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[l] at 7/16/19 4:07pm
July 16, 2019 The chuckwagon races at the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" back in the day. Photo: Calgary Stampede Yet another annual message to the Calgary Stampede: don't hurt animals for entertainment This barbaric and pointless activity should be an embarrassment to every Albertan.
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[l] at 7/16/19 12:05am
David J. Climenhaga The chuckwagon races at the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" back in the day. Photo: Calgary Stampede

There will be a "thorough review process surrounding chuckwagon safety" after the deaths of six horses during the 2019 Calgary Stampede, which is now mercifully over.

Oh, please! There will be no meaningful review of the safety of the horses that are abused for fun at the Stampede, just as there will be no meaningful review of the undeniable cruelty to which these animals are subjected.

Pro forma annual claims that "this is as upsetting to us as it is to our community" don't change a thing.

Interviews with professional chuckwagon racers saying how very, very sad they are and what a pal their horses were don't change anything either.

And repeated assurances like this year's pledge "the Stampede's commitment to the safety of animals and the conditions of their participation in our events is paramount to our values and brand integrity" won't change anything at all.

Promises like these don’t change anything because it's plain on the face of it that the only thing the Stampede takes seriously is the bad publicity generated among "bleeding hearts" like me every time a horse has to be put down after a chuckwagon race.

The plain ugly fact is the equine carnage continues year after year at the Calgary Stampede because chuckwagon races are exciting and nobody in Alberta gives much of a hoot.

"The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth," they call it, and I guess that's true if you consider pointless cruelty for the sake of entertainment a great show. Horses die virtually every year for the entertainment of the humans who pack the Stampede grounds to witness the thundering excitement of "the chucks," and they're dying in greater numbers than usual this year.

Unlike other rodeo sports, which may be cruel in the sense they're uncomfortable for the dumb beasts involved, chuckwagon races are particularly dangerous for horses because of the nature of the creatures themselves and the tactics used by wagon drivers to cut off competing rigs. The resulting spills are exciting for spectators -- and deadly for horses.

As ever, whenever horses are killed, those who protest this cruelty are sure to be dismissed as sissies and do-gooders. The deaths will be ignored by the Stampede's organizers, and by everyone else in political Alberta. Certainly our new United Conservative Party government will ignore them because they make a cult of trying to look and sound as butch as possible in their Smithbilts, chaps, spurs and Cuban heels. (Just like the NDP did in 2015, come to think of it.)

Me, I'm just sick of it. I'm sick of the learned treatises about how horses love to run and how and if they could talk would surely tell us they’re good with the risk of being whipped around the track for the entertainment of the people of Calgary.

I've got news for you: If Mr. Ed, the talking horse of 1960s TV fame, were still around, he'd tell you he'd rather give the chuckwagon races a miss, this year and every year, thank you very much.

I'm sick of hearing how the Stampede is all about the cowboy's trade and a vital part of our precious western culture, yadda-yadda.

I hope readers will forgive me one more time for the appropriately western metaphor when I say that at least as far as the chuckwagon races are concerned, this is pure bullshit.

You can make a case for calf roping as a worthwhile cowboyin' skill. You can even make a case for riding belligerent broncs, bulls and steers as not being all that dangerous for the beasts, most of the time. You can argue persuasively that both rodeo events emphasize riding and roping skills still vaguely relevant to the Western agricultural sector.

No such case can be made for chuckwagon races.

Racing sandwich trucks and taxicabs around the track through an active pedestrian crossing would have more relevance nowadays to the state of the cattle industry in Calgary -- which hasn't been entitled to call itself Cowtown since the last cattle auction decamped for Strathmore in 1989. (And I was there, buckaroos, covering it for the Calgary Herald.)

What is the relationship between the agricultural industry of 2019 and racing wagons too small to carry sandwiches and coffee pulled by four horses accompanied by mounted outriders around a track, using demolition derby tactics to keep competing rigs from passing?

As I have said time and again in this space, everybody in Alberta knows rodeo activities are cruel to animals, everybody in Alberta knows chuckwagon races are dangerous for horses, and nobody in a position to do anything about it cares enough to bother.

Mostly, we let this go on because we don't care, because we enjoy the spectacle, because there's money to be made doing it -- more than $1.45 million in prizes this year -- or some combination of the three.

The Calgary Stampede ethic emphasizes courage and masculinity. But real men aren't cruel to dumb beasts for no reason but entertainment and money.

This barbaric and pointless activity should be an embarrassment to every Albertan, especially those who think of themselves as a real men.

Will the Stampede's governing board ever man up and do anything about this? Not a chance. I leave it to readers to make of that what they will.

A timely note to readers about the words used above

I admit it, this post is almost word for word the same as the one I published on July 13, 2015, a year in which only four horses died in the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races. Like I said then, it's not plagiarism if you're plagiarizing yourself.

About all I had to do this year was revise the number of equine casualties, note the diminishing size of the prize pot, and change the name of the political party in power that encourages this travesty. Plus update the pious quotes from the Stampede, of course.

Why bother changing anything else? At a time in history when even Catalonia and three Mexican states have banned bullfighting, nothing has changed at the Stampede -- which may not be the Greatest Outdoor Disgrace on Earth, but is certainly in the running -- or ever will without pressure from outside Alberta.

Well, in fairness, some things change. Chuckwagon race prize money this year appears to be down from more than $2 million four years ago. I wouldn't be surprised the declining prize money is an indicator of what consumers are telling companies that sponsor pointless cruelty. Maybe that's a message that should be passed on to this year's sponsor of the event, General Motors Corp.'s GMC truck division.

In addition to the ever-popular suggestion the horses died doing what they loved, the defences trotted out for this annual disgrace keep getting more preposterous. Consider Licia Corbella's column in yesterday's Calgary Herald, which tries to portray criticism of Stampede chuckwagon racing as evidence of "an undercurrent of anti-western sentiment."

She quotes stockbroker J. P. Veitch, the former bull rider nowadays generally known for his supporting role as husband of former Conservative MP and leader Rona Ambrose, saying "the criticism reminds him of the refrains heard about Alberta's energy sector."

In fairness, Mr. Veitch was talking about bull riding, not chuckwagon races. But you wouldn't want to be a horse as lame as this kind of argument. I wonder whatever happened to the spike in the Calgary Herald newsroom we used to use for submissions like this?

Well, this much is true. After 71 years of doing very little to diversify our economy from fossil fuels, Alberta would be in deep trouble if the oilpatch dried up overnight. But ending cruelty to washed-up racehorses sent down to the chuckwagon circuit? I think our economy could stand the blow.

Maybe the hearings by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's House Un-Albertan Affairs Committee into foreign-funded defamation and disinformation will be expanded to include people who think chuckwagon racing is a national embarrassment and cowboy boots make your feet hurt if you're just walking around in them.

What the hell, we might as well be as moronic as possible.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Calgary Stampede 

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[l] at 7/15/19 1:45pm
July 15, 2019 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter So Justin Trudeau said nothing new, but why did his pipeline presser make Conservatives so angry? Announcements that don't contain much news are absolutely a staple of democratic politics, and Conservatives are masters of the art form.
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[l] at 7/14/19 11:22pm
David J. Climenhaga Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

Conservatives' faux shock at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's relatively news-free pipeline construction announcement in Edmonton last week was a thing to behold.

The tone generally was, "there oughtta be a law," to wit, a law against making announcements when you have nothing to announce. Only with considerably harsher language, of course, because nowadays the Conservative rage machine is, well, fully enraged.

Now, Trudeau may not have had much to announce, and he may have been surrounded by men and a few women in blue boilersuits when he announced it, but two things must be remembered about this in half-hearted defence of the PM:

First, announcements that don't contain much news, and re-announcements of things that have already been announced, are absolutely a staple of democratic politics, employed by all political parties in all democratic jurisdictions.

Second, the Conservative Party of Canada and its provincial farm teams are masters of this political art form, as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his ministers demonstrate regularly in a stream of government news releases that don't contain much news.

Not only that, but using humans as props is standard operating procedure, as Kenney famously illustrated back in his days as federal immigration minister when his department dragooned a dozen professional civil servants into pretending to be new Canadians for a political Kabuki performance put on for the benefit of the Sun News Network.

Say what you will about Trudeau, at least the blue-boilersuited folks standing by supportively Friday in Edmonton were real workers, not, in effect, actors, and unwilling ones at that, as in the case of Kenney's fake citizenship ceremony in 2011. Naturally, Kenney denied that he was responsible for the hoax, blamed his officials and refused to apologize.

Nor were Trudeau's human props actual actors with political science degrees like the once and future roughneck trotted out by one of the multitude of Conservative support groups not so long ago -- although, that's not to say no one in the group with the PM had a university degree, of course.

Meanwhile, as Canadian Conservatives were reacting with weirdly hysterical fury to Trudeau's newser, Kenney was doing essentially the same thing to better reviews from the trained seals in mainstream media.

The same day as Trudeau was in town, Kenney was announcing a meaningless "bold step to increase free trade in Canada" by dropping half of the province's exceptions to the so-called Canadian Free Trade Agreement, a bit of neoliberal inter-provincial folderol cooked up by the usual suspects in 2017.

This was done, I guess, to show that a Conservative federal government would make Canada more prosperous by discouraging provincial public sectors from supporting local businesses. How making sure big corporations in other provinces can shove aside local suppliers is supposed to support hard-pressed regional economies is not entirely clear, despite the market fundamentalist dogma nowadays pretty well universally accepted as gospel among Canadian political parties.

As an aside, it's important to note that most of the exceptions on the list were demanded by Rachel Notley, then the NDP premier of Alberta, to ensure profits from rebuilding Fort McMurray after the devastating fire in 2016 weren't pocketed by companies from outside the community. Many had been recommended to her by then Opposition leader Brian Jean, the Wildrose MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, to protect his community.

So it's interesting that Kenney is willing to toss these useful tools over the side for meaningless symbolism without much thought to future disasters to which his government's climate policies may well contribute.

Regardless, on the list of restrictions "unilaterally" dropped by the United Conservative Government was "procurement of local food under the Supporting Alberta's Local Food Sector Act."

Now, the Supporting Alberta's Local Food Sector Act is a somewhat misnamed bit of NDP legislation passed last year, mainly concerned with ensuring food sold in local markets as organically grown is accurately described as such.

Still, there's something mildly ironic about the idea of unilaterally ensuring that a legislative effort to support local farmers no longer excludes farmers from other provinces!

Lending even more cognitive dissonance to this posturing was the fact, only a week earlier, that Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen was imploring us to "buy Albertan" to save farmers "caught in the crossfire of a bunch of international fights that have nothing to do with them."

"Everyone can do their part and help our farmers by buying Albertan," the MAGA-cap minister pleaded.

I suspect most Albertans will do exactly as Dreeshen's boss is encouraging government officials to do, to wit, look for the best price, regardless of where it comes from.

Of course, a certain amount of policy incoherence from Premier Kenney is not entirely unexpected, as we Albertans are coming to learn.

An appropriate response, however, is one of genial contempt, not the seething fury that greeted Prime Minister Trudeau's newser.

We can only speculate on why this might be, but it suggests that Canada's Conservatives, having talked themselves into the idea they're a deadbolt cinch to win the next federal election, are starting to realize that thanks in part to friends like Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Andrew Scheer's coronation as prime minister in October may not be the sure thing they'd imagined.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

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[l] at 7/12/19 4:05pm
Zaid Noorsumar Locked out janitorial staff. Photo: Zaid Noorsumar

Should a janitor be expected to purchase their own garbage bags if they need more than are provided by their employer? Is it reasonable to ask cleaning staff to use four rags to clean an entire building including washrooms? These are some of the questions being asked by a union representing janitors in Toronto.

Service Employees International Union Local 2 says that working conditions have been deteriorating for the cleaning staff at The Icon condominiums in downtown Toronto since the property management company hired a new contractor last summer. 

The six janitors, all of whom are immigrants and people of colour, have been locked out of their jobs following a breakdown in negotiations with Luciano Janitorial Services. 

Their last contract, which had been negotiated with the previous cleaning company, expired on March 31.

The union has been picketing outside the condo this week and held a rally on Friday, June 11.

Heavy concessions

Jorge Villa, an organizer with SEIU Local 2, says that the contractor has asked for heavy concessions including: reducing two personal days from the current allotment of four; cutting the employer's contribution to the benefits plan (including dental, optical and medical) from 80 per cent to 30 per cent, so that each worker would have to pay an additional $720 per year; and only giving workers a $0.30 hourly increase to $14.80 over three years.

"We successfully negotiated with other contractors in the city," says Villa. 

"And we essentially went to this contractor with the same proposal saying, you know, we expect him to have the same standards as every other employer that has cleaners in Toronto. But this contractor has basically been difficult."

New contractor, lower costs

Luciano took up cleaning operations in the twin condos at 250 and 270 Wellington St. last year. SEIU says that they had better relations with the previous contractor.

Villa believes that the pressure to cut costs is likely coming from Del Property Management which opted for a cheaper cleaning firm.

"It's all an opportunity to cut down costs. And obviously, at the expense of the workers," Villa says. 

"Downtown Toronto is one of the most expensive places in the city and they want to pay peanuts to the people cleaning it."

Both Del and the The Icon's board of directors declined to comment. 

Consequences for workers (and residents)

Joven Velasco, one of the locked-out janitors, says that his workload has increased as at times two cleaners are expected to perform the same work as three workers. 

The provision of cleaning supplies is also an issue, as staff are being forced to limit usage of garbage bags and cleaning rags. The union points out the sanitary risks of recycling supplies.

"[Luciano] says, 'If the garbage bags don't last the whole month, you yourself will have to buy them,'" says Joy Tabap, a union representative.

Zaid Noorsumar is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2019, and is a journalist who has previously contributed to CBC, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and Rankandfile.ca. To contact Zaid with story leads, email zaid[at]rabble.ca.

Photo: Zaid Noorsumar

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[l] at 7/12/19 11:17am
July 12, 2019 Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath. Photo: Ontario NDP/Flickr Where's the urgency in the NDP's politics? Forget the past. What youth are most serious about is the present, in which they're starting to drown. Urgency may be the socialism of today.
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[l] at 7/11/19 9:03am
July 11, 2019 Murray Rankin speaks at 2013 NDP convention in Montreal. Photo: Foreen/Wikimedia Commons NDP remains committed to democratic socialism, despite claims to the contrary A reference to the NDP having removed "socialism" from the preamble to its constitution at the 2013 NDP convention has had surprising longevity -- given that it is not true.
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[l] at 7/10/19 1:47pm
July 10, 2019 Green Party canvasser in B.C. Photo: Vancouver Ghost/Wikimedia Commons Predicting federal election results may be dicey, but discerning the best outcome is not It's possible that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives will win a majority in this election. Many former Liberal supporters may decide to "go Green" instead of voting NDP or Conservative.
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[l] at 7/9/19 1:27pm
July 9, 2019 ibourgeault_tasse/Flickr Passing of Bill 21 is an affront to Canadian pluralism and Quebec values With the passing of Bill 21 into law in Quebec last month, members of several communities are reeling over the decision by the CAQ government to limit freedoms for its citizens.
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[l] at 7/9/19 12:37pm
Zaid Noorsumar Canada Post delivery truck. Photo: Open Grid Scheduler/Flickr

Canada Post spent $21 million to fight pay equity

The Toronto Star reports that Canada Post spent $21 million in legal fees as it resisted attempts to institute pay equity. The company released figures from 1989 to 2013, as the matter went all the way to the Supreme Court. However, Canada Post said it didn't have records going back to 1983 when the complaint was initially filed by the workers.

No more incentives for workers dealing with Phoenix payment fiasco 

The federal government has not renewed an incentive package for workers who have been addressing the Phoenix payment fiasco. The package for compensation advisors had been instituted in August 2017 and expired last month as they worked towards reducing a massive backlog in payments to federal employees.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada criticized the government for letting the agreement lapse, warning that the move will once again increase the backlog.

Over 400,000 jobs created in the last 12 months

The new labour force survey reveals that Canada lost 2,200 jobs last month. However, 421,000 have been added to the economy in the past year. Average wages for permanent employees also rose by 3.6 per cent relative to last June.

Although the unemployment rate rose by 0.1 per cent to 5.5 per cent, the survey attributed that to more people seeking work.

About 3,000 forestry workers go on strike in British Columbia

Workers voted nearly unanimously in favour of a strike as negotiations failed between United Steelworkers and Western Forest Products Inc. The union says that the employer is asking for "massive concessions," according to the CBC.

Ontario union raises issue of unregistered electrical workers after workplace death

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) -- Construction Council of Ontario attributes a recent death of an electrical worker in downtown Toronto to companies saving costs by not registering workers, according to a Global News report.

Construction workers talk health and safety in Newfoundland

Nearly 4,000 construction workers participated in Construction Safety Stand-Down, organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association. 

Two workers have died in the industry in the past 18 months in addition to 300 injuries, according to the CBC.

Read more: Workplace deaths in Canada vastly greater than recorded by official stats

Mexican "temporary" farm worker dies in Ontario town

An agricultural worker died in Leamington, Ont., although the employer says his death wasn't work-related. The man was in his 20s and considered a "temporary" worker despite working for over two years.

82 per cent of BC Ferries workers have been abused by passengers

The majority of BC Ferries workers face abuse on the job from passengers including physical threats and harassment, according to their union. The BC Ferry and Marine Workers' Union (BCFMWU) has launched a public campaign and is calling on the employer to institute a zero tolerance policy.

Hundreds protest legislative assault on public sector workers in Alberta

Hundreds of people turned up to protest outside a Calgary hospital on Wednesday, in response to Bill 9. The proposed legislation will delay wage negotiations and arbitration for 180,000 public sector workers including teachers and nurses.

CLC disciplines union for raiding CUPE

The Canadian Labour Congress has found a union guilty of raiding as it attempted to recruit CUPE members in New Brunswick.

The Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers faces sanctions from CLC for its quest to sign up licensed practical nurses who are currently represented by CUPE.

Zaid Noorsumar is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2019, and is a journalist who has previously contributed to CBC, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and Rankandfile.ca. To contact Zaid with story leads, email zaid[at]rabble.ca.

Photo: Open Grid Scheduler/Flickr

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[l] at 7/9/19 12:22am
David J. Climenhaga Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at provincial legislature. Photo: Chris Schwarz/Alberta Government/Flickr

Here are three predictions about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's inquiry into that "foreign-funded defamation campaign" against Alberta's fossil fuel industry.

  1. It will be a gong show.
  2. It will cost far more than $2.5 million.
  3. It will end up harming the industry, and Alberta.

The roots of this likely debacle are found in the Public Inquiries Act, an overreaching and authoritarian piece of Lougheed-era legislation that is vulnerable to challenges under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which postdates it by a couple of years.

With the caveat that your blogger is not a lawyer, it seems obvious that the act's sweeping overreach extends to denying witnesses at the whim of the commissioner -- who can be anyone, even a partisan hack -- protections they would have in a court of law.

Health information, sexual preference, secrets divulged to a spouse, a priest, or a physician, or information protected by the privacy statutes of Alberta and Canada would all appear to be fair game under this legislation.

A reader might reasonably ask: then why hasn't it been challenged already? The answer is likely that there aren't many inquiries, and those that have been conducted hitherto under this law have not been intended as witch hunts with a political agenda driven by revenge. But that was then, this is now, and the United Conservative Party is in power, so challenges are likely.

Even a politically motivated inquiry conducted by a retired judge, as alert readers of this blog will recall, ended up being pretty much a fiasco.

Moreover, since Kenney has made it clear in his own speechifying and social media posts that he intends to use the work of the inquiry to criminalize free speech and free association guaranteed by the charter, that opens new avenues of appeal should victims of the planned inquisition choose to take them.

Then there is the question of whether the entire inquiry is an exercise in bad faith conceived to allow the premier to exercise what he has called his "bully pulpit." As Justice Ivan Rand of the Supreme Court of Canada famously wrote in 1959, "there is always a perspective within which a statute is intended to operate; and any clear departure from its lines or objects is just as objectionable as fraud or corruption." (Emphasis added.)

In the case of the Public Inquiries Act, whatever it was drafted to achieve, it certainly wasn't to enable a witch trial based on a half-baked conspiracy theory, nor was it intended to enable any premier to exercise open malice against the environmental movement.

Will the Kenney government's inevitable, and inevitably time-consuming, defences of its conduct in the face of charter challenges be included in the inquiry's supposed $2.5-million budget? They certainly will be part of the true cost, no matter how they are accounted for.

When Premier Lougheed's boys sat down to draft this law, however, they added a bit of democratic window dressing in Section 12, which says parties defamed or put at risk of legal action have the right to cross-examine witnesses, either by themselves or through their legal counsel.

Of course, given the temper of the times, the drafters of the law also gave the commissioner the ability to yank the right to cross-examine away from witnesses, but that in turn presents additional problems for this particular inquiry and the government that has implemented it.

