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[l] at 6/9/23 4:56pm
Let me start, in the spirit of Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, by saying the old news ways are dying but new ones aren’t fully born and in the meantime, everything is weird. We live in a sort of netherworld between traditional mainstream news media like newspapers and TV networks and the new media of the internet. The old ones can still create the dominant issues. For instance, it’s hard to imagine either the war in Ukraine or the China interference scandal without them. The events themselves might well exist but how and what would anyone know of them without those old, lumbering news organizations? You can’t rely on lone citizen journos wandering around a vast, distant war or locals posting on social media. Or, in the case of Chinagate (or Chinahate), some shoestring operation like Canadaland might get hold of a strand, but how would it become an extended national fixation without the prestige, pomposity and resources of a Globe and Mail? Only the mainstream news media can still “create” those events. But — and here comes the but. What they can’t do any longer is, as they say in media courses, frame those stories the way they used to and thereby control the ways they are understood and play out. Why? Because most people influenced by the mainstream news media today don’t even know that’s where those stories came from. They didn’t consume the story in a newspaper or newscast; it came to them in a post on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok, naked and alone. Not surrounded by editorials, columns and all the other tchotchkes by which the mainstream news media inject and implant their favourite themes and assumptions, not to mention causes and candidates. So they can’t bend the will of audiences to their agenda as they did in the days of free trade or globalization. If there’s any framing it’s a hodgepodge of tidbits from other social media: Donald Trump, Joe Rogan, Pierre Poilievre’s greatest Justin hits. The audiences on the internet don’t really distinguish between lofty sources like the Globe and the scuzzy random stuff. It’s all just out there. I’d say this shift in newsgathering and dissemination accounts partly — nothing accounts fully for anything, all major events have too many causes, not too few — for the current state of the conservative movement, what I’d call paleolithic conservatism. I’m thinking, obviously, of Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro and Viktor Orban, but also, in our case, of Poilievre and Danielle Smith. It’s a primitive, atavistic version of the right, very amenable to simplistic Christianity and identifying passionately with some eternal clash between good and evil that includes the Crusades along with the Manichaeism of the Cold War. In the old days of mainstream news media, they’d have cut the legs off those candidates with no one to patch them back together. In 2016, it would have been Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush, in many ways the same person but they’d have been depicted with vast differences; that’s how mainstream news media always framed the two main parties. They’d have been all over Trump like one of Boris Johnson’s bad suits. He didn’t fit their recipe for their own maintenance of power and the causes they espoused: neo-liberal economics, deregulation, austerity, mild mitigation of social injustice as long as it didn’t interfere with soaring corporate profits. But by 2016 there’d already been Fox. Think of it as a timid precursor to social media and then the rest — Breitbart et al. Above all, there was the decline of the mainstream news media itself, relentlessly shedding ad revenues while hoping for a miracle. I’d say similar, though not identical, trajectories apply to Poilievre and Smith. The mainstream news media can still “break” stories and shepherd them to prominence, as we see. But they can’t control the overall narrative any more. No one, at least for the moment, does. We are all carried along in a wild current, including those of us who despised the agendas of the mainstream news media, as we now discover we almost miss them. At least they were predictable. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star. The post Paleolithic conservatism and the decline of mainstream news media appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Technology, news media, social media]

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[l] at 6/9/23 3:59pm
The modern struggle for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people has been waged for over a century. Despite significant gains, the work is sadly far from over as Pride Month begins. Just as massive plumes of sun-dimming smoke from wildfires now raging north of the border billow over the eastern half of the United States, darkening the sky and driving people indoors, so too has an epidemic of discrimination and hate targeting traditionally marginalized LGBTQ+ communities swept the land, unleashed by demagogues, cynical politicians and bigots. State and local governments from coast to coast are passing repressive bills, banning books and criminalizing people. The rash of laws, often accompanied by intimidation and acts of violence, has prompted the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, to announce: “We have officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year. More than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record.” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Kelley Robinson explained on the Democracy Now!  news hour: “In this moment, when people are travelling across the country, when they’re deciding to move or what schools to go to, we had a responsibility to let people know that, one, there’s an imminent health and safety crisis facing our community, and, two, there’s a dizzying patchwork of protections for us and for our families depending on the state that you’re in.” HRC tracks these anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Over 520 of them have been introduced so far this year, and 75 have already been signed into law, with broad impacts: criminalizing the provision of gender-affirming health care for youth, prohibiting the teaching of LGBTQ-related topics, barring transgender people from using a gender-appropriate bathroom, banning books, and more. “A loud and vocal minority…is sowing hate and fear against our community because they’re not willing to solve the real problems,” Robinson added. “If they actually cared about the safety of our kids, they would be moving forward legislation to prevent gun violence, the number one killer of our children.” The legislative assault is occurring in parallel with the 2024 Republican presidential primary season. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has championed several oppressive laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community, including the school curriculum ban known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and banning gender affirming care for minors. Others in the increasingly crowded Republican field are following suit. Former South Carolina governor and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley suggested opposing trans rights was a feminist issue. “The idea that we have biological boys playing in girls’ sports, it is the women’s issue of our time,” Haley said at a recent CNN town hall. “How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?” Robinson responded on Democracy Now! : “This is political theatre. They are doing this to pander to a MAGA Republican base in so many of these states…Seventy percent of Americans support the LGBTQ+ community and believe that legislatures should be standing with our values. One in five of Generation Z identifies as a member of this community, 20 million American adults. This is not an issue of the margins.” The evangelical Christian movement has long been at the forefront attacking the LGBTQ+ community. Major televangelists like Pat Robertson, who died this week at the age of 93, and groups like Focus on the Family and the Alliance to Defend Freedom have stoked intolerance and repression not only here at home, but around the world. Uganda is now on the frontlines of this U.S.-based push to criminalize homosexuality. In May, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an anti-LGBTQ law that makes same-sex relationships punishable by life in prison or, in some cases, death. Many LGBTQ Ugandans have gone into hiding or have fled the country. “The homophobia and transphobia we are seeing towards queer and trans persons in Uganda is from the West. It is mostly peddled by extreme American evangelicals,” Ugandan LGBTQ activist Frank Mugisha said on Democacy Now! He fears similar laws will follow in neighbouring countries like Tanzania and Kenya. Human Rights Campaign’s state of emergency declaration is unprecedented, but is not simply a warning. Their statement ends with a call to action, one which everyone, whether LGBTQ+ or not, should heed this Pride month and beyond: “Our community is in danger, but we won’t stop fighting back — not now, not ever.” This column originally appeared in Democracy Now! The post A pall of hate darkens Pride month appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, LGBTIQ, US Politics, anti-hate, LGBTQ+]

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[l] at 6/9/23 10:20am
Despite the presence of queer Muslim groups for over two decades in Canada, the discourse on LGBTQ Muslims remains stalled.  In May 2022, Western University removed an Instagram image that showed two Muslim women in hijab in a kissing embrace. The university responded to a petition that received about 39,625 signatures which called out the depiction of hijab as “disrespectful,” “sexualizing,” and “fetishizing.” The image was showcased on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17, before being removed a day later on May 18.  As a corporation, the university followed its interest. It responded to the petitioners that drew on jargon like “colonist mindset” and “ethnocentrism” that is popular in social justice activist circles. In the absence of a countervailing narrative from LGBTQ Muslims, the university’s decision was to be expected.  Studying LGBTQ Muslims in Canada There is recent academic work on LGBTQ Muslims in Canada that explores intersectional lives of LGBTQ Muslims and which shows that religious belief is not a main determinant of acceptance. This is apart from the various theses that have been submitted by students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Yet, academic publications do not necessarily change the ground reality of LGBTQ Muslims. What is missing are social justice Muslim activists who can broach conversations in Muslim communities instead of engaging in lateral violence, where personalities and egos clash and dissuade LGBTQ Muslims from making meaningful progress.  My own academic work on Islam and same-sex unions culminated with a book in 2016, several papers during 2010-2018, and a Tedx talk in 2019.  My activism work between 2005 and 2019 consisted of community workshops, broaching conversations with academics, Imams, and leaders like Dr. Shabir Ally, pushing academically against reparative therapy, volunteering for Alberta’s conversion therapy working group, maintaining media visibility,  challenging homophobia in Muslim spaces on campus, hosting a conference on campus, and creating a private group space for LGBTQ Muslims.  Lateral violence from closeted LGBTQ Muslims Since then, I have withdrawn from such work. This is to focus on my own neglected academic career, to avoid being a gatekeeper, and to make way for the younger generation to express their concerns themselves.  But it is equally due to lateral violence that emanates from closeted LGBTQ Muslims. I distinctly recall a young man whom I facilitated towards a private LGBTQ Muslim space and to Ramadan Iftar dinner for LGBTQ Muslims. He was apparently facing inner shame and problems with family acceptance.  And I did not have a recipe to fix his life. Nobody does. He deflected his angst by labelling my work as “disingenuous” and as “inflicting violence on queer Muslim bodies.”  In August 2022, the premier Muslim LGBTQ organization in Canada announced “permanent closure” after citing “deep ruptures and fissures that exist in our communities” in March.  Such lateral violence and hyperbole also come from keyboard LGBTQ Muslim activists that indulge in weaponized victimhood and purity politics. This uncompromising activism has been called out by former President Obama, queer activists like Frances Lee, and writers like Irshad Manji.  Weaponized victimhood cuts through communities. Hindutvists that threaten academics studying Hindu supremacism in Canada project themselves as perpetual victims of Hinduphobia.  Similarly, Muslims who try to homogenize Islam, assume a monopoly position on its contours, and oppose LGBTQ Muslim accommodation view themselves as victims of Islamophobia.  Indeed, the petition against Western University contains the words “Specifically targeting Islam.” But the image of hijab or a beard cannot be appropriated by conservative Muslims.  For instance, New Age Islam in Delhi used cartoon images of an Arab gay couple in traditional Arabic attire and Muslim girls wearing hijabs in loving embrace for my article on lateral violence. While the images seem out of place in a serious article, the point is that at least the Muslim readership in Delhi did not raise concerns on such a depiction.  Additionally, if one Googles, there are videos of Muslim hijab wearing pole dancers, ballet dancers, hip hop dancers, and so on. It is up to Muslim women to decide what hijab means to them.  Thus, the meaning of the hijab cannot be appropriated by petitioners who take offense that lesbian Muslim women choose to break the binary between spirituality and sexuality.  Moreover, when the petitioners decide to police Muslim morality in Canada, they only show that they can flex their muscles with a group that does not have much public visibility.  In contrast, such petitioners would find it an uphill task to start campaigns against Muslim men who wear skimpy posing trunks in body building contests, which far outdo the modesty concerns on a kissing embrace between women.  Petitioners who are offended by one thing or another will always exist, as will corporations that are driven by the profit motive rather than principles. Foisting rainbow flags and pasting rainbow stickers is performative activism. The same corporations would have stayed a mile away from Pride protests and events in the 1980s when only principled people stood by a community overwhelmed by the AIDS epidemic.  The need for more LGBTQ Muslim voices This brings us back to the main issue of why LGBTQ Muslim discourse seems to have stalled in Canada. It is simply due to the absence of strong LGBTQ Muslim voices that defy the hegemonic Muslim public discourse.  This absence has to do with the fact that those who dare to speak out face lateral violence from their own.  Speaking out then becomes a thankless job, as closeted Muslims consumed by guilt and shame bring down openly out voices that are often alone. It seems that engaging in lateral violence becomes a purification ritual for closet cases to cleanse themselves from sin. Past LGBTQ activists from the days of Delwin Vriend in Alberta openly asserted their truth and were visibly out to face their oppressors for meaningful change. However, many LGBTQ Muslims in Canada choose to remain in the corrosive closet even in 2023.  This does not mean that every LGBTQ Muslim should be out. But it does mean that without visibility by a certain percentage of LGBTQ Muslims, the discourse on LGBTQ Muslims in Canada will remain stalled.  The status quo then is of ghettoization, where a few LGBTQ Muslims meet secretly away from the scrutiny of the mainstream Muslim communities. And many prefer it that way due to inner guilt and shame. To reiterate, they do not wish to reconcile their spirituality and sexuality.  Partly, it is due to finding limited acceptance or facing judgment in mainstream gay spaces. But more significantly, it seems as if they feel that they don’t deserve an equal standing within Muslim communities.  In essence, even in 2023, internalized homophobia stalls LGBTQ Muslim acceptance in Muslim spaces in Canada. The post Why LGBTQ Muslim discourse is stalled in Canada appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, LGBTQ, Muslim]

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[l] at 6/9/23 8:30am
This week on rabble radio, rabble contributor Doreen Nicoll sits down with Ontario educator Frank Domenic to discuss the state of Ontario’s universal health care system. Health care privatization in Ontario is something rabble writers have been closely following over the past year. For further reading, please see the following pieces: Linda McQuaig – Ontario’s shift to private health care will cost much, much more (May 23, 2023) Doreen Nicoll – Groups working to save public health care in Ontario (May 18, 2023) Karl Nerenberg – Doug Ford’s private surgery plan is driven by ideology not innovation (January 17, 2023) rabble radio – The ongoing fight against privatized healthcare (September 16, 2022) rabble radio – The privatization of long-term care homes in Ontario must be stopped (May 6, 2022) About our guests Frank Domenic is a teacher in Ontario who creates content on social media focusing on news and politics, ranging from global issues to niche local Ontario content. You can follow him on Twitter @TheFrankDomenic and on TikTok @frankdomenic. Doreen Nicoll is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to rabble.ca  She is diligently working to end poverty, hunger, and human rights abuses across Canada and the globe. Join us for Off the Hill On Wednesday, June 21 at 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET, join us for our final Off the Hill political panel before our summer hiatus. This month, we focus on National Indigenous People’s Day. What is causing the slow-moving action on the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada? What can Landback look like across Turtle Island? And are we any closer to true reconciliation? Register for this free event today!  If you like the show please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. And please, rate, review, share rabble radio with your friends — it takes two seconds to support independent media like rabble. Follow us on social media across channels @rabbleca.  The post Ontario voters oppose increasing private sector presence in health care system — but Doug Ford won’t listen appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Health, Doug Ford, privatization]

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[l] at 6/9/23 8:00am
Microaggressions against racialized and marginalized people in the workplace need to be recognized and eliminated. This week, we speak to Marlihan Lopez, the community engagement and outreach coordinator at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University. Lopez is also a co-founder of Harambec, a Black feminist organization in Montreal. RadioLabour is the international labour movement’s radio service. It reports on labour union events around the world with a focus on unions in the developing world. It partners with rabble to provide coverage of news of interest to Canadian workers. The post Racist microaggressions in the workplace have big effects appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, Labour, anti racism]

