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January in Review

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Issue: 81 Section: Month in Review Geography: Canada

February 1, 2012

January in Review

"Radicals" surged, gold mine suspended, CSIS rejected

by Dominion contributors

A "Notice of Termination" for Rob Ford, signed by many residents of Toronto, at the Stop the Cuts rally in mid-January. Photo: Mike Barber

Members of the Pictou Landing First Nation voted 119 to 20 to reject Nova Scotia's offer of $3 million in exchange for icing their lawsuit against the province for a minimum of 2 years. The band, in serious financial difficulties, has turned to the court system after the province repeatedly reneged on promises to stop allowing pulp and paper effluent dumping in Boat Harbour, and to begin cleaning up the environmental disaster.

The Canadian Auto Workers union continued strike action against employer Caterpillar at Canada's only locomotive plant, in London, ON. Caterpillar has offered workers a drastic cut in salaries and a gutting of their pension funds. ""Its frustrating that this government keeps giving handouts to corporations and in return these corporations just slam workers [...] and shut the doors and lock out workers when they have made them so profitable." said Nancy Hutchinson, from the Ontario Federation of Labour.

The Argentinian province of La Rioja suspended Vancouver-based mining company Osisko's license for the Famatina gold mine project following protests by thousands of residents in the area. “There’ll be no further activity ... as long as people oppose [the project]", said the provincial governor.

Protestors in Toronto clashed with riot squads in front of city hall. With cuts to core services looming in the proposed municipal budget, hundreds gathered inside, and outside, city hall, as part of the Stop the Cuts campaign. Aiden Hennings from Stop the Cuts described the scene: “I was at the front, trying to get into City Hall. [The police] started grabbing people outside the barricades. I was grabbed by my hair and they tried to drag me through their lines, but other people took me back. About five minutes later I was pepper sprayed from a foot away – the officer smiled while he did it, and my two little sisters were punched in the face by police as well.”

American pharmaceutical giant Merck announced it has earmarked between $21 and $36.8 million in compensation for Canadians involved in legal action against the company over harm caused by taking Vioxx. Vioxx, once considered a "super aspirin," was taken off the market in 2004 after it was found to cause cardiac problems, and death.

Nova Scotia power monopoly Emera announced it is once again delaying the massive Muskrat Falls project, estimated to cost $6.2 billion. The feasibility of the project, which stands to bring hydroelectric power from Labrador, via undersea cable to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Eastern seabord of the United States, has of late been brought into doubt. This is the third delay for the multi-thousand megawatt project. Many wonder whether the project is necessary, since Hydro Quebec is willing to sell energy for cheap and the link up between Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes would be significantly cheaper.

As of noon on Jan. 2, the 100 richest CEOs in Canada had already made the salary of an average Canadian worker, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The same report showed that in 2010, the top CEOs in Canada made 189 times more than the average Canadian worker, raking in an $8.38-million versus $44,366.

Consultations into Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway oil pipeline began in northern British Columbia. Over 4,000 people have signed up to intervene at the consultations, which are now expected to last two full years. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver released an open letter the day before the consultation process began, warning against the influence of foreign money and radicals in the process. Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated that the pipeline, which would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to a port in BC for export to Asian markets, is in Canada's national interest.

Since Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver's statement, environmental organizations opposing the pipeline have reported tens of thousands of dollars in new donations and an equal surge in people signing onto campaigns and petitions against the pipeline.

Newly uncovered documents revealed that the Canadian government sees environmental and Indigenous groups as adversaries in the development of the tar sands industry, and the department of Aboriginal Affairs and the National Energy Board, which is overseeing the consultation, as allies.

The First Nations alliance against the Gateway pipeline grew to over 100 nations when Indigenous communities from Alberta and the Northwest Territories signed on to the Save The Fraser declaration in January.

Nova Scotians rallied in Halifax and Cape Breton against hydraulic fraction to extract natural gas in the province. Opponents to fracking, as the process is commonly known, point to its link to incidents of well-water and soil contamination as reasons the provincial government should put a stop to the controversial practice. One speaker said that in an area of Nova Scotia, up to 60 homes had lost their well water following the start of seismic testing for natural gas.