To refuse the right to cross-examine exposes the inquiry as a fraud. Moreover, it invites a witness from a target organization to seek an injunction to halt the inquiry on the basis it will cause irreparable harm while a charter challenge proceeds. Successful or not, that means the meter is going to be running, o taxpayers.

Needless to say, many of the environmental non-governmental organizations that are the intended targets of this inquisition will be ready to exploit this, extending the inquiry's time frame, raising its cost substantially, and publicly shredding the credibility of some of the government's prosecutorial witnesses.

I imagine we shall see performances so theatrical they are worthy of Milo Rau, the Swiss-German playwright-director who has based a career on deconstructing foreign legal travesties and tweaking the noses of dictators. (Even Vladimir Putin failed to stop him!)

It would be very hard for the commissioner, who is an accountant and civic public relations official, to keep this under control.

Moreover, unless the government can find a Court of Queen's Bench judge willing to take part in such a charade (always possible, I suppose) it would appear that the inquiry has no power to hold anyone in contempt for, say, refusing to answer a question on the grounds it violates privacy law.

In addition, the inquiry has no authority outside Alberta, so anyone not from here who is disinclined to waste their time can just ignore it. However, I imagine most ENGO's won't want to squander the opportunity afforded by this soapbox.

More opportunities for drama and legal recourse will arise as the real litigators get their sharp teeth into this matter, of course, as doubtless is already happening.

But the foundation of a legal gong show at a dramatically higher cost, however it is accounted for, has already been built.

As for the damage to Alberta and its industry, I would think a travesty of justice and process as this is obviously intended to be would stiffen the spines and open the pocketbooks of opponents of oilsands development around the world, perhaps turning Kenney's hitherto largely unfounded conspiracy theory into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you're a defender of the Alberta oil patch, no good can come from that.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Chris Schwarz/Alberta Government/Flickr

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[l] at 7/8/19 10:20am
July 8, 2019 Former prime minister Stephen Harper, whose 2008 bitumen export plan sounded suspiciously like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's now-reviled version. Image: Wikimedia Commons Stephen Harper's proposed restrictions on bitumen exports caused no uproar. So why the fury at Justin Trudeau? The principal thing that is different at this moment is simply this: there's a Liberal government in Ottawa.
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[l] at 7/5/19 3:07pm
July 5, 2019 New citizens in Prince George take the Canadian oath of citizenship. Photo: Province of British Columbia/Flickr Survey on Canadian attitudes towards immigration riddled with flaws This week, CBC News released the results of their pre-election online survey. It gives an inaccurate and highly problematic picture of public opinion on Canadian immigration.
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[l] at 7/4/19 9:47am
US Politics World U.S. President Donald Trump addresses military personnel and their families Sunday, June 30, 2019, at Osan Air Base, Korea. Photo: Tia Dufour/The White House/Flickr

"Axis of Evil" first appeared in former President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in January 2002, describing Iraq, Iran and North Korea months after the September 11 attacks. Fourteen months after the speech, the United States invaded Iraq. The U.S. remains at war there 16 years later.

Now, U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening Iran with "obliteration" while he visits and showers praise on North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. Why the different treatment of these two remaining countries in the "Axis of Evil"? It's simple: North Korea has an estimated 20 to 60 nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them, and Iran lacks nuclear weapons. The lesson is painfully clear: to avoid a devastating war with the United States, develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent.

Despite what many Trump critics are saying, including many of the Democratic presidential contenders, Trump's brief meeting last week with the North Korean dictator was a good thing. Diplomacy is better than war. A war with North Korea would be catastrophic. Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which works globally to reduce the dangers posed by nuclear weapons, told CNN in 2017: "You strike North Korea, they are going to strike back, and they have a devastating conventional arsenal built up on the border that could lay waste to Seoul. … Estimates are that hundreds of thousands of South Koreans would die in the first few hours of combat -- from artillery, from rockets, from short-range missiles -- and if this war would escalate to the nuclear level, then you are looking at tens of millions of casualties."

Those are just the predicted deaths in South Korea. Add potential nuclear strikes on Japan, Hawaii and possibly the U.S. mainland, and the casualty figures become unimaginable. 

We should be grateful that Trump is pursuing negotiations with North Korea. We should congratulate him on becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea last week.

One opponent of such dialogue is Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton. While Trump was in the Koreas last week, Bolton was dispatched far away, to Mongolia. After The New York Times reported that Trump was considering accepting a North Korean nuclear freeze, as opposed to complete denuclearization, Bolton tweeted, "Neither the NSC staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to 'settle for a nuclear freeze by NK.'"

Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are also widely believed to favour a military conflict with Iran. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. spy drone recently, alleging it had entered Iranian airspace. Trump ordered a military strike in retaliation, then called it off at the last minute.

Trump should be condemned for launching the attack, but applauded for aborting it. War with Iran would be incredibly destructive on all sides, and would likely spread throughout the Middle East. If it were to happen, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warns, Trump could very likely order the use of so-called tactical nuclear weapons against Iran.

In the midst of this geopolitical tinderbox, the Trump administration is attempting to deliver nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, a key antagonist of Iran. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not ruled out using the nuclear power plants he hopes to buy to develop nuclear weapons.

Bipartisan congressional opposition to the Saudi nuclear deal is growing, not only due to the danger of nuclear weapons proliferation, but also because of Saudi Arabia's relentless bombing of Yemen, causing the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and its brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. California Democratic Congressmember Brad Sherman told Arms Control Today, "If there's a government that you can't trust with a bone saw, you shouldn't trust it with nuclear weapons." 

Another concern in Congress is the potential conflict of interest of Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner's family business received a massive bailout last year from a hedge fund called Brookfield Asset Management (BAM). BAM also owns Westinghouse Electric, which would profit from nuclear plant sales to Saudi Arabia. Kushner's strong personal relationship with the Saudi crown prince is well known.

With the United States openly gearing up for war with Iran, while actively seeking to empower Saudi Arabia with the technology it needs to develop its own nuclear weapons, is it any wonder that Iran has just announced it will begin amassing and enriching uranium again? Iran had been adhering to the terms of its multilateral nuclear deal, even after Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement. 

President Trump is forcing Iran to follow the route taken by North Korea: build a deterrent nuclear arsenal or be destroyed. We need a grassroots, global response to stop this new nuclear arms race before it goes any further.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Democracy Now!

Photo: Tia Dufour/The White House/Flickr

Donald Trump Iran North Korea nuclear weapons Amy Goodman Denis Moynihan July 4, 2019 U.S. rejection of war would be fitting tribute to Jamal Khashoggi The murder of Jamal Khashoggi may sway enough Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to block further U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's destruction of Yemen, and to suspend arms sales. Why aren't we hearing about the growing threat of nuclear war? Unlike the climate change battle, where a worldwide movement is managing to push the issue onto the political agenda, the fight to rid the world of nuclear weapons has become regarded as hopeless. Donald Trump is the biggest threat to U.S. national security As Trump campaigns around the country, he gins up fears of foreign enemies attacking the U.S. But he has shown that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is Trump himself.
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[l] at 7/4/19 9:36am
July 4, 2019 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces a federal pollution pricing system. Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO Trudeau's climate plan is a dangerous fraud Justin Trudeau's climate package gives us a false sense that we can dramatically increase output from Alberta's tar sands without seriously imperiling the world, and ourselves.
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[l] at 7/4/19 9:32am
Zaid Noorsumar kai kalhh/Pixabay

The Canadian Green New Deal movement is picking up steam, as prominent activists join forces with over 80 organizations to demand radical change.

On June 11, Indigenous lawyer Pam Palmater and journalist Naomi Klein were two of the speakers at a Green New Deal town hall in Toronto. More town halls are planned in the next few weeks, with an open invitation to organize events to anyone committed to building the movement. 

Modeled after the demand for a Green New Deal in the U.S., the Canadian version aims to build a mass movement that can pressure government to take bold actions. 

Instead of implementing temperate solutions such as the carbon tax, the Canadian Green New Deal calls for an economy that redistributes wealth and resources to benefit the vast majority of the population while drastically reducing emissions.

That translates into transformative action on "systems of transit, energy, housing, agriculture, and public services" as well as addressing migrant justice.

"The migrant labour piece needs to be central in that," says Karen Cocq, an organizer with the labour-advocacy group Fight for $15 and Fairness.

Alongside multiple unions such as CUPE, the Green New Deal coalition includes labour advocacy groups including Migrant Rights Alliance for Change

Cocq emphasizes solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Canada and abroad who have been displaced due to corporate extractivism, leading to disruption and forced migration.

Migration due to environmental factors

According to the United Nations, the degradation of the environment plus the effects of climate change are key drivers of migration (along with violent conflicts). 

Between 2008 and 2016, alone, more than 227 million people across the world were displaced due to extreme weather events. 

According to the United Nations, forecasts on "environmental migrants" vary between 25 million and one billion people"by 2050.

Cocq says that environmental issues are inextricably bound with other crises of capitalism, and require comprehensive solutions that fundamentally change our society.

"The climate crisis is created by an economic system that prioritizes profit-making, and commodification of natural resources," she says.

For the benefit of a tiny elite, the same system uproots Indigenous populations, exploits workers and creates massive wealth disparities, she adds.

Canada's role in overseas conflict and environmental degradation

Over 50 per cent of publicly listed mining companies across the world are headquartered in Canada.

However, the interests of Canadian mining companies overseas -- supported by the federal government -- have been linked to environmental damage and human rights abuses including murder and sexual violence

York University's Osgoode Hall Law School released a report in 2016 linking 28 Canadian mining companies to 44 killings and hundreds of injuries in Latin America from 2000-2015. 

Canada's involvement in Honduras is a particularly chilling example. Canadian mining companies profited off the 2009 military coup, which overthrew a democratically elected government that had placed a moratorium on new mining projects.

The coup -- tacitly endorsed by Canada -- was followed by brutal repression, as civil society and activists resisted the "open for business" policies. 

The ensuing violence resulted in displacement of people who have sought migration to safer countries like the U.S. and Canada (and faced vilification in the process).

From mining interests overseas to extracting tar sands at home, Cocq sees the Canadian state as a facilitator of corporate profiteering that disrupts Indigenous populations and pollutes the environment.

"The Canadian government enables that because they are constantly seeking to appease the interests of our industry," she says.

Justice for migrants

Cocq says that capitalism's exploitation of labour particularly targets immigrants including so-called migrant workers.

"The immigration system in Canada is designed to produce workers that don't have access to the same rights and the same equality as other workers," she says, referring to the multiple immigrant streams that create arbitrary distinctions.

While "skilled workers" are granted permanent resident status on arrival, care workers and farm workers' temporary status deny them basic rights such as labour law protections, health care and the ability to change employers,. 

"The role of immigration and migrant work as a tool for exploiting labor for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many is really central to that economic model," Cocq says.

A radical Green New Deal

The Canadian Green New Deal is premised on the requirement of "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society," as warned by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

In other words, there is no choice but to take bold action -- and to transform the way the Canadian government functions.

"We need to be cutting emissions drastically, and transitioning away from the fossil fuel economy," Cocq says. "And the Canadian government is doing the opposite, and Canadian industry is a large part of the reason why."

"Because [capitalism] is a highly exploitative system, that is a fundamental part of what is driving this problem to begin with. And so if we aren't appropriately addressing the exploitation of migrants, we are never really going to get to the heart of [the problem]."

Zaid Noorsumar is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2019, and is a journalist who has previously contributed to CBC, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and Rankandfile.ca. To contact Zaid with story leads, email zaid[at]rabble.ca.

Image: kai kalhh/Pixabay

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[l] at 7/3/19 11:28am
July 3, 2019 Fabrice Florin/Flickr We can resolve the climate crisis If we understand the problem and its urgency -- and mountains of scientific evidence amassed from around the world over decades confirms we do -- and we have solutions, why are we so slow to act?
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[l] at 7/2/19 12:37pm
July 2, 2019 Pencil on paper. Image: madca7/Wikimedia Commons Cartoonist fired after Trump cartoon goes viral De Adder's June 26 cartoon was inspired by the shocking photograph of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who died attempting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico.
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[l] at 7/2/19 8:37am

British Columbians (and people across Canada) have been price gouged and misled by cell phone providers for far too long. We continue to pay some of the highest prices for cell phone bills in the industrialized world, and Big Telecom's misleading and aggressive sales tactics make the headlines on a regular basis.

Back in 2013, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) passed the Wireless Code of Conduct in order to help protect customers from Big Telecom's predatory practices and provide more clarity around cell phone contracts. However, its weak enforcement mechanisms and loopholes have left the door open for abuse on behalf of Big Telecom -- ranging from surprising customers with cell phone bills in the thousands of dollars to continuing to charge customers for device subsidies long after the device has been paid off.

Fortunately for British Columbians, the provincial government recently announced a plan to improve cell phone customer protections and launched a survey to gather people's experiences with their cell phone providers. The survey is open until July 5.

This rare opportunity has great potential to result in groundbreaking provincial-level legislation that complements the federal Wireless Code of Conduct and introduce stronger enforcement mechanisms and penalties, so that Big Telecom can't get their way.

But in order to make this groundbreaking change happen we need British Columbians to speak out and make the government feel the pressure. So OpenMedia has launched a petition detailing specific asks to strengthen cell phone customer protections at the provincial level and ensure that British Columbians get a better deal when signing up for a cell phone plan.

OpenMedia has also been invited to meet in person with the B.C. government to present our views. We will be using this opportunity to deliver the aforementioned petition and bring our community's voices straight to key decision makers.

Provincial legislation to protect wireless customers isn't a novelty -- Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia, have passed laws to better protect their constituents and close some of the loopholes found at a federal level in the Wireless Code.

Ontario had them too through the Wireless Services Agreements Act until Doug Ford's government scrapped it with the passage of the unpopular Bill 66.

Now, it's B.C.'s turn to step up and pass the strongest provincial legislation to protect cell phone users yet.

If you are reading this article and live in British Columbia I encourage you to sign and share OpenMedia's petition as well as take five minutes out of your day to complete the government's cell phone survey. Together we can demand and attain a better deal for B.C.!

Marie Aspiazu is a Campaigner and Communications Specialist at OpenMedia, a non-profit organization that works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. Digital Freedom Update is a monthly column from OpenMedia looking at digital policy issues, including free expression, access to the Internet, and online privacy.

Digital Freedom Update CELL PHONES big telecom BC Digital Freedom Update Marie Aspiazu July 2, 2019 Why is CRTC chair repeating Big Telecom's talking points against net neutrality? If Canada is to remain at the forefront of innovation and freedom, we need a robust net neutrality framework that doesn't benefit those with deep pockets and vested interests. The Big Three's 'low cost' data plans are a bad joke Big Telecom's proposed low data plans are a slap in the face. If the CRTC thinks that this is the solution to wireless affordability that Canada is hungry for, it has clearly not been listening. It's time to bring Canada's wireless market out of the Stone Age -- here's how Why are we stuck paying sky-rocketing bills while Big Telecom's narrative is all about increased investment and providing quality service?
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[l] at 6/30/19 4:27pm
Raluca Bejan Screenshot of web search for the word "whiteness"

Whiteness is a hot topic nowadays. From BuzzFeed to the New York Times, there seems to be a never-ending fascination with discussing privileged societal positions derived from skin colour appurtenance, seen, in return, to universally cut across all imaginable distributive axes of allocating group advantages and disadvantages.

Yet talking about whiteness mainly benefits those doing the talking. Careers are created, such as the one of Robin J. DiAngelo, whose bestseller book on White Fragility aims to show that a white woman can explain to other whites what they "don't get about whiteness and race"; status positions are continually juggled, as shown by many examples of racialized, tenured academics, who fail to see the contradiction between cashing in sunshine list salaries while simultaneously playing the subaltern card (although their class status offsets the adjacent material effects of such racialized positioning); and new markets unendingly affixed, to broadly disseminate the white privilege epistemological rhetoric that sustains the aforementioned salaries, positions, and tenured carriers.

Such is the case with the recent "Historicizing Whiteness in Eastern Europe" conference. The event, organized by a group of British academics, unfolded last week, on June 25 and 26 in Bucharest, Romania. Eastern Europe seems a ripe cultural market for the introduction of the Anglo-American analytical concepts of whiteness and race. The communist modernity of the former Eastern Bloc saw itself in non-racial terms. In the Soviet rhetoric, the term "identity" -- marked as "face" (litso) -- was conceptually entrenched with the markers of class (klassovoe) and political identity (politicheskoe) and not necessarily with race per se, which was considered a concept specific to the West. But now, after the Berlin Wall fell and the post-communist word moved towards the capitalist West, the import of such taxonomies, formed by the Anglo-American word, is no longer deemed flawed.

The main message spread at the conference was that the whiteness-race dialectic has been existent in the region yet hidden from ongoing analyses about racialized subjects. Papers ranged from simplistic accounts on the subject matter (i.e., the Roma are racialized; the Albanians are white), to conceptual incongruences, such as defining whiteness by providing a descriptive characterization of race, or defining it simply as a phenotypical possession (i.e, skin colour), hence a proxy for possessing privileges, to much more complicated chronological accounts with historicized racial formations from Carl Brigham's times. Most of these conceptual accounts were positioned within the Anglo-American analytical paradigm of defining whiteness. There was little engagement, however, with problematizing the taxonomic system that produces definitions of racial formation and, through these definitions, the very same system of racial differentiation.

Two contentious points come into mind.

First, the presumption that there is a universal, global process of racial formation, whereas whiteness is seen to retain an ontological sameness, unanimously manifested across various geopolitical spaces and national referential frames, is historically and conceptually flawed. From a historical perspective, it is important to note that racial taxonomies as well as the societal understanding of what constitutes whiteness, and respectively race, changed throughout time. If Carl Brigham and William Ripley secured their Princeton and respectively Harvard professorships by writing about whiteness and race as expressed by blood or one's shape of the head, our current understandings of the terms (i.e., as phenotypically embodied by one's skin colour), trickled down in the 1940s, from the anthropology field. In writing from an anti-racist standpoint and against the racialization of the Jews, anthropologist Franz Boas made it unquestionable that three major races, White, Asian, and Black, corresponding to the Caucasian race, the Mongoloid race and the Negroid race, would suffice in explaining what identity is all about. Recent taxonomic examples, however, show us that current racial classifications cannot capture this presumed homogeneity of racial identity. Let us look at national official counts, for example.

 The U.S. Census, which generally records three "official" races and an added Native category, classifies the Iranian nationality under the white taxonomy. Systems of classification do matter in the allocation of societal rights. If Iranians, are white, for example, and privileged by inference, Iranian subjects will have no access to affirmative action efforts within the nation. It is absurd to equate an Iranian-born person with a born-American in terms of privileges, only because their skin colour is white.

The official categorization in Canada is a little bit more differentiated as it separates, for example, the Chinese and the Filipinos subjects from within the "Asian" category, yet it still homogenizes the Black classification. Clearly there is a great societal difference between being Black in the U.S. and being Black in Somalia or Kenya, for that matter, or between a Black Ethiopian and a Black Eritrean, given these two countries were engaged in a border-related war.

Within the U.K. Census, the taxonomy of whiteness is much more malleable. The Office of National Statics provides the option to check mark one out of four different types of white identity: Welsh/English/Scottish/Northern Irish/British; Irish; Gypsy or Irish Traveller; and "any other White background." Beyond problematizations of who fits under the Gypsy label or the White-other label, what these official systems of classification bring to light is the impossibility of capturing racial identitarianism. If race and whiteness would be ontologically homogenous, national offices of counting subjects would not have heterogeneous ways of categorizing racial identity.

Second, the taxonomies of whiteness and race, whereas whiteness got defined itself relationally, in comparison with, and by negating Blackness (and more broadly race), have been historically placed in a dialectical relation through North American colonialism and settlers' involvement with African slavery. Such processes of racial formation did not follow the same historical path in peripheral Europe. The colonial expansion in North America was primarily British and not essentially European, despite the common academic jargon that synonymizes Europeaness with colonialism and whiteness. There are 49 nations in Europe but the states actively involved in colonizing represented about 14 per cent of all European countries (i.e., Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, and Spain), while five of these nations, Spain, Portugal, England, France, and the Netherlands, carried out the colonial expansion of the Americas. At the same time, the "degenerate" whites in Europe were also colonized; by the Tsarists, the Habsburgs, or the Ottomans, just to pencil in some examples.

It is far stretched to infer that eastern Europe is similarly invested in the same processes of global racial formations, where the "global" is seen to unilaterally refer to the aforementioned First World-Third World form of colonialism, although different racial histories have unfolded in the region. A comparable conceptual symmetry simply does not hold. Categories exist as analytical tools for understanding the world. But these tools have not been created in an epistemological vacuum. They have certain histories attached to them; histories that bestowed them with the conceptual adequacy of having been used as explanatory in particular points in time. That is not to say that race is inexistent or irrelevant in eastern Europe. But rather to argue that analyses of racial formation in peripheral Europe should start from the creation of a localized genealogy of race in lieu of importing, and subsequently applying, a pre-determined, Anglo-American system of classifying the world.

