominion Staff

Students and civilians clashed with security forces in Jakarta. Tear gas, water canons and rubber bullets were responded to with stones, wood and slingshots from demonstrators. [cc 2.0] Photo: Awe Windiantara

Women and immigrant support groups criticized the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) for raiding a Toronto women's shelter to apprehend "Jane," a single mother who says she left Ghana to escape violence. A representative of the Ontario Association for Interval and Transition Homes said that while CBSA agents had previously waited outside shelters to stop women, this was the first time they had been known to enter.

The Canadian government released its 2010-2011 "austerity" budget. Though the budget declares the government's economic stimulus program a success, it was criticized for not including more stimulus funding, for opening up economic sectors to foreign ownership (seen as a path to de-regulation) and for ignoring the need for a more flexible employment insurance program.

In his response to the Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Canadian government "will take steps to endorse [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws." Canada was one of only three countries to vote "no" to the non-binding agreement when passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007.

First Nations and Innu communities criticized the budget for eliminating the Aboriginal Healing Program, which provided essential funding for various health and social service initiatives across Canada.

A military analyst from Queen's University warned conditions are ripe for—and that Canada is vulnerable to—a possible uprising of Indigenous peoples across the country. He said the mix of grievances of Aboriginal communities—including lack of adequate housing—and their proximity to Canada's resource supply chains places them in a position where they could lead a major economic disruption.

A new report revealed tuberculosis rates in Inuit communities to be 185 per cent higher than in the rest of Canada. The spread of tuberculosis in northern communities dates back to outbreaks of the disease when European colonists infected Inuit communities. An Inuit health official said the rate of infection will only decrease once housing, food security and access to health care are improved.

The Halalt First Nation in British Columbia continued their blockade of the Chemainus river in protest of a plan to dig wells into the underground aquifers flowing from the river. The Halalt believe more impact assessments are in order and that the plan goes against their traditional rights to protect the water source found on their territory.

Indigenous of the Cheam reserve of the Pilalt/Sto:lo people faced charges of defiance of government fishing regulations in Chilliwack, BC. The Cheam argued Indigenous sovereignty in court, where a group of Natives and non-Natives attended in solidarity. The judge moved the trial to May 25.

Approximately 500 people marched from Oakville to Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario, demanding a stop to a gas-fired power plant planned for their community. Protesters raised their concerns over the placement of the power plant near homes and schools. The area already suffers from high levels of air pollution and there is a safety concern over the possibility of an explosion.

Members of Nunavut's Legislative Assembly passed a ban on the sale of liquor produced by countries of the European Union. The move was a response to the EU's ban on the import of seal products from Canada and other sealing countries. It is still unknown how the motion will be implemented. There is concern the ban will violate international trade agreements.

A class action lawsuit filed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina victims in southern Mississippi against major carbon dioxide emitters, such as Shell, ExxonMobile, BP and Chevron, claiming damages for the effects of the hurricane, has been ruled a viable case and will be heard within the next three months, with a verdict due by the end of 2010. The lawsuit claims "that [the] defendants' operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries in the United States caused the emission of greenhouse gases that contributed to global warming," linked to the destructive force of the 2005 hurricane.

Over 150 people rallied outside the Royal Bank of Canada's Annual General Meeting in Toronto to protest the bank's role financing the Athabasca tar sands. The Toronto demonstration, organized as a part of the Rainforest Action Network's campaign targeting tar sands financiers, was echoed at solidarity actions across Canada.

Responding to announcements that Greenpeace would be hiring Tzeporah Berman to head up their climate change campaign, Canadian activists launched a campaign entitled Save Greenpeace, to stop her being hired and push back against corporate influence on environmental NGOs. The campaign has been supported by over 70 people, including eight Greenpeace staff and activists.

Amid Greece's continuing financial troubles and the government's announcement of spending cuts and tax hikes designed to tackle the country's debt crisis, over 200 uniformed police, coast guard and fire brigade officers joined in solidarity with a general strike in Athens, gathering to show their support prior to the start of marches that saw 20,000 people take to the streets in the Greek capital.

Two thousand people protested in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta as the government held hearings into the $700-million bailout of the privately held Bank Century. The government says the bailout was necessary to stabilize the Indonesian economy, but critics contend the bailout drained public coffers of essential infrastructure funding, and questions persist over suspected kickbacks and preferential treatment for large account holders in accessing their funds.

Informal peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government were called off following the revelation Israel will be building 112 housing units in the occupied territory of the West Bank, breaking a 10-month moratorium on settlement expansions. It was also revealed that Israel plans to build 50,000 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem, which is not included in the moratorium.

Sixty cities held Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) events around the world, criticizing the continued occupation and throwing support behind the call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel for their ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory. The Ontario legislature passed a motion condemning IAW; a motion in the federal House of Commons failed to receive the unanimous support it was seeking and therefore was not adopted. MP Libby Davies voted against the motion and wrote: "The Conservative motion was designed to be divisive and to censure legitimate debate on the issue of Israel's policies."

The civil lawsuit on the death of Palestinian solidarity activist Rachel Corrie opened in Israel. Corrie died in 2003 at the age of 23 when, as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to block it from demolishing Palestinian homes. While there was an Israeli government investigation into her death, it has been criticized by human rights groups as lacking impartiality, transparency and thoroughness.

The Conservative government announced it was re-introducing the Canada–Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) in parliament. The bill to approve the CCFTA died in parliament when the last session was prorogued at the end of 2009. It has been criticized for prioritizing economic policy above human rights, and comes just days after the revelation that 45 union organizers had been assassinated in Colombia in 2009.

Australia became the first jurisdiction to allow an individual's gender to be officially listed as non-specific and to recognize the non-gender specific pronoun "zie."

Adil Charkaoui launched a $24-million lawsuit against the Canadian government for the years he spent under a national security certificate, a program that has been deemed unconstitutional. He had been accused of having ties to terrorism and posing a threat to national security. “This is about accountability. This is about restoring my good name. This is about reparation for an injustice,” said Charkaoui in a release.

Following the close of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, residents continued to protest the impact of the Games on the city's homeless and poorer neighbourhoods. The Olympic Tent Village, or "Tent City," erected on land operated by the Vancouver Organizing Committee, continued, and four anti-Olympic protesters, all actively involved in the Tent Village, were arrested. While residents of Vancouver have been promised that infrastructure upgrades built for the Games would continue to benefit them after the Olympics, city officials have now announced that increases in everything from public transit to beds in homeless shelters were up for discussion. A study revealed that Vancouver's luxury housing market boomed during the Games, with sales of $46.76 million in real estate, $31.8 million coming from Olympic visitors.

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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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