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December in Review, Part I

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Issue: 75 Section: Month in Review

December 14, 2010

December in Review, Part I

Premier sandbagged, Haitians lectured, prison conditions protested

by Dominion Staff

Climate justice activists blockade the World Trade Centre office building in Vancouver with sandbags in response to the call for global actions in solidarity with actions during climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico. Photo: Erin Empey

More than 200 people, including 100 from Barriere Lake, demonstrated in Ottawa against the federal and provincial government's refusal to implement a UN-praised sustainable development agreement between Quebec, Canada and the Algonquin First Nation. Demonstrators said the Harper government is trying to derail the agreement by imposing an Indian Act band council system on Barriere Lake. Fewer than a dozen community members cast ballots in the Indian Act electoral process, while nearly 200 people signed a resolution rejecting it, wishing to preserve the traditional governance system they have used for countless generations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Canon chided Haitians for not taking responsibility for post-election violence, even though Canada had endorsed an electoral process that excluded the most popular Haitian political party. Cannon endorsed US threats to cut off aid to the country, which has seen street protests and riots since the November elections. Liberal MP Denis Coderre also suggested Canada re-occupy the country by sending troops from the Disaster Assistance Response Team.

More than a dozen communities across Canada held People's Assemblies on Climate Justice during UN climate negotiations in Cancun. “People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice emerged during the failing Copenhagen negotiations as a vehicle for people to come together and talk about real and false solutions to the climate crisis,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, with the Council of Canadians.

Climate justice activists held a sleep-in and strip-down in Halifax, and built a sandbag barrier to the offices of the Premier and cabinet in Vancouver. In Toronto, more than 100 activists gathered in the financial district in solidarity with climate justice activists in Cancun on Via Campesina's International Day of Action. “It’s a disgrace that the United Nations space intended to tackle climate change has been converted into a platform to legitimize the commercial strategies of transnational corporations,” said Alberto Gomez Flores, representative of La Via Campesina for the North America region.

In Halifax and across the country, climate justice activists emphasized their disappointment that the Senate killed Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. The decision by the Senate was the first time that the unelected Conservative Senators used their power to kill a bill passed by the elected legislators.

Algonquin of Barriere Lake and solidarity activists took to Parliament Hill to demand the Canadian government allow the community to return to its traditional governance code. The federal government used Section 74 of the Indian Act to impose a band council system on the community earlier this year. Photo: Dru Oja Jay

An Ebay posting under Steven Harper's name, advertising that Canada's climate policy was for sale to the highest bidders, raised some eyebrows. “It’s not surprising to see that they are selling our country's climate policy to the fossil fuel industry, but it's definitely a shock to know they are using Ebay!” said Natasha Peters, an activist from Climate Justice Ottawa.

More than 20 Indigenous people from Canada and their allies wore t-shirts that spelled out “Shut Down The Tar Sands” in both English and Spanish and delivered that message to COP-16 delegates in Cancun. Many participants carried personal banners linking tar sands with the destruction of their territories. “Our communities demand real solutions to address the climate crisis and that means shutting down the tar sands and a moratorium on new fossil fuel development,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Federal Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan revealed that the Canadian government is not testing water for tar sands toxins at federal labs downstream from the Athabascan tar sands.

Dozens of First Nations signed a declaration against Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines, which would cross their land in the Fraser Valley watershed. "A threat to the Fraser and its headwaters is a threat to all who depend on its health," they stated. The proposed pipeline would run from the Alberta tar sands to the BC coast, allowing access to tankers which would transport the fuel primarily to Asia.

Opposition parties in Ottawa voted to pass a bill calling on the Conservatives to impose a ban on oil tanker traffic off the coast of BC. Polls show 80 per cent of British Columbians support the proposed tanker ban.

The Canadian Medical Association and an article in medical journal Lancet criticized the Canadian and Quebec governments for their continued support of asbestos mining and exportation. The Quebec government is being asked to reconsider guaranteeing a multi-million-dollar loan to help keep the province's main asbestos mine open, but the Canadian Medical Association called on the federal government to impose a ban on the export of the carcinogen.

John Graham, a Tuchone Native from the Yukon, was convicted of the 1976 murder of Mi'kmaq Indigenous activist Anna Mae Aquash, though his family continues to insist on his innocence. Aquash, who worked with the American Indian Movement during the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee, was threatened by the FBI and then murdered, execution-style, on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

A strike by thousands of prisoners in Georgia jails entered its third day. Inmates refused to work or leave their cells in the the largest prison strike in US history. Prisoners' demands included being paid a living wage for their work, decent health and dental care, nutritional meals and an end to cruel and unusual punishment. Prison officials responded to the non-violent strike by sending in tactical squads and placing prisons under lockdown for several days.

A federal court upheld the security certificate against Algerian-born refugee Mohamed Harkat, allowing for his possible deportation to his native country. The Canadian government believes Harkat has ties to Al Qaeda and poses a threat to Canadian national security. Harkat, who came to Canada in 1995 after fleeing Algeria as a political dissident, says he faces torture or death if returned.

New Democrat MP and immigration critic Olivia Chow tabled a bill to introduce an immigration appeal process in Canada. Of the approximately one million applications received every year by Canadian immigration officials, 20 per cent are rejected for alleged fraud and misrepresentation, leaving refused applicants with no right to appeal. Chow argued that many rejected applications in her Toronto riding are the result of “arbitrary decision-making” by Canadian visa officers.

Montreal company Bombardier announced it will pay over $300,000 to a Canadian pilot of Pakistani descent after the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal found the company discriminated against him based on his ethnic and national origin when it refused to train him. Bombardier made the decision based on a US government assessment that the pilot posed a "threat to aviation or national security." The ruling also ordered Bombardier to stop considering foreign security assessments when deciding whether to train Canadian-licensed pilots.

A minor hockey league coach in Peterborough, Ontario, was suspended after he pulled his team off the ice when an opponent directed a racial slur at one of his players. "I said, 'Did it happen again?' He said, 'yes,'" coach Gary Walsh told CBC's As It Happens.

A new bill granting immediate security of tenure to tenants in Nova Scotia passed its third reading. Bill C-119 brings Nova Scotia in line with other jurisdictions in Canada, preventing landlords from evicting tenants without reason.

First Nations leaders and medical experts accused Canada of ignoring tuberculosis rates on First Nations reserves in the country. Canada will contribute $10.8 million to combat the disease in remote First Nations communities, while over the past year contributing $140 million to the fight against tuberculosis and other diseases in "developing" countries.

An Orange County judge in California refused prison inmate Malcolm Alarmo King's request for kosher meals. King's religious reasons for the request were his devotion to "Festivus," a fictional holiday once featured on an episode of Seinfeld. The celebration does not include a ban on the prison salami rejected by King, but instead the airing of grievances, the display of an aluminum pole, and feats demonstrating strength.

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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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