Raluca Bejan is an Assistant Professor at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, where she teaches courses in social policy and social movements.

Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

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[l] at 6/28/19 8:22am
June 28, 2019 Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Photo: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr Despite government reset, Ford's main problem remains That timeworn joke about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic certainly applied this month when Ontario Premier Doug Ford kicked his A-team ministers below deck and into lesser cabinet positions.
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[l] at 6/28/19 4:47am
Marc Belanger Derek Blackadder RadioLabour ILO Convention C-190 adopted.Image: International Labour Organization. Used with permission. June 28, 2019 Labour Politics in Canada World

THE UN's International Labour Organization has approved a new international convention to help stop violence and harassment in the workplace. The worker negotiator in the talks was CLC Secretary-Treasurer Marie Clarke Walker.

Also in RadioLabour's Canada report June 28 to July 5, 2019:

  • The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is fighting the Ford government's drastic cuts to education in the province.
  • The LabourStart report about union events in Canada and around the world.
  • And singing: "We Shall Not Be Moved" by Streat Dreama and OBU. Produced by the United Food and Commericial Workers' Union. Used with permission.

Image: International Labour Organization. Used with permission.

ILO CLC sexual harassment workplace violence education cuts Ontario Politics
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[l] at 6/27/19 1:33pm
Politics in Canada Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Photo: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr

That timeworn joke about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic certainly applied this month when Ontario Premier Doug Ford kicked his A-team ministers below deck and into lesser cabinet positions.

It was not unexpected.

That's because the Conservative government had spent its first year bumbling, fumbling and stumbling through one PR disaster after another, axing critical services including health care and education and even support for autistic children.

Ford's front bench never failed to back him up, with standing ovations at Queen's Park. That earned them the deserved and derisive epithet "clapping seals" because they were so clearly command performances.

What's more, the ministers loyally ventured out into their ridings, tweeting formulaic selfies as they pumped gas into their cars to complain about Ottawa's carbon tax,  or stood in front of convenience stores promising more choice and cheaper beer, or donned Tory blue T-shirts as they raved about the attendance at the premier's freebie Ford Fest.

While they dutifully faced the news media delivering the bad news about public library services, regressive sex education and cuts to student loan programs, der leader skipped from banquet to bun toss delivering more unfulfilled promises of a buck-a-beer and cheaper prices at the pump.

For the people, my friends.


Now we know, of course, that Ford's recently departed chief of staff, his former leadership helmsman and likely puppet master, Dean French, was in the background, overseeing the laying waste of Ontario.

French, as it turned out, was stacking the deck with friends and relatives in government sinecures, reviving foreign positions which included six-figure salaries, expenses, and, presumably, staff, residences and considerations for immediate family. Now these and perhaps other appointments are supposedly under review but journalists seem to be uncovering them faster than Ford's office.

It should come as no surprise that Ford is so inept as premier. His one term as a Toronto city councilor was a disaster. His subsequent run for mayor a failure. He barely won the Conservative leadership.

And he apparently skipped his high school civics class.  Two months into his term at the party's helm, he slammed a reporter who asked if he knew how a bill was passed by angrily dismissing it as "a gotcha question," adding that his government would "pass endless bills."

Then, after winning a majority government, he wasted no time clearing out the hated Liberals from Queen's Park and charged into governing with no transition period and no opportunity for his caucus to learn the ropes.

It was full steam ahead: "endless bills" with virtually no time for debate and discussion. He handed the hinterland to developers. He repeatedly attacked Toronto with cuts to its city council, public health-care budget and its transit system. He eliminated alternative energy programs, killed the minimum wage increase, took away funds for much-needed school repairs … well, the list does go on, and on.

But somehow Ford himself was rarely around to answer for his government's actions. His appearances were carefully stage-managed and he often skipped question period. He had his taxpayer-funded video "network," Ontario News Now, to capture him in the most flattering settings, without pesky questions from actual reporters.

Ford left his wrecking crew of senior ministers, who, unlike him, have years of political experience, to swab the deck he dirtied with his directives probably driven by French. But cleaning up after Ford would prove to be impossible, which is why the premier claimed that the now-demoted cabinet ministers had "communication" problems.

This apparent self-delusion is probably why he seemed so stunned to be booed at public appearances, most notably at the huge welcome reception for the victorious Toronto Raptors.

He really has never had to face his critics. Anyway, in his mind, they are all downtown Toronto latte-sipping elites, not "the people" he thinks are his "friends."

No wonder he avoided Toronto's big Pride weekend, which, conveniently, coincided with his Ford Fest. Of course, there are questions about how much taxpayer money went into that, with its beefed-up police presence, caucus T-shirts and Twitter templates.

(Speaking of which, why hasn't Ford denounced the violent attacks by helmeted far-right squads on Pride participants in both Toronto and Hamilton?)

Now Ford has until after the fall federal election to get his B-team up to speed; to lie low and not blow it for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer; and, to flip burgers at every fundraising barbecue in the province.

He may think he will have reset, refreshed and regrouped his government by the time Canadians go to the polls but his main problem remains.


He is the iceberg that his government struck.

He should have gone down with his ship.

Antonia Zerbisias, former CBC-TV journalist and Toronto Star columnist, writes about society, media and politics.

Photo: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr

Doug Ford Ontario Politics Antonia Zerbisias Broadsides June 28, 2019 Doug Ford's sinking numbers are weighing down the federal Conservatives Andrew Scheer is caught in a whirlpool between Trudeau, Ford and now even Bernier -- which has him spinning in all directions. Fickle Ontario could be key to the federal election A deeply unpopular provincial regime can harm the prospects of its federal counterpart, a clear and present danger for Andrew Scheer. Ford fakes deficit concerns to justify brutal spending cuts Doug Ford's measures -- despite his claim to be acting "for the people" -- redirect resources from ordinary people to corporations and the rich.
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[l] at 6/27/19 12:07pm
US Politics Mitchell Haindfield/Flickr

What do you see when you look into the eyes of a child? Until Monday, over 350 migrant children were jailed in filthy, unsafe conditions by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Clint, Texas. The few outsiders who were able to see these migrant children were universally appalled. Facing national outrage, CBP moved the children out, only to return 100 of the young prisoners the very next day. One who seems content jailing children is acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Mark Morgan, who U.S. President Donald Trump has just made their chief jailer by naming him acting head of Customs and Border Protection. "I've walked up to these individuals that are so-called minors, 17 or under, and I've looked at them," Morgan told Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson last January. "I've looked at their eyes and I said, 'That is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.'"

Very few people have access to these children, so getting accurate information about their welfare is hard. Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University, was part of a legal team that exposed the conditions in Clint. She described what she saw on the Democracy Now! news hour:

"When we got there … we were taken aback by the number of very young children, over a hundred. We immediately asked the guards to start to bring us the youngest children and also the children who had been there the longest. We saw that there were about a half a dozen child mothers and their infants, so we asked the guards to also bring us those children."

They managed to interview 60 of the children. She went on: "They were sick. They were coughing. They had runny noses. They were filthy dirty. They immediately started to describe the level of hunger that they were experiencing." Their horror deepened with each interview. "We found out that virtually no one is taking care of these children directly, that they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day. There are open toilets in many of these cells. There's no soap, no way to wash their hands. They're being fed in these cells … many of them are being forced to sleep on concrete because of a shortage of beds and mats and sleeping space." Guards handed toddlers to older children and told them to take care of them.

"After the second day of interviewing these children, we had a high-level, very urgent meeting," Binford said. They made the unusual decision to contact the media, because, they concluded, "somebody is going to die."

Clara Long, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, was also on the team. She told Democracy Now! about a quiet girl around the age of seven or eight: "I said, 'Who did you cross the border with?' And she said, 'My aunt.' And then she just started crying so hard that she couldn't produce words. I'm trying to calm her down, rubbing her back … she had a bracelet on with the words, in permanent marker, 'U.S. parent' and a phone number."

Long continued: "There's this sense that you're not allowed to use your phone in the facilities, but at that point I and other members of our team just decided, 'Screw that. We're going to start making phone calls.' I picked up my phone and dialed the number and connected with her father. He had no idea where she was being held." Long says there are many children being held by CBP who have parents and other family members who are legally in the United States.

The plight of migrants and asylum seekers was underscored when the Mexican newspaper La Jornada published a photo of a Salvadoran father and daughter drowned in the Rio Grande, her little arm still around his neck. Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria were swept away by the rushing waters between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas, after being turned back at the border when seeking legal asylum.

Responding to a question about the photo, Trump predictably blamed the Democrats for his border catastrophe. The immigrant detention system did grow dramatically under the Obama administration, but Trump expanded it much further, with an unheard-of level of cruelty. At least six children have died while detained by Trump's Department of Homeland Security. Before last year, it had been more than a decade since a child died in the custody of U.S. immigration officials.

This week marks the first two Democratic presidential debates. Less than an hour away from their Miami venue, in Homestead, Florida, more than 2,000 unaccompanied minors are incarcerated in a for-profit detention centre run by Caliburn. Trump's former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly sits on its board. Debating the fate of jailed migrant children is important, but the life-and-death crisis that they have been thrown into demands immediate action. Abolish all migrant child jails now.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Democracy Now!

Photo: Mitchell Haindfield/Flickr

trump administration detention Immigration Amy Goodman Denis Moynihan June 27, 2019 Why this man could end up in jail for helping to save migrant lives If convicted, Scott Warren could spend 20 years in prison for giving migrants in need "food, water, beds and clean clothes." These borders kill: Canada's lethal immigration system Fourteen people have died in detention since 2000, two this month. Canada needs to end indefinite immigration detention and needs a fundamental re-think of immigration policy. Children crossing U.S.-Mexico border face deepening U.S. immigration crisis Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America and Mexico are pouring across the southern border of the United States, expanding the crisis of the U.S.'s broken immigration system.
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[l] at 6/27/19 11:35am
June 27, 2019 The chamber of the Senate of Canada. Photo: Makaristos/Wikimedia Commons Jason Kenney's Senate elections law a farcical, faux exercise This is all you really need to know about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's constitutionally meaningless Senate elections law, introduced as Bill 13 in the provincial legislature yesterday.
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[l] at 6/27/19 7:42am
Anti-Racism Civil Liberties Watch Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto which houses the headquarters of the Law Society of Ontario. Photo: Oliver Mallich/Flickr

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) is once again facing a court challenge claiming that it has violated Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right to freedom of conscience, speech and religion. This court challenge follows the LSO's successful defence of its decision to refuse to accredit the proposed law school at Trinity Western University (TWU) because of a requirement that attendees sign a covenant agreeing not to engage in homosexual activities. The LSO took the position that this prevented equal access to the legal profession in Ontario by excluding individuals who identified as LGBTQ.

The new battle relates to a Statement of Principles that the LSO requires lawyers to provide as of last year. It's another example of the LSO attempting to enshrine principles of diversity, anti‑oppression and anti‑discrimination in a profession that is known for its lack of inclusiveness and diversity. In this case, the opposition to advancing these values is coming from other lawyers and is proving to be divisive for the governing council of the LSO -- the democratically elected body that oversees its governance

What is the Statement of Principles?

The Statement of Principles, according to the LSO, is meant to reaffirm existing obligations of lawyers under the Rules of Professional Conduct to behave in a non‑discriminatory way and complies with human rights legislation. It is one of 13 recommendations made in a report produced by the LSO on how to address systemic racism in the profession.

The requirement is that each lawyer sign onto a statement that acknowledges "their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in their behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public." While template statements are provided, lawyers are free to draft their own statement -- in their own words.

The Statement of Principles mirrors pre‑existing obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct, which require lawyers licensed to practice law in Ontario to:

a) respect the requirements of human rights laws in force in Ontario and, specifically, to honour the obligation not to discriminate on the basis of grounds protected by human rights legislation.

b) ensure that no one is denied services or receives inferior service on the basis of the grounds set out in this rule or that its employment practices do not offend this rule.

Lawyers must also "encourage respect for and try to improve the administration of justice."

The opposition

Opposition to the Statement of Principles seems to be rooted in the notion that it is compelled speech, violating Section 2(b) of the Charter which protects the right to freedom of expression. The opposition takes issue with the reference to "promote" in the Statement of Principles requirement. They indicate that no lawyer should be obliged to promote a political perspective or agenda.

The Rules of Professional Conduct were not amended by the Statement of Principles. The obligation to "encourage, respond for and try to improve the administration of justice" is a longstanding obligation of lawyers. In my view, this includes promoting equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and is in keeping with the special responsibility that lawyers have under the Rules of Professional Conduct. An individual who does not want to abide by these principles should not be licensed, for the very reason that justice is for everyone and is meant to be inclusive -- even if the reality is that it is often inaccessible and exclusive.

To many racialized lawyers in Ontario, me included, the opposition to the Statement of Principles came to the forefront after the most recent elections for the LSO governing council. A slate of lawyers opposed to the Statement of Principles was elected with overwhelming support from those lawyers in Ontario who bothered to vote (only 29.97 per cent of lawyers did vote). The results demonstrated that lawyers in Ontario were either overwhelmingly in opposition to taking steps to ensure diversity in the legal profession, or were too apathetic to care that recommendations designed to help racialized lawyers were under threat.

The court challenge: is the Statement of Principles compelled speech?

Despite the divisiveness within the LSO, the Supreme Court of Canada decision in TWU v Law Society of Upper Canada (now known as the LSO), provides some hope that at least the Statement of Principles would be upheld in the face of the court challenge. In TWU, the Supreme Court found that:

As a public actor, the [LSO] has an overarching interest in protecting the values of equality and human rights in carrying out its functions... The [LSO was] entitled to interpret the public interest as being furthered by promoting a diverse bar. Access to justice is facilitated where clients seeking legal services are able to access a legal profession that is reflective of a diverse population and responsive to its diverse needs.

The Statement of Principles does require lawyers to make certain statements. However, in TWU the Supreme Court found that the LSO is responsible for promoting the public interest in the legal profession through furthering principles of diversity and reasonable limitations to the right of freedom of expression and religion may be justified. 

The LSO dispute and public faith in the legal system

When I first heard of the Statement of Principles requirement, I too was opposed to it, but not for reasons related to freedom of speech. I found it to be a recommendation that paid lip service to actually doing something that addressed the challenges that racialized lawyers face. It wasn't enough. Seeing the opposition to the Statement of Principles reinforces that the profession has a long way to go in enshrining meaningful diversity.

The LSO conflict over the Statement of Principles is reflective of the current political environment, both in Canada and globally. Freedom of speech is seen as something that "trumps" equality rights. But this is certainly not how the Charter was crafted -- it has always sought to balance the rights that it protects.

The divisiveness on this issue will impact the public's perception of the legal profession and its commitment  to justice for everyone. The apathy of lawyers not impacted by the issue directly, together with the overzealousness of lawyers opposing the Statement of Principles communicates to racialized lawyers and the public that the profession -- and access to justice -- is not meant for everyone. 

Iler Campbell LLP is a law firm serving co-ops, not-for-profits, charities and socially-minded small business and individuals in Ontario.

Pro Bono provides legal information designed to educate and entertain readers. But legal information is not the same as legal advice -- the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. While efforts are made to ensure the legal information provided through these columns is useful, we strongly recommend you consult a lawyer for assistance with your particular situation to obtain accurate advice.

Submit requests for future Pro Bono topics to probono@rabble.ca. Read past Pro Bono columns here.

Photo: Oliver Mallich/Flickr

pro bono canadian law charter of rights and freedoms diversity Shelina Ali Pro Bono June 27, 2019 The Law Society's Statement of Principles and what's at stake There is a lot of push back against the report, which concluded discrimination and bias are experienced daily by racialized licencees. Straight to the heart of Trinity Western's anti-gay law school rules There is something fundamentally unjust in giving an institution, which actively discriminates against an identifiable group, access to a licensing regime that should be open to all, equally. Henceforth legalese should not be used -- i.e., it should cease, desist and be at an end Law is a tool. Lawyers and judges have a responsibility to talk and write clearly so that others can effectively use the tool.
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[l] at 6/27/19 12:44am
David J. Climenhaga The chamber of the Senate of Canada. Photo: Makaristos/Wikimedia Commons

Never mind the details for a moment, this is all you really need to know about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's constitutionally meaningless Senate elections law, introduced as Bill 13 in the provincial legislature yesterday.

Kenney has presented Alberta's progressives, of whom there are many, and the politicians they support with a wonderful opportunity to shoot themselves in both feet in a little over two years.

On October 17, 2021 -- the day the non-binding vote required by the Senatorial Selection Act is to take place -- we shall duly do so, I regretfully predict.

Well, no one ever said Kenney isn't a clever politician.

Senate "reform" has long been a hobbyhorse of the perpetually dissatisfied far-right in this part of the country. These people imagine that a U.S.-style upper house in place of the unelected 19th-century relic we now have would be a panacea to their feelings of alienation in a larger federation where the majority of citizens don't share their antediluvian views. Thus they have demanded for years a "triple-e Senate," meaning elected, equal and effective.

Accordingly, faux Senate "elections" were held by Conservative governments in 1989, 2014 and 2012 in Alberta. The NDP government sensibly allowed the legislation to lapse, but Kenney has now revived this pipedream, with a slightly altered agenda.

Here's how this will enable progressives to shoot themselves, metaphorically speaking, in both feet.

The last time there was one of these constitutionally farcical votes -- I hesitate to call them elections, because they're not really -- progressive voters were given no opportunity by their parties to express their protest for this then-$3-million waste of money other than by spoiling their ballots or formally declining them.

As I wrote at the time, "it's a pity the more progressive parties didn't take advantage of this spectacular opportunity for free advertising despite the preference of most of their supporters for a triple-a Senate -- that is, abolish, abolish and abolish."

The Senate vote, after all, was going ahead anyway, whether or not progressives thought it was a good idea, because Conservatives rightly saw gain for themselves in this fraudulent exercise.

But without an organized campaign for a strategically chosen candidate by any of the progressive parties then in the legislature, progressive voters had no obvious way to express their dissatisfaction with the wasteful symbolic exercise and prove the fraudulence of the exercise when their candidate was duly not appointed to the Senate after the Conservatives under Stephen Harper came to power in 2006.

Indeed, Harper even ignored some of the Conservative victors, wisely seeing they were too nutty for voters in other parts of Canada.

Of course, the progressive political parties were far too principled to consider such a practical option, and there is no reason to believe they won't do exactly the same thing again.

"Not a good use of our money," NDP opposition leader and former premier Rachel Notley said yesterday. "It undermines our democracy. It's retreaded old 1980s politics." All true, but no reason not to exploit the opportunity for greater good.

For his part, Kenney claimed "this is not some kind of political symbol, this isn't just a gesture, this is an effort to revive democracy in the heart of our Parliament."

This, of course, is errant baloney. As for as Parliament goes, that's all it is and all it ever will be.

However, there's more to it than that. Not by coincidence, October 17, 2021 is municipal election day, when turnouts are traditionally low to match the stakes and Alberta voters often elect plenty of progressive councillors and mayors to the intense frustration of well-financed local property developers' sprawl cabals.

What better way to motivate the perpetually angry Conservative base to turn out for municipal elections while they do something they think is really important -- electing Senate nominees that no government in its right mind, even a Conservative one, would foist on the Red Chamber?

Accordingly, this bill ought to be called the Mayor Nenshi De-selection Act -- which, I imagine, is really what Kenney and his cronies in Calgary's development industry have in mind.

The squishy candidate-financing rules contained in the legislation should also provide opportunities for Kenney's United Conservative Party to do what it does best -- misallocating election contributions.

And that, dear readers, is all you need to know.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Makaristos/Wikimedia Commons

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[l] at 6/26/19 1:58pm
Doreen Nicoll Scene from film Zaagi’idiwin. Image: Zaagi’idiwin/NFB

In 2017, I wrote that I would not be celebrating Canada's 150th birthday. Instead, I encouraged settlers to read, watch, or listen to an Indigenous viewpoint each week for the rest of the year in order to work towards meaningful reconciliation with the true founding Nations of this land.

Then, in 2018, I checked in to see how settlers were doing and to offer a list of books, documentaries, movies and music that could help them on their truth and reconciliation journey.

Well, July 1 is here again and I'm still unable to celebrate Canada's birthday so long as celebrations ignore the reality that the creation of this nation meant the demise of the Indigenous nations that were living and thriving here for generations before first contact and colonization. And because Canada and Canadians continue to journey down a path that fails to acknowledge our history of genocide, systemic racism, broken treaties, and dearth of meaningful remedial action that's needed before true reconciliation can happen.

This year, I encourage Canadians to spend the next 17 days exploring and understanding Indigenous life in Canada. Lived experience makes someone an expert and only they can tell their true story, but by hearing and seeing glimpses into First Nations, Inuit, and Metis lives, settlers can begin to understand their long journey out of the darkness of colonization and into the light of reclamation.

Urban. Indigenous. Proud is the National Film Board's (NFB) latest collection of short films focusing on the role Friendship Centres play in the lives of urban First Nation, Inuit, and Metis peoples.