Mexican journalist and government whistleblower Karla Berenice García Ramírez filed a final request for refugee status in Canada. The writer and her family have faced death threats after she leaked thousands of pages documenting corruption and graft at Mexico's National Council for Culture and Arts. In rejecting her previous requests for refugee status, the Canadian government stated that Mexico is safe and democratic, reducing the need to grant refugee status to their citizens.

“Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011," said Reporters Without Borders as it released its 2011/12 Press Freedom Index, pointing to 12 months that saw journalists pitted against government and police forces throughout the uprisings in the Middle East and protest camps in Europe and North America. The report singled out Honduras, Mexico, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq for violence against journalists, and impunity for perpetrators.

Montreal police shot and killed Iranian-Kurdish refugee Farshad Mohammadi following an altercation with police. Mohammadi, who was homeless, allegedly cut a police officer with a utility knife. He had put the knife in his pocket and was walking away when police shot him from behind. It was the second time the police have shot and killed a homeless man in Montreal in the past seven months, leading to renewed calls for better services for the city's street-involved population and for an independent review commission to investigate police violence. Currently, such investigations are assigned to other police forces.

Lawyers for the Ontario Provincial Police filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada over a ruling that officers, in the event of a fatal shooting of a suspect, cannot have their notes vetted by a lawyer before they are turned over to investigators . The OPP's lawyers claim the ruling, which was made in a legal battle led by the mother of Levi Shaffer, who was killed by OPP officers, violates officers' fundamental legal rights.

Mining company Vale suspended activity at its five mines in the Sudbury region of Northern Ontario following the death of mine worker Stephen Perry, 47. Perry died in a mine while loading a rock face with explosives, and investigations are ongoing. This is the fourth fatality of a Canadian Vale employee in the past seven months.

Diamond mining company De Beers lobbied government officials to allow them to drain a lake in the Northwest Territories, decimating local fish habitat, in order to move forward with its Gahcho Kue diamond mine.

The chief of the First Nation community of Attawapiskat, which is facing a severe housing crisis, called for revenue sharing from the nearby De Beers diamond mine, near James Bay in Ontario. While the community does receive fixed payments from the company, "Great riches are being taken from our land for the benefit of a few... Our lands have been stripped from us and yet development on our land area in timber, hydro and mining have created unlimited wealth for non-native people and their governments," said Chief Theresa Spence.

About 50 anti-racist protesters rallied outside of a Vancouver court house during the hearing of neo-Nazi Shawn MacDonald, a member of the Blood and Honour white supremacist organization. MacDonald is facing charges for attacks between 2008 and 2010 on an aboriginal woman, an Hispanic man and a black man. Other members of Blood and Honor are also being charged with the 2009 assault of a Filipino man who was set on fire while he was sleeping outside on a couch.

US President Barack Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported tar sands oil from northern Alberta through the US to refineries in Texas. Obama said that the decision was not based on the environmental impact of the pipeline but rather due to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives forcing the government, in late December, to produce a decision on the pipeline within 60 days.

Newly released documents revealed that then-industry minister Tony Clement played a role in selecting which projects were granted money via the 2010 G8 Legacy Fund. The fund provided money for construction projects to be built in the lead up to the G8 meetings held in the Muskoka region. Clement, who is the MP for the region and now Secretary of the Treasury Board, claims his office had nothing to do with the decisions, but critics have accused his office of using the money to gain political favor among constituents.

Mandy Hiscocks and Leah Henderson, two of the six co-accused who accepted plea deals in November to end the so-called G20 Conspiracy trial, were sentenced to 16 months and 10 months of prison, respectively. None of the six people who accepted plea deals were convicted on conspiracy charges, and their 11 other co-accused saw all charges dropped. "I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat. I want to tell you that you might be too," wrote Henderson in an open letter before being sentenced.

In Montreal, the People's Commission Network announced that 68 organizations across Canada have signed on to a campaign of non-co-operation with CSIS, Canada's federal spy agency. “[CSIS' actions] creates a climate of fear and insecurity, so people stop wanting to get involved in community organizing of any kind because they feel it will attract unnecessary attention,” said a representative of the South Asian Women's Community Centre, which has joined the coalition.

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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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