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[l] at 6/9/23 7:41am
Some Ontario workplaces are now required to have naloxone kits available if there is reasonable belief that workers are at risk of an opioid overdose while at work. The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) said in a release that ensuring naloxone kits are available on construction sites can save lives. A large percentage of employees in the construction sector are affected by mental health issues and addiction.  While the presence of naloxone kits helps to combat the symptoms of mental health issues and addiction on construction worksites, addressing why mental health issues are so prevalent will help tackle the root of the issue.  Approximately 2,500 people in Ontario died from opioid-related causes between March 2020 and January 2021. Of the victims who were employed, 30 per cent worked in the construction industry, according to a RESCON release.  A report released in 2022 by Public Health Ontario revealed there were a total of 428 opioid toxicity deaths among individuals who had a history of employment in the construction industry from July 2017 to the end of 2020. This means that construction workers accounted for nearly 1 in 13 opioid toxicity deaths across Ontario during this time period.  The report did not examine the reasons behind drug use, but pointed to elevated levels of injuries and pain-related conditions, chronic pain, and mental health diagnoses among construction workers as a reason for higher drug dependence. The report suggests that workers use opioids to cope with pain, injuries, depression and anxiety.  The nature of construction work contributes to the high levels of mental health issues.  “There are several factors unique to the construction industry that can negatively impact the mental health of our workers,” wrote Mike Yorke from the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario and Cristina Selva from the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades in an Industry Perspective op-ed. “[Factors] such as the seasonality and unpredictability of employment; the expectation of overtime and working long hours; the exhausting physicality of the work; and workplace injuries or illness that can lead to chronic pain and psychological trauma.”  WIth the high levels of mental health issues and the deadly effects of leaving these problems unattended, it is important to ensure that construction workers are psychologically safe on the job. The introduction of naloxone kits on worksites is an important step.  “Most RESCON members are already ahead of the game and have included naloxone kits on site as part of their health and safety protocols,” said RESCON vice-president Andrew Pariser, chair of the association’s safety committee. “This is an easy best practice that can save lives.” Beyond naloxone kits, the Carpenters District Council of Ontario has also begun implementing other measures to protect workers. Staff and members of the council are offered mental health first aid training programs.  The Public Health Ontario report found that other measures to address mental health issues are also in order. These include “interventions that promote long-term medical follow-up among construction workers with painful conditions, injuries, and mental health diagnoses as well as the removal of work-related and cost-related barriers to seeking healthcare.”  “Our industry has come a long way in prioritizing and establishing best practices to preserve the physical health and safety of our workers,” wrote Yorke and Selva. “Mental health must become part of that focus. Attention to physical and mental wellness can both save lives.” The post Naloxone now required on some Ontario constructions sites appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, naloxone, opioids]

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[l] at 6/8/23 3:55pm
The Toronto Star’s recent attacks against Roger Waters are shameful. The founder of Pink Floyd is a rare megastar who uses his fame and talents to challenge injustices, including pro-empire and corporate Canadian foreign policy.  In recent days, Canada’s most liberal English-language paper has published two columns attacking Waters headlined, “Shame on those who treat antisemite Roger Waters as rock royalty” and “Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters needs some education.”  The smears by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Michael Levitt and columnist Rosie DiManno are part of a remarkable wave of attacks against the musician instigated by the fascistic, Jewish-supremacist, new Israeli government. Unlike Levitt, DiManno and even many Canadian leftists, Waters has been an ally of those struggling for a more just Canadian foreign policy.  On the eve of his show in Montreal last summer, Waters rallied in support of McGill students who convinced 71 per cent of undergraduate voters to support a Palestine Solidarity Policy committing the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) to divest from and boycott “corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.”  In response, the apartheid lobby attacked the university administration, which threatened SSMU’s financial arrangement. Under significant outside pressure, a divided SSMU invalidated their members’ democratic vote.  Waters spoke alongside a young Palestinian woman representing Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill in an event that drew significant media attention to the university administration’s undemocratic and anti-Palestinian actions.  A week later, B’nai Brith announced a lawsuit against Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and SSMU for asking students to vote on Palestinian rights. Amidst his touring, Waters immediately penned a powerful retort to B’nai Brith’s bullying.  Waters is being smeared largely because he’s one of the highest-profile critics of a country Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say is committing the crime of apartheid. But Waters has also challenged Canadian foreign policy more broadly.  In 2020, he signed the public letter that initiated a campaign opposing the Trudeau government’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The letter criticized Canadian climate and mining policy, as well as Ottawa’s role in Bolivia, Palestine and Venezuela.  Waters even took time out of his busy schedule to make a video on why the international community shouldn’t support Canada. His profile and engagement boosted a campaign, which contributed to an embarrassing defeat.  Waters has supported initiatives critical of Canada’s disastrous role in Haiti. He signed the 2021 public letter “End Canadas Support for Haitis Dictatorship” and a similar initiative supporting mass protests two years earlier. These letters were designed to push back against Canadian policies that have contributed to the Caribbean nation’s recent downward spiral.  Three years ago, Waters spoke in a webinar with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister critical of Canadian interference in the South American nation. Popular with the media at one point, Ottawa’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government has been disastrous.  Eighteen months ago, Waters also signed a letter calling on Ottawa to stop recognizing Juan Guaidó, leave the Lima group, end its sanctions and normalize relations with Venezuela.  On Saturday, Waters criticized the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ odious effort to have the Toronto Public Library cancel a talk on “The War in Ukraine and How to Stop It.” He tweeted, “‘Hey Canada leave free speech alone. The war in Ukraine is important, talk about it.”  Sycophants for the U.S. empire – particularly anti-Palestinian groups – are angry Waters continues to sell out arenas and stadiums with performances steeped in struggles for social justice. Over one million will attend one of 100 performances on his current This Is Not a Drill tour. The May 25 live-stream of his concert in Prague was screened at 1,500 cinemas around the world. Millions more will watch the concerts or read reviews of them.  If more rock stars and celebrities were engaged like Roger Waters, the world would be a fairer place. The post Roger Waters is a principled rock star to be emulated, not smeared appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Politics, politics, social justice]

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[l] at 6/8/23 2:35pm
Toronto is having a mayoral by-election on June 26. Former Mayor John Tory felt obligated to resign after his affair with a staffer became public. Although not forced to resign – Ford even encouraged him to stay – Tory left the building. Interesting that an affair was the impetus to leave and not his horrendous treatment of unhoused folk, or his record of low property taxes in a city desperate for services, or even Tory suggesting to Ford that he be granted Strong Mayor Powers. Looking around Toronto today, some would say that the city looks broken, run down, not as clean, or welcoming. Others, like mayoral candidate, Chloe Brown, say, “Toronto is not broken – it’s poorly governed.” And, having checked out her robust, incredibly detailed yet easy-to-read campaign website, Brown is a must watch and viable challenger in the mayoral race. The 33-year-old Policy Analyst plans to leverage the knowledge of the people who work on the frontlines of city life to inform city policy. She wants to empower communities by including them in the decision-making process because she recognizes that a stronger Toronto can only be realized through collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity. And, she is transparent about where the money is coming from as well as how it’s going to be responsibly spent. Because as Brown sees it, this is the city of the people and they need a say in how they want their city run. Brown sat down with me recently to discuss how you make yourself stand out in a crowd of 102 candidates all vying for voter attention. She spoke with rabble about the top election issues – all of which stem from the fact that Toronto has not been a livable city for quite some time. Purchasing a home is no longer an option; rents are skyrocketing; transit keeps going up while service declines and new lines remain unfinished. The growing inequality is evident and especially visible with the rise in unhoused people trying to survive on the streets and in public spaces. A track record of progressive activism Brown is anything but the new kid on the block. Her foray into politics began in 2012 with the Occupy Toronto Movement. That involvement prompted Brown to contemplate how city politics affected her. In 2014, Brown was a protégé of Councillor Pam McConnell who was overseeing the revitalization of Union Station, renaissance of Regent Park, along with a variety of other projects. During that time, Brown began to get involved in community and policy development and realized the separation between the public service and politicians. The real journey into politics began during the Rob Ford era when Brown says it was clear the then Mayor had a substance use disorder. Brown says watching councillors ignore the situation and being complicit in the decay of leadership made her realize, “there’s this huge inequity between who gets help and who doesn’t” Brown went on to say, “I grew up in Rexdale and if someone has a substance use disorder, they don’t get treated the way Rob Ford did.” In 2016 Brown ran for Ward 2 Councillor in the by-election called after the death of Councillor and former Mayor, Rob Ford. Michael Ford, nephew of Doug and Rob Ford won the seat at the council table. Then in 2022, Brown ran for mayor. With a budget of $2,000 Brown came in third with 6.31 per cent of votes. It needs to be stated that the average cost of running for mayor is $2 million. John Tory spent $2.6 million in 2018. This time, Brown not only has a moderately more substantial budget, but lawn signs, and social media working to get her message out to workers. One of Brown’s frustrations with government is, “Doug Ford claims he’s a small guy from the same community that I’m from. But he doesn’t come from the same place that I’m from. That’s where people forget, Etobicoke has rich areas and just because he’s from Etobicoke doesn’t mean that he’s a part of the working class.” She went on to say, “I’ve just been watching democracy decay because of personalities and name recognition and that’s ‘capitalism branding.’ It’s one of the strangest things working in politics. Public servants have 20-year careers. Politicians build 20-year careers off of a monarchy or a dynasty.” Seeking to meet city’s social needs Brown wants the people to have a voice in how their city is governed and run. She welcomes input from advisory committees, citizen panels, and participatory budgeting programs so that residents have a voice in how public services are designed and delivered. She wants to leverage digital platforms to get feedback and input from residents so that Toronto council really meets the social needs of residents. Instead of decimating public health departments, Brown wants to partner with Toronto’s public health unit to evaluate programs and services taking into account the social determinants of health – which government policy impacts. Brown is passionate about rectifying the disparities in communities and promoting wellness by working with health educators within the public health department. Instead of chasing popularity, Brown has spent the last decade working with people to get them out of poverty. Brown brings unique and lived experiences to city hall. As an administrator of programs and services she has dealt directly with eligibility requirements that decide who gets opportunity and who doesn’t. She knows first hand that they are unfair. Before you apply for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) you have to prove that you’re impoverished by liquidating all of your funds. Brown notes that by that point it’s too late and applicants are too far along the downward spiral of poverty to get back out of that hole. “I don’t think a lot of politicians have that experience,” observed Brown. “That’s because they haven’t had to govern someone’s disappointments and expectations with public services,” she added. In her role as Policy Analyst with the Future Skills Centre, Brown has had to see that person in her office, sometimes daily, and works with them to build resumes; get disability supports; and help them navigate a system that politicians created and that impoverishes people before they can get help. That experience empowers Brown to govern in a way that’s empathetic, objective, and let’s her see past the minutia that other politicians get stuck on – the fact that a mere two per cent of social safety net users are bad actors yet, everyone needing services is punished because of that. “Politicians do not trust the public. And, it’s one of those nasty secrets that I’m trying to make people realize. The reason why private corporations own everything is because your councillor does not trust you with your own future,” shared Brown. “They trust the corporation that they do not know because they were able to post numbers or they have a legal corporate structure to protect them. Because, you’re not a corporation, you’re not being listened to.” Governing is not about chasing votes She finds a lot of politicians are just chasing votes and that’s why nothing gets done. Brown is adamant that governance is not just about serving the people who like you, it’s about serving the entire city. It also means taking every criticism and using it as an opportunity for feedback. “[Popularity] is why council is so full of executives and not working-class people. They do not see the value in your knowledge not being an executive. That’s why the city is failing,” said Brown. She went on to state, “That’s the advantage I have, because I’d rather everyone eat as opposed to being popular.” Brown has been trying to nudge the unions and pension funds to use community land trusts to develop land in the interest of workers. In Parkdale, eight organizations were able to push Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks to convince the city to transfer ownership of 81 properties – 153 mostly family-sized units to the Parkdale Land Trust. The properties were Toronto community housing land that Brown points out was paid for with taxes so it already belonged to the people. Brown who calls herself a political agnostic, wants to modernize and evolve the institutions that have failed Torontonians. As an Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) member, Brown would like to see the union start investing in building affordable housing that anchors workers to the city they work in. This is important Brown says so politicians don’t continue to treat renters as transients because they don’t own land. “The only way to fight Doug is if we actually organize ourselves as non-profits and charities and form community land trusts,” Brown maintains. She would also like to see unions building commercial spaces that early childhood operators and health care providers could access for free because one of the best ways to ensure higher wages is to bring down the cost of rent. On the issues of safety and policing, Brown would like to save police by refunding health care. “A lot of people are discounting how burnt-out police officers are because we’ve over burdened them with the responsibility of delivering health care, social work, a variety of tasks that we’ve out sourced to them,” stated Brown. She believes the only way to improve respect for the police is to depoliticize them and stop making them the answer when politicians don’t want to fund health care, social work, and education and the arts. As for poverty, Brown looks to city property that could be farmed. She points to High Park which has three structures to support indoor farming and outdoor victory gardens that use manure from the animals in the park zoo. Brown says, “We have the systems, it’s just there’s no interest in ending poverty. Poverty is a really, great business if you have all the resources to provide. And, that’s where my cynicism of government comes in because with all these billions you can’t build homes? You can’t build farms? It’s laughable, because if I did that in the private sector, I’d be fired.” Brown sees a city filled with survivors, unacknowledged leaders, and so much potential. “It can’t just be the executives that decide our future. It has to be the operators, the ECEs, and nurses because knowledge is everywhere. It’s just not valued the same because of the way that we decide what our values are. And we really need to redesign our values, because the age of consumption is done,” observed Brown. Election Day is Monday, June 26. The post Chloe Brown is a must watch in the TO mayoral race appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Elections, Politics, Toronto Mayor election]

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[l] at 6/8/23 9:39am
Sam George has experienced the worst that Canada has to offer to Indigenous people, and his searing memoir of surviving residential school torture, addiction, and Canada’s structural racism, The Fire Still Burns, is his account of what he survived and of his lifelong struggle to undo the damage done. We hear a lot these days about truth and reconciliation, especially in relationship to the horrific experiences Indigenous children experienced in Canada’s “Indian Residential Schools,” those infamous abattoirs of assimilation that set out to strip kids of their families, their languages and their culture. But before there can be meaningful reconciliation, there must be truth. Truth: The residential schools were part of an explicit policy of cultural genocide, openly acknowledged by Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. MacDonald when he wrote: “…Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men. Truth: The systematic abuse- sexual, physical and emotional- of Indigenous kids in Canadian residential schools has left a long lasting and heartbreaking legacy, with trauma cascading down the generations and harming the children and grandchildren of the children who attended the so called “schools.” The first examples in Canada of this attempt to use “education”  to destroy the “Indian in the Indian” date to the 1600s, but the 19th and 20th centuries were the heyday. From 1834 until 1996, over 150,000 children attended these government-funded and church-run institutions. 6,000 of these prisoners of prejudice are known to have died, but recent discoveries of unmarked graves at former schools and the stories told by those who survived suggest the number of deaths could well be much higher. One key measure of this damage done by the schools and other forms of cultural genocide can be seen in suicide numbers. According to Stats Canada: “The rate among First Nations people (24.3 deaths per 100,000 person-years at risk) was three times higher than the rate among non-Indigenous people (8.0 deaths per 100,000 person-years at risk).” No one who reads Sam George’s memoir with an open heart will be surprised that he and other victims/survivors have been tempted to end their lives. The real wonder is that so many found a way to survive and resist. Another measure of the damage done can be seen in economic figures. According to recent research by the NGO Global Citizen:  “In 2021 11 per cent of Indigenous people in Canada were unemployed, compared to seven per cent of the rest of the population. This translates to  25 per cent of Indigenous people living in poverty- and four-out-of-10 Indigenous children.” Another measure of the damage done to Indigenous people is the scandalous over-representation of Indigenous peoples in Canadian prisons. Although Indigenous people make up only five per cent of the Canadian population, more than 30 per cent of federal prisoners are Indigenous, and for women prisoners the Indigenous share is even greater. According to the most recent report from Ivan Zinger, the Federal Correctional Investigator, in April of 2022 and for the first time in history, Indigenous women ( five per cent of the Canadian population) made up more than half of all women in federal prisons. Sam George was a student who survived the horrors of residential school, although, as his powerful memoir painfully illustrates, not without scars. His book, produced in collaboration with Langara College’s Writing Lives course, recounts his horrific experiences at the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School near Vancouver, and his long path to healing from the addictions and  pent up, poisonous feelings the school inflicted on him and other Indigenous students. He is unsparing in his accounts of the years lost to drugs and alcohol, and the damage he did to people close to him. But he is also able to tell the story of how reconnecting with his Indigenous roots and culture helped him heal and become a loving, contributing elder in his community.  He counsels on addiction and hears his grandchildren speaking the language he was beaten for. His life and eventual triumph are a tribute to his own personal courage and to the healing impacts of renewed connection with Indigenous culture. The author says: “I tell my story so that people like me will know they are not alone and might find comfort in that. I also tell my story so that the younger generation will learn from it and will make sure that nothing like residential school ever happens again.” As noted, truth is necessary before real reconciliation can occur. For generations, Indigenous people in Canada have spoken their truths about racism and repression and called for real efforts from the rest of us to move toward reconciliation. Now add to that eloquent chorus the testimony of Sam George in his painful and moving memoir. We cannot plausibly plead ignorance any longer. I urge everyone who reads this review to buy a copy of The Fire Still Burns, read it, and share it with friends and family. If you haven’t already ready done so, please read the report on Murdered and Missing  Indigenous Women and Girls and the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission paying special attention to the calls to action from that report, many of which have not yet been accomplished. And read other books and articles by Indigenous authors like Richard Wagamese’s classic Indian Horse and Lee Maracle’s luminous Celia’s Song. The post Residential school survivor speaks his truth in powerful memoir appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Indigenous, residential schools, truth and reconciliation]