"Friendship Centres show that we are still here! They are places where we can be Indigenous, can be urban, and that is what the films show. The stories shared in these films are about the re-emergence of culture as urban development occurred and demonstrate how Friendship Centres contribute to a positive vision of Indigenous people," said Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC).

Since the 1950s, Friendship Centres have been a little bit of home, community, and sense of belonging for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis living in urban settings. As of 2016, 85 per cent of First Nations people lived in cities across this country. The history of this migration from the land can be traced directly to the residential school system, which severed ties with traditional communities and ways of life.

Full Circle takes us inside the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, where the urban Indigenous community feels safe to learn and grow. Council Fire uses cultural teachings and creates space to restore Indigenous identity, especially for its youth. At the core of Council Fire's history and teachings is the drum, which they refer to as "our mother."

We get to know members of the Toronto Council Fire Youth Program as they embark on new journeys. We meet a drum group that lays down tracks at a professional recording studio and a group of young dancers who showcase their moves at a dance studio.

Places to Gather and Learn shares the lives of Indigenous students at N'Swakamok Alternative School. Run in partnership with the N'Swakamok Indigenous Friendship Centre, and as a satellite of Sudbury Secondary School, N'Swakamok Alternative School offers students a supportive and culturally activated space to learn life skills while pursuing their academic and personal goals.

The school focuses on the needs of students, some of whom are also parents, and creates an accessible learning environment that welcomes their children. Students are also encouraged to take part in the Friendship Centre programs, through which Indigenous culture and values are put into practice and nourished, ensuring the students' and the school's continued success.

Some Stories… follows a group of young Indigenous artists in Nipissing (Nbisiing) First Nation territory, North Bay, Ontario, as they share stories about family, community, place, and all things related to life. Young artists explore the challenges and celebrations of rural and urban Indigenous life through written and oral stories, poetry, rap and drawing. Even though these young people come from different home communities and backgrounds, their stories and friendships have built a strong sense of community at the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre.

That Old Game Lacrosse recounts this ancient game being gifted to the First Nations by the birds and four-legged animals from the time of creation. Through lacrosse, children and youth learn responsibility and conflict resolution. Their coaches are teaching far more than simply how to win a game, they're ensuring the next generations learn humility, respect, and how to become good members of the community. The medicine game, passed down from generation to generation by the Haudenasaunee at the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, is helping to revive their cultures, restore their communities, and reinforce the collective nature of the Indigenous view of the world that is inclusive of settlers.

We also learn that the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action make space so Canadians can recognize they are better than their past and can live up to the expectations of who they can be.

Zaagi'idiwin, one of the Seven Grandfather Teachings which refers to the unconditional love between all of creation from yesterday, today and tomorrow, takes viewers through a day at the United Native Friendship Centre in Fort Frances, Ontario.

By engaging in ceremony and celebrating their language, culture and land, the people are creating "Zaagi'idiwin" -- "a symbol of their truth, their story and their own reconciliation, which is community-defined, beautiful and inspiring."

Each ten-minute film is a glimpse into a present and future filled with reclamation, hope and happiness. They make a wonderful segue to the CBC Gem Series Future History. Each twenty-minute episode is jam packed with well researched and documented information about the history of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis living in Canada. But it also shows what life is like and how much better it could be in the future.

Each episode is co-hosted by Kris Nahrgam and Sarain Fox. Nahrgam is an archeologist and artist whose Anishinaabe grandmother survived residential school and then chose to hide her indigeneity. He is on a personal journey to recover his Indigenous heritage. Fox is Anishinaabe from Batchewana First Nation who is shifting colonial narratives by harnessing Indigenous knowledge.

This amazing series will introduce you to people and ideas that will rock your colonial world. People like Cindy Blackstock of the Gitxsan Nation and executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society; Mohawk activist and author Russ Diabo; Metis artist and water warrior Christi Belcourt; Anishinaabe water activist and grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who passed away this February 22 at the age of 77; cultural educator and storyteller Lenore Keeshig of the Shippewa Nation; Sage Paul artist, designer and member of English River First Nation; as well as historians, dancers, chefs, traditional healers, and lawyers.

You'll gain an understanding of the intergenerational impact of the residential school system, the Sixties Scoop and the current welfare system; the Indian Act; the importance of water as a human right; and a better understanding of cultural exploitation and appropriation.

You'll also get to share in the celebrations of today and indelible hope for the future that includes reclaiming, rematriating, and revitalizing the knowledge, languages, and culture that is being cultivated and shared as Indigenous people decolonize.

This July 1, I'd like to say "chi miigwech" in Anishinaabemowin, or big thank you in English, to those settlers who make the time to watch the Urban. Indigenous. Proud collection of short films as well as the first season of Future History.

Image: Zaagi’idiwin/NFB

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[l] at 6/26/19 12:27pm
June 26, 2019 Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff Extinction Rebellion stages 'bitumen spill' outside prime minister's office Disruptive actions are needed to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline which represents a continuation of colonial violence and an acceleration of climate breakdown.
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[l] at 6/26/19 12:02pm
Zaid Noorsumar Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay

Job vacancies on the rise across country: Stats Canada

According to a new Statistics Canada report, job vacancies rose by 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 nationwide compared to the same period last year. Vacancies grew the highest in Quebec, followed by British Columbia and Ontario. Health care and social assistance had the highest growth in vacancies at 19 per cent compared to the first quarter in 2018.  

Government-union deals on domestic violence leave start of new trend

The Canadian Press reports that recent deals reached between the federal government and PIPSC last month are indicative of a new trend regarding domestic violence leave. The civil-service union bargained a deal that allows up to 10 days off for domestic violence victims, which provides greater relief than existing laws across the country. 

Better employment prospects for university grads

A new Indeed Canada report says that while fresh grads struggle to enter the job market, they have better employment prospects than those without university degrees. However, the challenge of entering the job market for fresh grads under 25 remains consistently difficult.

Banking on education

Last week, a new Conference Board of Canada report revealed the economic benefits of education spending. The study, which was commissioned by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), says that there is a direct economic benefit of $1.30 for every dollar spent on education alongside indirect impacts in the form of lower spending on social assistance, health care and the criminal justice system.

The timely release of the report comes amid massive education cuts by the Doug Ford government, which continued to spawn protests from unions and activists this week. Meanwhile, a 15-year old student organizer received a $1,444 bill for the "cost of cleaning" profane anti-Doug Ford graffiti drawn with chalk at Queen's Park.

Union threatens to sue Alberta Conservatives

Alberta's largest union says it will sue the Conservative government for the imminent passing of the Public Sector Wage Arbitration Deferral Act. The legislation will delay wage negotiations and arbitration, and comes on the back of a two-year NDP-instituted pay freeze for public-sector workers.

New Ontario labour minister has regressive views on workers' rights

Monte McNaughton was appointed Ontario's labour minister last week after a Ford cabinet reshuffle. The Toronto Star's Sara Mohtehedzadeh pointed out that in opposition, McNaughton had lauded right-to-work states in the U.S. as a model for Ontario to emulate. 

Learn more: York University professor David Doorey explains the problem with right-to-work laws.

Quebec government forces immigration reform bill to address 'labour market needs'

The Coalition Avenir Québec government stifled debate to pass a new bill that cancels 16,000 immigration applications under the regular skilled worker program. The immigration reform bill is one of two new pieces of legislation that the Quebec government has rushed by curtailing debate. The other, highly controversial legislation prevents public sector workers from wearing religious symbols at work.

Better employment opportunities leading to emigration from Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundlanders are leaving home to pursue better employment opportunities and escape higher costs of living and lack of government services, according to a government-commissioned report

Zaid Noorsumar is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2019, and is a journalist who has previously contributed to CBC, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and Rankandfile.ca. To contact Zaid with story leads, email zaid[at]rabble.ca.

Image: Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay


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[l] at 6/26/19 11:57am
Libby Davies

Dear rabble friends and readers,

Summer is finally here which I hope means you'll get time to hang out at your favourite summer places and get in some summer reading! I always make sure rabble.ca is part of my summer reading -- gotta stay in touch and know what's happening around us!

I have a special connection to rabble -- I know most of the amazing folks who work for rabble (as do many of us) and I am always in awe of what this small but mighty team produces day after day and year after year. I know personally that they do it because they are dedicated to keeping us informed and aware of political, community, labour, international, and social movement developments. It's more than a job in the traditional sense -- it's a deep commitment to keeping rabble moving forwards -- to keeping us informed and connected with each other.

rabble is so unique in what it does -- it reaches across this vast land and connects people, communities and activism. There's so much on offer -- interesting podcasts, books and reviews, livestreaming of key political events, political analysis, Karl on Parl for the latest goings-on in Ottawa, the labour movement, opinion and analysis pieces on every possible topic by some of Canada's best-known progressive writers, and so much more.

It all adds up to something quite magical: independent and progressive online media that not only survives -- it thrives -- when we put ourselves into it, too. It's magical because in these times of fake news, right-wing politics and corporate media, rabble keeps going -- on a shoestring -- but it keeps going. How marvellous is that?

I am a financial monthly contributor to rabble and have been for years now. It's something I do gladly, and yes, because I can afford it. Not everyone can -- which makes it even more important that those of us who can help keep independent media strong and accessible for everyone. My guess is many of us can afford a little something every month to help rabble out. Even $5 or $10 a month makes a difference when many of us pitch in -- our contributions can multiply when we do it together.

Like you, I want independent, progressive media to succeed and not go under simply because not enough of us pitched in. I want a source of news that feeds my political appetite and sense of building community and solidarity. I want to hear and support the perspectives of Indigenous people, and of those who are on the frontlines, fighting back against cuts, racism, homophobia, and violence. I want to hear about Islamophobia and not deny it's happening. I want to hear about what we can do about the climate crisis here in Canada.

I also want a source of news about the upcoming federal election! This is going to be a critical election. I want to hear about the issues and what parties and their candidates are saying; and I want to read good analysis about it all.

I know I will find all this and more on rabble -- every day. Pretty amazing. It makes me proud that rabble exists, what about you?

If independent, community-based, progressive media is important to you and your life, then it's time to give a little or a lot. What you can. If you already gave, can you give a little more in these summer days? Think of it like buying an ice cream for yourself every week -- sweet and delicious and to be savoured over the summer.

Yup -- rabble is my ice cream (a lot healthier too!) and I'm gonna treat myself and say thank you to the special people who put it together.

That's my pitch, folks -- ice cream and all -- but honestly, I'm behind rabble 100% and love that you are too. I keep dreaming that if 1,000 people read this and sign up to donate $5 per month, that would be $5,000 per month for rabble or $60,000 a year. Wow. That would mean something. Imagine $10.00 per month...

Thank you for reading this and thank you for supporting rabble. We are all better for it.

Libby Davies, former MP, public speaker, activist and author.

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[l] at 6/26/19 8:31am
Food & Health Politics in Canada Wheat hopper in Belleville, Ontario circa 2009. Photo: Robert Taylor/Wikimedia Commons

These are not great days for farmers across Canada. A drought in many parts of the Prairies prompted worried looks and constant gazes skyward for any sign of cloud cover. Then, at almost the final hour for many, it rained -- lots of rain. In some places seeded crops had yet to germinate, but then the rain came. As I write, rain is falling in some parts, but will it be enough?

Would that weather was the only major risk in farming…

A few weeks ago, Statistics Canada released its report on farm incomes, noting that across the country farmers' net income has dropped by 45 per cent, and in Saskatchewan by close to 29 per cent.

All of this is only compounded by the fact that farm policy in this country has been continuously eroded over decades by negligence, trade agreements, lack of foresight, and even, some suspect, outright corruption.

Both Conservative and Liberal governments have removed or ignored the few programs that might have helped farmers gain access to a better market share, a better price for their product, and assure international buyers quality control of the grain purchased. A significant source of support for farmers was the Canadian Wheat Board, a marketing board for grain in Western Canada.

In late May the Friends of Canadian Wheat Board (FCWB) was once again in court, asking that the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench certify a class action lawsuit to regain more than $152 million owed farmers for the final payment from Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) grain sales for the 2010-2012 crop years. At that time the federal Conservatives were dismantling the CWB and apparently diverting funds that were meant for farmers. Farmers never received all of their final payment. The Manitoba court will rule in a few months.

What is the Canadian Wheat Board and what did it do?

The Canadian Wheat Board was established in 1935 as a single selling desk for Canadian grain. Until 2012, it undertook orderly marketing on behalf of farmers. Then it was privatized and its assets transferred to a Saudi agribusiness company and an American-based transnational.

This is indeed a story of David and Goliath -- but as all good stories of underdogs and activism, nimbleness is important. These activist farmers are definitely showing their commitment and stamina. They are also nimble. And they will be seen, I believe, to be on the right side of history.

Since 2011 groups of Prairie farmers who support a farmer-controlled CWB have been working to have the courts recognize that the actions taken by the Harper Conservatives to privatize and transfer assets to foreign corporations were in fact illegal and have cost farmers billions in income. But money is not the only issue -- access to international markets, quality control of export crops, and issues related to seed, genetically modified crops and their impact on foreign sales of Canadian product, are just some of the topics that farmers elected to the CWB engaged on. The Wheat Board worked to maintain decent prices for grain commodities. And that was also in the interests of the country and all Canadians more generally. With the loss of the CWB, I have no doubt that we are losing more farmers.

Since 2012, the FCWB has been walking through the legal maze fighting for justice on behalf of farmers. First, the FCWB fought the restructuring of the CWB, and the dismantling of its farmer-elected structure. Then, it was essentially privatized in 2015 and its assets transferred by the federal government to the G3 Global Trading Group, a company owned by Saudi Arabia agribusiness and an American-based transnational. The FCWB has long maintained that all of the $17 billion in Wheat Board assets were common property of farmers and the Canadian public, and that the federal minister of agriculture at the time -- Gerry Ritz -- overstepped his elected role to destroy the Wheat Board and transfer its assets to foreign ownership.

Multiple legal actions

The court battles to seek approval for a class action suit have been numerous and lengthy -- and along the way there have been wins and losses.

These are chronicled in detail on the site of the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance, a group which also supports the CWB. Farmers have gone to the courts asking for $17 billion in damages for hard and soft assets (hopper cars, buildings, shipping vessels, and moneys for grain sales) that belong to farmers and were essentially transferred to new owners without proper consultation. In a complicated and narrow decision related to property rights, the Federal Court of Canada determined that only parts of the case might be heard -- and that the assets were not common property. But both courts, the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, allowed that a suit for farmer grain payments could be heard. Application for that class action is now being heard in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. The statement of claim can be found here.

Besides the diversion of crop income away from farmers from 2010-2012, activist farmers initiated legal action in 2011 challenging changes in the legislation governing the CWB and lack of farmer input. Then, in 2012, farmers launched a class action suit against the federal government for selling what farmers claimed were farmer-owned business assets and common property -- the Canadian Wheat Board -- and to reclaim final payments for grain sold on behalf of farmers by the board. The FCWB is adamant that both farmers and the public owned these assets and have actually lost billions in common property in the sale of the CWB.

Lack of federal support

Meanwhile, since the election of the Liberals in fall 2015, the FCWB has been meeting with the federal government, urging a full accounting of what happened to the CWB by the previous Conservative government and its minister, and the reinstatement of the CWB or a similar marketing board.

While in opposition the Liberals dogged the Conservatives over the dismantling of the Wheat Board. But once elected, they went largely silent and have been trying to delay the Manitoba hearings on technicalities, according to the FCWB.

Stewart Wells, Chair of the FCWB, and a former farmer-elected director of the CWB, explained it this way when interviewed by the Manitoba Cooperator on June 7:

"When we started this in February of 2012 we were prepared for a lengthy process," Wells said. "Now it could've all been ended if the Liberal government wouldn't have continued the coverup started by the Harper government. So we find ourselves still trying to get to the truth of what happened in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and get cash back to the farmers that they were deprived of during the transition process."

There are calculations as to how much the sale of the single selling desk is undermining Canadian farmers' income. In 2015 University of Saskatchewan agricultural economist Rich Gray published findings showing that up to that point Canadian farmers had lost more than $7 billion in reduced sales and pricing of grain commodities due to the loss of the Wheat Board.

Compound that amount to date and we have one reason why Western farmers' income has plummeted so dramatically. Add to that low prices, increases in input costs and farm machinery costs.

Canadian family farmers have a lot more than just the weather to contend with. So do we all, when you consider that neither Conservative or Liberal governments have ever extended much support to family farmers.

"It's about treating people, in this case farmers, fairly," Wells said. "Some of those same people… would be mortified if somebody stole $5 from them… well this is a little different because these injustices have been delivered by… the federal government."

"It's just not appropriate to walk away and turn a blind eye when you see governments doing something inappropriate," he added.

And when you look at dwindling farm income due to the loss of orderly marketing, farmers and Canadians have lost much, much more.

Those of us who know that the story of the Canadian Wheat Board is unjust and a story that remains untold are hoping that David's slingshot hits its target.

Lois Ross is a communications specialist, writer, and editor, living in Ottawa. Her column "At the farm gate" discusses issues that are key to food production here in Canada as well as internationally.

Photo: Robert Taylor/Wikimedia Commons

canadian wheat board farming At the farm gate Agriculture Policy Lois Ross June 26, 2019 Federal budget tinkers around the edges of food and agriculture While the budget purports to introduce a national food strategy, what it presents is barely a first step, with a mix of food and agriculture initiatives that are largely unconnected. Giving away Wheat Board assets and Pat Martin's outburst in the House The Canadian Wheat Board must privatize itself by 2017. It rejected an offer from a farmers' group and now may be planning to "give" its assets to a U.S. corporation. That makes some MPs very angry. Why Canada's Wheat Board will be missed In 2012, the Conservatives ended the 70-year monopoly seller status of the Canadian Wheat Board, one of the world's largest and most successful "state trading enterprises."
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[l] at 6/25/19 3:36pm
June 25, 2019 Used with permission of SAEFTY Ottawa. Trans youth challenging barriers to gender-affirming health care Kaeden Seburn and Jay Burns talk about SAEFTY Ottawa, a group of trans and gender-diverse youth using research and advocacy to reduce barriers youth face in accessing gender-affirming health care.
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[l] at 6/25/19 12:01pm
Environment Political Action Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff

In response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's approval of the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline on June 18, Extinction Rebellion Ottawa organized a "bitumen spill" the following afternoon outside his office in downtown Ottawa.

Extinction Rebellion billed the action as "taking the Trans Mountain fight to the prime minister's doorstep."

There are many reasons to oppose the 890,000-barrels-per-day tar sands pipeline.

It violates Indigenous sovereignty and lacks the free, prior and informed consent of numerous First Nations.

There are 133 First Nations on or near the route of the 1,150-kilometre pipeline. Almost 520 kilometres of that route would cross the Secwepemc Nation without their consent. Furthermore, only 43 First Nations have signed "mutual benefit agreements" (which should not be confused with their free, prior and informed consent for the pipeline).

The pipeline would emit massive amounts of carbon pollution.

It would produce an estimated 26 million tonnes of upstream and 60 million tonnes of downstream carbon pollution a year.

While the push is to create carbon-neutral or 100 per cent clean energy economies by 2025, the Trans Mountain pipeline, with arguably a lifespan over 50 years, could still be churning out millions of tonnes of carbon pollution beyond 2070.

It would put at risk the Salish Sea and whales.

The pipeline would load about 400 export tankers a year that would depart from the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (without their consent) and further endanger the 76 orcas in the Salish Sea which are already on the brink of extinction.

It is a huge waste of money.

Apart from the $4.5 billion the Trudeau government spent to buy the existing infrastructure, the pipeline could cost another $15 billion to build. That's $20 billion that would be much better spent on the public interest, including building renewable energy infrastructure and creating well-paying jobs in a sustainable energy economy.

And it would put at risk the 1,300 waterways and 1,150 kilometres of territory (the communities, land, medicines, water and wildlife) that it crosses.

To convey this danger at the Extinction Rebellion action, activists cut blue tarp into wide strips representing two main rivers the pipeline would cross: the Fraser River and the Thompson River.

Spills are part of the international Extinction Rebellion toolkit.

Extinction Rebellion has staged disruptive spills of "blood" (made from food colouring and corn starch) in London (200 litres poured at 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister's residence) and Paris (300 litres at the Trocadéro, a tourist landmark) to represent the loss of life connected to climate breakdown.

Extinction Rebellion Ottawa spilled a more modest 80 litres of "bitumen" at its action outside the prime minister's office.

That bitumen was made through a process of boiling water in a large pot, mixing corn starch and cold water in a mason jar, then adding that mixture into the boiling water along with water-soluble black satin acrylic paint.

After the bitumen spilled onto blue tarp "waterways," we added two pails of water to represent the flow of the river widening the bitumen spill.

To add an audio element to the bitumen spill, a YouTube video of a Second World War-era air raid siren was recorded onto a voice recorder and patched into a portable, battery-powered 50-watt sound system via an auxiliary (aux) cord.

