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August in Review, Part I

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Issue: 79 Section: Month in Review

August 15, 2011

August in Review, Part I

Free trade deals cut, New Orleans police charged, Alberta tar sands challenged

by The Dominion

Over 1,500 people marched in Fredericton to demand an end to hydraulic fracking and shale gas exploration in the province. Photo: Miles Howe

Over 1,500 people marched through Fredericton this month to demand an end to hydraulic fracking and shale gas exploration in New Brunswick. Local residents are concerned with the effects that fracking may have on their water supply. Other actions in protest, including a blockade, have been used in recent days.

A report quietly released by Environment Canada shows that the development of the Alberta tar sands will undo any gains in carbon-reductions from the phase out of coal-based electricity and ensure Canada exceeds its official carbon-reduction targets by 30 percent. By 2020, emissions from the tar sands will have tripled from 2005 levels, and constitute 12 per cent of the country's total emissions.

During a meeting in Washington Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird lobbied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give the go-ahead for TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil to refineries in Texas. Protests opposing the pipeline's construction, involving more than 1,500 people engaging in civil disobedience, are set to take place in Washington at the end of August.

Friends of the Earth Europe published a report documenting that the Canadian and Albertan governments have organized a hundred lobbying events since the fall of 2009 to beat-back the European Union's plan for legislation targeting tar sands imports to Europe.

Natural Resources Canada admitted that a high-level meeting between industry and government to "turn up the heat" in advocacy of the Alberta tar sands was organized by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Their plans also included targeting the environmental protection efforts proposed by Canadian provinces, such as cleaner fuel standards.

The only new coal power plant being proposed for construction in Canada, by Maxim Power in Alberta, was given approval by the provincial regulator. Critics charged that the process was deliberately rushed to ensure it could be built before the introduction of new federal rules that would require new plants to drastically cuts their pollution. The Maxim Power plant would emit three million tonnes of pollutions every year – the equivalent of adding 600,000 cars to roads in Canada – making it far more dirty than would be allowed by expected new regulations. Pembina Institute and Ecojustice have filed a court challenge to appeal the decision.

Environment Canada will cut more than 700 jobs – over 10 per cent of their staff. Farmers and climate scientists expressed grave concerns that the cuts would deteriorate weather surveillance and forecasting that are growing more important as rural areas begin to undergo climate-induced changes.

Four police officers were charged for participating in the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings in New Orleans in which two civilians were killed and four were seriously injured in the aftermath of the Katrina hurricane. Another officer was convicted of helping the others cover up the incident.

The Canadian Medical Association released a report after a year-long public consultation that showed that most Canadians are dissatisfied with the health care system. The report was highly critical, saying “the health care system is fractured to such a degree that it is, in some ways, a system in name only.”

Members of the Lake St. Martin First Nation met Tuesday with Manitoba officials about the relocation of their reserve, which has been plagued by flooding for decades. This year about 600 residents were forced from their homes in May.

A report by a First Nations leader showed there are currently more Indigenous children in some form of care than when the residential school system was in place. Severe discrepancies between the quality of child welfare services on and off reserve have largely contributed to this trend, coined the "Millennium Scoop."

Employees of Vancouver's JJ Bean coffee chain have been rallying for a union, hoping its creation would bring about a change in the power dynamic between owners, managers and employees.

Members of the Save the Pantages Site Coalition, a grouping of over 30 organizations seeking to save old Pantages Theatre in Vancouver from condo redevelopment, denounced the demolition of the building citing health and safety violations.

Feminist and sex work activist Wendy Babcock was found dead this month in Toronto of an apparent suicide. Babcock had been awarded the Toronto Public Health Champion in 2008 for her tireless work to implement harm reduction strategies for sex workers.

The Syrian government continued its crackdown on pro-democracy forces, resulting in the deaths of thousands. Anonymous, the rag-tag group of hackers, took action and hacked the Syrian Ministry of Defence's website.

Writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe shed light on the root causes of rioting in London this month in two interviews with the BBC. He pointed to the frustrations of poor young people and especially young black people, who are routinely brutalized by city police.

A town hall over the proposal to include Nova Scotia in the African Union was held in Halifax this week. The proposal would see the African Nova Scotian population included in the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus.

The British Columbia government's failure to provide legal funding has caused two women's groups to withdraw from participating in the trial of Robert Pickton. Only 11 community groups remain as participatory community groups in the trial. “The failure to fund counsel for Aboriginal, sex worker and front line women’s organizations essentially shuts these groups out of the Inquiry,” said the West Coast LEAF Women's Legal and Education Action Fund in a press release.

Just weeks after a brutal anti-Islamic rampage in Norway killed scores of youths, Muslims were on the defensive in riot-torn London after three young Muslims were run down. Closer to home, America prepares to remember the 10th anniversary of September 11 as the preacher who said he wanted to burn copies of the Qu'ran plans a march in New York City.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited South America on a whirlwind trade tour. The trip boosted trade with Brazil, ushered in the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement that has been widely criticized for ignoring Colombian and corporate human rights violations, and struck a free trade deal with Honduras. Harper was met by protest in Honduras, as well as at home in Canada, by community groups who argued the trade deal would deepen poverty, worsen human rights and labour violations, and increase corporate impunity, all of which have accelerated since the 2009 military coup that they say Canada tacitly supported.

The Washington Times – not the satirical Onion news outlet – reported that Harper was accused of locking himself in the bathroom after not getting his way during trade negotiations in Brazil.

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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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