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[l] at 6/8/23 9:10am
Politicians who seek to use the environment as a scapegoat have a new line of attack.  They say those who want action on climate change are, in the words of Florida governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, “politicizing the weather.” That was Ontario premier Doug Ford’s riposte to Ontario NDP and official opposition leader Marit Stiles’ questions on the underlying causes of the forest fires and lethal smoke currently afflicting a good part of North America. Here’s how the exchanges in the Ontario legislature went, on Tuesday, June 6 and Wednesday June 7 – days when millions of Ontarians were heeding advice to close their windows and avoid venturing outside into a toxic miasma. Stiles started by pointing out that “in Ottawa today, people woke up to an eerily dark sky as the forest fire smoke blotted out the sun. The air quality there is the worst level on Environment Canada’s Air Quality Health Index. It’s so bad that people are asked to stay indoors. There are high-risk warnings issued for Belleville, for Cornwall, for Gatineau, for Kingston and for Toronto and all across the northeast.” She then asked the Ford government to acknowledge, together with virtually every reputable scientific expert, “the connection between this worsening weather and the climate crisis.” LISTEN: Climate change is a health issue In his response, Ford’s natural resources minister Graydon Smith, who represents a heavily wooded district in cottage country north of Toronto, ignored Stiles’ question and focused narrowly on the immediate wildfire crisis: “… the preparation that we put into wildland fire season is immense, and the investments that we have made to ensure that we can properly attack these fires is considerable … it’s not just the folks that are on the front lines, it’s our emergency operations centre in Sault Ste. Marie monitoring the fire situation throughout the province, coordinating response, setting provincial priorities and ensuring that we have an appropriate amount of resources. It’s those that are watching the forecasts and making sure that we are continuously and carefully reporting conditions and sharing this information, again, with our partners throughout Canada. We share in mutual aid agreements with partners that are our provinces and with countries internationally to make sure that we keep each other safe …” A litany of anti-environmental actions The minister uttered not a word about the broader picture, about what might be causing the increasing frequency and intensity of forest fires. So Marit Stiles tried again. She started out by recognizing “the first responders and all the people that are being evacuated”. Then she added: “what the minister is missing is that these fires and these air-quality warnings will worsen as the climate crisis deepens.” The NDP leader pointed to the Ford government’s environmental record, which includes weakening its own climate targets. By their actions, the NDP leader argued, the Ontario Conservatives are making the climate crisis worse. “One of this government’s first actions was to rip electric vehicle (EV) charging stations right out of the ground. They’re carving up the greenbelt, a massive carbon sink. They blew hundreds of millions of dollars cancelling over 700 renewable energy projects. This government is taking Ontario in the wrong direction on the climate crisis,” Stiles added. This time the energy minister Todd Smith answered. Smith’s riding lies west of Kingston, in an area suffering severe air quality impacts from the wildfires. Todd Smith did not even bother to address any of the points Stiles raised. Instead, he touted the notional energy efficiency of Ontario’s electric power system.  “I think it’s important for the opposition to know exactly how clean and green and reliable our electricity system is in the Ontario jurisdiction. That’s one that’s going to allow us to remove megatons of emissions from our system in the future. By ensuring that we have a clean, reliable system in Ontario, one that only emits about three per cent of our total emissions in the province, and by keeping the price reliable and affordable, we are going to see emissions reduced in other parts of our sectors, more emitting parts of our sectors, like our transportation sector,” said Smith. The energy minister also boasted about Ontario industries converting to electric manufacturing processes and pointed to the newly emerging electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing sector in Ontario, something the Trudeau federal government has been boosting with billions of dollars in subsidies.  The energy minister linked all of this activity to the province’s supposedly clean electricity: “It’s why we’ve seen multi-billion-dollar investments in our EV manufacturing facilities. It’s why we’re seeing manufacturers now moving to electrifying their processes in Ontario, which is going to remove emissions from our system. It’s why we’re seeing our steelmakers moving to green steelmaking with electric arc furnaces.” Ford tries the ad hominem approach Both ministers named Smith were using the classic political tactic of deflection and distraction. The basic premise of that strategy is: When the opposition brings up embarrassing issues, change the subject and point elsewhere.  Communications professionals give courses in this sort of stuff. When the premier himself finally spoke, he tried another tactic, the ad hominem attack. Marit Stiles’ question to Doug Ford was quite simple. After, again, acknowledging the dire situation of the millions directly affected by the fires, the opposition leader asked: “We are in for probably the most severe fire season our province has ever experienced, and people are quite rightly worried for their immediate future and whether this is the new reality. Does the Premier acknowledge that the climate emergency is making this fire season significantly worse?” Ford’s answer: “I’m actually in shock that the Leader of the Opposition is politicizing wildfires. It’s staggering, really. But nothing surprises me with the opposition.” He then pivoted, as had his ministers, to a recitation of the immediate emergency measures the province is taking to quell wildfires in Ontario.  And so, the NDP leader tried again. “You know what, Speaker? It’s science,” Stilted said. “This is no ordinary fire season. People are worried that this is our new normal and they are scared. In greater Toronto last night, the air quality index was among the worst worldwide, and in the Ottawa region the index was above a level 10, which is about as high as it gets. While people closest to the fires are being evacuated, schoolchildren in our largest cities are being kept inside and people with medical conditions are being told not to go out. This is not normal. With the very real impacts of climate change being felt by millions of Ontarians today, will the Premier reverse course on his plans to pave over the province’s largest carbon sink, the greenbelt?” The premier then went into full climate-change denial mode: “Let me tell you the report that I’ve heard. The report that I have heard: Approximately 50% of the fires are started by lightning strikes; the other 50% are people starting campfires and not putting out the campfires properly. So I’m asking every Ontarian: Please do not light any campfires.” Scores of experienced fire-fighting professionals and climate experts have been pointing out for days that while the cause of some fires might be campfires or cigarettes, the fires’ ferocity and intensity is massively increased by the impacts of climate change on the forests. The same is true of hurricanes in Florida, notwithstanding the protestations of governor Ron De Santis.  Hurricanes today might not be more frequent than in the past, but climate change, experts agree, is making them far more damaging and severe than ever before, and they are only going to get worse in the future.  The small glimmer of hope in Ford’s case is that, unlike his Florida counterpart, he does not out-and-out deny the reality of human-caused global warming.  So far, however, the Ontario premier has shown little interest in doing anything to curtail it. The post Doug Ford denies connection of global warming to unprecedented wildfires appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Environment, Doug Ford, Marit Stiles, wildfires]

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[l] at 6/7/23 10:21am
Each year, we here at rabble ask our readers: “What are the organizations that inspire you? Who are the people leading progressive change? Who are the rabble rousers to watch?” Every year, your responses introduce us to a new group of inspiring activists. This is our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ series. Follow our rabble rousers to watch here.  Our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ list of 2023 continues to grow with Neelam Chadha. Chadha is a coordinator for the upcoming Hug Burnaby Mountain event. She’s been involved in environmental activism since her high school years. We spoke with Chadha about her efforts to save the planet. A conversation with Neelam Chadha Editors’ note: This interview has been edited for length. rabble.ca: Can you tell us about the work that youre doing with your organization?  Neelam Chadha: Those who know of my activism know that I’m constantly organizing a number of actions. I have continued efforts for necessary biosphere  protection, including climate action, protecting ancient forests, stopping  (TMX and CGL) pipelines, and working to change provincial and city  policies towards environmental protection.   When the future of humanity and all life on this planet is at stake, we need to act. If we don’t do it, who will?  I became very actively involved in old-growth forest protection back in late May 2021, when enforcement of the injunction began at Ada’itsx, better known to many as Fairy Creek, and logging of ancient forests with trees that are hundreds of years to over 2000 years old was to begin. All of our efforts, including those of everyone who went to Ada’itsx, 1188 front lines forest protectors who were arrested, those who planned or attended  rallies in their cities, those who met with MLAs, made telephone calls and wrote letters to those in governments including provincial ministers, and all other actions large and small, led to limited deferrals. Our efforts do make a difference!  There is, again, a need for actions on old-growth protection. The two-year deferral on logging old-growth forests in the limited area around Fairy Creek expires on June 8, 2023*, so I have been trying to meet with relevant provincial ministers. I’d encourage everyone to try to meet with their MLAs! The provincial government was to have completed  all 14 recommendations of the old-growth strategic review within three  years of receiving it, and they received it in April 2020. It has been over three years, and the government has not completed a single recommendation.  I have also been active in efforts to influence policy at the provincial and city level, including speaking at several Vancouver City Hall meetings  about science-informed climate action.  I am also a coordinator for some organizations, such as being the lead  organizer for Fridays for Future Vancouver, the lead volunteer organizer for  Sue Big Oil Vancouver, and a coordinator for Hug Burnaby Mountain.  I had also coordinated actions outside RBC banks (in 2022) to draw attention to RBC being the worst Canadian bank, and one of the five worst worldwide, for funding the climate crisis by funding fossil fuels, including the CGL pipeline through sovereign Wetsuweten territory, and the TMX  pipeline. I continue to support and attend similar events that are now  coordinated by other organizers through another group called Decolonial Solidarity.  Don’t let anyone tell you that one person won’t make a difference. Don’t let them stop you from doing what can be done.  rabble.ca: What are you working on now? NC: I’m a coordinator for the upcoming Hug Burnaby Mountain on June 18,  2023! I am working with three other fantastic coordinators, and a team on this positive and uplifting community event to show love for Burnaby  Mountain and Mother Earth. This one will be from noon to 4 pm at the Forest Grove Park soccer field.  Hug Burnaby Mountain was started with the aim of bringing the community  together, to increase awareness about the TMX pipeline going through  Burnaby Mountain and disturbing fragile ecosystems, and the beauty of the area, as well as the climate impact of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure during a climate emergency.  rabble.ca: How did you first get involved in activism?  NC: I had begun environmental activism many years ago as a teen. In Grade 9,  I was involved in starting a recycling program at my school, and wrote a song about rainforest protection that year. In Grade 10, I wrote for my school newspaper about the greenhouse effect, the ozone layer, and  rainforest destruction. I was concerned for our future.  I recently returned to environmental activism when the injunction went in around Ada’itsx. I had earlier sent letters to John Horgan about the need to protect the last remaining 2.7 per cent of productive old growth ancient forests and had mistakenly believed the election promises that it would be protected.   When the injunction began, and logging was to begin, I jumped to action to organize what became Vancouver’s largest old-growth rally. I then continued to actively organize to protect our biosphere.  rabble.ca: What does being nominated as a ‘rabble rouser to watch’ mean to  you?   NC: I am proud to be considered a ‘rabble rouser’! We need to rabble rousers to change things for the better!   I’m actively working towards increasing public awareness of what we are facing, and how we could take action. I’m also working to change policy and public awareness is part of that too. The more of us working toward these progressive changes, the better!  Human-caused climate change is a threat to all life on this planet. Climate disasters will increase in severity and frequency, unless drastic changes  are made.  The ecosystems in old-growth forests took thousands of years to develop (and trees may be hundreds of years old to over 2000) and are irreplaceable. The beautiful areas in which logging is occurring are the most rare type of old-growth forests (productive old-growth). This type of forest sequesters the most carbon, and cutting it releases the carbon back into the atmosphere, multiplying the effect on climate change. Less than 2.6 per cent remains. These are the forests with the most biodiversity, including many rare and endangered species that cannot live anywhere else.  There is too much at stake to not rabble rouse.  rabble.ca: How do you take care of yourself and find the drive to keep going? NC: When I do finally get to take a break, I enjoy walking in forested areas and walking by the ocean. There is something both awe-inspiring and serene about being around a giant tree. There’s nothing like it. This connection to the natural world is part of why we offer our protection of it.   The drive to keep going mostly continues due to the need for action. We could stop when there is no longer a need.  rabble.ca: What is one goal you have in the next year?   NC: Keep striving. The goal remains climate protection, protecting ancient  forests, and no new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate emergency. I  would like to see policy changes to achieve these. I don’t think that all will  get accomplished this year, but we need to keep striving to make it happen.  I’m also going to set a personal goal to try to be in nature more, for my own well-being and serenity. Spending more time connecting with nature, which I love, will be beneficial for my continued advocacy and for myself.  rabble.ca: What do you wish people knew about the organizing you do?   NC: I wish they knew how much they are capable of doing too! If you recognize a need to do something, take the initiative! If you know that something needs to be done, do what you can to make it  happen! The greater the number of people who act, the better! Change for the better takes as many people as possible! There are many ways to take actions,  great and small. Be one of the people who changes things for the better! *Editors note: Earlier this month, the province of British Columbia announced it is extending the deferral of old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek watershed area until 2025. The post Neelam Chadha: There is too much at stake to not rabble rouse appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, rabble rousers to watch series]

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[l] at 6/7/23 9:16am
Nine years ago, the David Suzuki Foundation launched the Blue Dot Movement. Its goal was to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in Canadian law. It started with a cross-country tour featuring Feist, Neil Young, the Barenaked Ladies, Margaret Atwood, Kinnie Starr, Raine Maida, Grimes, Danny Michel, Stephen Lewis, Bruce Cockburn, Robert Bateman, Shane Koyczan and many more. The multi-pronged efforts over the years are finally starting to pay off. With recent passage of Bill S-5 to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the right of all people in Canada to a healthy environment is now recognized in law. Although the ultimate goal was to have this right enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, getting it into this law is a great start. The Environmental Protection Act hasnt been updated since 1999, and over that time, much has changed regarding environmental issues and our understanding of them, so the amendments are long overdue. Under the revised act, the federal government will have the duty to protect the right to a healthy environment and uphold the principles of environmental justice. The act also includes requirements to consider cumulative effects on environmental and human health and on vulnerable populations. And it updates regulations around control of toxic substances and dangerous chemicals, including ensuring that priority is given to prohibiting the most hazardous substances. When the Blue Dot Tour hit the road in 2014, more than half the world’s nations recognized the legal right to healthy environment. It was astounding that Canada, a country known for its spectacular wilderness and abundant nature, was not among them. Now more than three-quarters of countries recognize and protect this right! As the movement gained momentum, an ever-increasing number of municipalities adopted environmental rights declarations, many members of Parliament signed pledges supporting them and people, organizations and communities joined the effort. The movement also inspired the Foundation’s Future Ground Network and Réseau Demain le Québec, two growing online organizing hubs (one English, one French) that support local groups taking action in their communities to secure healthier, more viable futures in the areas of climate justice, biodiversity, waste reduction and sustainable systems. It shouldnt be controversial to recognize that we cant live well without clean air and water, toxic-free food and the numerous services that diverse ecosystems provide. But Canada and the world still face increasing environmental crises, which often most affect marginalized people. Here, we have dozens of drinking water advisories in effect, most in Indigenous communities. Air quality often reaches dangerous levels, and the oil and mining industries continue to poison land, air and water — again, most often near Indigenous communities. Environmental hazards contribute to tens of thousands of premature deaths in Canada every year, and pollution costs us more than $100 billion a year. Although modernizing the Environmental Protection Act wont resolve all those problems, it will at least set us on a path to government responsibility. But more needs to be done. The government should remove barriers that prevent citizens from using legal methods to hold polluters accountable when they violate the act and its regulations. We need enforceable national air quality standards. Regulations around labelling of potentially hazardous substances in consumer products must be strengthened. Government must also close loopholes regarding ocean dumping, and it must ensure that Indigenous communities get the same level of environmental protection as other communities in Canada. We must also restrict plastic waste exports. Another important step will be for government to pass Bill S-226 — “an act respecting the development of a national strategy to assess, prevent and address environmental racism and to advance environmental justice.” This is critical, because social and environmental justice are inextricably linked. Solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises must be grounded in equity, access to justice and fulfillment of human rights. Long overdue modernization of Canada’s Environmental Protection Act is a positive first step and shows what we can accomplish when we work together. As David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment and long-time Blue Dot spokesperson, said, “It’s a terrific day when Canada recognizes the right to a healthy environment and will be an even better day when governments respect, protect and fulfil everyone’s right to a healthy environment!” Lets keep moving! David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org. The post Activism secures new environmental protections appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Human Rights, environmental racism, environmental rights]

