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April in Review, Part I

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Issue: 68 Section: Month in Review

April 15, 2010

April in Review, Part I

Quebec budget decried, Grassy Narrows runs through Toronto, Gaza students petition Atwood

by Dominion Staff

Several hundred people marched in Toronto in support of the Grassy Narrows First Nation and their fight against industrial mercury poisoning. Photo: freegrassy.org

Thousands of people marched through the streets of downtown Montreal to protest the recently tabled Liberal budget, which threatens to impose or raise fees for essential services such as health care and education. The march was called by a wide coalition of student, anti-capitalist, labour and civil society groups.

In New Brunswick, the minimum wage was increased by $0.25 per hour to $8.50. This brings the earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker to $340 per week, below the federal government low income cut-off for a single person in an urban center in Canada.

Students, labour and community groups protest newly introduced fee hikes in Montreal on Thursday. Photo: René Obregon-Ida

At least 25 people were killed in West Virginia in an explosion and collapse of a Massey Energy coal mine in Raliegh County. According to the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration. this mine had been cited over 1,300 times for safety violations since 2005 and charged upwards of $1.89 million in fines.

The World Bank approved a $3.75 billion loan to South Africa for power generation to supply its need for export to neighbouring states. $3.05 billion from the loan will fund the 4,800 megawatt Medupi coal-fired power plant, while wind and solar projects will get $475 million from the loan.

In Japan, an anti-whaling activist from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been indicted on charges of trespassing, causing injuries, obstructing commercial activities, vandalism, and carrying a weapon. Peter Bethune, a 44-year-old New Zealander, is facing fines up to $5,000 and 15 years in prison for boarding the Japanese harpoon whaling vessel in mid-February in order to deliver a citizen's arrest warrant for the Japanese vessel's ramming and sinking of the Sea Shepherd vessel Adyl Gyl.

According to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives it will take 63 years for the income gap between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in Canada to disappear. The report states that, on average, the median income for Indigenous people is 30 per cent lower than non-Indigenous people, narrowing only slightly since the mid 1990s.

Over 250 people marched through downtown Toronto as part of the Grassy Narrows River Run. The march ended at the Ontario Legislature where protesters demanded action over the high levels of mercury-related diseases faced by the Grassy Narrows community. Mercury has persisted in the community since the 1960s when Dryden Pulp & Paper Co. dumped high levels of mercury into the Wabigoon River. The federal government claims that mercury levels are under control, but a recent study found that 79 per cent of 187 people tested in 2002 and 2004 had a condition arising from exposure to methyl-mercury.

An email circulated by the Nova Scotia NDP government promising 1,000 civil sector job cuts has raised concerns among civil sector workers and unions. The email stated that the cuts would only be through "attrition and voluntary departures," but members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union are calling for retraining for workers who lose their jobs and promised "an all-and-all-out fight" if the government does not respect their wishes.

According to a recent United Nations report, Calgary is the fifth-highest per-capita carbon emitting city on earth, averaging 9.5 tonnes per person. Calgary was beaten by Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Denver and Rotterdam, Netherlands.

A report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has found Vancouver to have the highest rate of poverty among major Canadian municipalities. Vancouver topped the list in terms of the percentage of people in low income situations, working poor families, and the largest and fastest growing income gap.

Students in the Gaza Strip have sent an open letter to Canadian author Margaret Atwood praising her "leftist, feminist, overtly political writing" and urging her to reject the Dan David Prize, awarded by Tel Aviv University, in solidarity with the cause of Palestinians under occupation. The award, which Atwood will share with Indian-Bengali author Amitav Ghosh, is valued at $1 million US and set to be presented to Atwood on May 9.

A report from Canada's Public Service Commission suggested that the federal government should consider removing women as a designated equity group under the Employment Equity Act, citing that women now make up a slight majority of high level public service positions. Meanwhile, Canada is expected to roll out their Women & Children program for this summer's G8 and G20 summits in the coming months.

Research in Canada's Tundra and Northern Boreal Forests has found that warming temperatures could increase soil respiration, thus increasing the release of terrestrial carbon currently responsible for around 98 billion tonnes of carbon per year, especially in Canada's arctic and subarctic regions.

A coalition of civil society and environmental organizations filed a citizen's submission with NAFTA's environmental body, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, over the Canadian government's alleged failure to enforce anti-pollution provisions of the federal Fisheries Act in regard to the 11 million cubic litres of toxic liquid that leak from tar sand's tailings ponds each day into the Athabasca Watershed. The Fisheries Act mandates that this subsection falls under the enforcement purview of Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, who has denied the validity of leakage statistics in the past.

In Brazil around 850 Indigenous people and activists took to the streets of the capital city of Brasília to protest the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam, a massive hydro-electric project to be built in the Brazilian Amazon River Basin. The dam would flood a large portion of rainforest, dry up tributaries, alter fish stocks and bring workers and migrants to traditional indigenous lands, adversely affecting at least 7 separate Indigenous peoples. Environmentalists have also pointed out that hydro-electric projects in the Amazonian rainforest can have a larger climate footprint than coal and oil fired power plants.

Opposition politicians in Kyrgyzstan seized control of the government following street protests against government repression which left more than 40 people dead and 400 injured. Deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiyev offered to resign in the wake of the coup, following an announcement soldiers had been dispatched to arrest him in his southern power-base of Jalal'abad where he had fled during the violence. The conflict also threatens to draw the United States in by disrupting troop and supply transports headed from Manas Air Force Base in Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan.

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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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