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January in Review, Part II

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Issue: 75 Section: Month in Review

February 1, 2011

January in Review, Part II

Egypt curfew broken, BC salmon smokin', "organic" just a token

by The Dominion

The world over, people rallied in solidarity with uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern states whose populations struggle against oppressive and corrupt governments. Photo: Stephanie Law

"People fight and die for things like that. They go to war for things like that. We are Dene. We are not warriors. We are not pacifists. We are Dene. Being Dene means standing on your own land," said Jonas Antoine of the Liidlii Kue First Nation, at a rally in Yellowknife. Protesters were speaking out against the Northwest Territories government's "devolution" plan, which would transfer land from Canada to the government of the Northwest Territories. Leaders and members from several First Nations compared the negotiations to extinguishment, denouncing both the process and its objective.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marched in opposition to the continued rule of Hosni Mubarak, who has been president of that country since 1981. By taking to the streets, protesters defied a curfew and violent repression. More than 100 people have died as a result. The minimum wage in Egypt is currently $30 per month, which is half of the World Bank's official minimum wage for the country.

In Canada, hundreds of people gathered in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to show their support for Egyptian demonstrators.

Mubarak's regime has been a key Middle East ally of the United States and Israel. In an interview with the Montreal Media Co-op, Montreal organizer Mostafa Henaway said that without the curent regime in Egypt, "there would be no siege in Gaza, you wouldn't have support for the occupation of Iraq, and for the other dictatorships in the region." The United States sent $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt in 2011. According to reports in Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Israeli diplomats attempted this week to gather support for Mubarak's regime, arguing that his continued rule is in the interests of western countries.

Egyptians have been demonstrating against the current regime for at least three years. However, the massive scale of demonstrations was attributed to the success of similar protests in Tunisia, where mass mobilizations calling for "work, freedom, bread" ended the brutal 23-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country mid-month. Demonstrations in Tunisia are ongoing, with thousands calling for all members of Ben Ali's government to leave.

Leading Haitian human rights lawyer Mario Joseph and women's rights and education advocate Rea Dol called on the Canadian government to withdraw its support of the November 28, 2010, elections; Joseph slammed the Canadian government for being no friend to Haiti. Both criticized relief agencies that have done little to help Haitians following last year's earthquake, particularly pointing to the massive increase in rape and sexual assault against women in the country over the past year.

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to the Caribbean nation for the first time in 25 years, since his ouster in 1986. He said he returned to help the Haitian people one year after the massive earthquake of January 2010, but others believe he did so to gain access to some $6 million stowed in foreign bank accounts. The Haitian government quickly charged him with embezzlement of public funds. Human rights organizations launched an appeal for him to be charged with crimes against humanity, and undertook fresh investigations of political assassinations and ruthless murders by the Tontons Macoutes secret police during his reign.

Jude Celestin, the presidential candidate backed by Haiti's ruling Unity Party, withdrew his name from the upcoming election run-off, under domestic and international criticism that his second-place finish in the November 28 vote was due to electoral fraud.

In a move towards US-style broadcasting law, the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission proposed relaxing rules on "any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading"—a month and a half before right-leaning Sun TV News is to be launched in Canada.

Stephen Harper spoke of accountability at a UN meeting about the implementation of a $40 billion program for child and maternal health in developing nations, a plan that was widely criticized for excluding access to contraception and family planning. In Canada, Harper has systematically increased gender inequality.

Two "Community Engagement Forums" in BC—in Vancouver's Downtown East Side (DTES) and in Prince George—led up to this year's Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. The process, content and naming of a Commissioner were subject to passionate criticism by activists and family members, who were concerned about mass omissions. The Commission of Inquiry's terms of reference do not explicitly mention the Highway of Tears, nor do they reflect that the majority of missing and murdered women in the province are Indigenous.

KNL Developments moved tree cutting equipment into Beaver Pond—just outside Ottawa—and has begun logging one of the last old-growth forests in the region after receiving city approval to build a housing development on the land. Members of local Algonquin communities have called on the city to halt the development until a comprehensive archaeological assessment can be done. Algonquin Daniel Bernard “Amikwabe” set up a camp on the land to stoke a sacred fire "to denounce the massacre of the wildlife and this sacred forest."

The Sinixt Nation appeared in BC Supreme Court again in late January for the First Nation's legal case against Sunshine Logging Ltd, the provincial Attorney General and the BC Ministry of Forests, concerning the logging of Slu7kin/Perry Ridge in the interior of BC.

American Indian Movement (AIM) activist John Graham was sentenced to life in prison for the 1975 kidnapping and murder of fellow AIM activist Anna Mae Aquash, a Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia. "The truth hasn't come out here," Graham, a member of the Champagne First Nation in the Yukon, told Aquash's daughters in court, upon hearing his sentence. Canadian organizations, politicians and unions have written letters of support for Graham, particularly opposing Canada's 2007 extradition of Graham in light of false evidence provided by the FBI to Canada for the 1976 extradition of AIM activist Leonard Peltier. The Aquash investigation remains open.