Afterwards, the bitumen was cleaned up. Though there was some debate about whether this should be done or not, the message was clear. A pretend non-toxic bitumen spill can be easily and quickly cleaned up -- the same cannot be said about a real bitumen spill.

To give context to Extinction Rebellion's opposition to Trudeau's approval of the pipeline, Indigenous voices of resistance were central to the protest and conveyed in different ways.

Secwepemc land defender and water protector Kanahus Manuel joined via a cellphone patched into the sound system via the aux cord.

Rueben George from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation was able to join via an audio recording of a media conference he had spoken at in Vancouver the previous evening. Again, an aux cord connected the handheld voice recorder into the sound system.

And Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail, an Ininew Eeyou Eskwayow activist from the Cree community of Attawapiskat who lives in Ottawa, was able to join in person.

There was also singing by local musician-activist Arif Jinha as well as the Honour Song by Mi'kmaq grandmother Darlene Gilbert who was arrested in April on a contempt charge for protecting the Shubenacadie River on unceded territory in Nova Scotia from the damage that would be inflicted by the Alton Gas project.

While the police kept a distance from this Extinction Rebellion spill, that hasn't always been the case with other spills.

In June 2016, six people were arrested for dumping grey liquid representing mercury in front of the steps to the Ontario legislature in Toronto.

The protest drew attention to decades of government inaction after a pulp and paper mill deliberately dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River system on the territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northern Ontario.

Firefighters arrived at Queen's Park (at a speed not seen at Grassy Narrows) even though it was made clear that the "mercury" was made from cornstarch, water and soluble paint.

In order to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline, other destructive major resource extraction projects, and climate breakdown, continuous and escalating disruptive actions will be needed --including bitumen spills, intersection blockades, and more.

If the construction itself begins, a further set of tactics will be needed to block the construction equipment to ensure that the pipeline is never completed.

Brent Patterson is an activist-blogger who writes this monthly column on inspiring stories of global resistance to neoliberalism and climate change.

Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff

Climate Change extinction rebellion Trans Mountain pipeline Brent Patterson June 26, 2019 Challenging media to do better covering climate breakdown Extinction Rebellion is calling on the CBC, BBC and other media outlets to prioritize coverage of climate breakdown proportionate to the level of danger it poses to us all. Indigenous land defenders and anti-fascist activists challenge United We Roll convoy The Stand Up for Land Defenders direct action brought Indigenous and anti-fascist activists together to occupy an intersection in front of Parliament Hill that the United We Roll convoy had set up. Canadian pipeline push promotes false and misleading claims There's no real discount on Canadian product, nor are other countries clamouring for our bitumen. The lower price is because it’s costly to extract and process, and must be diluted before shipping.
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[l] at 6/25/19 9:54am
Puzzle Globe wikipedia logo. Photo: Victorgrigas/Wikimedia Commons

Among progressives few dreams are more resonant than the hope of building another, better, world. Peering into the shimmering crystal ball however does not seem to reveal much hope. The post-911 period has witnessed the deployment of large armies throughout the Middle East and Africa, appearing to confirm that peace between various "civilizations" is impossible. The end of the Cold War (1945-1989) did not signal the conclusion of international discord but seems to have simply opened the door to other suppressed storms.

In 1993 the conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington (1927-2008) claimed that the U.S. victory over the Soviet Union would not lead to an "end of history." Despite the United States having emerged victorious in the 20th century over Nazism and Soviet Communism, different societies around the world would not start looking to the United States, and its liberal, democratic capitalist system, for guidance. Huntington, adopting a perspective akin to a right-wing postmodernism or a social Darwinist "survival of the fittest," instead suggested that what we saw over the course of history was an endless battle between seven different civilizations: the Western (Christian), the Latin American, the Orthodox world (Russia, eastern Europe), the Buddhist (Japan and southeast Asia), the Chinese, the Indian, and the Islamic. These societies would not be tempted to emulate the U.S. because of its political and economic power. Their essential cultural differences were a far more profound indicator of the spirit of the time -- and of all time -- than ever-changing political events. Huntington argued that American hegemony would be challenged by the ineluctable resurgence of the "clash of civilizations."

The liberal historian Yuval Noah Harari disagrees with Huntington's thesis. He believes that we already have a world civilization in which our disagreements are less significant than our horizon of convergence. Our concord is based on numerous commonalities with the scientific method being perhaps the most significant. Take the case of health care: a thousand years ago illness was dealt with in a variety of ways depending on whether humans lived under the religious guidance of a priest, a village witch, a Middle-Eastern doctor, an expert in Indian Ayurveda, a Chinese physician, a Siberian shaman, an African witch doctor, or an Amerindian medicine man. Each would have dealt with disease in their own unique way. What they all had in common was that average life expectancy was below the age of 50. Today, whether we live in Boston, Brasilia, or Beijing we will meet doctors wearing stethoscopes who learned the same explanations in the same medical schools. They follow equivalent guidelines, use identical tests, and prescribe similar medicines created by the same international drug companies. Different countries have matching views of the body and debility. All agree that we are made up of cells, that diseases are caused by pathogens, and that antibiotics eliminate germs. This approach has been relatively successful: life expectancy across the planet is 71 years of age and is on average 80 years in the affluent countries. Despite our differences the success of the epistemology, discourse, and practice of science has created a common global approach to health.

Interestingly Harari is not able to explain why -- despite science's various achievements -- so many people today are attracted by non-modern, non-Western, cultural approaches to health, that is, methods that emulate the acupuncturist, the Ayurvedic doctor, or the village sorceress. Even if the public utilizes the modern, scientific, health-care system they continue to explore alternative therapies based on models that are less rooted in science than on a local tradition. Whether dealing with a common cold, with deadly cancer, or trying to conceive new life, many prefer combining methods rather than relying on just one approach. Harari -- despite the fact he himself practices Vipassana meditation for two hours every day and goes on a Buddhist retreat for two months of every year to clear his mind -- misunderstands what unites us. The genius of our time is that at our philosophical best we are beginning to build a form of knowledge that amalgamates numerous perspectives rather than leaning on Newtonian science alone. The conflicts between various groups and cultures, despite their vehemence, also produces the potential for unprecedented mixtures. A strange new possibility lies within us and ahead: one that experimentally combines different epistemologies, discourses, and practices, rather than falling back on essentialist descriptions or a belief in the dominance of modern science. This regenerative process, which is emerging across the world, is an initial step towards building a new global civilization.

Thomas Ponniah, PhD, is an Affiliate of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University, and the co-editor of Another World is Possible: Popular Alternatives to Globalization at the World Social Forum (Zed Books 2003), and co-editor of The Revolution in Venezuela (Harvard University Press 2011). 

Photo: Victorgrigas/Wikimedia Commons

Science civilization American hegemony Thomas Ponniah June 25, 2019 Inequality in the 21st century Our age's disruptive technological innovations have brought a rise in the importance of the ownership of information. How do we resist the development of an information-oriented hierarchy? The return of liberalism in the U.S. Various degrees of fascism, liberalism, and socialism are back precisely because we are again confronted with problems that traditional liberalism cannot solve. Embodying the values of a new progressive economy A new progressive economics has to contest not only the policies that deregulate the market but also the asocial individualist code that has accompanied it.
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[l] at 6/25/19 6:57am
Scott Neigh Talking Radical Radio Used with permission of SAEFTY Ottawa. June 25, 2019 Food & Health LGBTIQ

Kaeden Seburn is a Bachelor of Social Work student at Carleton University and a community organizer and advocate. Jay Burns is a high school student currently finishing Grade 12. Both are active members of SAEFTY Ottawa, a group run by and for trans and gender-diverse youth. Scott Neigh interviews them about SAEFTY and about the group's use of research and advocacy to challenge barriers that youth face in accessing gender-affirming health care.

Many, though not all, trans and gender-diverse people seek to access various kinds of health-care interventions that affirm their gender. This can include taking hormone blockers and/or hormones, and it can include various kinds of surgical interventions. The history of trans people's struggles to access this sort of care is long, complicated, and highly contested. They have won significant victories, but many barriers remain. In Ottawa, most trans or gender-diverse youth who wish to receive gender-affirming care are referred by their family physician to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

SAEFTY Ottawa -- which stands for Support and Education for Trans Youth -- is Ottawa's only independent youth group for trans and gender-diverse youth. Being independent of formal service-providing organizations allows SAEFTY to remain open to a broader age range than other groups. It allows them to focus on creating spaces that are often purely social, and are about meeting, hanging out with, and making community with other trans and gender-diverse people, rather than the clinical, medical, or pathologizing flavour that can sometimes show up in organization-driven youth groups. And it allows for the possibility of advocacy work, driven by the experiences and needs of trans and gender-diverse youth themselves.

Their recent research into barriers to accessing gender-affirming health care emerged from conversations that just kept coming up in informal ways among the young people hanging out at SAEFTY events. Most SAEFTY members have received care of one sort or another from CHEO, and when they would discuss their experiences, the same kinds of barriers would be mentioned again and again and again.

At a certain point, they decided to do something about it. In consultation with some trans adults who have done similar kinds of work and with a bioethicist, they developed a survey. Through word-of-mouth and online mechanisms, they invited trans and gender-diverse youth who had received care from the gender clinic at CHEO, as well as their parents, to complete the survey and share their experiences.

Their report is based on responses from 53 youth and parents. Many had quite positive experiences in a lot respects, but many also reported various barriers and negative experiences. This included unnecessary delays to receiving care, inappropriate assessment and gatekeeping processes, medically irrelevant and unnecessarily intrusive questions, pressure to conform to a stereotypical transition path, lack of explanation for various procedures, inappropriate physical exams, and more. Today's participants emphasize that these problems are not specific to CHEO, but are systemic and are much the same as those reported by trans people of all ages across medical institutions throughout North America.

In addition, some youth reported problems even with basic signs of respect like having their correct name and pronouns used -- this seemed to be related at least partially to issues with the records system in the hospital. In general, parents tended to report overall more positive and fewer negative experiences, while the highest proportion of negative experiences were reported by nonbinary youth and transfeminine youth.

Members of the group have met with staff from CHEO both before and after the release of the report, and are encouraged by what they've heard. They are keen to continue to talk and to collaborate with hospital officials and medical personnel, and work towards changes that will reduce barriers to care. They also hope that SAEFTY's work can be part of broader efforts to make change.

Image: Used with permission of SAEFTY Ottawa.

Theme music: "It Is the Hour (Get Up)" by Snowflake, via CCMixter

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

trans trans health care youth
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[l] at 6/24/19 9:06am
June 24, 2019 Quebec's national assembly. Photo: Daniel Szpiro/Flickr New generation of Quebecers resists Legault's discriminatory law Although the CAQ's Law 21 has been passed, the battle is not over.
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[l] at 6/24/19 9:01am
Karl Nerenberg Quebec's national assembly. Photo: Daniel Szpiro/Flickr

Today, June 24, is la Fête nationale in Quebec, what they used to call St-Jean-Baptiste Day, a holiday that has greatly evolved over the years.

Originally, la Fête promoted Quebec's notional Roman Catholic identity. If the holiday expressed any degree of nationalism, it was of an insular and defensive sort.

Then, starting in the 1960s, the day became at once more secular and more overtly political and nationalistic. Celebrations, which almost always included many of Quebec's leading musical stars, often spoke openly to the aspiration for an independent Quebec state.

Since the 1960s the holiday has become more and more inclusive. Its definition of Québécois has expanded to include not only Québécois de vieille souche (old stock Quebecers), but everyone who is part of Quebec's diverse society, regardless of religion or ethnic origin.

This year, even Franco-Ontarians are included. My good friend Ferline Regis, a Franco-Ontarian originally from Haiti, will be among a group of Ontario artists performing on a mobile stage, Monday evening, at the opening of the Fête nationale parade along Saint-Denis Street in Montreal.

Long history to Legault's Law 21

This year, la Fête also takes place against the backdrop of Quebec's recently passed Law 21.

That law deems that professionals who wear visible religious garb, such as the hijab or turban, may not work at public service jobs which have what the Quebec government calls "coercive" roles. Those jobs include not only judges, prison guards and police officers, but also teachers, doctors and nurses.

The law is the brainchild of the still-young, right-of-centre Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government. But this piece of legislation has a long history.  

Twelve years ago, then Liberal premier Jean Charest named two eminent Quebec academics, historian Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, to head a commission to study how far Quebec should go to accommodate ethnic and religious minorities.

Bouchard-Taylor's final report devoted a good deal of space to encouraging Quebecers to be open-minded and accepting of all elements of Quebec society -- especially the relatively new crop of non-European immigrants, many of them French-speaking Muslims from North and sub-Saharan Africa. It was, to a considerable extent, publicly expressed concern -- not all of it genteel or polite -- over this growing and visible Muslim community that led Charest to create the commission.

Bouchard and Taylor did suggest that it might be acceptable for the government to impose religious-symbol and dress restrictions on the limited group of public servants who are charged with enforcing the law, notably judges and police officers. But the commission did not include teachers or nurses or social workers in that category.

When Pauline Marois' Parti Québecois (PQ) took power in 2012 it picked up the ball and went much further than Bouchard-Taylor. The PQ government introduced a Charter of Quebec (secular) Values that would have imposed sweeping restrictions on all Quebec public servants, regardless of their roles, from teachers and nurses to transport ministry clerks.

The aim of the charter, according to Marois' lead minister on the file, former CBC French network journalist Bernard Drainville, was to assure the neutrality of the Quebec state. The Quebec national assembly never voted on the charter, however, because Marois called a snap election in 2014. She lost to Philippe Couillard's Liberals.

François Legault's small-c conservative CAQ government has now revived the issue.

Legault considers his government to be beholden to small town and rural voters, many of whom, apparently, continue to view exogenous elements in Quebec society as a threat. But the premier tries to portray Law 21 as a moderate and reasonable compromise. He points out that while his law goes well beyond the Bouchard-Taylor recommendations, it falls far short of the PQ's more draconian charter.  

The CAQ premier argues, further, that his government's measure will head off the growth in Quebec of the type of more extreme and openly xenophobic political groups we find in Europe these days.

Germany has the AfD (Alternative for Germany). France has Marine Le Pen's Front National. Austria and the Netherlands have their Freedom Parties, and Greece has the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. We do not need any of that in Quebec, Legault says.

He might have a point. It might be worth the candle for the more reasonable right to steal the thunder of the extreme right.

Still, Legault's government freely admits that, however moderate it may be, much of Law 21 is contrary to fundamental rights as guaranteed by both the Quebec and Canadian charters of rights and freedoms. That is why, as it passed this law, the government amended the Quebec charter (which is a legislative, not constitutional document) and invoked the Canadian charter's notwithstanding clause.  

And rather than placate the bigots among us, there are those who fear that the CAQ's restrictive measures will bring to the surface some barely-stifled ugly and intolerant attitudes. They worry that Law 21 will serve to legitimize openly-expressed hostility to members of visible minority groups, especially Muslim women.

Charles Taylor is in that latter group.

In the years since the commission he co-chaired reported, Taylor has changed his view on government restrictions on religious clothing. He now opposes any and all such limitations. He sees such measures as a slippery slope, which could lead to more widespread acts of intolerance directed at vulnerable members of minority communities.

The CSN and Québec Solidaire are opposed

On the progressive side of the political ledger, some who, in the past, might have supported limited measures to restrict personal religious expression have also changed their tune.

Notable among those are the environmental and socialist Québec Solidaire party and the large Quebec trade union federation, the CSN (the Confédération des syndicats nationaux  or Confederation of National Trade Unions).

In both cases it was the grassroots members who dictated the change. CSN president Jacques Létourneau attributes this about-face to the arrival of a new generation of leaders in his movement.

"Society has evolved," he said, adding that union militants are not "in the same place" as they were a decade or even six years ago. The same is manifestly true of the members of Québec Solidaire.

And so, as Quebec celebrates its Fête national it would be unfair for the rest of Canada to believe that Quebecers, overall, are less tolerant and accepting of diversity than Canadians as a whole.

Although the CAQ's discriminatory measures are now officially the law, the battle is not over.

There are court challenges. The use of the notwithstanding clause might not be legally and constitutionally watertight.

And many health and educational entities charged with enforcing the new law might offer significant resistance.

Quebec's largest school board, the French language Montreal Board (la Commission scolaire de Montréal) has already voted -- unanimously -- to delay application of the law until it has time to consult its membership. Quebec's English school boards had earlier announced, even before it passed, that they would not comply with Law 21.

A new generation of Quebecers has already changed the attitudes of a major union federation and of at least one political party. In time, there is a good chance that generation's influence will continue to spread and grow.

And so, on peut toujours souhaiter une joyeuse Fête nationale à tous au Québec. (We can still wish a happy Fête national to everyone in Quebec.)

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo: Daniel Szpiro/Flickr

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[l] at 6/23/19 4:28am
Piergiorgio Moro Jiselle Hanna Asia Pacific Currents Demonstration against proposed extradition bill, Hong Kong, June 2019. Image: etan liam/Flickr June 26, 2019 Political Action World

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with its own set of laws and regulations separate from most of mainland China. Hong Kong is in a transition period following the withdrawal of the U.K. as its colonial power in 1997.

Since then, the city state has seen spikes in political activities and protests when major changes to its laws have been proposed. In the last few months, the Hong Kong government, headed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, proposed to introduce a new law that would allow people to be extradited to mainland China.

APC talked to Carol Ng, the Women's Officer of the Confederation of Hong Kong Trade Unions, earlier in the week as to the reasons why this proposed law saw demonstrations of up to two million people flood the streets of Hong Kong.

Asia Pacific Currents provides updates of labour struggles and campaigns from the Asia Pacific region. It is produced by Australia Asia Worker Links, in the studio of 3CR Radio in Melbourne, Australia.

Image: Demonstration against proposed extradition bill, Hong Kong, June 2019. Credit: etan liam/Flickr


Hong Kong China extradition Protests
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[l] at 6/21/19 2:50pm
rabble staff

Our friends at The Leap have been touring across the country to hear from prominent climate activists, students, organizers, workers, and people like you on how to build power and popular supports for an inclustive, climate-safe economy and society, a Green New Deal.

The tour's stop will be in Vancouver tonight! They will be presenting a livestream of the event and you can watch “A Green New Deal for All” live right here.

You don’t need to be in Vancouver to hear from speakers and performers which include Kanahus Manuel, David Suzuki, Harsha Walia, and Avi Lewis, with MC Anjali Appadurai.

For more information on rabble's Amplify! event coverage services please visit our page, or email amplify@rabble.ca

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[l] at 6/21/19 2:38pm
June 21, 2019 Jagmeet Singh. Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook NDP links environment with economic justice to head off Green challenge The NDP has released its full set of election campaign commitments early, in the hope that those policy proposals will become a key part of the national conversation leading up to the October vote.
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[l] at 6/21/19 2:31pm
Karl Nerenberg Jagmeet Singh. Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

The NDP has released its full set of election campaign commitments early, in the hope that voters will take the time to absorb them, and that those policy proposals will become a key part of the national conversation leading up to the October vote.

The media took notice -- at least for a day or two.

Some reporters and commentators focused on the big differences between Jagmeet Singh's ambitious proposals and Tom Mulcair's constrained and modest platform last time around. In 2015, the party tied its own hands with a base promise to achieve a balanced budget within a first mandate.

Other commentators took note of the progressive hue of the 2019 platform, and decreed that the NDP has gone back to, as a National Post headline put it, "interventionism, protectionism and fiscal insanity."

In fact, the NDP's platform is not radical.

On the revenue side, the 2019 NDP calls for restoration of the corporate tax to its former 2010 rate, and for a modest increase in taxes on the highest income earners, notably in the form of a wealth tax on total assets of over $20 million. It also proposes an increase from 50 to 75 per cent on the taxable amount of capital gains.

In terms of programs, Jagmeet Singh's NDP emphasizes affordability.

Its platform pledges to deliver: truly universal healthcare, which would include eye care, mental health and, of course, prescription drugs; a half million units of affordable housing over 10 years; expanded employment insurance; a cap on cell phone fees; and measures to increase the number of child care spaces while reducing their cost for parents.  

The environment also occupies a big place in the NDP's plans.

The party pledges to eliminate oil and gas subsidies and invest that money in renewables. It will also invest in low carbon transportation, especially public transit. And it even promises to work with jurisdictions that want it to provide free public transit.

These and other key promises all fall within the mainstream policy framework of most developed countries, with the notable exception of the United States. The NDP's policy proposals are designed to humanize and rationalize Canada's private enterprise, market-based economy, not limit or undermine it.

True threat to liberal democracies is not the spectre of socialism

There are no proposals in the NDP policy book for 2019 to take over major private sector entities through nationalization, or even to significantly expand the public sector. Rather, the platform emphasizes regulation (especially environmental), more progressive taxation, the expansion of the welfare state, and measures to protect workers and decrease the inequality gap.