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[l] at 6/6/23 2:03pm
During the 21st anniversary memorials for 9/11, at ground zero in New York City, on Sunday, September 11, 2022, the New York Times interviewed people who had lost someone during the tragedy 21 years ago.  Here are the thoughts of a victim’s sister reported by the Times: “Anthoula Katsimatides, 50, an actress and a trustee for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, lost her brother John Katsimatides, 31, a bonds broker at Cantor Fitzgerald. “The more the time passes, the easier it is for people to forget or to put it on the back burner,” she said. Ms. Katsimatides said the goal of the yearly remembrance was to “teach younger generations” in an effort to avoid a similar tragedy in the future. “They need to know, they need to be educated,” Ms. Katsimatides said. “And then it’ll be their task to take the torch and pass it on.” I want to borrow Ms. Katsimatides’ comment and use it to frame a virtual memorial for all those children who had a personal 9/11 when their childhood was taken away from them by an abuser, an exploiter, a soul murderer. In particular, I want to remember the Quebec Orphans who were abused in provincial institutions decades ago and who have never had a memorial to their suffering and loss. They even suffered a further ignominy when they were forgotten and ignored during Pope Francis’ recent historic penitential pilgrimage to console indigenous victims of abuse in Canada. I therefore implore the citizens of Canada and their media never to forget, to always use a tragedy such as child abuse as a teachable moment for the next generation. For it is our solemn duty to pass on to the next generation our sorrow, our compassion, and our resolution “Never Again” (as Pope Francis said in Quebec City on July 28), lest we forget. As Katsimatides wisely notes, people forget after a while, but we must keep that memory alive— not to be morbid or melancholic, but to bear witness to our common humanity and heritage. A similar message was bequeathed to us by someone else who recently passed on: back in 2001, Queen Elizabeth II sent words of comfort and support for our national grieving, reminding us that “Grief is the price we pay for love.” Another exhortation is offered to us by Prof. Martha Minow of Harvard Law School in her remarkable consideration of how society should respond to mass atrocities like 9/11. In her Between Vengeance and Forgiveness (1998) Minow too struggles with the challenge of how best to bear witness to violence and trauma in civil society. But we must respond, she demands, for “Dwelling in the frozen space of inability and incapacity is unacceptable, unresponsive to victims, unavailing to the waiting future.”  Again (as Katsimatides urged), Minow claims that our response to atrocity has obligations to the past and to the future. Even when our small efforts to “join in the resistance to forgetting” may be judged incomplete and inadequate—when we are confronted with the failures of speech and justice, of truth-telling and reparation, of remembering and educating— nevertheless, speaking out is our obligation to victims and survivors: “It is a missive to the next generation, in the next century, in the fearful  acknowledgement that we are not done with mass violence, nor expert in  recovering from it.”[1998, p.6] So let us at least try to remember, lest we forget. Let us heed Anthoula, and Elizabeth and Martha, let us lift that torch, keep it lit in memory, and pass it on to the next generation, so that the fate of victims, of the Quebec Orphans, and of all the other abused children in Canada and around the world, will never be forgotten. As Quebec license plates proclaim: “Je me souviens”. The post Learning from tragedy and trauma appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, Duplesis orphans]

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[l] at 6/6/23 8:00am
In this clip, OSBCU president Laura Walton explains why labour unions across Canada must be the ones advocating for change when the elected governments fail to.  “Change does not come from a place of comfort. And so we’re going to have to get uncomfortable and recognize the role that we all play in this and [ask ourselves] how do we demand better?” Laura Walton was elected president of OSBCU in 2019, having first served as its vice-president. Formerly, she was president of CUPE 1022, which represents education workers at Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board.  This is a clip from rabble’s most recent live politics panel: Off the Hill: Labour in high gear for action and change. The panel featured guests MP Alexandre Boulerice, OSBCU CSCSO president Laura Walton, policy expert and rabble columnist Chuka Ejeckam and rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg. Hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies.  Off the Hill is a fast-paced live panel on current issues of national significance, hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies. This series focuses on the impact politics and policy have on people and on ways to mobilize to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill. To support Off the Hill, visit rabble.ca/donate. The post Laura Walton: Empowering unions to be spaces of radical change appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, Political Action, off the hill]

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[l] at 6/5/23 12:00pm
In our fifth episode of this season of Courage My Friends, we revisit the George Brown College Labour Fair. This year, the theme of the fair is: The other P3s: pandemic, privatization, precarity,,, and planet!! In this episode, we share the panel discussion on ‘Gig Workers and Precarity in the 21st Century.’ Moderator Jon Weier is joined by panelists Simran Dhunna and Jobanjeet Kaur of the Naujawan Support Network and Jennifer Scott from Gig Workers United. The groups discusses the tribulations faced by those working in precarious and gig jobs, increasingly exploitative employment structures and organizing for the rights and dignity of vulnerable workers. Reflecting on the meaning of exploitation for precarious workers, especially international students and immigrant workers, Kaur says: “Exploitation involves taking from workers that is rightfully ours. Wage theft, sexual harassment, inadequate job training, threats of deportation are all the forms of exploitation because they rob us of our earnings, safety and dignity.Sometimes people just take it as we are not being paid and its just exploitation of our money or something. No, its also the exploitation for the dignity of a worker. Because we go there professionally, work and put in the hours and everything, and its like they take our dignity away when they refuse to pay us.” Speaking to the situation facing gig workers in Ontario, Scott says: “Gig workers are misclassified workers. And so that means that we dont have basic workers rights and protections … because apps, you know, our bosses, are disrupting employment standards and putting downward pressure on wages, on employment standards, on working conditions, not just for gig workers, but for all workers in the delivery and logistics sector … Bill-88 was something that apps like Uber and other bad bosses lobbied quite aggressively for … because it creates a standalone piece of legislation with separate and lesser protections, which really reinforces the narrative that apps use, that gig workers are not real workers.” When it comes to organizing workers, Dhunna says: “Theres the legal realm and then theres the realm in the streets. We dont rely on lawsuits or kind of the legal system to build our power, but it is a reality. It is a tool and a weapon that is used by employers just as they have done with Bill-88, and with other legal mechanisms to silence workers. And its not something thats going to intimidate workers, of course. Were thankful for some of the support thats come from other labour organizations and publications like Briar Patch, because this is kind of the way weve begun to connect with groups … that are waging similar struggles across the country.” About our guests: Simran Dhunna is currently studying medicine at Queen’s University. She is a member of Naujawan Support Network. Jobanjeet Kaur is a former international student who immigrated from Panjab in 2018. She was an active organizer in the Alpha College protests, and is now a member of Naujawan Support Network. Jennifer Scott is a gig worker and the President of Gig Workers United CUPW. She began delivering on apps in 2017 as a bicycle courier. She was a member in the Justice for Foodora Couriers CUPW campaign where workers won the right to unionize with 90% of workers voting YES to their union. Transcript of this episode can be accessed at georgebrown.ca/TommyDouglasInstitute or here. Images: Simran Dhunna, Jobanjeet Kaur, Jennifer Scott / Used with permission. Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased. Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (Podcast Announcer); Bob Luker (Tommy); Injila Rajab Khan and Danesh Hanbury (Street Voices) Courage My Friends podcast organizing committee: Chandra Budhu, Ashley Booth, Resh Budhu. Produced by: Resh Budhu, Tommy Douglas Institute and Breanne Doyle, rabble.ca. Host: Resh Budhu. The post Labour Fair 2023: Gig workers and precarity in the 21st century appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, Courage My Friends, Gig economy, gigworkers]

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[l] at 6/5/23 11:20am
It’s ironic how, despite complaints from the left about the Alberta NDP’s undeniable shift to the right, it was the party’s sole left-wing policy concession that appears to have sunk its chance to win the election. This could have been meant as a gesture to placate the party’s traditional left or just a moment of careless inattention. Whatever it was, it had a fateful impact. Don’t take my word for it – there are plenty of people who think I’m wrong to have argued the unforced error that contributed the most to the NDP snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the May 29 election was its foolish decision to talk about a three per cent tax increase for the province’s largest corporations.  Consider instead what the denizens of the United Conservative Party election war room have to say. A report in the Globe and Mail, published Friday describes how UCP staffers combing through the NDP platform-costing estimates released by the NDP on May 18 – just as the UCP campaign was at its lowest ebb – reacted when they saw the NDP’s corporate tax plan. “I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, it is Christmas,’” the Globe’s reporters quoted the UCP campaign’s issues management director saying.  “This is something that we need,” Erika Barootes remembered thinking, “to turn the page.” “They gave us a gift,” UCP Campaign Manager Steve Outhouse said in the same story. “We were able to very quickly incorporate that into our advertising.” As former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said of the Globe’s story: “It’s interesting that, despite the assertions by some that the Alberta NDP’s loss should be blamed on its attempt to attract former PC voters, UCP insiders credit the corporate tax hike.” Now, the UCP is not always truthful in its accounts and analysis, but I see no reason for them to lie about this particular point – indeed, I’m sure they’d be delighted if the NDP would stick with policies that scare the bejesus out of many Calgary voters.  Say what you will about the need for the NDP – federally and in Alberta – to do the work to build support for more genuinely progressive economic policies, May 18 was the moment the NDP campaign faltered and fear in Calgary that modest tax increase on the most profitable corporations was the reason it did so.  It does not matter that the fear is unjustified by economic reality. It has been nurtured literally for generations by Conservative politicians, their enablers and supporters, and is believed with reverence by a majority of voters in Calgary and everywhere else in Canada. Anyway, whether the NDP is a genuine social democratic party or just another centre-right party progressive enough to advocate neoliberalism with a human face does not really matter. The immediate reality is that the NDP had a rare chance on May 29 to beat the Conservatives, thanks to that party’s decision to choose as a leader a person who is both a dangerous ideological extremist and a serial liar who keeps getting tangled in her own web of tall tales. But in a moment of strategic insanity, the NDP tossed that chance away.  Journalist and commentator Nora Loreto wrote in her Substack the night after the election: “The truth is that no amount of work during an election period can unseat a party that has rock-solid support in a majority of ridings. It’s impossible. And lying about it being possible burns volunteers, gives people false hope and makes it look like a party is deeply unserious.” The real problem, Loreto concluded, is that “the NDP is not a serious party.” The NDP, in Alberta and elsewhere, she argues, has failed to organize its base. “It can’t organize a base because, really, the party hasn’t stood for anything concrete in many decades and it’s very difficult to organize a base when you act for nothing,” she argued.  This is only slightly unfair. Unlike the federal party, the Alberta NDP at least has made a stab at organizing its base, a process that began before Rachel Notley was elected to lead the party. But it has really only done so in Edmonton. In the rest of Alberta, it will take a lot of work – maybe years of it – that can only happen if the NDP is truly committed to putting in the effort. As Loreto put it, “We have oriented everything in Canada towards the markets and no political party will change that with a single mandate (or even multiple mandates).” In the meantime, though, we Albertans are going to have to live with the nightmare of a government run by Danielle Smith. This is not your grandfather’s Tory party, and the Smith-led UCP will do things intended to hurt Canada and damage many Albertans. It will be cruel and mindless.  Best buckle up! The post The policy blunder that cost Rachel Notley the Alberta election appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 6/5/23 9:50am
In todays diverse and interconnected world, fostering inclusion has become a critical goal for organizations. Creating a truly inclusive workplace requires the concerted efforts of all folks within an organization, and the individuals in Human Resources (HR) administration play a pivotal role in breaking down barriers to achieve this goal. By proactively addressing and eliminating barriers, HR administrators can create an environment where every employee feels valued, respected, and empowered. Lets explore the key barriers to inclusion and how HR administration can effectively remove them to cultivate an inclusive work culture. Barriers to inclusion Barriers to inclusion refer to the obstacles, practices, or circumstances that prevent or limit the full participation, engagement, and belonging of individuals from diverse backgrounds within an organization. These barriers can manifest in various forms and can be both visible and invisible. They create unequal opportunities, hinder personal and professional growth, perpetuate systemic inequalities, and prevent individuals from fully contributing their unique perspectives and talents. Barriers to inclusion can be rooted in social, cultural, organizational, or systemic factors. They can include biases, stereotypes, discriminatory practices, inadequate policies, exclusionary language, limited access to resources and opportunities, lack of representation in leadership positions, communication barriers, and other systemic or structural challenges. The barriers that are often connected to HR administration include: Bias and Stereotyping: Unconscious biases and stereotypes can impede fair decision-making processes, limit opportunities, and hinder diversity. Lack of Diversity in Leadership: When leadership positions, that is executives or managers who hold position power, lack diversity, it can send a message that only certain individuals have the potential for advancement, creating barriers for underrepresented groups. Inadequate Policies and Procedures: Outdated policies, procedures, and practices that are not inclusive can exclude or disadvantage certain groups, perpetuating inequality. Limited Access to Resources and Opportunities: Unequal access to training, development programs, mentoring, and networking opportunities can hinder the progress of individuals from underrepresented groups. Communication and Language Barriers: Ineffective communication channels, language barriers, and exclusionary language can prevent individuals from fully participating and sharing their perspectives. READ MORE: Diversity is strength in nature and society Seven activities for HR administrators to remove barriers Removing barriers to inclusion involves recognizing and addressing these obstacles, dismantling discriminatory practices, promoting diversity and equity, creating inclusive policies and procedures, fostering a culture of respect and acceptance, and providing equal access to resources and opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their background, identity, or characteristics. HR administration plays a crucial role in removing barriers and fostering inclusion. Here are some strategies that HR administrators can employ: Raise Awareness and Provide Training: HR administrators should conduct awareness campaigns and provide diversity and inclusion training for all employees. By raising awareness about unconscious biases, stereotypes, and the importance of inclusivity, HR can help employees recognize and overcome their biases. Revise Policies and Procedures: HR administrators should review and update policies and procedures to ensure they are inclusive and equitable. This includes revising recruitment and selection processes, performance evaluation systems, and policies related to promotion and career development. Diverse Hiring Practices: HR administrators should actively promote diversity and inclusion during the recruitment and selection process. Implementing strategies such as blind resume reviews, diverse interview panels, and structured interviews can help mitigate bias and ensure fair evaluation of candidates. Leadership Development Programs: HR administrators should establish leadership development programs that specifically target underrepresented groups. These programs can provide mentorship, coaching, and networking opportunities to help individuals from diverse backgrounds progress into leadership roles. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): HR administrators should support the creation and growth of ERGs, which are voluntary groups formed by employees with shared characteristics or interests. ERGs provide a platform for employees to connect, share experiences, and collaborate on initiatives that promote inclusion. Transparent Communication Channels: HR administrators should establish clear and transparent communication channels to ensure all employees have access to information, updates, and opportunities. This includes using inclusive language, providing translations or interpreters when needed, and encouraging open dialogue and feedback. Performance Management and Recognition: HR administrators should ensure that performance evaluations are fair and unbiased. They should also recognize and reward employees based on their skills, contributions, and achievements, irrespective of their background or identity. Inclusion is a journey of creating an environment in which all individuals, regardless of their background, identity, or characteristics, are valued, respected, and provided with equal opportunities to fully participate, engage, and contribute. HR administration plays a critical role in removing barriers and fostering an inclusive work culture. Inclusion involves creating equitable policies, practices, and systems that ensure equal access to resources, opportunities, and benefits for all individuals. HR administrators can both challenge and dismantle discriminatory practices, biases, and stereotypes which can help organizations and harness the full potential of their workforce. The post Removing barriers for inclusion: The role of HR administration appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Education, diversity, Equity, inclusivity]

