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February in Review

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Issue: 82 Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Canada

March 2, 2012

February in Review

Vikileaks tweeted, robocalls investigated and students strike out against fees

by Dominion contributors

Thousands of people marched in Vancouver on Feb. 14 in memory of missing and murdered women across Canada, and called for justice and action in both solving the murders, and preventing future acts of violence towards women. Photo: Murray Bush/flux photo

The federal Conservatives came under fire for allegedly making ‘robocalls,’ or automated calls, to Liberal voters in up to 18 ridings to falsely advise them of a change in location of their polling station. An investigation has been launched by Elections Canada and the RCMP to examine reports of these calls. The Liberal Party and New Democrats have both been blaming the Conservative party for the scandal. Liberal interim leader Bob Rae likened Prime Minister Harper to impeached former US president Richard Nixon: “We are entering into a kind of Nixonian moment in our political culture, where all kinds of dirty tricks seem to be possible, all kinds of dirty tricks seem to be encouraged.”

Nearly 100,000 university and CEGEP students in Quebec went on strike against the provincial government's increase of university tuition fees. The movement may well continue to grow as more student associations vote on their respective strike mandates throughout March. The Provincial Liberal government has implemented a tuition fee increase of $1625 over five years, which would nearly double the current fees.

Across Canada, thousands of students took part in a national day of action against rising tuition fees and decreased Education funding, with 1,000 coming out in Halifax alone.

Twitter account Vikileaks sparked huge controversy across Canada. The account, which was created by a Liberal party staffer, exposed private and embarrassing details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toew’s divorce. The staffer considered it part of a campaign against the online surveillance Bill C-30.

Some 100,000 students are on strike in Quebec against tuition fee increases, with 15,000 participating in a day of action in Montreal in late February, pictured here. cc Photo: mouvementetudiant

Email evidence has surfaced to suggest Defense Minister Peter MacKay enlisted military personnel in order to dig dirt on opposition MPs. These instructions allegedly came about after MacKay was found to have used a search-and-rescue helicopter during a fishing trip in 2010. MacKay dodged questions on the incident, saying he “would not comment on whether military personnel had been inappropriately used for political purposes or whether an investigation would be launched.”

Defence Minister MacKay’s announcement that a small military base was to be built at Germany’s Cologne-Bonn Airport backfired when German politicians and members of the public rejected the plan. They said MacKay never consulted them about the small base. "The airport of a major city is not the right location for additional military air traffic," Cologne Lord Mayor Jurgen Roters said.

Newly released data revealed that Canadian arms companies sold $4 billion worth of military weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia, which is believed to have been used to quash anti-government protests in Bahrain during the Arab Spring. The 2011 sales were more than 100 times higher than the 2010 amount of $35 million. During the protests in Bahrain, more than 30 protesters were killed, hundreds were wounded and nearly 3,000 were arrested.

New information surfaced suggesting the federal government has been instructing CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, to use information obtained through torture. These instructions are contrary to the government’s policy which says CSIS would discard any information that could be tainted, for instance, through torture. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has been quietly telling CSIS to use any information obtained in whatever way if public safety is at stake. "Information obtained by torture is always discounted. But the problem is, can one safely ignore it when Canadian lives and property are at stake?" Toews said in question period on February 7.

A new report released on February 28 by the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the controversial omnibus crime bill, Bill C-10, would cost $8 million for the federal government and $137 million dollars for provinces and territories to implement. The report, "The Fiscal Impact of Changes to Eligibility got Conditional Sentences of Imprisonment in Canada,” based its estimates on data from 2009-2009.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s department was accused of misusing personal information of hundreds of new Canadians in order to organize a staged citizenship ceremony for Sun News during with ministry workers posed as recent immigrants.

Kenney also re-introduced immigration reform proposals that failed to pass before the 2011 federal election. Opposition MPs and immigrant rights advocates decried the package of policies, including the establishment of two-tracks for asylum-seekers that would categorize some countries as 'safe.' Critics claim this leaves the refugee application process open to political interference. It will also allow for refugees to be stripped of their residency status should their country become 'safe' in the future.

New figures released by the Immigration and Refugee Board showed that, nearly two years after their arrival on the ship the MV Sun Sea, only three Sri Lankan refugee claimants out of 600 have had their requests for refugee status accepted. Another 13 claims were withdrawn and five were abandoned. The hundreds of refugee claimants have been detained since their arrival in 2010.

The 21st annual Women’s Memorial March drew hundreds of people on to the streets of Vancouver. In addition to remembering women who have gone missing or lost their lives in the Downtown Eastside community, on the Highway of Tears and across Canada, this year’s march also protested the ongoing Missing Women Commission of Inquiry that has excluded the voices of many indigenous and women’s groups.

First Nations in Canada sent an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, and to the Chinese media, urging China to criticize human rights issues related to the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its interim report. The commission made 20 recommendations, including a call for residential school education material to be included in public school curriculum. The commission was set up to help First Nations heal from their abusive and traumatic experiences at residential schools.

A new study revealed that Canadian police agencies have been actively suppressing and hiding racial data from their annual crime reports to Ottawa. The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, said that the deliberate concealment of racial data makes it impossible for researchers to determine whether police forces have been dealing with racial and ethnic minority groups in an equitable manner.

More than 600 Huichol Indians, an Indigenous group of western central Mexico, trekked to their sacred ground, the Cerro del Quemado—or the Burned Mountain—to pray to the gods and ask for help in fighting against Canada-based First Majestic Silver Corp.’s $100-million mining project. This mining project is earmarked to start this year in the area after the Mexican government granted a mining concession to the Canadian company. The reserve is one of UNESCO's World Network of Natural Sacred Sites.

Hacker group Anonymous launched attacks on the Mexican mining industry in solidarity with Indigenous groups whose sacred lands are being threatened by mining developments. Of the many sites targeted by the hacking campaign, one is a site developed by Canadian-based mining company First Majestic Silver Mine.

The Harper government successfully derailed an environmental lobbying effort to make refiners worldwide pay financial penalties for using the carbon-intensive crude from Alberta’s tar sands. An EU vote on a proposed regulation to label oil sands as being more carbon-intensive than other crude sources, which would effectively ban oil sands crude, failed after France and Netherlands abstained in a February 23 vote in Brussels.

A Quebec court slowed down a pipeline project that would allow crude to come from the Alberta tar sands. Based on findings of the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec, the court has requested that Pipe-Lines Montreal needs to justify its proposed pumping station in the Eastern Township town of Dunham before it could be permitted to develop.

An economic report commissioned by the Ontario government proposed sweeping cuts to public services. The report was issued by Don Drummond, a former assistant deputy minister for the federal department of finance in the 1990's and the former chief economist for the Toronto-Dominion Bank. Opponents of the proposal claim the report is a set of "1% solutions, that benefit the 1%."

Palestinian political prisoner Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike on February 21. Adnan was arrested without charge by the Israel military and he was protesting this inhumane practice against political prisoners. But while his strike was going on, there was little to no mention of it in Canadian media.

Mohamed Harkat, a Montreal resident who has been charged under Canada's security certificate laws as being a member of a terrorist organization, launched the first challenge of the Canadian government's new security laws since they were introduced in 2008. In 2007, the Supreme Court overruled the previous version of the laws, saying they were too secretive to allow for a proper defense. Harkat's lawyers are arguing that a 2010 judgement against their client shows the new laws do not go far enough in remedying the situation.

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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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