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May in Review, Part I

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Issue: 78 Section: Month in Review

May 16, 2011

May in Review, Part I

Plan Nord criticized, Insite scrutinized, Conservatives' Afghanistan lies

by The Dominion

Dozens of protesters took part in the South Fraser Protection Camp to stop the expansion of a highway along the North Delta of the Fraser River. Photo: Stop the Pave

Quebec Premier Jean Charest unveiled the $80 billion, 25-year Plan Nord (Northern Plan), which will see the government invest in transportation infrastructure, hydro projects, and mines and forestry on Indigenous peoples' traditional territories in northern Quebec. Environmental groups criticized the plan for lacking a serious sustainable planning component. Though it has the backing of some First Nations, Grand Chief Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador denounced the plan for ignoring constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights, and for inadequately consulting First Nations.

A report produced by the Workers' Action Centre showed that low-wage workers in Ontario in precarious industries like cleaning, hospitality, retail and construction are victims of "wage theft" or suffer other employment violations. One in three is owed wages or was fired without termination pay or notice.

Toronto city and park officials agreed to work with the Taiaiako’n Historical Preservation Society to restore Snake Mound in the High Park area. The restoration society has maintained that a section of High Park currently used by BMX bikers is a 1,000-year-old Iroquois burial ground.

Twenty-eight First Nations in five different provinces were badly impacted by flooding in recent months, especially in Manitoba. More than 1,000 First Nations people were evacuated from their homes.

Cold Lake First Nation in northern Alberta was granted an interim injunction by a provincial court to stop the Alberta government from expanding camping grounds on a site in their traditional territory which includes burial sites and other areas of cultural significance. Community members erected a blockade earlier in the week, after the Alberta government restarted the expansion, previously halted in 2006 when 4,000-year-old artifacts were found on-site.

The largest oil spill in Alberta since 1975 leaked 28,000 barrels of crude onto the traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree, a few kilometres from their community, making many residents sick. Another smaller spill occurred in the Northwest Territories along an Enbridge pipeline.

At Enbridge's annual general meeting in Calgary, the Yinka Dene Alliance and other Indigenous organizations protested the company's plans to build the Northern Gateway pipeline to carry tar sands oil from Alberta to the West Coast. Corporate backers of the project are divided in their approach: some want to push ahead in the face of massive and co-ordinated First Nations opposition while others recognize that Aboriginal land rights on unceded land throughout British Columbia are an obstacle to be addressed through negotiation.

As part of a province-wide campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in New Brunswick, two dozen people protested SWN Resources' open house in Doaktown. SWN has licenses to search for oil and gas over 2.5 million acres in the province, and plans to frack for natural gas.

Nearly 12,000 Saskatchewan teachers staged a one-day strike for the first time in the province's history, after nearly a year of failed negotiations with the ruling conservative Saskatchewan Party. Ninety-five per cent of teachers voted in favor of job action against low wages: teachers with a four-year degree who are starting work in Saskatchewan earn $7,560 per year less than teachers in the rest of western Canada.

At least 1,500 health-care professionals, from social workers to emergency medical technicians, went on strike in Saskatchewan. Workers all over the province walked off the job after over two years without a contract.

The United Food and Commercial Workers accused the Mexican government of union-busting among workers brought into Canada under the federal temporary worker programs. The union revealed leaked documents that suggest the Mexican consulate prevented Mexican workers who were union supporters from returning to work in British Columbia.

A court injunction forced an end to the South Fraser Protection Camp, set up to block the development of the Gateway Project, a mega-highway expansion in greater Vancouver that critics say will harm air quality, hasten climate change, destroy Indigenous sites and do nothing to reduce traffic congestion. Organizers promised to continue actions to oppose the development.

Housing rights activists in Vancouver launched a campaign to re-open recently closed shelters and pressure all levels of government to provide more funding for affordable housing. On May 2, the municipal government used a new city bylaw forbidding the construction of "structures used for political expression" without permit to dismantle a tent city that had been erected to draw attention to housing needs, including the shuttering of the last of four Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT) shelters.

The Supreme Court of Canada began hearing arguments about the continued operation of Insite, the safe injection site in Vancouver. Despite the Supreme Court of British Columbia's decision that the harm reduction centre should stay open, the federal government has appealed the ruling, claiming Insite violates drug laws. The respondents, which include the Vancouver Network of Drug Users (VANDU), the BC provincial government and the Portland Hotel Society, which runs Insite, argue that drug laws interfere with peoples' rights to life-saving healthcare.

Wikileak cables revealed Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned that NATO's secretary general should keep the alliance out of the Arctic or risk growing tensions with Russia. But another US cable argued Harper's rhetoric on Arctic sovereignty was for domestic political ends and would not be followed up by action, and that the Canadian government could do little to assert its interests in the Arctic without US assistance.

According to another leaked US diplomatic cable, Prime Minister Stephen Harper secretly promised NATO in January 2010 that Canada would consider staying in Afghanistan to conduct army training. Despite the secret pledge, the Conservative government maintained throughout 2010 that the combat mission would end and troops were coming home. It announced the mission extension in November, surprising opposition parties and the public.

Harper continued to be mute about the future of Canada's role in the bombing of Libya, as NATO begins to eye an attack on Tripoli despite disunity in the military alliance. Some European countries consider attacks on Colonel Gadhafi's Tripoli compounds to be "unacceptably close to assassination." Canada's participation is approaching the scale of its bombings in Kosovo in the 1990s, trailing only Britain, France and the United States in number of fighter jet sorties.

Five senior Nova Scotian freelance journalists refused to sign a contract with the Chronicle Herald that would grant the Herald exclusive, worldwide and perpetual rights to their work, with no additional compensation. The Herald’s deal “kills syndication writers,” said Chris Benjamin, one of the journalists out of a contract. “I repackage stuff all the time and sell it to other publications...that's the only way I can make money as a journalist.”

Twenty-one out of 22 daily newspapers from the ten largest newspaper groups in Canada endorsed Stephen Harper for prime minister in the 2011 federal elections. On May 4, Harper won a majority government.

Journalists in Cabanas, El Salvador, received a wave of death threats via text-messages and written notes. The Radio Victoria journalists have been involved in local opposition to Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining company that hopes to build a gold mine in the region. This is the same struggle in which Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos were murdered.

Philosopher and "deep green" environmentalist David Orton died in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Orton was noted for a contribution to deep ecology called "left biocentrism," an environmental ethic that opposes capitalism, economic growth and consumerism.

The Daily Show with John Stewart reported how Asbestos, Quebec, continues to export its name-sake mineral to many countries, including India, while the mineral is banned at home. While asbestos (which the show defined as "slow, hacking death") causes an estimated 100,000 deaths a year, one city official claimed Indians are unaffected by the material. "Maybe they are used to pollution...like antibiotics. They have natural antibiotics," he said.

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Log Cabin Float houses....

I have seen so much destruction's and damages of these houses sitting underwater.What would it be like if these houses floated?Floated,yes floated?
Well, here my solutions to such impact to these houses.First we have to get in to logging our trees.Then we bring them to the mills and start building these houses,neither in log cabins or a simple wooden structures.Where do we put these structural houses?We place them on a very large logs built like a large barge that can be towed.Like what they tow with these tugboats and imagine having houses on there.
Once the floods come in these barge houses will automatically float and the electricity will automatically shut off.Maybe you have home generator installed.This will save billions of dollars of damages.We have to log out our trees for this.We have to log out the ones that needs to be logged out for this purpose only.I can smell the wood-stove burning.Ummm, that smells good...

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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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