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October in Review, Part II

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Issue: 73 Section: Month in Review

October 31, 2010

October in Review, Part II

Mining bill defeated, Khadr sentenced, prison costs rise, Air Force office blockaded

by Dominion Staff

Protesters march in the streets of Marseille, France, as part of national demonstrations against government pension reform legislation. cc Photo: Marcovdz

Legislation that would revoke public funding from Canadian mining companies that abuse human rights and the environment in their overseas operations was narrowly defeated in its third reading, with 13 Liberals, including Michael Ignatieff, four Bloc and four NDP parliamentarians skipping the vote. Bill C-300, a Liberal private member's bill, built unprecedented support among social justice advocates and mining watch-dog groups around the world.

A military jury at Guantanamo Bay sentenced Canadian citizen Omar Khadr to 40 years in prison for the killing of a US soldier in Afghanistan, though prosecutors had only asked for a maximum 25 year sentence. Before the sentence was delivered, Khadr had already agreed to a plea-deal where, by pleading guilty, he would receive a sentence of eight years. New memos also revealed that the Canadian government has been in talks with US officials about the possibility of Khadr serving his sentence in Canada. Khadr, 24, was 15 when arrested in Afghanistan, and his detainment and trial has been widely criticized for violating rules on the treatment of child soldiers.

Hector Berrios became the fourth anti-mining activist to be denied a travel visa to the United States this month. Berrios was to testify before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission about mining-related violence in El Salvador.

The Wixarika Indigenous people of Mexico demanded the cancellation of 22 mining concessions granted to Canadian mining company Majestic Silver. The concessions cover a semi-arid desert region known as Real de Catorce, considered by many to be one of the most important sites of Indigenous prayer in Mexico.

The Union of BC Chiefs called for the resignation of Junior Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes, who rejected a recent study of mining impacts on Indigenous people as "hogwash" and "completely flawed," adding that "some First Nations reject mining for a more traditional lifestyle—those ways are linked to lower birth weights, higher birth rate deaths and lower life spans. Improving these outcomes requires sharing the wealth and jobs that come from mining."

Climate Justice Montreal set up a hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") site outside the Quebec Association of Oil and Gas Producers annual conference in Montreal, in protest of the extraction method. Fracking uses over 596 chemicals—many of which are known carcinogens and poisons—mixed with hundreds of litres of water and sand, the majority of which ends up in groundwater, soil and the air. A group of public personalities in Quebec demanded an immediate moratorium on fracking in the province.

Cape Bretoners opposed fracking in meetings about a proposed mine site in Lake Ainslie.

New Brunswick's Department of the Environment recommended new regulations for companies engaged in fracking in the province.

Access-to-information requests revealed that a 2009 internal memo to CIDA minister Bev Oda was tampered with. While the memo endorsed Canadian human rights organization KAIROS and cited numerous Canadian officials recommending the reinstatement of its $7.1 million CIDA funding, a hand-written note at the memo's end inserted the word "NOT," turning the concluding statement into a negative: "That you [Minister Oda] sign below to indicate you NOT approve the contribution of $7,098,758." CIDA's funding to KAIROS was eliminated in November 2009.

Climate Justice Montreal "fracks" Quebec Oil and Gas Producers conference in Montreal. CJM and other groups are calling for a complete moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" in Quebec. Photo: Climate Justice Montreal

Protests in France kept up against pension reform, including a bill to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, while police unleashed tear gas and rubber bullets and arrested hundreds. Strikes at petrol refineries caused country-wide petrol shortages. France's parliament eventually approved the bill after weeks of protest, but electoral support for President Sarkozy has steeply declined.

First Nations leadership in central and eastern Canada criticized a meeting to discuss the implementation of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA). The environmental organizations and forestry companies who signed the CBFA are courting Indigenous approval for the agreement.

Palestine solidarity activists crossed from Egypt into Israeli-blockaded Gaza, bringing $5 million in humanitarian aid in more than 100 vehicles.

Canadians organizing the country's first Boat to Gaza raised a third of their $300,000 budget, and plan to set sail in the spring 2011.

The Canadian government said the fake lake built for international media at the G20 summit in Toronto "was a wild success."