What the NDP now wants is what enlightened proponents of democratic capitalism -- such as former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the 21st Century -- have advocated for quite a while. Their view is that western societies must seriously tackle the twin monsters of environmental degradation and increasing inequality, because it is those monsters, and not the spectre of socialism, that are the greatest threats to liberal-democratic, market-based societies.

The current NDP, under leader Jagmeet Singh, links environmental responsibility to social and economic justice, at a time when many in Canada are looking with increased interest at the Green Party.

The Greens in Europe and the Ralph Nader and Jill Stein Greens in the U.S. have worked hard to connect an agenda of greater social equality with the environment, but that has not been particularly true of Canada's Greens, at least not up to now.

On trade, labour, social welfare and social equality, Canada's Green party has, historically, been all over the map, sometimes sounding social democratic, sometimes almost conservative.

That might explain why you'll find a group of voters who could be called Conservative-Green switchers. To them, the NDP is beyond consideration. It is an old-school, class-warfare, trade union-based party, which would impose bureaucratic regulations on the economy and raise taxes to intolerable levels.

By contrast, in the eyes of this group the Greens are modern, pragmatic problem-solvers, unburdened by any ideology other than environmentalism based on science.

In reality, the Greens might not yet feel compelled to take the non-environmental part of their offer to voters seriously. They might be quite comfortable with a kind of formless and vague eclecticism.

That vagueness on everything but the environment could create an opening for the NDP.

Just as Justin Trudeau's favourite mantra has been that the environment and the economy go hand in hand -- ergo a pipeline approval and climate emergency declaration in the same week -- so might Jagmeet Singh's new mantra be that the environment must go hand in hand not simply with the economy, but with the vigorous pursuit of economic justice.

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

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[l] at 6/21/19 10:15am
Roy Mitchell Crowd ripping up hatred sign at Ford Fest annual picnic in 2014. Photo credit: Elizabeth Littlejohn
  • I've been called "righteous," "a troublemaker."

  • I've been told to "slow down."

  • I've been asked to talk about "it" by the people who have hurt me.

  • I've been told the world is not ready and not everything is "gay." "Don't rock the boat; be patient."

  • I was called a "pedophile" by a teenager walking by a #ClimateCrisis gathering in Bancroft that I was at.

  • I've been ignored by people I have asked for support.

  • I have been left standing alone on the street when a friend went into a shop even though he knew I wouldn't go in because the owner refused to cater a friend's wedding when she found out my friend is lesbian.

  • I've been told, "at least you don't live in (insert another country's name here)."

  • I've been told, "get over it -- there are people worse off than you."

  • I have seen articles posted about trans people getting killed and their murders ignored.

  • I've seen Nazis carrying swastika flags and wearing swastika armbands being escorted by police wearing rainbow badges in a Detroit Pride parade.

  • I have seen Ontario Premier Doug Ford with his minister of health surrounded by police at a Pride parade. Memes have been posted of him angrily pointing at someone in the Toronto City Hall Gallery. That's me he's singling out. He's yelling at me: "… and what do you know, Mr. Professional Grant Writer?" And now he's marching in a Pride parade with the cops. Both are part of the problem.

  • I've had allies tell me what I should do without any offer to do it themselves and in the middle of it, I listen to their "problems."

  • I have seen editorials where people are discussing whether "genocide" is the right word to use.

  • I have seen a bulletin from a Picton, Ontario Catholic church a couple of hours south of my home in Hastings Highlands telling people to avoid this month's Pride festivities and especially not to expose their children to it.

This is just over the last few weeks and this list is not complete. I have also had conversations full of support and love from friends and people I hardly or don't know.

People have forwarded me the emails they have written to Hastings Highlands Council requesting the raising of the rainbow flag. I read each of them more than once and am moved by the compassion and understanding they are showing me and LGBTQ people.

I have no idea how any letter against the rainbow flag could have any love or compassion in it and yet I've been told there are "both sides to this" and there's "a need to accommodate everyone." The supportive emails people have forwarded make me cry. When I read them that tightness in my gut goes away ... for a while.

I have friends who both live and understand how painful it is to live in a world that hates queer people. I love these people deeply. They understand how these strikes against us don't happen just once or twice, that they aren't part of history. They are constant. They are ongoing and some believe they are ramping up as the people who hate us become emboldened.

People understand how exhausting it can be just to exist and face these microaggressions again and again; yet we're told it gets better. Asking a municipality to raise a rainbow flag isn't a small thing. This simple ask throws light on the hate against LGBTQ people -- or any group treated like they deserve less than others. I can't understand the logic of not raising the flag. Although I know what they say to support the hate, the queer-erasure.

No one, no group of people, is not worthy of love, safety, happiness and a future.

Imagine what it would be like for me and so many other people if the list started at the top of this article didn't have to be written. Imagine the work we could do; imagine the energy we'd have to create and be in this world.

Right now, we're all rainbows and celebration, but this time of year will pass and we won't see rainbows splashed over logos and flying from flagpoles the rest of the year.

A lot of people think these summer festivities will sustain us -- it's like a gift the world gives us to get through the rest of the year. It's not. You're fooled if you think the world must love us because during the summer there are so many rainbows. Black people too -- they have a whole month -- that should sustain them. And women, well, they have a whole day!

No person or group who can only see themselves in one day, one week, one month or anything less than 365 days a year should be happy that that's enough. I can't be patient. And right now, we're seeing LGBTQ people not even making it through the one day they have a parade.

Increased activity by the alt-right and violence at Pride celebrations have generated fears about hate groups turning up to disrupt Pride events. Toronto agency The 519, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, issued an advisory following a violent incident on April 30 and is distributing mobilization kits in case of disruptions during Pride weekend.

Roy Mitchell moved to Hastings Highlands from Toronto six years ago. He lives on a 100-acre homestead in the Hybla. He is a community organizer, arts administrator and writer. He mixes performance art and journalism through his project Hybla Today.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Littlejohn

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[l] at 6/20/19 2:21pm
Education Protest against education cuts at Queen's Park on April 6, 2019. Photo: michael_swan/Flickr

On a trip back to Toronto this week I attended the launch of a new report commissioned by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), and written by Aimee McArthur-Gupta from the Conference Board of Canada. The report presents some estimates of the economic, fiscal and social benefits of public education programs.

The full report is here. It is a useful resource for all those campaigning against conservative cutbacks to school budgets (such as those in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan). It’s also an interesting example of economists attempting to put "numbers" on channels of causation which we all knew were important, but which are hard to measure.

The report has two major analytical sections. The first uses the Conference Board’s input-output model to simulate the immediate spin-off economic effects of public education spending. Education is a major driver of economic growth and job creation -- yet conservatives insist on treating it solely as a "cost" or "drain," something to be minimized rather than optimized. The Conference Board suggests public education (K-12) accounts for 3.2 per cent of provincial GDP, and 290,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The report then simulated the effects of a 1 per cent increase in provincial spending on education (worth $291 million). It produces a multiplied impact on final GDP (with a final multiplier effect of 1.3). Almost one-third of the incremental expense is returned to government in tax revenues (about 40 per cent of that flowing direct to the provincial level). Wages and salaries (direct and indirect) grow by $275 million, and a total of 4234 additional jobs are created (in schools and administration, in the supply chain, and in downstream consumer goods and services provision).

If anything, I would suggest these estimates of immediate spillover impacts are conservative. Other macroeconomic models have identified even stronger multiplier effects from spending on relatively labour-intensive public services like education.

The second analytical section of the report is more novel: it attempts to identify and quantify some of the major long-run social and fiscal effects of education spending. It points out that high school completion rates have improved dramatically in Ontario over the last 15 years. In 2004 only 68 per cent of Ontario students finished high school. It is important to keep in mind that was at the end of the last eight-year period in office of Ontario’s Conservatives -- these ones led by Mike Harris. Their term was marked by austerity, education cuts, attacks on the autonomy of local school boards, and historic job action by teachers resisting those cuts.

By 2017, after years of sustained growth in education funding, Ontario’s high school completion rate soared to 86 per cent. The Conference Board report reviews extensive published evidence indicating a link between funding levels and school attainment. It is clear that the improvement in Ontario achievement is linked to the increase in school funding after the Harris Conservatives lost power.

The Conference Board report then considers just a few of the fiscal and social benefits of better school attainment. It identifies three main channels: reduced social assistance expenses, reduced health-care costs, and reduced criminal justice costs. In every case, strong correlations are visible in published literature between higher education and better health, income, and criminality results. The report estimates that if high school completion were to drop back down only partially as a result of funding cuts (in their scenario it falls to 83 per cent), additional public fiscal costs would be incurred in just those three areas totaling $3.8 billion over the next 20 years.

I give the Conference Board an "A" for effort in their effort to quantify these effects, but in reality I think the true impacts on government’s fiscal line of education cutbacks will actually be considerably larger than this. One immediate impact, of course, is the fact that people who do not finish high school generate far lower incomes over their lifetimes than those who do. The Conference Board considers the impacts of lower income on these three key dimensions of social well-being, but there are many others -- including the fact that revenues flowing back to government in income taxes and GST revenues will be suppressed as a result of lower incomes.

In summary, I find the Conference Board report to be a valid, cautious, and credible first step in exploring the broader economic and social consequences of education funding (or, in the case of Doug Ford’s chaotic government, its absence). I think the true spillover impacts on both immediate economic activity and long-run economic and social well-being are likely to be considerably larger than what this report has suggested. Nevertheless, it makes an important contribution to the discussion in Ontario (and elsewhere) about why it is so crucial to preserve and expand investments in quality, accessible public education.

Good luck to the OSSTF and other advocates for public education in their continuing efforts to defeat the Ford government’s austerity. The dismay that is being expressed in communities around Ontario at the prospect of much larger class sizes, cancelled option and specialist classes, and ultimately school closures is exacting a well-deserved toll on this government -- which has become the most unpopular in Ontario’s history, after just a year in office. Momentum is on our side, and this initiative will be important and helpful as the movement to defend public education grows.

Jim Stanford is Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics at McMaster University. This column was first posted on the Progressive Economics Forum.

Photo: michael_swan/Flickr

public education education funding Jim Stanford June 21, 2019 Denying globalization's downside won't stop right-wing populism True believers may think that merely educating citizens about how trade deals really are good for everyone will save the day for globalization. But there's a much deeper problem. Let's sustain the activist momentum to support Ontario's public education system The Activist Toolkit followed up with organizers in the crowd and put together this blog to report on the tools activists have developed in their organizing efforts. Ontario education cuts mean fewer teachers, fewer courses and fewer programs The government's announcement that it will raise average class sizes in secondary schools is a variation on an old trick: distract people with one hand while you pick their pocket with the other.
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[l] at 6/20/19 1:55pm
June 20, 2019 NYC ShutItDown People’s Monday march for Berta Cáceres in 2017. Photo: Alec Perkins/Wikimedia Commons Instead of squabbling over scarce jobs and incomes, we should jointly strive for a fair economic system There is no shortage of money in Canada. Our per-capita GDP has more than doubled over the past 50 years. But its dispersal has been ruthlessly skewed to favour the most opulent among us.
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[l] at 6/20/19 12:33pm
Antonia Zerbisias

Dear rabble readers:

rabble is fighting back against the rising right that's consolidating power across Canada -- Doug Ford in Ontario, Jason Kenney in Alberta, and François Legault in Quebec. We can't afford to stand back and watch the Blue Tsunami wash over our country, as it has in the U.S. and much of Europe.

We've known for decades that progressive news coverage and analysis are lost, under-reported or ignored in the corporate-driven social media. We know that most Canadians are not right wing and want to hear from independent, progressive voices.

This is why I'm happy to have my column, Broadsides, on rabble.ca where it can reach and be shared by people whose values and perspectives are, like mine, not reflected by the mainstream media.

So, will you join rabble.ca by supporting its coverage of nefarious right-wing organizing as we gear up for the October federal election?

As we see Conservative politicians embrace austerity policies, the rise of hate politics, and attacks on years of labour and social justice progress, it is easy to lose hope.

But we've been here before.

As coalitions form and new activists and fresh voices emerge, independent media plays an important role. We need a place to share stories and converge to build something new and resist right-wing ideology. For many years, rabble.ca has been such a place.

To continue being that place, rabble.ca needs you.

rabble.ca needs to raise $65,000 over the next month in order to meet their fundraising goals and expand their election coverage.

Will you answer the call?

In the wake of a dangerous rising ideology, we need independent media to be a watchdog. Support rabble.ca.

In solidarity,

Antonia Zerbisias

Antonia Zerbisias, former CBC-TV journalist and Toronto Star columnist, writes about society, media and politics in her rabble.a column, Broadsides.

P.S. As a special thank you, sign up to become a monthly donor at $5/month or more and choose to receive a free copy of our best of rabble.ca books!


Sign up as a monthly donor of $8 or more, and choose to receive a copy of Colleen Cardinal's Ohpikiihaakan-ohpihmeh (Raised somewhere else): A 60s Scoop Adoptee's Story of Coming Home (Fernwood Publishing) or Jackie Traverse's IKWE: Honouring Women, Life Givers, and Water Protectors (Fernwood Publishing)

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[l] at 6/20/19 10:27am
Ed Finn NYC ShutItDown People’s Monday march for Berta Cáceres in 2017. Photo: Alec Perkins/Wikimedia Commons

There's an African proverb that is becoming uncomfortably apt to apply to many workers and citizens: "As the waterhole becomes smaller, the animals get meaner."

In other words, as basic needs dwindle, so does the willingness to share what's left. The merits of community and co-operation are superseded by a selfish survival-of-the-fittest mentality.

A big difference, however, exists between what happens at a shrinking waterhole in Africa and what happens in Canada when good-paying jobs are reduced, incomes fall or stagnate, and government services are cut back. The African waterhole gets smaller because of a drought. It's a natural and unavoidable phenomenon. In Canadian society, however, the necessities of life for the most vulnerable among us are being deliberately restricted.

Our welfare "waterhole" is being siphoned away, its contents inequitably transferred from the pockets of the poor into the bulging bank accounts and stock portfolios of the rich and powerful.

There is no shortage of money in Canada. Our per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) -- the country's entire financial output -- has more than doubled over the past 50 years. But its dispersal has been ruthlessly skewed to favour the most opulent among us. Corporate executives, bankers, major investors and financiers wallow in wealth, much of it derived from taxpayer-funded billion-dollar bailouts of big corporations.

Maldistribution of income

That a barbaric maldistribution of income leaves millions of citizens, including hundreds of thousands of children, destitute and undernourished doesn't bother the elite in the least. Their cherished capitalist system inevitably creates many more losers than winners, and always will. That's its chief purpose. So the diversion of income from the needy to the wealthy is welcomed, and the wealthy can count on their right-wing political minions to block or minimize significant poverty reductions.

In the past, prior to the global expansion of capitalism, picking on the marginalized and poor was not something that could be done with impunity. Corporations were confined to the country of their origin, and subject to political and social constraints on their power and greed. Strong unions prevented them from underpaying their employees. Most people -- even many of the rich themselves -- would have been shocked by today's obscenely inequitable distribution of income and the widespread misery it inflicts.

Today, thanks to "free trade" and the global expansion of high-tech communications, corporations have been freed from economic and regulatory limits on their insatiable profit-making -- free to move their operations to countries with the lowest wages, lowest taxes, lowest environmental standards. This planet-wide omnipotence also enables them to exploit their power over subservient governments and weakened unions in their home countries, where wages stagnate, inequality soars, poverty pervades, corporate taxes decline, and pollution rises.

Corporate oppression unchallenged

One of the worst outcomes of this corporate oppression has been its abject acceptance by so many of its victims. Yes, there are protests by activist groups, complaints about service and funding cuts, valiant attempts to help the many casualties. But these efforts are mostly confined to mitigating the harmful impacts of the dominant capitalist system, not targeting that insidious system itself.

As long as progressive activists continue to accept the calamities of runaway capitalism as unpreventable, then their many protests, though admirable on their own, will be ineffectual.

As for those who now consider resistance to corporate power futile, many have unfortunately decided to embrace its pernicious "survival of the fittest" practice. They resent anyone who seems to be faring better than they are in the current jungle-law economic system. Instead of striving for a fair income for everyone, they try to catch up to and financially surpass the co-workers and neighbours they now perceive as rivals and competitors.

It's one of the baser instincts fostered by a baneful socioeconomic system that puts individual competitiveness above communal co-operation.

Many human animals, it seems, also tend to get meaner as their personal economic waterhole gets smaller. They don't blame the bloated plutocrats who greedily suck up the largest share of the country's fluid assets. They turn their wrath instead on those who are competing with them more effectively for what's left in the national financial "pond" after it's mostly slurped up by the powerful plutocrats.

If they are employed by a private firm, they resent public employees enjoying higher wages and better pensions. If they work in the oil and gas industries, they resent efforts by environmentalists to reduce harmful carbon emissions.

Of mice and men

It's eerily reminiscent of a laboratory experiment I once read about in which sadistic scientists provoked naturally peaceful mice to fight among themselves. This was done with an extended colony of mice which coexisted in harmony as long as they all had enough to eat and drink.

Gradually the scientists reduced their supply of food. They wanted to find out at what lower level of sustenance the mice could be induced to "compete" for their dwindling rations.

Eventually, of course, growing hunger turned the biggest and strongest mice against the weaker ones. At first they simply nipped at them and drove them from the food and water containers. Then, as the food was drastically curtailed, the attacks became fiercer. The weakest mice eventually died, either from their wounds or starvation.

Thus was a stable and co-operative community of mice converted into a war zone in which the strongest prevailed over the weakest.

Like these lab mice, the weakest and poorest among us have also been subjected to a contrived reduction of their collective means of livelihood. They've been forced to make do with fewer good jobs, lower incomes, declining services.

Many of us in the middle class, too, though not victimized to the same extent, also struggle in underpaid and insecure jobs with minimal benefits, living precariously from paycheque to paycheque.

There's a vital difference, however, between us and the mice. We're more intelligent and not as powerless. We don't have to react as they did. We don't have to be goaded by the corporate lab technicians to fight among ourselves for the fair share of the national income that has been as ruthlessly withheld from us as was the food and water from the mice.

Instead, we have to stop diffusing our immense potential power. We have the inherent ability to co-operate and collaborate, to consolidate our collective force and focus it decisively against our plutocratic tormentors.

Yes, we face a monumental corporate Goliath, against whom an individual David is helpless. But if we can jointly muster all our protest "slingshots" on a global scale and wield them together, it's possible that even the mighty neoliberal capitalist system could be toppled.

We'll never know, however, unless we stop squabbling and start mobilizing a massive, united, unstoppable civilian crusade.

Ed Finn grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice, reporter, columnist, and editor of that city’s daily newspaper, the Western Star. His career as a journalist included 14 years as a labour relations columnist for the Toronto Star. He was part of the world of politics between 1959 and 1962, serving as the first provincial leader of the NDP in Newfoundland. He worked closely with Tommy Douglas for some years and helped defend and promote medicare legislation in Saskatchewan.

Photo: Alec Perkins/Wikimedia Commons

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[l] at 6/20/19 9:28am
Zaid Noorsumar PSAC. Photo: PSAC/Facebook

PSAC decries $2.6 billion public-private partnership for heating and cooling federal buildings

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has been enthusiastic about a contract with a private consortium to upgrade heating and cooling infrastructure in federal buildings. But PSAC and other public sector unions say that such partnerships do not provide value for taxpayer funds, the Hill Times reports.

Trudeau government announces new pilots for care workers

New pilot programs for domestic care workers will grant open work permits to them and their immediate family members, the Toronto Star reports. Care workers have long demanded open work permits that would allow them to escape abuse by exploitative employers.

New security rules making it tougher to find seasonal farm workers

The CBC reports that businesses accustomed to using temporary foreign farm workers are finding it tough due to new government rules requiring biometric data. The articles quotes an employer saying that Canadian residents are not willing to work for minimum wage.

Father's Day gathering for temporary foreign workers highlights isolation and working conditions

About 200 temporary foreign workers celebrated Father's Day in Langley, B.C., the CBC reports. Foreign workers have to navigate tough challenges including separation from families, low wages and unpaid overtime.

Health-care changes creating toxic work environment, say nurses

Rushing patients through the system, competing with colleagues for shifts and longer working hours are burdening nurses in Manitoba's health care system, the CBC reports.

Nurses and their unions have been protesting changes introduced by the Conservative government, including a massive dwindling of bargaining units from 183 to less than 50.

96 per cent nursing home vote to strike symbolically against nursing home employer

Conditions in Ontario's nursing homes have worsened to the point where 96 per cent of employees across 10 facilities would opt to strike if they legally could, based on a vote organized by Unifor.

Last week, Rankandfile.ca published an investigative series highlighting how nursing homes have been adversely impacted by privatization and corporatization, resulting in residents and staff facing exceptional levels of violence.

Ford's cuts to impact project that helps tackle workplace abuse

The Toronto Star reports that the Ford government's cuts will negatively impact a pilot program tackling workplace abuse that has resulted in workers recovering over half a million dollars of unpaid wages.