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[l] at 6/5/23 9:46am
Robert Kennedy Jr. is seeking the Democratic nomination for United States president. He founded the global Waterkeeper movement, starting from his work as an environmental lawyer to protect the Hudson River in New York.   Kennedy describes how he used to find frogs, salamanders, and turtles near his McLean, Virginia home in the 1950s and early 1960s when his father worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C. After a highway was built and destroyed that area, he and one of his brothers threw rocks at the cars passing by. They were caught and disciplined. Kennedy says McLean was a rural village but has since been swallowed up as part of the D.C. suburbs. Growing up in the adjacent state of Maryland, my experiences were similar. My father also worked for the federal government. He built a house in the countryside north of sleepy little Reisterstown. I was able to wander freely through the fields and forests around our home. I loved the birds and trees. Seeing the forests cleared away to build a gas pipeline less than a mile from our home was traumatic. My mother would drive us 20 miles south to go shopping in Baltimore. Over time, all the fields, streams and forests along Reisterstown Road were converted into suburban sprawl. She fought to save some of the remaining rural parts of Baltimore County, getting on a citizens’ planning committee and pushing for strict zoning regulations to halt the conversion of farmland into suburban housing tracts.   She won. This did not endear her to some local farmers who were hoping to profit from land sales. And development then leap-frogged into Carroll County. Many people my age who grew up around Toronto or Ottawa could probably tell similar stories of their sense of loss when the natural spaces near their homes disappeared, together with the wildlife in them.   The fight never seems to end. Today, farming groups are opposing the plans of the current Ontario government to carve up the rural landscape for development.  We need places to grow food locally. And it has become obvious that more highways and poorly designed housing developments create car-dependent lifestyles that are worsening the climate crisis. In theory, citizens could act by changing their governments. In practice, it seems that governments of all political stripes are controlled by corporations that are driving the biodiversity and climate crises. Kennedy says that fear is not the motivation for his environmental activism.  He urges us to love nature. Environmentalists tend to overemphasize fear of the all-too-real risks of climate change – fires, floods, droughts and tornadoes. Our destruction of nature can cease if love overcomes fear.  We have a mature economy in Canada. Just as people my age are thinking about downsizing their households, we can downsize our economy in terms of consumption of lands and resources. Downsizing is happening anyway, as the economy shifts from making stuff to providing services.   It’s the quality of life that matters.  The notion here is sufficiency – not endless growth.   What gap in our lives are we trying to fill with over-consumption of junk food and plastic?  Is it love that we’re missing – the love that comes from contact with plants and animals in wild natural settings? Pets and house plants can help fill the void, but wild nature is free for all. There are parking lots and mowed lawns in our urban areas where nature can be restored. You see this happening, at least on a small scale, when people volunteer to plant trees and create community gardens. But natural areas in and around cities remain scarce and hard to get to without a car. We think our lives are too busy to spend time in them.   Get outdoors where flowers are blooming and birds are singing. You’re literally bathed in love. Mother Nature is everywhere. Take some time for gratitude and feel the love.   If everyone does this, the world will be a much better place. The post Love, not fear, can save the world appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Health, Climate Change, environment, health, politics]

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[l] at 6/5/23 7:50am
There is sure a lot of sound and fury going on, but is the ‘Chinese meddling in our elections’ scandal really worth all the airtime it is devouring? Going out on a limb, I would argue that we have plenty of channels for spotlighting any wrongdoing (including public hearings, already announced) and for punishing any wrongdoers, including expelling foreign diplomats (already done). But that hasn’t stopped Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre from making over-the-top accusations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau collaborated with a hostile foreign power against the interests of Canadians. Poilievre’s treason allegation is bereft of evidence. Still, unsurprisingly, he’s romping about furiously, hoping to ride this runaway horse to victory in the next election. The media’s role is more interesting. Our national media outlets have been supplying endless oxygen to the political drama, helping Poilievre pummel Trudeau in perhaps the worst beating he’s received as prime minister. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that — the media’s job is to hold the powerful to account, especially the prime minister. But the intense coverage might mislead the public into believing there is clearly a smoking gun here. David Johnston, the government’s special rapporteur on the file, has faced relentless media criticism for advising the government to deal with the matter by holding public hearings — rather than launching a full public inquiry. What jumps out is how this fierce media response compares to the mild media reaction in 2008, when this very same David Johnston advised an earlier government to limit the scope of an inquiry into a matter where the gunsmoke was thick and piping hot. That case, of course, involved allegations that former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had secretly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from a foreign arms dealer with whom he had dealings with as prime minister. The lurid revelations ignited a raging scandal with an aroused public demanding to learn more. Since there was no way to put a lid on it, then Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Johnston to advise on the scope of the inevitable inquiry. Johnston did do his best to put a lid on things, advising Harper that the inquiry should not be allowed to investigate the very crux of the matter: whether the payments were connected to the $1.8 billion purchase of Airbus jets by Air Canada while Mulroney was prime minister — as alleged by investigative reporter Stevie Cameron in her 1994 book “On the Take.” Mulroney had vehemently denied the bribery allegation, and even managed to win a $2.1 million settlement from Ottawa after the RCMP investigated him — and exonerated him — in connection with the Airbus contract. But by 2008, that exoneration was deeply in doubt due to fresh evidence that Mulroney had in fact received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash — delivered in suitcases to hotel rooms — from Karlheinz Schreiber, the arms dealer with whom he was accused of dealing on Airbus. It sure as hell looked suspicious. And Johnston’s advice — that the inquiry steer clear of probing any connections to Airbus — was ridiculous, but helpful to Conservatives hoping to cool down the scandal. Harper later appointed Johnston governor-general. The public inquiry, led by Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, ultimately concluded that Mulroney had received the money from Schreiber — indeed, a cringing Mulroney admitted so himself. But, constrained by the limited mandate recommended by Johnston, the inquiry didn’t investigate what the payments were for. The possibility that a sitting prime minister had accepted bribes (to be delivered after he left office) was never probed. End of story. The media is free to investigate whatever it wants and as aggressively as it wants. And I guess it’s not surprising that media outlets — owned by wealthy conservatives — are more interested in advancing scandals that negatively impact governments they do not like. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that our major national media outlets are simply trying to sell newspapers or that they do not have a dog in this fight. A version of this article originally appeared in the Toronto Star. The post Is the media fuelling Canada’s foreign interference scandal? appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Politics, Brian Mulroney, David Johnston, foreign interference, Justin Trudeau, Pierre Poilievre, politics]

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[l] at 6/4/23 8:00am
In this clip, Chuka Ejeckam explains: At a time in history when right-wing extremism is on the rise, the labour movement in Canada needs to be doing more to confront hate and bigotry both in our neighbourhoods and beyond our borders. Chuka Ejeckam is a writer and policy researcher. His work focuses on inequity and inequality, drug policy, structural racism, and labour. He is also a columnist for rabble. This is a clip from rabble’s most recent live politics panel: Off the Hill: Labour in high gear for action and change. The panel featured guests MP Alexandre Boulerice, OSBCU CSCSO president Laura Walton, policy expert and rabble columnist Chuka Ejeckam and rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg. Hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies.  Off the Hill is a fast-paced live panel on current issues of national significance, hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies. This series focuses on the impact politics and policy have on people and on ways to mobilize to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill. To support Off the Hill, visit rabble.ca/donate. The post The labour movement must ‘loudly reject’ right-wing extremism in Canada and across the globe appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, Labour, off the hill]

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[l] at 6/2/23 1:47pm
Ontario workers will be participating in more than 30 rallies across the province to tell premier Doug Ford that enough is enough. The day of action will take place on June 3 and is being hosted by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).  “Despite running on the slogan ‘working for workers,’ Doug Ford has used the first year of his government’s second term to ramp up privatization and ignore the real issues facing working people,” wrote Patty Coates, OFL president, in an email to rabble.ca.  OFL wrote in  a statement that they are tired of the rich getting richer while workers struggle to get by. The day of action on June 3 will be a chance for workers to fight for legislation that truly works for them.  Among the OFL’s demands are real wage increases, keeping schools and healthcare public, affordable basic goods, rent control, affordable housing and making banks and corporations pay their fair share in taxes. All the demands put forward by the OFL are protections for the working class that have been put at risk by legislation put forward during Doug Ford’s time as premier.  “Since the beginning of the Ford’s government’s second term, they have made moves to privatize our health care system with Bill 60, attack public education with Bill 98, threaten workers’ right to strike with Bill 28, destroy the Greenbelt with Bill 23, and further disrespect public sector workers by appealing the decision to strike down Bill 124,” said Coates.  Coates said that Ontarians can look deeper into Ford’s anti-worker and anti-poor policies using the OFL’s Ford tracker.  “These bills are only a handful of some of the most destructive legislation put forward by Doug Ford’s Conservative government,” Coates explained. “The widespread support for the Enough is Enough campaign demonstrates that Ontarians everywhere are fed up and ready to take action.”  In the OFL’s Enough is Enough campaign video, workers express their frustration with being constantly told to tighten their belts while corporations post record profits.  The campaign is calling for a reframing of the affordability crisis and building laws that address workers needs over corporate profits.  Workers are demanding a $20 dollar minimum wage, the permanent repeal of Bill 124, the restoration and expansion of decent work laws, including Paid Sick Days and equal pay for equal work, and more.  These laws will take the weight of the affordability crisis off workers and place the responsibility on those who are accountable for inflation, namely large corporations who pay poverty wages and post record profits.   “Too many Ontarians are struggling to make ends meet. Wages aren’t keeping up and housing costs are too high,” Coates explained.  Real wage increases, along with the fulfillment of the other demands put forward by the OFL could make life for workers on Ontario much more manageable.  “All of this is a result of the Ford government choosing to line the pockets of his corporate buddies, instead of investing in Ontarians’ well-being,” Coates said. “It shouldn’t be this way. That’s why we’re saying: enough is enough!” The post Ontario Federation of Labour to hold province wide rally this weekend appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, Political Action, Bill 124, Bill 60, Doug Ford, OFL]

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[l] at 6/2/23 8:00am
This week on rabble radio, rabble editor Nick Seebruch sits down with Alberta political analyst Dave Cournoyer to review the recent provincial election in Alberta, and the newly re-elected Premier of Alberta Danielle Smith. READ MORE: Smith’s UCP ekes out a win in Calgary, secures majority Smith and Alberta New Democrat Leader Rachel Notley were neck and neck for most of this election; but even after scandal after scandal, and despite losing some seats, Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party was able to amass enough support to overtake Notley and the New Democrats. READ MORE: Despite election win, UCP shut out of Edmonton For more analysis on the recent Alberta election and for all-things Alberta politics, we encourage you to check out David Climenhaga’s contributions on rabble.ca. About our guest  Dave Cournoyer is an Edmonton-based writer, political watcher, and communications professional. He writes about Alberta politics at daveberta.substack.com and is the host of the Daveberta Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @davecournoyer and on Instagram at @daveberta. If you like the show please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. And please, rate, review, share rabble radio with your friends — it takes two seconds to support independent media like rabble. Follow us on social media across channels @rabbleca. The post Alberta election has wrapped. What’s next? appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Elections, Alberta Election 2023]

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[l] at 6/2/23 8:00am
This week on rabble radio, rabble editor Nick Seebruch sits down with Alberta political analyst Dave Cournoyer to review the recent provincial election in Alberta, and the newly re-elected Premier of Alberta Danielle Smith.  READ MORE: Smith’s UCP ekes out a win in Calgary, secures majority Smith and Alberta New Democrat Leader Rachel Notley were neck and neck for most of this election; but even after scandal after scandal, and despite losing some seats, Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party was able to amass enough support to overtake Notley and the New Democrats.  READ MORE: Despite election win, UCP shut out of Edmonton For more analysis on the recent Alberta election and for all-things Alberta politics, we encourage you to check out David Climenhaga’s contributions on rabble.ca.  About our guest  Dave Cournoyer is an Edmonton-based writer, political watcher, and communications professional. He writes about Alberta politics at daveberta.substack.com and is the host of the Daveberta Podcast. He can be found on Twitter at @davecournoyer and on Instagram at @daveberta. If you like the show please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. And please, rate, review, share rabble radio with your friends — it takes two seconds to support independent media like rabble. Follow us on social media across channels @rabbleca. The post Election has wrapped. What’s next for Alberta? appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics]

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[l] at 6/2/23 4:05am
The UN Declaration of Human Rights declares that labour rights are human rights. It is backed up by a declaration by the International Labour Organization which says that labour is not a commodity. Comments by the Chair of the ILOs Workers Group, Catelene Passchier. Canadian unions are represented at the ILO by the Canadian Labour Congress. The post Labour is not a good to be bought and sold appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, CLC, ILO]