Rob Ford, who ran on a platform of cutting wasteful spending at city hall, was elected mayor of Toronto with 47 per cent of the vote. While voter turnout jumped from under 40 per cent in 2006 to 53.2 per cent, the total votes for Ford amounted to only around 15 per cent of Toronto's population. That, and examples of councilors winning seats with only 19 per cent of popular vote, led to calls to reform the "first-past-the-post" system. Ford has come under criticism for comments he has made about the homeless, immigrants and homosexuals, but pundits credited his tough-on-financial-waste platform for getting him elected.

About 80 people completed a four-day paddle down the Fraser River to raise awareness about the impact of fish farms in the Fraser River, ending on the day the Cohen Commission began to investigate and report on the decline of sockeye salmon.

A new report found that BC has twice as many jail and police-involved deaths than Ontario, despite the fact that Ontario's population is three times as large.

A new study revealed the costs to maintain the federal prison system increased three times faster than inflation between 2008 and 2009. The daily cost per federal inmate rose to $323 per day, double the amount in provincial prisons. Earlier this year, the federal government announced an additional $9 billion in funding for the federal prison system to handle an increase in the inmate population once new "tough on crime" legislation is enacted.

US scientists blamed the dispersants used by BP in the clean-up of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for increases in illnesses among the region's residents, including severe respiratory and sinus infections, vomiting and fevers.

A study by the Climate Action Network Europe revealed major European polluters (including BP) have donated over $240,000 to candidates running in the US midterm elections, 80 per cent of which has gone to candidates who deny climate change and oppose energy policy reform.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned Arctic warming is continuing, with a four-degree upward trend in northern Canada’s air temperature in the first half of 2010. The warming is causing irreversible changes to northern regions and causing severe changes in weather systems further south, the report found.

The Canadian Armed Forces announced that 600 soldiers who served in Afghanistan will participate in the country's first major Arctic military exercise this winter after returning from the Central Asian country. An official said the exercise was meant to boost morale and provide training, and that it is not tied to the Conservative government's pledge to exert Canadian sovereignty over Arctic regions.

A crowd of 450 people, many of them homeless or poorly housed, blockaded the entrance to a Canadian Air Force building in Ottawa. The demonstrators were protesting the government's decision to cut $1 billion from social housing programs while spending more than $15 billion on new F-35 fighter jets and their upkeep.

The federal Environment Minister pledged to ensure that companies working in the Albertan tar sands meet their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets, but did not specify how. Tar sands production is slated to triple by 2025, and estimates are that it will produce nearly as much GHG emissions as New York City by 2020.

Oil company Syncrude was ordered to pay $3 million in damages for the death of 1,600 birds that landed on its toxic tailings ponds in northern Alberta. Less than a week later, 230 birds were euthanized after landing on another Syncrude tailings pond. While Syncrude officials said freezing rain caused the birds to land, others pointed out the tailings ponds lie directly in the birds' migratory paths.

Ryan Rainville, an Indigenous activist, remained in prison on charges related to the G20 protests in Toronto in late June 2010. Rainville's supporters accused the court of ignoring "Gladue factors, which force the judicial system to consider the systemic marginalization and over-incarceration of Indigenous people as a result of colonialism and poverty." He has been in prison since August 5 and will appear again in court on November 5.

Alex Hundert, another G20 detainee accused of conspiracy, was re-arrested on charges of attempting to intimidate a member of the judicial system for statements he allegedly made towards crown attorneys during a court hearing. It is the third time Hundert was arrested in five months and came less than 10 days after he had strict restrictions, including not expressing political views publicly, imposed as part of his bail conditions.

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Not entirely accurate on C-300

It was the Liberal Party itself that brought down the Bill - even if all 4 remaining NDP and Bloc had shown up the Bill would have failed because Iggy and key Liberals decided to bring it down. It's very deceptive reporting you have here. There are always a few MPs from all parties missing due to other events and circumstances but many Liberals were missing.

Not inaccurate -- they're news snippets, not articles

I added that 13 Liberals were missing in action. The bill only lost by 6 votes, so NDP and Bloq votes in favour would have made the difference. The NDPers were from northern mining areas, and it appears they missed the vote deliberately, as did the Liberals. That's how it works.

Fracking moratoriums a good idea

>A group of public personalities in Quebec demanded an immediate moratorium on fracking in the province.

Good idea. South of the border, NY State has such a moratorium in place. The governor of Pennsylvania has just barred hydrofracking on state forest lands. University at Buffalo NY researchers found that the process causes uranium (deadly and toxic) that is naturally trapped inside Marcellus shale to be released, raising additional environmental concerns. The research will be presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver today. (November 2, 2010.)

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