Legal Aid Saskatchewan and CUPE at impasse

Legal Aid Saskatchewan employees have been without a contract since 2016, as their union and employer have been unable to negotiate an agreement. CUPE told the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that Legal Aid is bargaining in bad faith and using stalling tactics.

Zaid Noorsumar is rabble's labour beat reporter for 2019, and is a journalist who has previously contributed to CBC, The Canadian Press, the Toronto Star and Rankandfile.ca. To contact Zaid with story leads, email zaid[at]rabble.ca.

Photo: PSAC/Facebook


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[l] at 6/20/19 8:43am
Anti-Racism US Politics Cover of book by Charles A. Taylor. Photo: The COM Library/Flickr

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. The name comes from a combination of the two words in the date, June nineteenth. On that day in 1865, 250,000 slaves in Texas were freed by a Union Army general who had arrived with troops in Galveston the day before. The Civil War had ended more than a month earlier, but word of the war's end took time to reach parts of Texas. By the end of 1865, the 13th Amendment had been ratified, formally outlawing slavery across the United States.

It was an incredible victory, but the trajectory of systemic racism in the United States did not end there, as we know all too well. Indeed, the real-world impacts of slavery on today's African-American population were front and centre in Washington, D.C., this week, as historic hearings and public gatherings convened to discuss, debate and organize around reparations and poverty, and to offer a vision for a more just and equitable nation.

On Wednesday, Juneteenth, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. It was introduced by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston this year, after former Congressmember John Conyers had championed the bill for decades without success. As the name implies, all the bill seeks to do is establish a study to explore the issue of reparations. But opposition to it is fierce.

Among those testifying in support of H.R. 40 were Sen. Cory Booker, who is sponsoring the companion bill in the Senate; actor and activist Danny Glover; economist Julianne Malveaux; Katrina Browne, who traces her roots to a wealthy Rhode Island slave trader family; and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates' sweeping 2014 article in The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations," reignited the discussion around how we as a society must make amends for the horror of slavery.

On Tuesday, a young African-American reporter, Eva McKend, asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whether the government should issue a public apology for slavery. "I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea," the Kentucky Republican replied.

Ta-Nehisi Coates opened his testimony by saying: "McConnell offered a familiar reply. … But we are American citizens, and thus bound to a collective enterprise that extends beyond our individual and personal reach." Coates went on: "We recognize our lineage as a generational trust, as inheritance, and the real dilemma posed by reparations is just that: a dilemma of inheritance. It is impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery."

Also on Wednesday, Juneteenth, another rare hearing took place. The Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival presented a Poor People's Moral Budget to the House Budget Committee. The budget rejects austerity and calls for massive military spending cuts, fair taxes on the wealthy, corporations and Wall Street, and details billions more in savings from ending mass incarceration, tackling climate change and pursuing other progressive goals.

The budget hearing was part of a three-day "Moral Action Congress" convened by the Poor People's Campaign, co-chaired by the Rev. William Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis. It's a renewal of the Poor People's Campaign launched by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the last year of his life.

On Monday, they hosted a Democratic presidential candidates forum, with nine of the Democratic hopefuls attending. Opening the six-hour session, Rev. Barber noted that poverty was never directly addressed during the 2016 presidential debates: "43.5 per cent of this nation -- not 30, not 23 -- but almost half of this nation" live in poverty, he explained. "Any nation that ignores half of its people is in a moral and economic crisis that is constitutionally inconsistent, economically insane and morally indefensible."

Former vice-president Joe Biden was the first to speak, to his credit. But to the shock of many, just the next night he attended a high-end fundraiser for his campaign in New York City, where he harked back to his early years in the Senate, recalling the "civility" of bygone days working with two segregationist senators, Herman Talmadge and James Eastland. "I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland," Biden recalled, according to a pool report. "He never called me 'boy'; he always called me 'son.'" Of course, for Eastland, a Mississippi Democratic senator from 1943-78, the word "boy" -- and much worse -- was reserved for African Americans, who Eastland referred to as an "inferior race." The backlash against Biden's remarks has been intense.

We can only imagine the joy felt by those newly freed men, women and children in Galveston on that original Juneteenth, July 19, 1865. But this week, in the halls of Congress and around Washington, D.C., echoes of their celebrations are manifest as people organize for long-overdue racial and economic justice.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Truthdig.

Photo: The COM Library/Flickr

Slavery reparations poverty Amy Goodman Denis Moynihan June 20, 2019 Harvard lawsuit evokes the ugly legacy of slavery The ownership of daguerreotypes that feature enslaved men and women, and controlled by Harvard University, is a legal question that strikes at the heart of slavery. Racism can't be scrubbed away The legacy of slavery in the United States lives on in countless, often deadly, ways. Racism, like the shoe polish Virginia's Governor Northam used on his face, can't simply be scrubbed away. Canadians need a reality check about who exactly experiences hate crimes Contrary to what groups like B'nai Brith Canada would have us believe, the main targets of violence in Canada are not Jews, but people of colour.
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[l] at 6/19/19 2:59pm
Saturday, June 22, 2019 - 12:00 to 20:00 Environment

We live in a time of incredible danger and possibility. The world’s best scientists say we must make drastic changes or face irreversible and terrible consequences. Meanwhile many so-called world leaders either deny climate change outright or champion themselves as “Climate Leaders” while buying dirty Tar Sands pipelines.

However, in the face of this growing crisis new movements across the world have sprung up in defence of people and the planet.

Standing Rock showed the incredible potential of Indigenous-led resistance to resource extraction mega-projects, while locally the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion has been stalled due to a decade of persistent organizing. Greta Thunberg and her Student Strike has helped ignite a growing movement of young people demanding climate justice, while Extinction Rebellion captured international headlines with a week of mass civil disobedience. The idea of a Green New Deal have captivated many, while the slogan of “System Change Not Climate Change” has emerged as a rallying cry the world over.

How do we put all this dynamism together to be more united and effective in saving the planet? Join Climate Convergence as we come together to begin to tackle some of the most important discussions about the past, present and future of the climate justice movement!

Join us as we explore three topics crucial to the Climate Justice Movement:

1. “What Do You Mean System Change Not Climate Change?”
Feature Presentation by David Barsamian founder and director of Alternative Radio. He is also the author of over 25 books, including interview collections with Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, and Edward Said. David will explain how and why capitalism created the current crisis, and what we change to create a a just and sustainable future.

2. “The Climate Justice Movement - How Far We Have Come”
We need to reflect on our journey as a movement to make sure we are prepared for the future. This session will address the global and local Climate Justice movements and go into our challenges and victories.

3. “Climate Convergence: Our Struggle, Our Perspective”
Join us as we discuss the evolution of Climate Convergence as a grassroots climate justice coalition, and strategize how to be more dynamic and effective in these crucial times.

Find out more: http://www.climateconvergence.ca

SFU Woodward's: Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre 149 W Hastings St Vancouver , BC Canada See map: Google Maps British Columbia CA BC Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver tlorincz@dal.ca
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[l] at 6/19/19 12:19pm
June 19, 2019 Prime Minister Trudeau speaks with journalists during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO TMX gets the nod from Justin Trudeau's cabinet -- masterstroke or master blunder? The PM's comments in 2016 about why he approved the TMX suggest Liberal talk's as cheap as gasoline in Edmonton after Premier Jason Kenney tore up the NDP's carbon levy.
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[l] at 6/19/19 8:17am
David J. Climenhaga Michael Cooper stands among fellow Conservative MPs. Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

The CBC reported yesterday that Conservative Michael Cooper was threatening to sue two of his former law school classmates for publicly alleging the St. Albert-Edmonton MP once made disparaging comments about immigrants from places insufficiently steeped in Judeo-Christian values.

But first the CBC reported the two other lawyers' allegations at length, a story you can read for yourselves here. The lawyers quoted by the CBC said they decided to go public after reading of Cooper's behaviour before the House of Commons Justice Committee on May 28.

Cooper told the CBC he recalled the class discussion 11 years ago, but denied making the comments. "I have instructed my counsel to take all necessary legal measures," he warned.

Politically alert residents of Cooper's riding are advised to keep an eye on how the threatened legal action unfolds. Threatening to sue for defamation can be a tricky strategy for politicians, as Justin Trudeau discovered recently when he said he planned to sue Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for comments he made during the days of the SNC-Lavalin brouhaha was bedevilling the prime minister.

Scheer, of course, was the understanding boss who gently tapped Cooper on the wrist in late May for his offensive performance before the Justice Committee, in which he read into the record the anti-Muslim screed of the terrorist who murdered 51 people in March as they prayed in their mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand yesterday, a judge sentenced a Christchurch white supremacist to 21 months in prison for sharing a banned video of the terrorist attack. New Zealand has also banned the publication of the terrorist's rambling manifesto, the one Cooper read to the committee.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

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[l] at 6/19/19 12:23am
David J. Climenhaga Prime Minister Trudeau speaks with journalists during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

With his cabinet's second approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has either proved the Liberal Party of Canada's old mojo is still intact or blown it all to smithereens.

It's too soon to tell.

Alberta Conservatives and their legion of media cheerleaders obviously feared the first explanation was the truth, that Trudeau had somehow found the magic middle on this contentious issue and voters throughout the land would soon be flocking back to his side.

Why else would they be so cranky about an outcome that should have been easy for them to portray as a huge victory for their side?

Rather than celebrate, the Conservative commentariat spent the afternoon carping and moaning that Trudeau didn't really mean it (a patently false narrative), that he didn't go far enough and drop other legislation they don't like (an argument you can make, I guess, but so what?), or that he didn't look cheerful enough at his news conference in Ottawa.

The latter point is just pathetic. What was the prime minister supposed to do? Dance a jig? If he'd done that, these nabobs of negativity would have complained he was nothing but a flaky drama teacher!

The general tone was set by the Calgary Herald's Don Braid, who had the cheek to publish his attack on the prime minister for doing what the columnist had demanded before the decision had even been announced. "Ottawa won't deserve Alberta's thanks for pipeline OK," barked the headline, neatly summarizing this province's inevitably ungracious reaction to anything Trudeau does.

But the idea yesterday's decision was a strategic masterstroke by the Liberals, long faces and all, is based on the assumption there is a middle left in Canada, and that we're not becoming as polarized as Donald Trump's America thanks to the efforts of those now-worried conservative bloviators.

It certainly assumes that no one is paying any attention any more to what Trudeau said the last time his cabinet approved the TMX, back on November 29, 2016 -- to wit, that "we could not have approved this project without the leadership of Premier (Rachel) Notley and Alberta's climate leadership plan."

"We said that major pipelines could only get built if we had a price on carbon and strong environmental protection in place," Trudeau said then. His assembled cabinet ministers that day, then including Jody Wilson-Reybould, didn't look all that cheerful either, whatever that meant.

For those who do remember such things, this would suggest that Liberal talk is as cheap as gasoline in Edmonton after Premier Jason Kenney tore up the NDP's carbon levy.

And there are plenty of people in parts of Canada that, unlike Alberta and Saskatchewan, are inclined to vote Liberal in a pinch, who now likely won't.

They won't vote for Andrew Scheer's Conservatives either, of course. But this does suggest that if Jagmeet Singh and the NDP can't come up soon with a compelling pitch, a lot of them are going to vote for Elizabeth May's Green Party, perhaps providing it with the breakthrough May keeps predicting.

Well, like I say, it's too soon to tell. I've been wrong about this stuff before, but you'd have to put me in the group that wonders if Trudeau has just blown it all to smithereens.

Two things are guaranteed, though:

  1. Building a bigger pipeline to "new markets" via the West Coast will never raise the price of Alberta bitumen as long as the law of supply and demand remains in effect.
  2. Shipping more bitumen from Alberta's tarsands through a bigger pipe to whatever markets will buy it will not lower Canada's carbon emissions.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

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[l] at 6/18/19 9:37am
June 18, 2019 Closing ceremony of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter Canada has a long history of ignoring reports like that of the MMIWG inquiry The hullabaloo over the inquiry's use of the word genocide has obscured its broader message, and that is more than a pity. It is a tragedy.
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[l] at 6/18/19 9:29am
Ed Finn Mpelletier1/Wikimedia Commons

Conservative politicians and pundits are questioning the feasibility of adding pharmaceutical coverage to Canada's public health-care system. "How can our governments possibly afford such a huge additional expense?" they ask.

They are asking the wrong question. Here are some of the proper questions to ask:

How have the other economically advanced countries in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, been able to afford comprehensive public health care, including dental, vision, hearing, and other health needs, as well as pharmacare?

How can our federal and provincial governments jointly afford to spend $29 billion a year in subsidies to large corporations, including $3.3 billion annually to the big oil and gas companies?

How can the federal government afford the mega-billions in bailouts it periodically lavishes on SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier, and in the past on the big automobile manufacturers?

How can the federal government afford to spend over $4 billion to purchase an oil pipeline?

Why have our governments, while increasing business subsidies, proportionately reduced their spending on social services? Why does Canada now rank a dismal 24th on the OECD's list of its member countries' social spending at just 17 per cent of GDP, compared to rates ranging from 23 per cent to more than 40 per cent by other countries?

The answers to these crucial unasked questions would expose the right-wingers' cavils about pharmacare's affordability as completely bogus. So would the fact that Canada's per capita GDP -- the country's gross domestic output -- has more than doubled the constant dollar amount it was 50 years ago. There's more money than ever before available, but now it's being far more inequitably distributed.

The alleged shortage of public funding for pharmacare (and other necessary health services) has been callously contrived by continually enhancing the wealth of the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.

Ed Finn grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where he worked as a printer’s apprentice, reporter, columnist, and editor of that city’s daily newspaper, the Western Star. His career as a journalist included 14 years as a labour relations columnist for the Toronto Star. He was part of the world of politics between 1959 and 1962, serving as the first provincial leader of the NDP in Newfoundland. He worked closely with Tommy Douglas for some years and helped defend and promote medicare legislation in Saskatchewan.

Photo: Mpelletier1/Wikimedia Commons

Make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation and join us as we take on the 2019 election. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

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[l] at 6/18/19 9:28am
Karl Nerenberg Closing ceremony of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

The hullabaloo over the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) inquiry's use of the word genocide has obscured its broader message, and that is more than a pity. It is a tragedy.

The inquiry's report builds a powerful case about the systemic causes for the frighteningly large number of cases of Indigenous women and girls who have been victims of violence, abuse and, too often, murder.

The report focuses, as one might expect, on the justice system, especially on the police. It points out that many Indigenous families have not believed they could trust the police to effectively deal with the disappearances of their loved ones.

Those families had ample reason for their mistrust.

For the most part, policing on traditional Indigenous territory and in urban Indigenous communities has not been a matter of providing a service. The RCMP and local police forces have, in large measure, acted not as peacekeepers, but as occupiers. Rather than serve the people and their communities, their role has been to pacify them.

But the report's scope goes far beyond policing.

The inquiry identifies structural ways in which the dysfunctional governance of Indigenous people and communities has produced the tragic results it was mandated to investigate.

In its calls to action the report recognizes "self-determination and self-governance as fundamental Indigenous and human rights and a best practice."

It points out that "self-governance in all areas of Indigenous society are required to properly serve and protect Indigenous women and girls," adding that this is particularly "true in the delivery of services."

Quite specifically, the report tackles the way the federal government manages and funds basic services in Indigenous communities, including education. All too often, this is done through term-limited contribution agreements, essentially imposed by the government in Ottawa.

The report notes that these "short-term or project-based funding models in service areas are not sustainable." It explains that they "represent a violation of inherent rights to self-governance and a failure to provide funding on a needs-based approach, equitably, substantively, and stably."

Many previous studies made similar recommendations

None of what the MMIWG Inquiry has reported should come as news to anyone who has been paying attention to Indigenous issues for the past four decades.

The auditor general's office drew the same conclusions as did the MMIWG Inquiry in a long series of damning reports, going back to the beginning of this century.

In 2011, we reported, in this space, on the auditor general's frustration with the government's failure to provide properly funded services to First Nations.

At the time Michael Wernick -- who later became the chief federal civil servant, the Clerk of the Privy Council -- was the senior Indigenous affairs official, the deputy minister. The ministry, which has now been divided in two, was then known as Indian affairs.

Speaking to a House of Commons committee, Wernick accepted the auditor general's critique, and explained that what the government had to do was provide a long term and "statutory basis" (meaning based on legislation) for funding Indigenous services. This would not be easy to accomplish, he said, because it would require an "all-of-government" approach, something very daunting to achieve.

That was in the time of the Harper Conservative government, which had scant interest in the rights and social conditions of Indigenous people. When the Liberal Justin Trudeau took over in 2015, the tone on Indigenous affairs changed completely. But tangible progress, especially on basic governance issues, has remained slow and difficult.

Prior to the auditor general's series of reports on the misadministration of Indigenous services there was the massive Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), headed by former Northwest Territories Dene and Assembly of First Nations leader George Erasmus and Quebec judge René Dussault. It reported in 1996 and you can still find the report online.

For the most part, governments of all stripes have ignored the royal commission's detailed recommendations on self-government for First Nations, especially as they relate to control of and benefit from natural resources on First Nations territory.

The current government has at least taken the RCAP report off the shelf and has been making an effort to implement its prescriptions on First Nation management of local community activities. But there is significant resistance to this from within the bureaucracy, as Jody Wilson-Raybould learned, to her considerable chagrin, when she tried to implement a cooperative, non-confrontational approach to First Nations' litigation.

The government also has to respond to pressure from the large and well financed community of industry lobbyists in Ottawa, many of whom consider Indigenous demands to be obstreperous and annoying hindrances to industrial development. Their views all too often prevail over those of the RCAP.

Serious but futile efforts in Pierre Trudeau's time, more than three decades ago

Even before the Erasmus-Dussault royal commission, there were other largely futile efforts to establish Indigenous governance on a more stable, sustainable and fair basis.

Notable among those was the Penner Report, submitted to the Canadian government in 1983.  Liberal MP Keith Penner was chair of the Indian affairs committee during PM Pierre Trudeau's last term in government. His committee studied the issue of self-government for Indigenous peoples, following the adoption of the Constitution Act of 1982, which included the begrudging, passive-aggressive recognition of "existing" aboriginal and treaty rights.

Penner's committee reported that "Indian people must work through a complex governmental structure in order to meet even basic needs," and outlined how this had a detrimental impact on child welfare, housing, basic services such as running water, education, employment and economic development, life expectancy, the incarceration rate, and just about everything else to do with the lives of Indigenous people.

Penner pointed an accusatory finger at the archaic neo-colonial Indian Act, which dates back to 1876 a time when the white, settler government quite openly and unabashed advocated the elimination of so-called "Indian" identity.

The committee stated bluntly that there was no way the Indian Act could be amended. It had to be scrapped completely and replaced with what would be, in essence, a nation-to-nation relationship between Canadian governments, both federal and provincial, and First Nations.

In its words, the Committee's central recommendation was that "the surest way to lasting change is through constitutional amendments." In that light, the Committee encouraged "both the federal government and Indian First Nations to pursue all processes leading to the implementation of self-government, including the bilateral process."

Unfortunately, the Pierre Trudeau government chose not to proceed on its own, but, rather subjected Indigenous people to a series of useless federal-provincial constitutional conferences, in which Indigenous leaders -- among them Jody Wilson-Raybould's father Bill Wilson -- were non-voting participants.

A handful of provinces, notably Ontario and New Brunswick, were willing to seriously consider some genuine form of Indigenous self-rule, but most considered it a threat to their power and, more important, their significant revenues from resource royalties.

Quebec was a special case. Its premier, Parti Québécois founder René Lévesque, sympathised, in theory, with the notion of self-government, but refused to vote. He was partially boycotting constitutional talks, because the federal government and the other provinces had adopted the 1982 constitutional changes over Quebec's objections.

In recent years we have had both the Truth and Reconciliation Report and the current report of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The current government has expressed a lot of goodwill on the issues these reports raise.

What happens next, however, will depend on the goodwill of the Canadian people as a whole. And then there is the little matter of a federal election coming this fall, which will have a major impact on the future of Indigenous policy.

If history is a guide, the most recent recommendations will likely end up ignored.

Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble's politics reporter.

Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

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[l] at 6/18/19 8:23am
NDP Politics in Canada Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

Jagmeet Singh laid out the NDP vision for Canada at the Ontario NDP convention in Hamilton on Sunday, June 16.

In a 109-page document that will serve as the basis for a costed 2019 electoral program, the NDP leader addressed a host of issues troubling Canadians.

Canadian politics could do with a refit. Nearly one-half of the population are hard hit, unable to cope with a financial emergency of $700.

Stagnating wages, precarious employment, unaffordable housing, and holes in public services have created a malaise across the country.

In its New Deal for People, the NDP is saying that since Liberal and Conservative governments have left Canada with pressing concerns, citizens need to rethink their political choices.

The subjects addressed and the policy ideas put forward will appeal to NDP activists across the country. Virtually all the proposals to make government work on behalf of Canadians come directly from policy resolutions adopted by the party in conventions going back decades.