Students, workers and faculty at the University of Toronto (U of T) came together to form the U of T General Assembly, demanding the university administration stand with them, rather than with corporations, private donors and a provincial government that fail to adequately support higher education.

More than 100 activists and students rallied outside a Simon Fraser University Board of Governors' meeting in downtown Vancouver to protest the university's use of "dirty money" from mining corporation Goldcorp. The board adjourned its meeting early and left the building amid calls from the crowd to listen to their concerns.

A new Canada-US study found that one in 10 post-secondary students recently thought about suicide, and one in four is depressed.

The Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Education Coalition announced the results of a public opinion poll that shows 83 per cent of Nova Scotians want tuition fees reduced. The Nova Scotia government is considering recommendations from former Bank of Montreal Executive Vice-President Tim O’Neill to allow tuition fees to increase, and lift the ceiling on how much debt a student can access from government financial aid. Students are planning a province-wide day of action February 2.

A proposed mink ranch development in Yarmouth, NS, was given the green light, despite the community's concern that mink ranches in the area are contributing to the proliferation of blue-green algae in the lakes.

Agrimarine Holdings Inc completed primary construction of the world's first marine closed-containment salmon farm in Middle Bay, BC.

The Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture launched its "smoking hot" campaign to warn people of the dangers of eating farmed salmon. Photo: GAAIA

The BC-based Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture launched its "smoking hot" campaign against "Big Aquaculture" to draw attention to the health and environmental dangers of salmon farming. The campaign uses similar imagery to "smoking kills" campaigns used against Big Tobacco.

In an email to its customers, Whole Foods Market, the largest "natural and organic" market in the world, advocated for "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered (GMO), herbicide-resistant alfalfa. The Organic Consumer's Association called the email "profoundly misleading," representing surrender by the "organic elite" to Monsanto, whose Roundup Ready alfalfa will now be mass-planted with the blessing of Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley, effectively allowing the GMO crop to contaminate products labeled "organic."

In rural BC, unpaid tree-planters from Africa were fed rotten food, left to sleep in shipping containers and subjected to violence and sexual harassment.

Walmart announced plans to open 40 supercentres across Canada.

Members of the Synergy Credit Union in Saskatchewan, concerned about the increase in size of their bank, voted against a merger with two other credit unions.

Two supporters of Bradley Manning, the army private suspected of leaking confidential documents to WikiLeaks, were stopped and held for two hours for traffic violations by military police at Virginia's Quantico Marine Corp. The pair was attempting to visit Manning and deliver a petition with 42,000 signatures that protested Manning's treatment. As a result, Manning missed out on his once-weekly respite from solitary confinement.

An Ottawa man accused of terrorism was served a formal notice of deportation to Algeria, where he faces risk of torture.

Alex Hundert took a plea bargain with the Crown and was released from jail. The community organizer was arrested pre-G20 in Toronto, charged with conspiracy and spent five months in prison, including in solitary confinement.

The Halifax Peace Coalition celebrated Martin Luther King Jr Day by picketting outside the Canadian Forces Stadacona Base, protesting Canada's decision to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets. The jets will cost at least $16 billion, and the deal—the largest military procurement in Canadian history—with weapons giant Lockheed Martin guarantees no jobs in Canada.

Two hundred people, many holding babies or pushing strollers, rallied in downtown Halifax to demand better access to midwifery services. Currently, only four midwives are legally employed in the entire province of Nova Scotia.

With the slogan "Fight the Height," housing activists and residents in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside continued to organize against the city's plans to develop condos in the neighbourhood.

According to a study from the Quebec Institue for Public Health, Quebecers over the age of 65 have been committing suicide at an increasing rate since 1981, reaching an all-time high in 2010. Quebec announced it will create a three-year grant of $750,000 to counter the rising rate.

Prairie Artists Against Enbridge delivered a letter to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, protesting Enbridge Pipeline’s sponsorship of the centre's upcoming Prairie Scene Festival, due to the company's "disastrous environmental record."

In a Dutch Parliamentary hearing, Shell was accused of human rights abuses, failing to clean up oil spills and continuing the hazardous practice of flaring gas in Nigeria.

Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously voted to ratify the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, which will see Russia and the US each slash their nuclear arsenals by about 30 per cent.

A mine explosion in northeastern Colombia killed 20 coal miners, injured six and trapped 30 more underground.

Three Indonesian soldiers who tortured two Papuan farmers for three days were found guilty of "insubordination," a much lesser charge than rights groups were advocating.

Philippine rebels killed five police officers, the first major assault since the Philippine government and communist rebels agreed to restart peace talks.

Floods and landslides in Brazil killed 800 people. Four hundred others are missing.

Verizon Communications Inc filed a legal challenge against the new "net neutrality" rules which prohibit providers from interfering with Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

Have you heard the one about Ben Ali? You haven't heard it? ...So Zine El Abidine Ben Ali goes to buy new boots. As soon as he enters the shop, the Tunisian salesman hands him a pair. “How did you know my size?” asks Ben Ali. The answer: “You’ve stomped on us for 23 years, how can we not?”

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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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