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[l] at 6/1/23 3:22pm
The House of Representatives passed the so-called “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023” on Wednesday night, raising the debt ceiling through January, 2025 and pushing the next potential battle over federal borrowing past the next presidential election. The Senate is now considering the bill, which includes numerous provisions completely unrelated to the debt ceiling. One of these “poison pills,” buried on pages 95 to 98 of the 100-page, must-pass legislation, fast-tracks the approval and construction of the controversial, 300-plus-mile-long fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) through West Virginia and Virginia. Some estimates put the annual greenhouse gas emissions that the pipeline would enable as equivalent to 26 to 37 coal-fired power plants. The pipeline has provoked a diverse array of opponents, from 350.org and the Sierra Club to Indigenous tribes and local farmers. One of those farmers is Maury Johnson, whose organic farm in southern West Virginia has already been impacted by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He is a member of POWHR, the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights Coalition. “We have been telling the people permitting this and the people building this for eight years that they can’t build this pipeline and follow the law. It’s been proven in court numerous times. So they just want to circumvent the law,” Johnson said on the Democracy Now! news hour. Johnson blames the debt ceiling bill’s MVP provision on the pipeline’s biggest Congressional champion, West Virginia conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Manchin, who has earned millions from his family-owned coal business and is Congress’s largest recipient of fossil fuel industry contributions, has used his leverage in the narrowly divided Senate to force the MVP into this bill. “We have documented many things, all along the pipeline path, from the very beginning in northern West Virginia, in Mobley, across some very steep slopes, the steepest that’s probably ever been crossed in Appalachia,” Johnson added, describing some of the risks posed by the MVP. “We’re in one of the most active earthquake zones in the East, and we have actually had some minor earthquakes during the construction of this pipeline. We know that the methane that leaks all along the pipeline is harmful to the climate…It’s already impacted a lot of people’s water, including my own. I actually have not been able to use my water since 2021.” The debt ceiling bill also imposes “jurisdiction stripping,” forcing any court challenge lodged against the MVP into the traditionally pro-business federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. It further ensures more people will have their private property appropriated by the MVP corporation through eminent domain. This in particular has incensed Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. “I’m insisting on an amendment to strip out approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Senator Kaine said after the bill’s passage in the House on MSNBC. “This is a pipeline that should have to go through normal permitting processes. But sadly, the deal that was struck gives this a green light, exempts it from all the normal permitting processes. To build a pipeline, you’ve got to take people’s land. This runs through Appalachian Virginia, some of my poorest, hardest hit residents. They don’t want to have their land taken. And they definitely don’t want Congress putting our thumb on the scale, to take away the power of agencies and courts to review whether it’s a good idea or not.” Despite Kaine’s palpable anger over the MVP provision and the power of a single senator to slow down or kill a bill, it appears poised to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Biden. If passed, the law would compel the Secretary of the Army to issue all necessary permits to build and operate the Mountain Valley Pipeline within 21 days. Court challenges are continuing, and just last week, the MVP’s preferred court, the DC Court of Appeals, ruled in favour of the Sierra Club and others on a procedural permitting issue. Organic farmer Maury Johnson and thousands of his allies aren’t waiting for the courts or the Senate to stop the pipeline. This month a broad coalition is launching a wave of protests nationally, starting at the White House on June 8, to “turn up the heat and make Biden take real climate action – by ending the era of fossil fuels.” In addition to finally shutting down the MVP, activists are demanding that the Biden administration reverse its approval of the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska and stop issuing any more permits for petroleum exploration and extraction on public lands and waters. “I’m what a sacrifice looks like,” Maury Johnson concluded. “If this deal goes through, this dirty deal of Joe Manchin’s pet project, Mountain Valley Pipeline, everybody in America needs to look in the mirror and say, ‘I can be sacrificed also.’” This column originally appeared in Democracy Now! The post Debt ceiling bill includes the climate-killing Mountain Valley Pipeline appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, US Politics, debt ceiling, pipeline]

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[l] at 6/1/23 1:09pm
It’s a dangerous time to be 2SLGBTQIA+ in Canada. As Pride Season kicks off, a rapid rise in anti-2SLGBTQIA+ discrimination and propaganda is also gaining momentum among right-wing groups. School boards are being infiltrated by bad faith actors spewing hateful rhetoric, protests against the drag community are becoming more volatile, and politicians at every level of government are working to set back the clock on decades of progress. Egale Canada recently released a report detailing some of the nearly 6,500 attacks on 2SLGBTQIA+ communities in the first three months of 2023 alone. Their latest campaign, Pride Unravelled, visualizes each of these attacks as a missing thread of the pride flag. The organization has emphasized the total only reflects reported attacks. “If we included every act of violence and unreported threat, there wouldn’t be any flag left to fly,” the report reads. “There’s a rising tide of hate in this country that can no longer be ignored.” Rights of queer and trans youth in jeopardy in Atlantic Canada The report comes as the province of New Brunswick is mired in controversy, due to a review of a policy that sets minimum standards for the rights of queer and trans students in provincial schools. Known as Policy 713, the legislation sought to provide minimum standards to protect and uphold the human rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ students in schools while also promoting equity, diversity and inclusion practices. While Premier Blaine Higgs has said he will not remove the policy, his government is reviewing three components that he claims is “causing confusion and misunderstanding.” Those components focus on the participation of trans students in sports, access to washrooms based on gender identity, and the right for students under 16 to have agency over their name and pronouns without parental notice. Asked about his stance on so-called conversion therapy, which was banned by the federal government in a unanimous vote in 2021 after being labeled by human rights groups as torture, Higgs did not denounce the now illegal practice. “It may be a reality,” Higgs said. “I’m not saying that I’m in support of that reality or not.” A brief from the New Brunswick Women’s Council proves the organized anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rhetoric in the province is far from an isolated incident. The organization noted members of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities have been subjected to protests on drag storytime at public libraries, as well as pushback to professional development for teachers that provides training on sexual orientation and gender diversity. The province has also seen a rise in coordinated requests to review 2SLGBTQIA+ affirming sex education books in libraries. “This is a recipe for violence—which the community is already at elevated risk of,” the brief concludes. “It is also a threat to all marginalized groups and to democracy in New Brunswick.” In the meantime, lawmakers are “reviewing” a policy they implemented as a majority government just three years ago. ‘We’re talking about democracy’ For Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, who called Florida Governor Ron Desantis’ Don’t Say Gay bill “as American as a Big Mac,” says it is no surprise similar rhetoric has made its way North of the border. READ MORE: The problem with ‘Don’t Say Gay’: Children aren’t asking about sex. They’re asking about love. Owusu-Akyeeah is the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), a national organization dedicated to eliminating all forms of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ discrimination in schools.At the time, Owusu-Akyeeah sounded the alarm on a growing weaponization of childrens’ rights among right-wing groups. “They simply just need to exist in proximity to a young person and they get called a groomer,” she said in an interview with rabble.ca last week.Owusu-Akyeeah explained the rising use of the term “groomer” is nothing new, adding that queer and trans folks were weaponized in a similar way during the Cold War era since they were viewed as a threat to Canada’s national security. “History often repeats itself,” she said. “And I think history is a great teacher and provider of context.” Ultimately, Owusu-Akyeeah says the key message is that promoting diversity and inclusion along with education about sexual orientation and gender diversity gives young people an opportunity to have their own agency — something she says is often absent in far-right debate. “They present children as being people who dont make decisions, who cant think for themselves, who dont have agency,” she said. “And I think for those of us who are progressive workers and friends who are advocating for young people, we are fighting for that space for that agency to flourish.” As an educator, Owusu-Akyeeah’s work centres around early intervention when it comes to understanding power dynamics, along with how to confront sexism, misogyny and homophobia. After all, she says young people who are taught to celebrate diversity and challenge the way power dynamics manifest in their communities often make better decisions and are more engaged citizens. They also become better communicators, neighbours, partners and friends. “Protecting the children isnt actually what they want to do,” she said. “Its to oppress children. Its to remove their agency.” Despite the rapidly rising rhetoric, Owusu-Akyeeah appears hopeful. “Education is a powerful institution that transforms societies,” she said. In order to combat the hateful rhetoric, Owusu-Akyeeah suggests centering the voices and experiences of young people. Journalists can do the same, she says, by interviewing young activists, people who used to run Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) in their schools, and covering protests led by students. More specifically, Owusu-Akyeeah says it is imperative that newsrooms not get caught up in a “very rudimentary idea of what objectivity is supposed to be,” and remember that at the heart of the conversations and human beings and their livelihoods. “When you present situations like that, as simply black and white, it really, in my opinion, is some one of the most dehumanizing things to do,” she said. “We’re not talking simply trans kids playing sports, yes or no. We’re talking about democracy, we’re talking about access to space, we’re talking about expression.” What the federal government can do to protect 2SLGBTQIA+ Canadians On May 25, the Society of Queer Momentum (also known as Momentum Canada) published an open letter addressed to the federal government, calling on political leaders to meet six key demands. Among the demands from Momentum are the appointment of a special representative on addressing and preventing anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate. The special representative would be tasked with providing guidance and organizing activities that combat these kinds of hate. Experts also believe a new grant program to address anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate and misinformation would give groups like pride organizations more finances to help with security costs and other safety measures. The government should also publicly condemn hatred against Canada’s 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, the group says, while also ensuring the issue is addressed in the upcoming National Action Plan on Combating Hate. Momentum also wants to see a Canadian Special Envoy on International LGBTIQ+ Human Rights appointed to promote equality and human rights on a global scale. The society, made up of more than 100 feminist, labour, social justice, and allied organizations, is urging the government to host a national summit on third-party violence that includes unions, governments, employees and civil society organizations. In their open letter to politicians, Momentum sounded the alarm on the “staggering rise” in anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate across the country, with a 64 per cent increase in hate-motivated violence between 2020 and 2021. With drag events and other queer spaces being weaponized against queer and trans communities, the society has seen a rise in rhetoric that compares 2SLGBTQIA+ people to pedophiles and child abusers — propaganda pulled right out of the old school playbook against gay people. “After the progress made legalizing marriage for 2SLGBTQIA+ people, protecting transgender rights, banning conversion therapy and more we hoped the next generation of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth would grow up in a country that truly accepted and supported them,” the letter reads. “Without action, that dream will slip away.” The post Canada’s Pride Season mired by rise of anti-2SLG<strong>BTQIA+ hate</strong> appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: LGBTIQ, 2SLGBTQIA+]

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[l] at 5/31/23 3:15pm
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 20 million low birth weight babies are born annually. A baby is considered low birth weight when weighing less than 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) at birth regardless of gestational age. Statistics Canada estimates the average rate of low birth weight live births is six per cent. Over the past 14 years, low birth weights have increased somewhat for both male and female infants, with females seeing a slightly higher increase. Low birth weight can result from a number of factors, including premature birth, growth restriction in utero, multiple births, and maternal health necessities like access to adequate calories and nutritious foods. These infants may experience respiratory distress, feeding issues, low blood sugar levels, an increased risk of infection, and are at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). They may also experience longer-term health issues like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, hearing issues, and blindness. That’s why it is imperative that pregnant women have access to universal health care, including midwives, and access to sufficient nutritious foods and safe water supplies. But a new innovative study has McGill University researchers proposing an additional resource to ensure healthy mother and baby outcomes – a personal cell phone. “Our evidence shows that when women in low income or under-developed regions have access to their own mobile phone, they have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies at birth,” said Luca Maria Pesando, adjunct professor in McGill’s department of Sociology and associate professor of Social Research and Public Policy at New York University (Abu Dhabi). Pesando, who collaborated with McGill University PhD student Komin Qiyomiddin, found that, “Phones open up a whole range of possibilities for knowledge that were not possible a decade ago.” Their findings highlight the importance of ensuring strong internet and cell phone connectivity for women living in rural and remote communities in Canada. This is particularly true for Indigenous communities in the far north. Pesando is calling on governments, lawmakers and phone companies to make cell phones and data plans more accessible, particularly in regions where low birth weights are prevalent. His ongoing research into using digital technologies to empower women living in resource-deprived areas is being presented at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (Congress 2023), Canada’s largest academic gathering, taking place May 27 to June 2 at York University in Toronto. While mobile phones are increasingly available to those with lower incomes, network coverage remains sparse and can be intermittent at best in remote areas. Data plans, integral for access in areas outside the range of available wi-fi networks, can be prohibitively expensive. Pesando’s study showed that even without internet access and a full-featured smart-phone, women and their babies are benefitting from simple mobile connectivity. Access to a broader community, expanded information-gathering strategies, as well as connections with reproductive health services, can lead to better outcomes for mother and baby. “We consistently found that higher cell phone usage translated to a lower share of babies born with a low birth weight, and some of the strongest positive associations between mobile phone ownership and babies’ health at birth were among the poorest and least educated women, as well as among the most resource-deprived countries,” said Pesando. The researcher emphasized the importance for women to have access to their own independent cell phone. The study found that when a woman shared a phone with her husband or partner, the benefits were stunted. Those benefits include expanded knowledge of pregnancy risks, how to stay healthy, and the ability to connect remotely with women in their community.  To study the relationship between cell phone access, pregnancy and birth weight, Pesando analyzed existing data from representative samples of women in their reproductive ages in 29 low-income countries. The data was gathered by the global Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program. Variables examined included the number of prenatal visits conducted, whether the birth of a child was assisted by a health professional or a home birth, and to what extent mothers used mobile phones to receive family planning text messages. One key finding was that a basic cell phone can have extremely positive intergeneration health benefits. “Better health at birth translates into better health through life, meaning the next generation workforce will be able to lead better lives. Phones don’t just benefit women, they benefit their children too,” Pesando observed. For Canadians, the findings underscore the need to continue to focus efforts on closing Canada’s digital divides which prevent many rural and Indigenous communities from reliably accessing growing online information and services. The most recent report from the Office of the Auditor General states that 60 per cent of Canadians living in rural and remote areas have access to minimum internet speeds. That number drops to 43 per cent for First Nations communities in the same regions. That means digital services are unreliable at worst and of poor quality at best.   The vast majority of phones used in the 29 countries surveyed by Pesando were simple feature phones suggesting improved communication was the real benefit. The few women with access to smart-phones benefitted from internet connectivity providing access to search engines, as well as to emerging digital health platforms that provided daily tips and text reminders like which vitamins to take. “We’re talking about communities within a high-income country, and yet, when we look at how the biggest digital divides affect people’s ability to access timely mental health resources or their ability to report domestic violence as quickly as possible, our findings illustrate that better access to mobile phones and the mobile internet may empower people and ultimately improve their well-being,” shared Pesando. The post Closing the digital divide improves birth weights appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Education, Health, Indigenous]

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[l] at 5/31/23 2:10pm
In the effort to limit and reverse the worsening impacts of global heating, the immediate goal is to quickly stop burning coal, oil and gas. That means rapidly shifting to renewable energy for electricity generation and transportation. But simply switching from one source of energy to another and trading gas-powered cars, trucks and SUVs for electric ones won’t resolve the climate crisis — as important as those are. The interrelated environmental crises — deforestation, species extinction, climate change — are being driven by wasteful consumerism. Getting off fossil fuels poses more of a challenge if we continue to consume massive amounts of disposable products and energy. As Andrew Nikiforuk recently wrote in the Tyee, “Any imperfect solution to our current civilization-threatening predicament must include dialing down our energy consumption rather than coming up with high-tech visions that keep accelerating it.” That includes the energy and materials used to produce growing mountains of disposable products, from smartphones to cars to clothing. Almost everything we produce requires minerals and metals, which must be mined — including wind turbines and solar panels. If we continue to use electronic gizmos that must be replaced every year or two, and if we continue to insist that most people should have a couple of tonnes of metal, plastic and glass to move a hundred or so kilos of human, rather than building reliable transit systems and walkable communities, building out renewable energy might slow our descent but won’t save us from calamity. That is isn’t an argument against renewable energy, which is absolutely necessary. Coal, oil and gas are also mined, cause massive damage to air, water, land and climate and put all life at risk. But we can’t continue to thrive in a system that depends on constant growth on a finite planet — population growth, economic growth, ever-increasing consumption. We need unlimited sunlight and wind for energy, but we have to recognize that finite resources are required to utilize that energy. We’ve been misled into believing that endlessly chasing after more, bigger, shinier things will bring us satisfaction and happiness when, in fact, it’s often the opposite. Our Sisyphean struggle has left us tired and alienated, created massive inequality and pushed us toward ecological collapse. We need a paradigm shift. Getting by with less doesn’t mean living less satisfying lives. It’s a question of what we value. We’ve been indoctrinated into believing that wealth and power are the ultimate goals, but only a minuscule percentage of the growing human population truly benefits from that, and the “trickle down” economic theory has always been a hoax. If we truly valued the short time we each spend on this planet, we surely wouldn’t waste it to wreak misery and destruction in pursuit of elusive goals. We’d learn to find joy in family, friendship and nature, in learning and sharing. Working ourselves to exhaustion and jetting off to some increasingly crowded resort area for a couple of weeks to recover can’t be what life is about. Does dining on burgers and steaks make us any happier than enjoying healthy plant-based foods? It certainly doesn’t make us healthier. Does staring at a tiny device all day make us feel any more connected and satisfied with our lives than actually getting together with real people in real time, or taking in the quiet beauty of nature? Industrialization, and especially car culture, were sold to us under false premises, fuelling a crisis that now threatens our survival. We’re not going to go back to the way things were, nor should we. But we can progress to better ways of living. That will require quitting fossil fuels as quickly as possible and shifting to renewable energy. But we must also learn to use less. Energy efficiency is part of that, but reducing what we use is critical, especially in the western world, where per capita energy consumption is many times higher than in other parts of the world. We’re capable of great technological innovation, but that alone isn’t enough to create a better world. As Nikiforuk writes, “In blunt terms we need an energy strategy that pointedly shrinks economic activity over time the same way chemotherapy effectively diminishes a cancerous tumor.” We might be surprised to find that our lives will improve if we do. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org. The post We need to change how we think of energy appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, clean energy, consumption]

