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May in Review, Part I

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Issue: 60 Section: Month in Review Geography: Earth

May 16, 2009

May in Review, Part I

Toxic spills, police raids, and Canwest gets more time, prints fewer papers

by Dominion Staff

Over 2,000 people marched in Toronto under the banners of No One Is Illegal, to make it clear that "migrants, with or without status, working people and the poor will not be criminalized." Photo: Jonathan McIntosh

Mohawk people on both sides of the 49th parallel protested the federal government's decision to arm border guards with guns, temporarily shutting down the border at the US Port of Entry at Massena, near Cornwall, Ontario. On June 1, border guards there will be equipped with 9mm Beretta Px4 Storm guns. According to government plans, all 6,000 Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) agents along the Canada-US border will be armed by 2016. May 1 is significant because on that day in 1899 Saiowisakeron, a Mohawk leader, was killed by Dominion of Canada Police for protesting attempts by the federal government to control Mohawk governance.

CBSA border agents and police with dogs raided Mohamed Harkat's house in Toronto. Harkat was arrested in 2002 and spent 43 months in jail without charge. The cops rifled through the personal belongings of the Harkat family and confiscated notebooks. Harkat's wife Sophie called the raid "the second-worst day of my life, after Mo's arrest."

Over 2,000 people mobilized in the streets of Toronto, demanding legal status for all in response to April raids on migrant workers in Ontario. "We occupied the Yonge and Dundas intersection in the heart of downtown Toronto to make visible the non-status people that this sweatshop city wants to hide away," reads a statement by No One Is Illegal Toronto, which organized the demonstration.

Thousands of Tamils and their allies continued months of sustained demonstrations and took over a highway in Toronto to demand that Canada intervene in the ongoing war in Sri Lanka. Over the last two weeks, at least 378 civilians were killed and over 1,200 wounded by government shelling in a so called "no-fire" zone. A hospital was also shelled, killing at least 50 people.

Protesters raise a sign outside Federal environmental hearings in Calgary. Photo: Eriel Tchekwie Deranger

Kitigan-Zibi police found bones near Maniwaki, Ontario, which were sent to a lab to determine whether or not they are human. Maisy Odjick, 17, and Shannon Alexander, 18, have been missing from the area since September 5, 2008, and searches for the two girls continue.

A leak in a storage tank at the Kinder Morgan oil plant caused more than 200,000 litres of crude oil to spill near a residential area in Burnaby, BC. Residents who live near the oil plant smelled an odor, but were not informed by the company of what had happened. It is the second time in less than two years that Kinder Morgan has caused an oil spill in Burnaby. The company is currently planning to expand pipeline capacity to carry more crude oil from the Athabasca tar sands.

Indigenous people including Winona LeDuke, former Presidential candidate, along with former members of the American Indian Movement, declared that they are opposed to a series of new 458km pipelines proposed by Enbridge. The pipelines, which would run through 13 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, would carry oil from the Athabasca tar sands, and return an oil thinner to Alberta for reuse. Enbridge hopes to begin construction this summer.

The European Union signed an agreement with Azerbaijan, Egypt, Turkey and Georgia, for a new natural gas pipeline, expected to reduce Europe's reliance on Russia. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan did not sign on to the proposed 3,300 km Nabucco pipeline.

Toxic sludge from Canadian miner Barrick Gold's North Mara mine in Tanzania spilled into River Thigithe which flows into the Mara River. According to Tanzanian journalist Evans Rubara, "When such toxic wastes flow into River Mara (Kirumi) then the whole of East Africa, parts of Central Africa and parts of Africa where River Nile flows also may stand some danger." Meanwhile, people are reportedly organizing to take samples of the water and dead fish for testing.

Mexican police raided a peaceful occupation of a Canadian-owned mine site in Oaxaca, Mexico. Villagers had been blockading the mine because they were not adequately consulted about exploration activities in the area, which are being carried out by Fortuna Silver.

A group of protestors made themselves visible at a Federal Environment Committee meeting held in Calgary, hoisting a large banner with helium ballons that read, “Water Is Life. Protect Inherent Treaty And Human Rights.”

Evidence surfaced that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among the first American officials briefed about "enhanced interrogation techniques" in 2002. Pelosi, a Democrat, had claimed that she did not know about torture used by the Bush administration.

