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February in Review, Part II

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Issue: 77 Section: Month in Review Geography: Canada

March 2, 2011

February in Review, Part II

Fishy GM fish, starving eagles, passionate populations

by The Dominion

Sixty people gathered in Halifax to declare solidarity with Libyans. "I have never felt proud to be Libyan until now; people in Libya have sacrificed their flesh" for freedom, said Mohamed Alzrighe from Halifax, addressing the crowd. "The least we can do is spread the word." Photo: Moira Peters

Five more First Nations communities rejected oil company Enbridge Inc.'s proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines, set to transport tar sands oil from nothern Alberta to the BC coast. The newly formed Yinka Dene Alliance, made up of Indigenous communities located along the proposed route for the pipeline, rejected Enbridge's latest financial incentives package, saying "no amount of money" would convince them to agree to the project.

Weaker than usual chum salmon runs on Vancouver Island caused bald eagles to starve, some even falling from the sky from weakness. Hundreds of eagles swarmed local dumps. Others relocated to the eastern side of the island in anticipation of upcoming herring runs.

Eleven people taking part in a tent city demonstration for affordable housing in Vancouver were arrested. Photo: Murray Bush/flux photo

Councilors in Kings County, Nova Scotia voted six-to-five to re-zone 150 hectares of prime farmland for development, despite opposition due to concerns about food security. The group No Farms No Food organized protests, demanding Agriculture Minister John MacDonell intervene.

Taseko mines announced it is trying again to gain federal approval of its Prosperity Mine project near Williams Lake, BC. The federal government rejected the gold mine earlier this year due to the environmental destruction it will cause; Taseko claims its new proposal will not damage the environment. Local First Nations oppose the project, rejecting the claim that a gold mine can operate without damaging the environment.

Canadian scientists warned that genetically modified fish could have a negative impact on Canadian fish populations. Constraints on regulatory and approval powers at the Department of Oceans and Fisheries mean that it will be difficult to ascertain the full potential impact of GE salmon once they are introduced by AquaBounty Technologies. The GE fish are currently going through regulatory approval for consumption in the US and in Canada.

Emera, Nova Scotia Power's parent company, posted record profits for 2010. The province’s electricity provider made $121.3 million in profit in 2010, up $12 million over 2009. The privatized utility jacked power bills by 5.66 per cent in January.

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton announced he is no longer calling on the Harper government to cancel its next series of corporate tax cuts.

Housing activists in Vancouver organized a tent city to draw awareness to the lack of affordable housing in the city. Demands included that all unsold units from the Olympic Athletes Village become social housing, that the city acquire 10 new social housing sites per year and an end to the criminalization of the poor. About 200 people took part in the initial tent city at the Athletes Village. After moving locations and then being dispersed by police, 75 activists reconvened at an abandoned retail space; 11 people were arrested after occupying the space for about two hours.

A coalition of BC environmental groups denounced former BC Premier Gordon Campbell's last-minute endorsement of a letter to the federal government calling on the prime minister to nix a bill that would ban oil tanker traffic off most of the coast of BC. The letter, also signed by the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, raised the ire of the groups, who point to polls showing 80 per cent of Bristich Columbians support the proposal to ban tankers. The federal private member's bill has passed first reading and is now before the Senate.

Plow operators in Prince Edward Island worked 20-hour days in the wake of a series of snowstorms.

Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin confirmed its plans to build a prison in Libya.

Utah activist Tim DeChristopher appeared in court to face two felony counts stemming from a fake bid he placed on oil and gas lease parcels. 300 supporters marched in Salt Lake City to protest the prosecution.

Massey Energy's Hughie Elbert Stover, Security Chief for the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, is the first official to be arrested in connection with the explosion which killed 29 miners last year. He has been accused of lying to the FBI and trying to dispose of key documents.

Women and women's organizations in Vancouver spoke out against sexual assault at women's shelters, in particular a series of at least six sexual assaults at the First United Church co-ed shelter in the Downtown East Side. They called for greater funding shelters to reduce overcrowding, increase services and create more social housing.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers launched a five-city protest across Florida to pressure grocery store chains to support their demands for humane working conditions for farmworkers harvesting tomatoes.

New Brunswick's Moosehead Breweries served employees a lockout notice, and ownership walked away from contract negotiations.

Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews affirmed that, despite new expert analyses denouncing the Harper government's prison-expansion project in the face of falling crime rates, the government will be going ahead with the plan.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced plans to cut parent and grandparent visas by more than 25 per cent from 2010 levels next year, a 34 per cent cut from 2009 levels.

More than 100 people packed a Halifax courtroom to support a local family facing deportation to Pakistan. The hearing was successful: the family won the right to have their application to stay in Canada re-reviewed.

Agent Orange, a highly toxic mix of chemicals used in deforestation and infamous for its use during the Vietnam War, was sprayed throughout Ontario forests from the 1950s to 1970s, soaking the area and forestry workers, an investigation by the Toronto Star revealed.

The Law Society, an organization that regulates lawyers, dismissed a complaint in which the Police Association of Ontario accused the Special Investigations Unit, the provincial body that investigates police misconduct, of “destroying public confidence in the criminal justice system” with a “bias against police officers.” A document release revealed that police forces across Ontario ignore recommendations made by the Special Investigations Unit.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Union of Public and General Employees published their joint report on police actions during the G20 protests in Toronto last June. The reports found that police "disregarded the constitutional rights of thousands" and called for a public inquiry to uncover at what level orders were given to conduct mass arrests. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty responded by again refusing to call a public inquiry.

The coroner's inquest into the police shooting of teenage Montrealer Fredy Villanueva ended with testimony from his mother, Lillian Villanueva. "I'm certain that if my boys were white or Quebecois, this tragedy would have never happened...My son is dead because of racial profiling," she said. Fredy was shot and killed when two Montreal police officers stopped him, his brother Dany and friends while playing dice in a park.

Elections Canada laid charges against the Conservative party and key fundraisers for improperly reporting $1.3 million in national campaign advertising during the last election, and "wilfully" exceeding campaign spending limits.

The International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank, announced its intention to invest $300 million in the next three years in mining companies operating in Africa.

The revolutionary wave of protests in the Middle East and North Africa continued, with demonstrations in Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Western Sahara, and Yemen. In Libya, protest leaders formed a national council in the eastern cities seized from Moammar Gadhafi, and the UN, the US, the UK, the EU and Canada have all frozen Gadhafi's assets in the wake of his continued attack on Libyans.

One hundred thousand people marched in Madison, Wisconsin, to protest Governor Scott Walker's "union-busting" bill that would slash bargaining rights from all public sector workers—except police and firefighters. Hundreds of people occupied Madison's State Capitol during the bill's debate, which was passed amid chants of "shame, shame" from democratic House representatives. Police and firefighters joined the protest and the 11-day camp-out, declaring solidarity with protesters, who defied Walker's orders to leave. Democratic senators fled to Illinois to deny quorum to Republicans trying to push the bill through Senate. Walker was caught on tape saying he had "thought about" planting "troublemakers" among protesters to incite violence, which has been non-existent going into the third week of protest.

Hundreds across Canada rallied in support of ongoing popular uprisings in the Middle East, including in Vancouver, Edmonton, Halifax and Montreal.

Health care practitioners and community organizers in Quebec, including No One is Illegal Montreal, called on pharmacists to resume providing perscription drugs under the Interim Federal Health Program. A dispute between Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Association of Quebec Pharmacy Owners left thousands of refugee claimants and others normally covered by the program without access to medication. While the dispute was technically resolved at the end of January, reports of refugee claimants being denied access persisted well into February.

More than 100 people rallied against a ruling by a Winnipeg judge, who gave a man convicted of rape a conditional sentence without jail time because he found that the rape victim and her friend had made it "publicly known that they wanted to party," were dressed in tube tops and high heels and were wearing "plenty of make-up." "If I decide that I want to be engaged in certain sexual behaviour with somebody I can do that and I'm allowed to say, 'Stop, I don't want to do it any more.' That needs to be respected," said one woman at the rally. The judge's comments are being reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council.

In Guatemala, residents near Canadian mining company GoldCorp's Marlin Mine blockaded the entrance to the site, calling on the goverment to immediately implement a ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that the mine be suspended. Protest organizers were attacked and beaten by supporters of the mine.

The US House of Representatives introduced several major anti-abortion bills and voted to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, a reproductive health organization that provides three million patients per year in the US with family planning, contraception and abortion services. Related initiatives have been launched in many states, including a bill that would outlaw abortions after the first heartbeat can be medically detected in Ohio (for which an unborn child is set to "testify" via ultrasound), legislation to criminalize miscarriages in Georgia and bills in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota that would legalize killing abortion providers.

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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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