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[l] at 5/31/23 10:03am
Even before the dust from the historically close 2023 Alberta general election has settled, Premier Danielle Smith was blabbing about creating an extra-parliamentary council of UCP electoral losers to act as Edmonton’s MLAs. Of course, on Monday, 20 MLAs were elected to represent the citizens who live in the 20 electoral districts located within the boundaries of Alberta’s capital city. The trouble is, not a single one of them belongs to the premier’s United Conservative Party. Edmonton’s citizens have spoken. The city’s electoral map is now an unbroken sea of NDP orange. Edmonton city council is also far too woke for the taste of the premier and her coterie of Take Back Alberta MLAs from the sticks.  So what’s a UCP premier to do? There’s no Alberta Senate from which to pluck a representative to speak up in cabinet for the city, and the UCP seems to have lost 14 MLAs to the NDP in Monday’s election (there are still some recounts to come) so there aren’t many urban candidates who can play that role.  She could listen to Edmonton’s elected MLAs, of course, but this is the party of earplugs – granted, handed out by the previous UCP premier, but presumably still serviceable. So that’s not going to happen. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Smith never was one to pay a lot of attention to the niceties of Parliamentary democracy.  After spending most of the election campaign successfully swathed in metaphorical bubble wrap to ensure she didn’t say anything to tarnish the UCP’s already sagging brand, she couldn’t be restrained Tuesday.  When she immediately reverted to her trademark style of saying whatever outrageous or dangerous notion had just popped into her head, the first thing out of her mouth was her idea for the “council” of defeated UCP candidates to advise the government on What Edmonton Wants. (Hint: Not them, obviously.)  “I’m going to put together an Edmonton council of some of the candidates who I know are going to want to run again, there are a couple of fantastic candidates, many, in fact, in Edmonton,” Smith, sounding faintly Trump like, told the host of a Corus Entertainment radio talk show broadcast in Edmonton and Calgary. “You can always count on Smith having exactly the wrong instincts when it comes to democratic norms,” observed University of Calgary law professor Martin Z. Olszynski afterward.  Is this going to be funded by the UCP, Olszynski asked in another tweet, “or is Smith proposing to use public money — *taxpayer dollars* — to pay would-be politicians (i.e., partisans) to give her advice about Edmonton — until they can run again?” “Arguably, it’s the Premier using her power of office to secure govt funds to advance the political ambitions of party partisans,” he added, also suggesting that the idea was in violation of the Conflicts of Interest Act, which the legislature’s Ethics Commissioner has already found the premier breached in her congenial chit-chat with her former friend, Pastor Artur Pawlowski.  Well, this was a quick reversion to form, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. There’s plenty more where this came from and we’re going to be battered by it literally for years now.  Usually the UCP and similar Canadian Conservative parties look south to the United States for their undemocratic ideas, but this one actually seems to have its inspiration in Canadian history, events that took place long ago enough to justify an etching in some future edition of the Canadian passport! I speak, of course, of the Family Compact, that undemocratic network of business, legal, and religious cronies who dreamed of creating their own Canadian aristocracy and dominated the government of Upper Canada in the first few decades of the 19th century.  Well, if you went to school when I did, you’ve literally seen the movie.  “Fortified by family connexion, and the common interest felt by all who held, and all who desired, subordinate offices, that party was thus erected into a solid and permanent power, controlled by no responsibility, subject to no serious change, exercising over the whole government of the Province an authority utterly independent of the people and its representatives,” Lord Durham said of the Family Compact in his famous report to the Colonial Office on the causes of the rebellions of 1837 and ’38. You ask me, that sounds pretty much like what Smith has in mind for her crackpot capital city council of electoral under-achievers.  People, four years of this is going to be exhausting. Where’s William Lyon Mackenzie when you need him? The post Despite election win, UCP shut out of Edmonton appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 5/31/23 9:41am
Maybe the news from Israel and Palestine has become too toxic for even the most cautious of Canadian federal politicians.  EU representatives for instance recently refused to meet with the openly racist and Jewish supremacist Israeli national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir. (Will Canada do the same if that same situation comes up?) Another Israeli minister, Amichai Chikli who has advocated for the elimination of the Palestinian identify was slated at press time to visit a private Christian college near Toronto at the invitation of controversial evangelical minister, Charles McVety without first informing the Canadian government.  The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development stated in May it will hold hearings to study the actions Canada should take to foster peace, protect civilians, combat terrorism and uphold respect for human rights and international law in the region. This came about following some skilful negotiations on the wording by NDP MP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson who had introduced the original motion and managed to cobble enough Liberals to get on board and have it passed six-to-three with the Conservatives completely opposed. The key thing, yet to be determined, is who will be invited to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee. In the committee’s own words, witnesses are expected to appear from Canadian civil society, international humanitarian organizations, as well as Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peacebuilding organizations. Following that, the committee will report its findings to Parliament. Hailing the decision, the Montreal based Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East is urging that in addition to hearing from human experts with knowledge and expertise on the ground in Israel and Palestine the study should also prioritize Palestinian voices as the group which is oppressed and marginalized.   This is where the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the premier lobbying organization for Israel in Canada, becomes very nervous.  After losing the battle to stop the hearings in its tracks, CIJA is seeking a restriction on certain kinds of witnesses for the hearings. Presumably, CIJA will be sending its CEO Shimon Fogel to speak on its behalf. (CIJA did not respond to my emailed inquiries for comments). One can infer that the organization prefers not to have witnesses offering blunt talk about how Israel privileges its Jewish residents at the expense of Palestinians or that Israel is a by-product of settler colonialism and today functions as an apartheid state under international law. One CIJA spokeswoman on Twitter speaks about how the hearings will normalize extremist groups and views that the government has previously neglected.  She adds that it puts the Jewish community in Canada at risk by fuelling tensions with other groups.  But such inflammatory talk is rejected by JSpaceCanada, which calls itself Jewish progressive Zionist, pro-Israel, pro-peace and pro-democracy. It supports the hearings and is on record opposed to the current status quo occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  The Liberals under Justin Trudeau are very pro-Israel. They are on record in support of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Plus, the UN representative Bob Rae, for instance, boycotted the May 15 UN commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Nakba to mark the expulsion of approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes into exile by Zionist militias during the founding of Israel as a Jewish majority state. Canada, like many of its western allies in the US and EU countries, are tied to Israel for geo-political reasons. Our country also has a free trade agreement with Israel. One interpretation is that the appearance of hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews within Israel opposing the gutting of an independent Israel Supreme Court by the new far -right government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has given the Canadian government permission to embark upon a closer scrutiny of Canada’ s relationship with this new administration in Tel Aviv. Canada for instance provides millions in humanitarian assistance to Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Also, the CIJA which has never taken a critical standing on anything coming out of Israel, appears out of step with the current mood within the Canadian Jewish community according to recent polling and that may be understood by the federal government. JSpaceCanada and the New Israel Fund of Canada jointly discovered in a 2023 survey of Canadian Jews that about 59 per cent of them believe that the Israeli government is heading in the wrong direction in a host of areas in like the Supreme Court, the promotion of gender separation and anti-LBGTQ measures, the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank and its annexation. (Technically, this new government has already de facto annexed the West Bank, according to Israel international legal specialist, Michael Sfard). In face of campus pro-Palestinian rights activism, the CIJA was formed in 2010 to provide a more muscular approach to advocacy and lobbying for Israel than its disbanded but also Zionist and more democratic predecessor, the 100-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress. CIJA acts more like a corporate public affairs firm and is frequently called secretive. Its CEO Shimon Fogel has been described as among the top 100 lobbyists in Ottawa by The Hill Times. He has played a major role in the adoption by both the federal government and various provinces of the IHRA definition. On its web site the CIJA is officially described as the advocacy agent of the local Jewish federations across Canada, providing services including education for local Jewish communities.  There are about 400,000 Jews in Canada, according to most reports. Yet, by CIJA’ s own admission it only represents more than 150,000 Jewish Canadians affiliated with the federations. That number 150,000 includes anyone who has anything to do with a Jewish institution.  So, if you go swimming at a JCC (Jewish Community Centre), you are included. Does that constitute consent to representation? I doubt it. The recent JSpace/New Israel Fund survey reports that over 30 per cent of Canadian Jews think the institutional Jewish community is too supportive of Israel, said Sheryl Nestel, a retired University of Toronto sociologist and a member of Independent Jewish Voices.  Earlier in 2004, CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel referred to the occupied West Bank as disputed, a description not recognized by any international legal body. It also contradicts CIJA policy of a two-state solution. The other aspect of the CIJA are the people on its board who are less circumspect than Shimon Fogel. One is the Israel based David Weinberg (no relation) whom has been cited by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, for taking extremist positions including calling for the seizure of the Muslim administrated Temple Mount Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.  Weinberg is a senior fellow of the far-right Kohelet Policy Forum, whose policies have influenced the agenda of the current Israel government.  Another CIJA board member and its director of research, is Becca Wertman-Traub was formerly the managing editor and Canada Liaison for a Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor that regularly monitors and harasses Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists and organizations, reported Yossi Melman, a columnist for the Israeli daily, Haaretz.  The question is where does CIJA and Wertman Traub stand on the worrisome anti-NGO bill in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, that targets foreign financial support including Canadian taxpayers. The CIJA also called for the second extradition of Carleton University professor Hassan Diab, now back in Canada, to France following a sham trial in absentia in Paris that ignored a previous judicial ruling in that country that there was no evidence linking him to a 1982 bombing of a synagogue. Not all Jews in Canada agree with this stance including Bernie Farber, the founder of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and a former chief executive officer for the Canadian Jewish Congress. Farber told the Globe and Mail in April that he regrets his original support for the first 2014 extradition of Diab to France, has apologized to the professor’s family and now calls the 2023 French prosecution of Diab a shanda (Yiddish for a disgrace of scandalous proportions).  Today, the CIJA stays above the fray (the words of one observer) in promoting a pro-Israel tone inside the Canadian political class and the local Jewish community much like a sedative, in encouraging silence and acquiescence. Meanwhile other more combative pro-Israel organizations like B’nai B’rith or Honest Reporting, target via social media what they perceive as anti-Israel utterances by either politicians or the media. But, the kickstarting of the parliamentary hearings represents a sign that CIJA is starting to lose its edge. Dimitri Lascaris, a pro-Palestinian rights activist and lawyer follows CIJA closely. He says in an interview that CIJA is in danger of becoming obsolete in face of a shift within the Canadian Jewish community. (CIJA must) adapt, to the new reality, which is that people are waking up all around the world, to what the state of Israel has become, said LascarisHe adds that there must be people within (CIJA) that are aware of this, I am sure that is causing some internal fractures but I don’t think we have seen much of that in the public sphere, yet, Lascaris added. The post Is the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs losing influence? appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, CIJA, Hassan Diab, Palestine]

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[l] at 5/30/23 2:59pm
It’s probably not very helpful to the United Conservative Party effort to hang onto power by its fingernails that party founder and former Premier Jason Kenney found himself back in the news his effort to mount a novel Hyperlink Defence against a defamation lawsuit by five environmental organizations is as much of a flop as his “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” itself. No, you can’t pretend you didn’t identify someone by not naming them in your remarks but providing hyperlinks to web pages that identify them, Madam Justice Avril Inglis of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench said in her ruling.  West Coast Environmental Law, the Dogwood Initiative, Stand.earth, Environmental Defence Canada, and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee sued Kenney for defamation in the spring of 2022 for remarks he made about the findings of the so-called public inquiry, which issued a report without a single public hearing. Inquiry commissioner Steve Allen was extremely careful about what he said about the environmental groups in his report, finding no wrongdoing by any of them, which effectively meant the inquiry was a dud that failed to deliver on Kenney’s political promise to take the fight to critics of oilsands development. But in their statement of claim, the five plaintiff organizations argued that Kenney himself deliberately misrepresented the findings of Allan’s report in social media posts with the intention of defaming them when he said “foreign-funded misinformation campaigns to landlock Alberta resources caused untold hardship for thousands of energy workers and their families. He went on to claim that the report shines a light on these co-ordinated efforts to harm our province.” In his statement of defence, filed on March 9, 2022, Kenney advanced the novel argument that by not specifically naming the groups he attacked in his social media comments about the findings of the inquiry, which his government initiated, he therefore didn’t identify them. “The Facebook Post and the Tweet do not mention any of the Plaintiffs, nor do they link to the Web Page or the Key Findings Document,” said the statement of defence.  Asked about it by reporters the next day, Kenney huffed: “Obviously, we’re not going to apologize. We’re simply telling the truth about what they’ve done.” Well, it turns out the Hyperlink Defence is novel because it’s no defence.  “There are no uncertainties in the facts or the law in this matter,” Justice Inglis wrote in her decision. Since it was perfectly clear who Kenney was talking about, she said, “the protections of defamation law cannot be avoided simply by using embedded links instead of paragraph returns.” Sometimes you have to get a judge to confirm the obvious, and Justice Inglis has obliged.  This is not the end of the matter, of course. The five plaintiff organizations have not proved their case that Kenney defamed them. They have just established that he can’t use the Hyperlink Defence. “He took the findings of the inquiry and decided they didn’t meet his needs and just reinterpreted them and made stuff up,” Environmental Defence executive director Tim Gray told CBC News for a May 25 report.  Kenney will now have to defend his remarks in court. The organizations are seeking $15,000 each in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages from Kenney, “to dissuade him and other Canadian public officials from using the power of their office to bully their critics.” The post Jason Kenney’s defamation suit defence fails to impress judge appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, Jason Kenney]

