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June in Review, Part I

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Issue: 78 Section: Month in Review

June 15, 2011

June in Review, Part I

Postal workers locked out, First Nations housing cut out, federal budget called out

by The Dominion

Brigette DePape, the "rogue page" who interrupted Prime Minister Stephan Harper's Senate Throne Speech, modified her stop sign during an Ottawa demonstration to call for solidarity with the striking Canadian postal workers, now under threat of back-to-work legislation. Photo: Chichi Ayalogu

In its June 6, 2011, federal budget the Conservative government pledged to cut the public service by a third. Later that week, as the Conservatives met for their national policy convention, hundreds took to the streets of Ottawa to protest the new Harper majority government.

Having failed to settle the ongoing strike with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canada Post locked out the entire workforce, though the union had been rotating strikes that had not seriously impacted mail delivery. "I see it as a manoeuvre on the part of the corporation to try and get the government to legislate us back to work and legislate some type of unfavourable collective agreement on to us, as opposed to allowing the free and collective bargaining process to work itself out," said Gerry Deveau, CUPW national director for Ontario.

Air Canada's customer service employees voted by a landslide to engage in strike action as a last resort after frustrations mounted with increasing employment insecurity and the company's refusal to remove demands for major concessions to the existing pension plan.

The struggle to raise minimum wages made gains in BC, but not for those who serve alcohol. Minimum wage in BC will rise from $8.00 an hour to $8.75, but workers who serve alcohol, because it is assumed they receive tips, will not benefit from the increase.

OpenMedia.ca, which advocates for accessible and diverse media in Canada, published a report criticizing the nation's largest telecommunications companies for pushing policy changes that would allow them to structure fees and speeds and limit online access to all but the wealthiest customers.

The UN declared internet access a human right. A report released earlier this month calls the internet one of the strongest tools for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information and organizing direct action. The number of internet users worldwide is currently over 2 billion.

Residents of Moncton, NB, successfully rallied around the Maeng family, ordered by Citizen and Immigration Canada to leave Canada within a month, after declaring the family's 15-year-old autistic and epileptic son's care was too expensive. Thanks to community support the family, originally from South Korea, has been granted a three-year stay and is applying for permanent residency.

Canada's prostitution laws were debated in the Ontario Court of Appeal, as the federal government challenged a recent provincial court decision that found anti-prostitution provisions in the Criminal Code violate sex workers’ constitutional right to security by denying them an opportunity to seek options for safely conducting their business. In court, the five-judge panel seemed skeptical about the government’s argument that sex workers are not being placed at risk by provisions that make it illegal for them to hire drivers or bodyguards, or work in brothels. "Isn’t it sort of a matter of common sense that if you take away the protection, there is going to be some risk?" one justice asked.

The Manitoba government issued a study of the causes and consequences of current flooding, and how to deal with excess moisture in agricultural land, but several frustrated farmers feel it is too little, too late.

Montreal's largest no-kill animal shelter appealed for help from the public as it was forced out of its lease after a 33 per cent rent increase. The shelter's president, Barbara Lisbona, has refused to euthanize the animals and is instead seeking a new home for the Animal Rescue Network.

A Conseil Regional de l'Environnement de Montreal public space specialist recommended modifying zoning designation to prevent the destruction of Montreal's Faubourg St. Laurent community garden.

Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario called for an overhaul of the province's foster care system, as a report found that 40 to 60 per cent of foster kids end up homeless.

The auditor general, in her last report before retirement, pointed to the dramatically substandard quality of life for First Nations people. She found living conditions have "deteriorated" since she took office 10 years ago.

Ottawa announced a Joint Action Plan with the Assembly of First Nations to herald a "new phase" in its relationship with First Nations, with action promised on education, job creation, and improved governance.

Member of Parliament Carolyn Bennett revealed in the House of Commons that the 2011-12 Conservative budget cuts $127 million from housing on First Nation reserves.

Access-to-information documents revealed the Harper government has been spying on First Nations communities taking concerted political action to promote their rights since 2006.

Twenty-four hours after disrupting traffic on Route 138 in northern Quebec, the Innus of Pessamite secured a meeting with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and the ministers tasked with managing Hydro Quebec about the province's Plan Nord, a multi-billion dollar plan to develop, harvest and extract natural resources north of the 49th parallel. Quebec environmental groups have also denounced the plan, saying that it does little to consult with Indigenous groups or plan for the impacts of such large-scale development.

The Syrian military killed 34 protesters, bringing the death toll during popular uprisings in that country to 1,000. In Montreal, hundreds rallied on June 11 as part of an international day of action in solidarity with the ongoing democracy protests.

The Quebec government refused to grant child assistance benefits to Abousfian Abdelrazik because his name remains on the UN 1267 blacklist, despite a lack of incriminating evidence. A delegation of union, community, faith-based and solidarity organizers will travel to the United Nations in New York to press the Chair of the 1267 UN Committee to de-list Abdelrazik.

The Canadian government publicly stated it would not adopt any emissions reduction targets under a proposed extension to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. A federal report showed that in 2009 the Canadian government’s attempts at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions resulted in a total reduction of four mega-tonnes or just over 0.5 per cent.

Despite public pressure, the provincial crown corporation Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) pursued plans to send local business representatives to Israel on a trade mission. The mission would seek partnerships between key industry sectors such as security and defense.

In response to NSBI's initiative, Halifax resident Miles Howe registered his own export company, Peaceful Waters Trading Company, and collected local goods from Halifax small business people who expressed their wish to do business with Gazan small businesses. As owner of Peaceful Waters, Howe attended NSBI's workshop, and announced his plan to facilitate trade with Gaza in defiance of Israel's blockade of the country, by bringing goods aboard the Tahrir, a Canadian boat that will sail to Gaza later this month.

The government of New Brunswick amended provincial forestry laws to state that the government "shall compensate" companies for costs incurred due to changes in provincial forestry regulations. Environmentalists criticized the bill, saying it opens the door for private companies to be compensated each time new environmental protections are brought in that reduce logging production.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May remains the only federal MP publicly opposed to a "Mega-Trial" bill that would see groups of accused put on the fast-track to sentencing. The legislation was encouraged and advocated for by NDP justice critic Joe Comartin.

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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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