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April in Review

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Issue: 83 Section: Month in Review Geography: Canada Canada and the world Topics: month in review

May 2, 2012

April in Review

LGBTQ activist mourned, Missing Women commission scorned, foreign workers' salaries shorn

by Dominion contributors

People from across Ontario gathered in the southern town of Caledonia to show their support for Six Nations on the sixth anniversary of the Douglas Creek occupation. Photo: Kevin Konnyu

Opposition to tankers, oil and gas pipelines on Canada’s West coast continued. Hundreds of people gathered at the BC provincial legislature in Victoria, for the Rally Against Enbridge. Enbridge is the company behind the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry tar sands crude from northern Alberta to port in BC, leading to a rise in tanker traffic. Critics say that both the pipeline and the tanker traffic pose a significant risk of oil spills and environmental contamination.

The US Justice Department filed the first criminal charges connected to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. A former BP Engineer, Kurt Mix, was arrested on charges of deleting hundreds of text messages between himself and his supervisor that were related to the failed attempts at plugging the BP well, which continues to leak crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Thousands have been marching through Montreal's streets nightly for the past week to opposed the provincial government's increase in tuition fees and to call for more accessible higher education. The marches are part of the 12-week long student strike. Photo: Neal Rockwell

Police and protesters clashed for two days in Montreal during a forum and job fair for the Quebec government's Plan Nord northern development plan. On the second day, 80 protesters—many of whom witnesses said were peacefully demonstrating—were placed under mass arrest while participating in a rally organized by the RRQ coalition (Réseau de Resistance du Québécois) and InnuPower.

Dutch-born, Albertan environmentalist and activist Wiebo Ludwig died at the age of 70. Ludwig was perhaps best known as having been convicted of five charges related to a pipeline bombing and vandalism that occurred in 2000. Ludwig’s farm, near Hythe, Alberta, is in the veritable eye of the Peace Region gas fields, where not everyone is happy with the gas-fueled boom.

The province-wide student strike in Quebec entered it's twelfth week, with 180,000 students still not attending class in protest of rising tuition fees. Nightly protests in Montreal have been taking place for a week straight (with up to 25,000 people participating) following the government's abrupt expulsion of the leading strike association, CLASSE, from negotiations due to a protest which featured some property damage being listed on an open calendar on their website. The other four student associations taking part in the negotiations walked out as well. While both sides have made proposals since, negotiations are now at a standstill.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled that the province’s requirement that trans- people can only change the sex on their birth certificate after sexual re-assignment surgery is “substantively discriminatory” and ordered the government to change its regulation. The decision could have impacts in jurisdictions across Canada.

Well-known and respected Halifax LGBTQ activist and organizer Raymond Taavel died from injuries incurred while defending a friend during a physical attack outside Menz and Mollyz Bar. Taavel was involved in a wide range of organizations, from co-chairing Halifax Pride events to being a lead organizer with Fair Vote Nova Scotia. Three hundred people attended a memorial rally only a few hours after he died. Witnesses said that Taavel’s attacker used homophobic slurs during the fight; he is being charged with second-degree murder.

The Department of National Defence was harshly criticized by Auditor-General Michael Ferguson for withholding information from political decision makers about the purchase of F-35 fighter jets. An “unknown bureaucrat” is being blamed for the typographical error categorizing the F-35 deal as being in the “definition” project phase, meaning it had received preliminary approval from the Treasury Board, which it never actually had.

There appeared to be confusion as to who exactly is legally-bound to clean up Boat Harbour, the natural estuary lagoon that has for years been an effluent dumping site for the Abercrombie Point pulp and paper mill in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia government has demanded a report outlining the intended clean up procedure from current mill owners Northern Pulp. This is contradictory to the indemnity agreement that the province signed with the mill in 1998, stating that the clean up is the province's responsibility if the mill should ever close.

Alleged Wikileaks whistleblower Breanna Manning will be going to trial on September 21, 2012, on the charge of "aiding the enemy," after a military judge rejected the argument that all charges against Manning be dropped due to “prosecutorial misconduct."*

Refugee rights activists in seven cities across the country took action against Bill C-31, dubbed the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act by the Conservative government. The activists, who refer to the bill as the Refugee Exclusion Act, occupied Conservative MP offices and dropped banners to draw attention to the new regulations.

A wide range of organizations issued an open letter explaining why they are boycotting the Missing Women Inquiry in British Colombia, and rejecting Commissioner Wally Oppal's invitation to resume their participation. The 15 groups range from Battered Women's Support Services, to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, to Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence. "The Inquiry was dead at the point—and was completely strangled—when Premier Christy Clark denied funding" for the legal representation of Indigenous and women's organizations, UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told reporters. "Oppal is beating a dead horse."

Demonstrators from across Ontario marched to mark the sixth anniversary of the Douglas Creek Estates development occupation in Caledonia. The occupation was carried out in 2006 by members of Six Nations in order, they said, to reclaim their traditional territory of Kanonhstaton. The land dispute is still unresolved. Earlier in the month, the mayor of Caledonia had called for the cancellaton of the march, calling the land claim dispute a “quagmire.”

In response to Chilean student protests for more accessible university education and lower tuition fees, President Sebastian Pinera announced his government would establish new taxes to raise $700 million to cover ballooning tuition fees. Chileans pay some of the highest university fees in the world, and students have vowed to continue their protests&mdahs;which have been ongoing for the past year— saying the government’s reforms do not go far enough.

The federal government announced it was introducing two-tiered wages for temporary foreign workers, who employers will be allowed to pay 15 per cent less than the average hourly wage in their sector of work. The government had previously said it would not institute a two-tier wage system; labor and immigrant rights activists denounced the change as introducing second class workers and provoking wage depression, as local workers would be forced to compete with lower-paid foreign workers. For the first time ever, there are more temporary foreign workers than permanent immigrants migrating to Canada.

Israel legalized the three settlement outposts of Bruchin, Rechalim and Sansan in the occupied West Bank. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also been involved in preventing the demolition of another illegal settlement, Ulpana, after a court found it was built on private Palestinian land. In reaction, US State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated, "We are obviously concerned, we don't think this is helpful to the process, and we don't accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” while UN Chief Ban Ki-moon released a statement that he was “deeply troubled” by this “provocation.”

The nation-wide internal uprising in Syria against President Bashir Al-Assad has entered its 14th month, resulting in a UN-estimated death toll of 9,000 civilians. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused the Ba’ath Party regime of war crimes during a two-week offensive in the northern province of Idlib as the UN attempted to broker a ceasefire.

Tens of thousands of people across the country enjoyed 4/20, the unofficial holiday for all things cannabis. While revellers self-medicated without police interference in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto, tickets were handed out and arrests were made in London, Ontario, and Regina.

*We originally referred to Breanna Manning as Bradley Manning, perpetrating mainstream media practices of mis-naming and mis-gendering her. We have since corrected the text, and we apologize for the error.

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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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