US airstrikes in Afghanistan killed at least 149 people in Farah. An Afghan human rights organization accused the US of using phosphorus bombs, which the US denied.

US budget allocations for the war in Afghanistan surpassed those for the war in Iraq for the first time since Iraq was invaded in 2003.

The Senate of Illinois passed a resolution against the war in Afghanistan. "The Senate believes that it is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Afghanistan," reads part of the resolution.

Canadian forces withdrew from Mushan, west of Kandahar. "Canadian and Afghan soldiers did not bring peace into the area where we are living," a villager of Mushan told the Canwest News Service.

The Canadian forces also declared that they are prepared for Swine Flu in Afghanistan. According to the Canadian Press, "the only known pig in Afghanistan, a predominantly Muslim country, was quarantined recently at a zoo in Kabul."

Two hundred thousand people were displaced in Pakistan during an army assault on militants in the Swat Valley. "The army is now engaged in a full-scale operation to eliminate miscreants," said military spokesman Gen Athar Abbas. Over half a million people had previously been displaced from the region, which is close to the border with Afghanistan.

Eleven people were arrested near Fort Lewis in Washington as they blockaded armored personnel carriers from traveling to the Port of Tacoma, from where they would eventually deploy to Afghanistan. "Our goal is to raise the economic cost of these military shipments, to the point where no port is willing to take them," said Shyam Khanna, an activist with Port Militarization Resistance.

Hundreds of laid-off Belgian and French workers stormed ArcelorMittal's annual general meeting in Luxemburg. The steel company announced that they will lay off over a thousand workers in the US.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that firms that provide services to the country's oil industry will be nationalized. The BBC estimates that the nationalizations will affect 300 boats, several ports and approximately 8,000 oil workers.

A prominent Guatemalan lawyer posthumously accused Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom of his murder on a videotape. The lawyer, Rodrigo Rosenberg, was shot while riding his bicycle. Colom has called for an investigation of the murder by the UN and the FBI. According to the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), rumours of a coup d'état circulate as the potential for violence between the president's supporters and opposition grows.

Indigenous communities in Ixcán, Quiché, in Guatemala, celebrated the second anniversary of their consulta (referendum) regarding natural resource use with a sacred morning ceremony at the site of the planned Xalalá dam.

The government of Cuba unexpectedly pulled the plug on an official Canadian diplomatic mission led by junior foreign minister Peter Kent. The reason the visit was canceled is unknown.

The Bilderberg group met in Vouliagmeni, Greece. The Bilderberg group consists of about 140 rich and powerful people who hold secret meetings annually.

Documents emerged which proved that Trafigura, a British oil company, dumped nearly two tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. A class action lawsuit against the company in Britain is ongoing, brought by more than 30,000 people from the Ivory Coast. (Given the current federal legal framework, this type of legal action would not be possible against a Canadian company today.

BC voters went to the polls in record low numbers, electing Gordon Cambpell and the BC Liberals to their third four-year term. Half of eligible voters cast their votes, leading to speculation that fixed election date voting during the Stanley Cup Playoffs was responsible for the low turnout. A referendum on changing the first past the post voting system to a Single Transferable Vote system failed to win a majority of votes.

Vancouver City Council voted to convert one lane of car traffic to accommodate cyclists on the Burrard Street bridge. It was the first time that Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision Vancouver city council moved to take car space away for bicycles.

Hundreds of people converged at the Federal Liberal Convention in Vancouver to protest the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. “If [the Liberals] allow this deal to pass, it'll be even harder to tell them apart from the Conservatives,” said Micheál Ó Tuathail, member of Vancouver-based Colombia solidarity group La Chiva.

The Obama administration announced they are planning to pass a Free Trade Agreement between the US and Panama. The deal was negotiated during the Bush Administration, and in addition to being a NAFTA-style deal, has been criticized due to Panama's status as a tax shelter.

Canwest Global Communications Corp, one of Canada's largest media corporations, received a two week extension from their lender on a $30.4 million interest payment. Canwest is currently carrying a debt of $3.9 billion. The company announced that the Monday edition of their flagship paper, The National Post, would not be printed for nine weeks during the summer.

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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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