Instead of trying to fit a few policy ideas into the dominant media frame of government spending is bad and taxation is worse, the New Deal lays out dozens of areas where governments need to plan, lead, spend, and better serve the population through the creation of new programs.

The Jagmeet Singh New Democrats want people to think about how government can improve lives; for instance, by greatly expanding health care to include dental services, mental health, and procedures not currently available even to those with private health insurance.

Examples of what can be achieved to improve life for more people -- through government planning and public investment -- abound in the New Deal document. These range from breaking monopoly pricing of internet and cell phone service; to limiting gas price gouging; to properly funding the arts, culture, and the CBC; to a New Deal for Indigenous Nations.

Despite its contradictions, neoliberal thinking still dominates the political landscape: it posits that the economy operates separately from politics. Adjustments supposedly occur seamlessly, through price changes that allocate resources fairly and allow business to supply consumer demands efficiently.

The neoliberal believes low-cost, small government does facilitate business, but that governments should limit direct intervention in the economy.

Underlying the NDP New Deal is the idea that the political and the economic are intertwined, and that current poor outcomes of neoliberal policies create havoc in the lives of "everyday" Canadians.

The way of thinking inherited by the NDP from its socialist ancestors in the CCF and its partners in the 20th-century Socialist International is reflected in the New Deal. The document focuses on the social world, where the economy and politics intersect. Here workers confront employers, governments are bribed, cajoled, and captured by capitalist enterprises, and the basic operating principle is to maximize profit, whatever the cost.

Looking at the social world today, the climate emergency virtually shouts out that things need to change. The causes are what neoliberal economics misnames as "externalities." These are the environmental liabilities society gets left with while the polluters and the resource exploiters -- oblivious to environmental costs -- calculate how to increase dividends to shareholders, and bump up stock prices and executive payouts -- while reducing wages and laying off employees.

Since the environmental emergency centres on the way we produce goods and services, and exploit resources, there is a need for governments to lead the way to a green economy through a thoroughgoing transformation of economic activity.

Instead Canada finds itself with right-wing premiers in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Quebec. Not simply climate emergency deniers, they are openly attacking federal Bill C-69 that would re-introduce environmental protections removed by the Harper Conservatives.

The New Deal for People can be strengthened by the party forging alliances with community and social groups whose support it will need if the NDP plan is to become a reality.

Research done in conjunction with groups like those that have worked for years to create a child-care program, such as the one envisaged in the New Deal, can only make it more attractive and underlie its feasibility.

The late Tom Kent, an architect of the 1960s liberal welfare state and adviser to the Mike Pearson Liberal Party, used to say that when a party develops a strong electoral program, it facilitates recruiting strong candidates.

The Singh NDP has inherited a weak financial situation and is behind schedule in nominating candidates for the October 21 election.

However, with its New Deal document, the party has put itself in a position to build support not just in the months ahead, but for the next 10 years, which promises to be a crucial time in Canada and in the world.

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

Make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation and join us as we take on the 2019 election. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

2019 federal election Duncan Cameron June 18, 2019 The NDP and the Waffle: 50 years later survival takes on a new meaning Fifty years ago, the NDP rejected a resolution calling for an independent socialist Canada. What happened in 1969 and what does it mean for the NDP today? The NDP can be renewed by the Waffle, NPI and Leap manifestos If the NDP are truly going to renew their party, they must integrate the lessons learned for the three manifestos: the Waffle, the NPI and the Leap. Which party has a plan to address the greatest threat to the planet? We need to know what the politicians plan to do about climate change.
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[l] at 6/18/19 7:32am
Maya Bhullar William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada/Wikimedia Commons

On June 21, 2019 Canada commemorates National Indigenous Peoples Day. Earlier in June, the Missing and Murdered Women and Girls report came out, calling Canada's treatment of Indigenous peoples "genocide." So now, what do we do? On National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Activist Toolkit is highlighting organizing that's being done to stop the continued discrimination. Stand with these organizers.

1. Stop exposure to toxic waste.

On June 6, the UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics issued a report based on his eight-stop visit of Canada staying that:

...he was "quite disappointed" with a lack of clear answers from Ontario and Ottawa regarding why a remedy has not been found for the community of Grassy Narrows half a century after the discharge of 10 tonnes of mercury upstream from the First Nation, located about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont. -- Olivia Stefanovich, CBC 

Read his complete findings here. FreeGrassy.net lists ways in which you can continue to support the complete clean-up of the Grassy Narrows. You can also watch and share this documentary about Canada's toxic chemical valley. Demand action to clean up Canada's chemical valley

2. Stand with women.

The Activist Toolkit put together a blog about ways to support the implementation of the findings of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report.  Right now there are also 60 Indigenous women are pursuing a class-action lawsuit launched last year, alleging they underwent forced sterilizations over the past 20 to 25 years in Saskatchewan. Follow this case and read more on this page from the law firm pursing the class action. 

3. Stand with land and water defenders.

Right now, the Secwepemc Land Defenders and their Tiny House Warriors are working to block the planned route of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline. Water defenders are also standing against the Muskrat Falls megadam project. These are just two fights: across Canada, there are First Nations communities standing up for the environment, .  

4. Stand for clean drinking water.

The Council of Canadians has been doing a lot of work to raise awareness about issues around water. Support their efforts.

5. Don't be fickle.

The news cycle and focus on who is in the mainstream media is difficult for organizers because there is a tendancy for public support to wane when the organization is no longer in the news. Pick an organization like Idle No More or Pull Together and continue to stand with them. It will take sustained attention and action to make real change. 

Maya Bhullar is rabble's Activist Toolkit Coordinator. The Activist Toolkit Blog is the place to catch up on what's new with the Toolkit. With roundups of newly added tools, highlights of featured tools and extra multimedia content, you'll get up to date info on grassroots organizing.

Image credit: William James Topley/Library and Archives Canada/Wikimedia Commons

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[l] at 6/17/19 11:54pm
David J. Climenhaga One of those "Alberta Fights back" billboards. Image: Alberta Fights Back/Facebook

It's time, my fellow Canadians, for us to have a frank talk about the T-word.

Albertans who have been paying attention to politics for the past few years cannot have missed the fact certain elements of the right-wing ideological ecosystem have been sloppy and irresponsible in their use of terms like "treason" and "traitor" to describe ideas and people they disagree with.

It is impossible in this province not to have heard the right-wing rage machine refer frequently to both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former NDP premier Rachel Notley, in this manner.

Conservative politicians like Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have been careful not to use this kind of language themselves, but they certainly encourage such rhetoric and attitudes among their supporters when it suits them.

Of course, the "treason" of which Trudeau and Notley were regularly accused didn't fit the definition in the dictionary or the law. Rather, it amounted to advocating tax and environmental policies with which their accusers disagreed.

Since both Trudeau and Notley were making such remarkable efforts to encourage the success of Alberta's fossil fuel industry, it seemed at times their sin was not being extreme enough to suit the most over-the-top climate-crisis deniers among Canada's movement conservatives.

In the case of environmentalists and ordinary Canadians in other provinces who had their doubts about Alberta bitumen being shipped through their territory, some well-known voices on the right -- including one prominent holder of the Order of Canada, for heaven's sake -- called for their fellow Canadians to be hanged for this crime!

Needless to say, this does not foster a positive attitude about Alberta ands its fossil fuel industry in other parts of Canada -- but in the short term, from the Conservative perspective, it can be said to have helped get Kenney's United Conservative Party government elected, and therefore to have worked.

The defeat of Notley's NDP in April, instead of calming things down, though, appears to have driven the right-wing rage machine to new levels of fury.

As is well known, Kenney has announced he will build a "war room," to crush democratic dissent at home and, he blusters, elsewhere.

Still infuriated by their loss of control in Ottawa to Trudeau's Liberals in 2015, Alberta Conservatives and their allies in other provincial governments have turned the focus of this fury on this fall's federal election.

In their blind rage, they have raised the spectre of Alberta separatism and the destruction of Canada as a stick with which to beat the rest of Canada and its doubting citizens into submission, or, failing that, to keep voters inclined to support the federal Liberals at home.

Kenney and his ilk, of course, have once again been very careful about how they phrase such threats, casting themselves as defenders of national unity, which they argue can only be preserved if Alberta's fossil fuel industry is given carte blanche to do whatever it pleases.

If legislation imposing more rigorous environmental approvals on fossil fuel infrastructure projects and protecting the environmentally sensitive north coast of British Columbia are passed, Kenney claimed recently, "this will be inflaming a growing national unity problem in Alberta."

But for this threat to have any weight, there must be a credible separatist threat to back it up, and Kenney's cheering section at Postmedia, on social media and in the mysteriously (foreign?) funded infrastructure of right-wing political action groups has been quick to gin one up.

Postmedia scribes have apparently been working overtime churning out nonsense about the threat of separatism.

"Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall has compared the government's environmental assessment bill to kindling, fuelling the flames of Western alienation, and its oil tanker ban to lighter fluid," wrote the foreign-owned newspaper chain's John Ivison in a June 6 screed attacking Bills C-69 and C-48.

"Not even a pipeline will soothe Western ire when this legislation sails through the House," said the headline on the piece, in case you're wondering how Postmedia will play a federal decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline today.

"The national unity crisis is real," screeched Matt Gurney in the same publication on June 12. "Trudeau's talking point on national unity is dangerously wrong," said the headline.

Licia Corbella's hyperventilating meditation on the same Brad Wall observations in the Calgary Herald the next day was headlined: "Will pipeline approval quell western separatism rise caused by Trudeau?" She even trotted out the imaginary "Laurentian elite."

All this because Trudeau addressed the elephant in the room and observed, "it's absolutely irresponsible for conservative premiers to be threatening our national unity if they don't get their way."

The day after Corbella's effort, the Herald published an unhinged rant by its former editorial writer (and former Wildrose leader) Danielle Smith that bizarrely claimed, "Alberta's energy industry has solved carbon dioxide," and went on to trot out the warning that not giving Kenney his way will ensure "Canada is fractured."

Then there's Barry Cooper, another Postmedia perennial, musing on Global TV that we cranky Albertans aren't just alienated, we're practically separatists, also citing "Laurentian" boogeymen.

And claiming to be BFFs with members of Kenney's cabinet, Craig Chandler, the bad penny of Alberta far-right politics, reappeared on social media to proclaim, "most Albertans want to separate."

Meanwhile, a mysteriously funded Conservative PAC is running billboards that ask, "Should Alberta ditch Canada?" They provide a link to a website that calls for a separation referendum.

Readers will get the picture.

Now, Chandler has a history of ludicrous comments and is not exactly a credible source. Nevertheless, he may be onto something this time. To give the man his due, he was campaign manager for Calgary-Peigan UCP MLA Tanya Fir, who is now Kenney's minister of economic development.

Obviously, the financial and political oxygen for this fake separatist movement is coming from somewhere to achieve something.

The dictionary, meanwhile, defines treason as "the crime of betraying one's country," a notion that can include a multitude of sins.

The Criminal Code of Canada defines treason in part as waging war against Canada, or "any act preparatory thereto." Treasonous activities defined in Section 46 of the Criminal Code may also include using force or violence to overthrow a provincial government, attacking the sovereign, disclosing "without lawful authority, military or scientific material to agents of a foreign state," or aiding Canada's enemies.

I am not, of course, suggesting that Kenney, other Conservative politicians or their overwrought journalistic supporters are guilty of treason, although I believe many of the things they say and do are extremely irresponsible and potentially harmful to Canada and Canadians. Nor am I saying that simply advocating separatism, no matter how ludicrous one's arguments, is treason.

Still, given the words of the law passed by the Parliament of Canada, some of these Conservatives' followers are starting to sail very close to the wind -- and not just those on the fringe if Chandler is to be believed.

Given the frequent abuse of the T-word in recent Alberta political discourse, surely it's now reasonable to ask: Just who are the real traitors here?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: Alberta Fights Back/Facebook

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[l] at 6/17/19 9:20pm
Penney Kome Women Deliver CEO and President Katja Iversen, from Women Deliver 2019 Mobilization Canada Facebook page

Hardly anyone local was prepared when a New York-based organization named Women Deliver swept into Vancouver in early June to discuss gender equality with 8,000 political leaders, advocates, academics and journalists from 165 countries -- and another 100,000 people globally participating online -- and then swept out again. Wait! Who was that masked stranger?

What made the conference (and the organization) really daring though, was the subject: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). If a Women Deliver conference was held in an anti-abortion jurisdiction -- say, the state of Alabama -- the whole state might implode in frustration.     

The name "Women Deliver" hints at the organization's original goal: to lead the way towards achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, Improve Maternal Health. "In 2007 the maternal mortality rate was atrociously high," says the Women Deliver website. "World leaders needed to step up, rally around the issue and commit to action. And, they needed a place to do it. To fill the void, the Women Deliver Conference was born."

Other sources indicate that the UN tapped some major funders, like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, to create a new pro-birth control organization and call on their own networks for donations. In a dozen years Women Deliver has grown like a superseed, sprouting runners all over the world and rooting new entities in the fertile soil of women's empowerment.

A huge star-studded 2007 conference kicked off the new Women Deliver organization, which quickly gained the credibility and the connections to tap into global government funds as well. The way for nations and corporations to gain prestige at Women Deliver conferences is by announcing major programs and funding for women's initiatives. And the bidding gets higher every year.

For 2016, the Women Deliver annual financial statement shows, the organization started the year with about $11 million, and spent $9,264,000 on "Global advocacy and information sharing." Women Deliver's 2017 audited financial statement shows $20,866,560 (20 million plus) in net assets, and a scant  $220,594 in liabilities. Most of the funds are "restricted" to specific programs Women Deliver provides, however, because they are grants provided by local governments to fund all or part of their local programs.

In 2016/17, Women Deliver expanded its allies and audience when it unveiled a 12-point Deliver for Good Campaign, a "common advocacy" agenda promoting SHRH and also economic, educational, and legal equality for women, which it says "had more than 300 campaign supporters across the globe from 50 countries by the end of 2017."  Women Deliver makes the case that investing in women -- in every field -- improves outcomes for everyone.

To promote Deliver for Good, Women Deliver chose a group of high-level "Influencers" including Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, identified as "a gender equality advocate and the wife of Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau," and Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Mary of Denmark -- also "an advocate for health, gender equality, and the empowerment of women and girls."

Their Influencer colleagues include some more formal credentials: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano, former president of Uruguay with a legacy of championing gender equality and women's health issues; and Dr. Alaa Murabit,  UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment and Economic Growth and a UN SDG Advocate.

Remember, Women Deliver conferences are set up to encourage governments and corporations to try to top one another in supporting women and girls -- a refreshing change from the race to the bottom in so many parts of the world. As prime minister of the conference's host country, as leader of a government which has implemented explicitly feminist policies, and as husband of one of the Deliver for Good's ambassadors, Justin Trudeau announced two new permanent endowment funds for supporting women's groups.

On June 2, he announced a new Equality Fund within Canada, to which the federal government has committed up to $300 million, and invited other sectors to contribute too, such as "the philanthropic community, private sector, governments and civil society organizations." So far, those groups have contributed $100 million of the ambitious $1 billion goal.

The Global Affairs Canada backgrounder noted that domestic women's groups will continue to be well-funded:

"Budget 2018 announced $100 million over five years to support a viable and sustainable women's movement across Canada. Adding to this historic investment, Budget 2019 proposes to invest a further $160 million over five years, starting in 2019 to 2020, in the Department for Women and Gender Equality's Women's Program." 

Women's groups will decide how proceeds from the Equality Fund will be used, mostly internationally but also domestically. Global Affairs Canada notes, "The Equality Fund is a consortium of Canadian and international organizations deeply rooted in and connected to women's organizations and movements and with expertise in international development, investment and philanthropy." 

Indeed, empowering women has emerged as the main guiding principle of Canada's development policy, as articulated in a June 2018 news release from Global Affairs Canada:

"Canada is adopting a Feminist International Assistance Policy that seeks to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world. Canada firmly believes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to achieving this goal."

Trudeau's second announcement also followed that principle: he pledged $1.4 billion a year to a similar public/charitable fund for 10 years, for a total of $14 billion, to provide sustainable funding for women's groups in developing nations. Such a public charitable fund already exists, in the Women's Peace & Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), a UN and civil society partnership. With the slogan, "Support women. Prevent crises. Build peace," WPHF acts to avert conflict rather than rebuilding afterwards.

Says the website: "The Women's Peace & Humanitarian Fund aims to support women's organizations responding to crises and building peace in: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, CAR, the DRC, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Palestine, the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, and Yemen." Their current goal is to reach women in 40 countries by the year 2020.

A look at the Nobel Peace Prizes and the Right Livelihood Awards (the people's Nobel) shows that even as second-class citizens, even without weapons, even at risk of their lives, women's non-violent actions have ended horrifically violent conflicts. For example, two of the three women who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 were from Liberia, Africa: Leymah Gbowee and Eleanor Johnson-Sirleaf. They used non-violent means to end a brutal 14-year civil war, where at least 250,000 people died, three-quarters of the country's women and girls were subjected to mass gang rapes, and nearly a third of the country's people were left homeless.

By mobilizing Christian and Muslim women together to demonstrate and campaign for peace, the Liberian Peace Women created enough pressure to halt the constant combat and bring the dictator Charles Taylor to the truce table with leaders of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) army. Today, Taylor and LURD are gone from Liberia, and Eleanor Johnson-Sirleaf is president.

The Women Deliver conference delivered much more than 8,000 inspiring success stories -- now available on the Women Deliver channel on YouTube, along with previous conferences. Under Director Katja Iversen, Women Deliver has grown exponentially, from distributing bright infographic cards and posters (which still engage millions of women in their own health care), to training community organizers in dozens of countries where they're seriously needed. Although Women Deliver seemed to swoop in and out of Canada quickly, the information women shared about their current projects and programs will add momentum to similar projects globally.

The prime minister's commitments go far beyond any previous Canadian government. A feminist international development policy? A pledge of at least $100 million annually in grants to women's groups in Canada seeking gender equality? And beyond that -- a multi-billion-dollar international organization campaigning in favour of sexual and reproductive rights, with an emphasis on women's SHRH? Pinch me! This must be the millennium.

Award-winning author and journalist Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. She was editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 - 2013.

Image: Women Deliver CEO and President Katja Iversen/Women Deliver 2019 Mobilization Canada Facebook page

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[l] at 6/17/19 2:44pm
Scott Weinstein Anti-racism demonstration in Montreal, Nov. 2017. The placards read, “Without Fear, Without Hate,” “Fraternity Without Borders." Photo: Scott Weinstein

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Father's Day.

Let's note where shitty patriarchal ideas and capitalist values have left us today -- a dying planet of winners and losers. Then imagine global socialism. Imagine men changing roles.

This weekend, Quebec's majority Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government forced through Bill 21 -- directed squarely against Muslim women. It forbids teachers and government employees in authority (but not political office holders) from wearing religious symbols, yet this ban against "religious extremism" (as Quebec Premier Legault explains), is deliberately Islamophobic and misogynist.

As the Roundtable Against Systemic Racism explains, "Ultimately ... one liberticidal legislation legitimizes another, and yet another -- as was the case in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. In doing so, the government opens the door to more discrimination and racism [...]." Independent Jewish Voices Canada and others have called for civil disobedience to challenge implementation of the law.

The CAQ also passed Bill 9 shredding a several-year backlog of immigration applications from 50,000 immigrants and refugees. Many of these families fled oil wars and destabilization in the Middle East, and are a minute fraction of 68 million people who are refugees or displaced.

Today also, Canada is quietly enabling U.S. and Israeli threats of a full-blown war on Iran after years of backing violent sanctions and destabilization. Remember that the Venezuelan and Iranian people have been targeted because their oil-producing countries remain semi-independent of the Western world order. 

Canadian oil sands, pipelines and tanker politics are sabotaging our inadequate commitment to reduce carbon emissions and meet the Paris Climate accords. Liberal governments which have simply been the inept smiley-face managers of capitalism are being replaced by rightist governments beholden to Big Oil. Despite our maple syrup and hockey player exports, Canada is essentially a petro-state.

There is a relationship between these local and global acts of violence, because capitalism goes fist in glove with white supremacy, patriarchy and of course the alienation of people from the Earth. From the family to the state, we are taught reactionary ideas and values that fuel this catastrophe.  

Imagine a global socialist culture. We would need to understand what our values are, and spread our ideas while resisting. A nurturing socialism would champion empathy (solidarity) with all peoples. It would have to be anti-racist and anti-sexist. Our values would support sustainable societies, and our institutions would grow good ideas for appropriate technology and policies. We would be striving to live in harmony with the planet, the creatures and fauna. 

Let's stay focused that we have only 12 years to stop irreversible climate catastrophe. Our vision for the future requires urgency, and common-sense radical solutions to repair the Earth for our children, their children and unlimited future generations with the opportunity for abundant life.

Scott Weinstein is a Quebecer active in Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Photo: Scott Weinstein

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