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[l] at 5/30/23 1:55pm
Those praying for a degree of sanity to prevail after the Alberta provincial election were bound to be disappointed by the apparent result last night. At the witching hour, the United Conservative Party (UCP) was leading or elected in 51 seats and the New Democratic Party in 36. The final result shifted a bit with the UCP securing 49 seats and the NDP 38. Forty-four seats are required for a bare majority in the Alberta Legislature. The parties were within less than 300 votes from one another in seven ridings, most of them in Calgary. The UCP will have no seats in the city of Edmonton.  So while the dust was still settling after midnight, a UCP victory convincing enough to last four years seemed obvious if the party’s supporters can only resist the temptation to go for each other’s throats. But it’s hard to believe that after a couple of weeks swaddled in metaphorical bubble wrap, Premier Danielle Smith will be able to resist the temptation to resume telling us her innermost thoughts, ignoring the rule of law to benefit her friends, and pursuing her most dangerous constitutional schemes.  So hang onto your pensions, folks. Not to mention your Mountie hats!  While UCP strategists were doubtless patting themselves on the back and breathing well-deserved sighs of relief, last night’s UCP victory may yet prove to be a Pyrrhic one, given the very unstable non-genius at the helm of the party, and the sinister alliance that has her ear.  I reckon that in light of her election victory, the UCP will have to give Smith a couple of years to prove that she can do the job. When she fails to pass that test – a virtual inevitability if the recent past is any guide – the knives will come out. But Smith’s Trumpian Take Back Alberta supporters will also be more deeply entrenched by then.  So don’t count on this being a restful or happy time for the UCP as it turns to trying to put its good-enough mandate to work developing a suite of policies that can satisfy both its infuriated-by-everything base and its remaining sensible MLAs. The NDP’s problem at this juncture is likely to be rather the opposite of the UCP’s. With an opponent like Smith, and an Alberta that is changing before our eyes, the NDP should have been able to do better on May 29.  If Alberta’s disunited Conservatives jump too readily to each other’s throats, though, its New Democrats are too inclined to sidestep an argument they need to have.  The NDP campaign may have made a compelling case for why Albertans should not vote for Danielle Smith, but despite being the only Opposition party with broad support, it never made a compelling case why they should support Rachel Notley.  As former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said two days before the Ides of March, “if the NDP doesn’t up its comms game immediately, they will lose the election in May. There’s too much at stake to keep fumbling around. Clearly, they need outside help.” Well, they didn’t up their game. And they did lose the election.  And so there now needs to be a brisk discussion in NDP circles about why there was never much evidence of what Mason termed “a coherent communications strategy” that defined “three or four issues that will move the vote we need to move, and hammer them home repeatedly.” Still, if Latvia can declare a national holiday when their hockey team wins a bronze medal, the NDP Opposition can view the election’s outcome as something of a success – they have 10 more MLAs in the Legislature, a much stronger beachhead in Calgary, and their popular vote has grown to a historic high.  Alberta needs the NDP to do better, though. So the NDP needs to have that frank discussion about what went wrong with their 2023 strategy, and who needs to be reassigned to other duties as a result.  That will be almost as hard for the NDP to do as it will be for the UCP to get along without intramural fisticuffs breaking out. The post Hoping for sanity in Alberta after the election? You can forget about it! appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Elections, Alberta Election 2023, Alberta politics, Danielle Smith, Rachel Notley]

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[l] at 5/30/23 1:34pm
Second Harvest estimates that food bank and other food-related programs across Canada served 5,141,481 people each month in 2022. That number is expected to increase 60 per cent in 2023 to 8,208,679 people every month. What was to be a stop-gap measure during times of recession or job loss has become a staple for many Canadians over the past 30 years. Folks unable to adjust to rapid inflation, rising and uncontrolled rent, and skyrocketing food costs compound increasingly precarious work that doesn’t pay close to a living wage. Many are surprised to learn that people using food banks generally have an income. Employment is the main source of income. However, if you are working poor earning a minimum wage, that income doesn’t go far enough. Employment Insurance (E.I.), along with social assistance and disability-related supports are other forms of income. But neither is enough to cover necessities like rent, let alone utilities, child care, or transportation. That means eating is sacrificed because it is seen as expendable if you do not want to become unhoused. To really address poverty and hunger, Canada would need to implement a national living wage, improve access to and levels of E.I., bring social assistance and disability payments up to a living wage, implement a guaranteed livable (basic) income, and close the gender wage gap. The various levels of government also need to implement $10 a day daycare and to participate in a national affordable housing plan. A guaranteed livable income and affordable daycare have been in the works for over 52 years. And, with over five decades of research, data and lived, anecdotal experience, we know that both are needed to ensure Canadians have enough money to purchase nutritious food. But as Ebube Ogie has discovered, eradicating food insecurity in Canada is complicated. “The current principles guiding our food system are neoliberal in nature – we’re feeding the world, but we’re harming our land and despite all of the food in the system, Canadians still don’t have food security, they still hunger,” said Ogie, a master’s researcher in the Sociology and Social Studies department at University of Regina. Ogie will be joined by Dr. Glenn Sutter, associate professor Dr. Amber Fletcher, and research partners from Heritage Saskatchewan when she shares research findings that identified weaknesses in Canada’s food system during Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (Congress 2023) at York University. The research group is calling for more support for local food production to address pan-Canadian food insecurity. “Our findings show that our local food systems can really do a lot of good for us as a nation, Ogie added. We want to see local food production blossom here by relying on food sovereignty principles and living heritage.” Ogie will present findings from ongoing interviews with Saskatchewanians living in Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and Val Marie. The study was designed to create a snapshot of Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives on food challenges. The qualitative study builds on a province-wide survey, conducted from February to June 2022, that showed people in the province have real concerns over food accessibility, affordability, and loss of local knowledge about how food is produced and consumed. “We’re continuing to hear major concerns about how the prices of food have been rapidly increasing, about the difficulty accessing fresh food from local grocery stores and concerns about the food supply chain,” said Ogie. Val Marie residents reported difficulty accessing staples like milk and that the removal of railway lines has affected grain production. “People are telling us that there is an over-reliance on processed and foreign foods, and this affects local knowledge about how food can be produced, preserved, prepared and consumed,” she added. People living in Muskeg Lake expressed growing concern over the effects of pesticides, chemicals and sprays used by industrial food producers on their land, which is causing them to lose local sources of wild meat and berries. Without a local grocery store, they are forced to travel to nearby communities. “We have this dominant industrial way of producing food in Canada and this project is shedding light on the value that local cultural practices, local knowledge and living heritage can have when it comes to presenting an alternative,” said Fletcher, who serves as academic director of the university’s Community Engagement and Research Centre (CERC). “It’s time to challenge the system and put more focus on historically engrained practices that have been passed down from generation to generation, so people learn how to grow food, process food and consume food in ways that are more responsive to what is and can be grown here.” The researchers are calling for greater emphasis on principles of food sovereignty, which promote active participation from local producers, self-determination and respect for the land while acknowledging local food philosophies and traditions. Muskeg Lake residents are becoming more self-sufficient through their local food forest, a self-sustaining, nature-inspired agricultural system providing fruits and vegetables as well as medicines and cultural resources.  Val Marie residents could access fresh foods from a nearby Hutterite Colony and plant their own edible gardens. Both models could be replicated in urban centres to help deal with food apartheids. “It’s time to stop looking at food as something to maximize profits, and start seeing it as something to consume,” said Ogie. “Saskatchewan is Canada’s bread basket and we want to see that manifested in how we live, how we produce food and how we consume food. Our goal is to end food insecurity and promote food security for everyone. A.I.s role in the gender wage gap Acquisition and preparation of food along with child care and household chores are predominantly viewed as being part of the undervalued, unpaid work that women do – often after they have worked a full-time job outside their home. Canadian gender equality researcher Keah Hansen says that even as the global household robot market continues to grow from $6.78 billion in 2022 to a projected $8.12 billion in 2023, artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology will not set women free. “Robots are just technology, they don’t have a political agenda,” said Hansen, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication and Culture at York University. “They may be presented as holding great potential for advancing gender equality and promoting a more equitable distribution of chores, but my study indicates they actually contribute to inequity instead,” added Hansen. As a featured speaker at Congress 2023, Hansen will share research findings that show house robots extend inequities associated with domestic work. Her study included Google Home, Amazon, Alexa and Apple Siri, the Roomba floor vacuum, personal assistants like the Asus Zenbo, Amazon Astro and Ingen Dynamics Aido, with prices ranging from $100 to $1,500. These technologies are often marketed as removing the burden of housework. But the reality is there is no freedom. Instead, these robots underscore existing issues of underpaid, undervalued and marginalized domestic work. That often starts with the prohibitive cost of these technologies and extends to the fact that house robots still require someone to program, operate and maintain them – all tasks that typically fall to female members of the household or female hired domestic workers. Hansen also fears that the growing trend to de-gender technology, as a quick fix, will simply mask the fact that the majority of unpaid, as well as paid, domestic work is still performed by women. “House robots aren’t the answer to better pay and fair redistribution of traditional women’s work,” said Hansen. “If anything, they’re obscuring the fact that there’s still work to be done to achieve equity.”  Hansen examined the historical Wages Against Housework movement from the 1970s and ’80s. Feminist, Marxist activists like Silvia Federici exposed the way capitalist societies refuse to acknowledge or support what she called reproductive labour, all the unpaid work that keeps society functioning, yet is often consumed or erased as soon as it is produced. Reproductive labour includes the labour expanded in gardening, meal preparation, cleaning, and caring for family members who are too young, old, or ill to care for themselves. At the time, Wage Against Housework encouraged women to demand pay for doing the dirty work. Angela Davis, former Black Panther member, Marxist, feminist political activist, philosopher, and professor at University of California, criticized the theory and did not see paying women as the means to achieving equality. Davis maintained that women of colour had historically received marginalized wages for the domestic work they performed for others and that the movement only served to reinforce those racial lines creating more inequity. Davis believes paying for a house robot, just like giving women wages, is a similarly flawed argument for achieving gender equity. Oxfam reports that women and girls undertake more than three-quarters of unpaid care work in the world and account for two-thirds of the paid care workforce. When valued at minimum wage, that equates to $10.8 trillion annually. While 80 per cent of the world’s 67 million domestic workers are women, 90 per cent have no social security and over half have no limits on weekly working hours. In Canada, women spend nearly four hours per day on unpaid work as a primary activity. Men spend 2.5 hours a day performing care work. “That means, if you’re in your house, with your house robot, it’s still more likely that either the females in the household, or a hired domestic worker, will be the ones managing the robot and doing chores alongside it,” Hansen said. “House robots are not a magic bullet. Despite what we imagine, women’s work continues to be undervalued.”  Congress 2023 is being hosted at York University from May 27 to June 2, 2023. Community Passes available for $55 provide access to the program of events open to the public. The post Eradicating food insecurity, AI-enabled gender inequity at Congress 2023 appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Feminism, Health, Labour, gender inequity, wage gap]

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[l] at 5/30/23 1:10pm
A biographical novel about a Jamaican woman who becomes a nurse in Canada after being sold into indentured servitude as a young girl in the mid-1900s could soon find its way into middle-school curriculums in Toronto. Inspired by author Robert Picart’s mother, Goddie was never supposed to be a book. Instead, he envisioned telling her story through a series of audio recordings, like a podcast. But, like for much of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic had a different plan. Lockdowns weren’t easy to adapt to for anyone, but the elderly uniquely suffered by being isolated in long-term care facilities and dying in hospitals without a loved one to hold their hand. Knowing he shouldn’t take the time with his mother for granted, Picart began sitting down with his mom, retracing the steps of her life and the adversity she overcame. Picart listened intently with an audio recorder in hand as his mother talked about the tribulations of losing her parents at a young age, which opened up the door for her to be sold into enslavement. Why did Goddie’s family sell her? As backwards as it may seem, they wanted to give her a better life. After all, Goddie was bright, innovative and tenacious. She loved learning and worked hard to set herself up for success. With her parents having died in short succession, her orphaned siblings, who couldn’t afford to help Goddie reach her potential, were left with an impossible decision. But the young girl refused to give up, running away from her captors and escaping to U.K. to start fresh as a nursing student. She never gave up, her resilience paving a future that would eventually center around raising twins Robert and Richard Picart. As he listened back to the hours of interviews with his mother, Picart realized there was more than a podcast — there was a much bigger story around the idea of being sent away and navigating life as an immigrant. “I also felt that there was a sense of urgency with her being such an elderly person that I wanted her to read her own book, to read her own story,” he said in an interview with rabble.ca. Picart said he believes readers “really resonated with the idea of an immigrant story.” “A lot of folks in Canada come from somewhere else,” he said. “They can understand the tenants behind a young Jamaican girl making her way from the West Indies through the U.K. to Canada trying to figure it out.” Bringing Goddie to the classroom Picart does not consider himself a seasoned writer by any means, but he says he harnessed his energy to push through the imposter syndrome to capture his mother’s story with the respect and dignity she deserved. “I think sometimes when we allow that imposter syndrome to take over, it keeps us from achieving great things,” Picart said. Released in 2022, Picart didn’t realize the journey of his book had only just begun. Robert, along with Richard, are following up on the success of Goddie, having produced a six-part secondary school series of literary resources. With Goddie’s story at the center of the curriculum, Robert noted the series equips young people with knowledge about the authentic histories, cultures and perspectives of Afro-Caribbean Canadians. Ultimately, the brothers want to work with the Ontario Ministry of Education as well as local school boards, to incorporate the series into its curriculum in order to help broaden the perspectives about how African, Afro-Caribbean and Black people have shaped Canada since the 1940s. “As we progressed down the journey, we felt that there was a real sense of mission here,” he said, noting a lot of kids of colour in Toronto and across Canada haven’t always seen themselves in literature. Honouring Jamaican culture While Picart says books like Lord of the Flies are “phenomenal classics,” it’s important for students to be taught about the contributions made by people from different backgrounds and experiences. By bringing Goddie to the classroom, Picart hopes to teach young people what it means to persevere, to survive trauma, and celebrate  “what it really means to come from somewhere or really leave something that you know.” “Were all coming in based on a dream that we may have had at one point to do right for our kids and better ourselves,” Picart said. “And if we can take the opportunity to bring that type of perspective into the classroom, I think we as Canadians are better for it.” Targeted at students in grades nine and ten, the series hopes to meet students where they are — at the same time many are starting to discover themselves. With Goddie’s story beginning at age 16, students can uniquely identify with her character and the circumstances she faces that will determine her future. Along with learning about Goddie’s story, Picart says the series also explores migration, equity, inclusion and diversity, and more. “ Understanding how Black people fit into a society with folks who don’t look like them and maybe don’t get treated the same,” he added. It was also important to Picart to tell the story of Jamaica in a way that helps people understand the richness of the country’s culture in ways that aren’t “jerk chicken and Bob Marley.” “Lets take them into the mountains of Jamaica and help them understand the culture of Jamaica, help them understand the richness of the food, the richness of the family life, understand what it meant to be in the hills, to run your farms and do all the things that maybe a lot of people arent really aware of,” he said. Along with the new understanding of Jamaican culture, Picart hopes young people can also take away a key lesson from his book: “With every bump in the road, there’s a victory… There’s always a victory at the end. No storm lasts forever.” Goddie is available now online and in bookstores. The post ‘Goddie’ author wants book in Toronto classrooms appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Arts, Education, Jamaica, slavery]

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[l] at 5/30/23 12:16pm
The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Nunavut Employees Union (PSAC-NEU) is calling out what they feel are racist attitudes within the Iqaluit Housing Authority (IHA) that have become apparent during a more than 70-day strike. IHA has been hiring replacement workers to fill union jobs during the strike, many of these workers are hired from southern Canada and are being paid more than PSAC-NEU members.  “It’s blatantly racist and anti-worker for the Iqaluit Housing Authority to leave our members – mostly Inuit workers from Iqaluit – out in the cold while they pay scabs from the south higher wages to do their jobs,” said NEU President Jason Rochon in a statement.  Rochon saying that PSAC-NEU members were “left out in the cold” can be taken literally. The 13 IHA workers began their strike in March, picketing outside their workplace in the frigid weather.  PSAC-NEU said that IHA workers are calling for wage increases that keep pace with the high cost of living in Nunavut.  It is no mystery to workers that prices have been skyrocketing and wages have failed to keep up. In Nunavut, the financial pressure is particularly acute. Food prices in Nunavut have long been unaffordable. According to “Food Insecurity in Northern Canada: An Overview” by the Library of Parliament, 79 per cent of children in Nunavut are living in food insecure households.  PSAC-NEU said that IHA has recently put forward an offer that provides a 7.25 per cent wage increase over five years, with a lump sum payment of 3.5 per cent on ratification. The union said this offer is only a 0.95 per cent increase in wages over previous offers.  While IHA union workers are receiving low wage offers at the bargaining table, the IHA is spending thousands on scab labour. PSAC-NEU said that beyond higher wages, these replacement workers are also receiving housing and food allowances that were not available to striking PSAC-NEU members.  As the labour dispute presses on, PSAC-NEU is calling on the federal government to intervene. Specifically, they have reached out to Minister of Labour Seamus O’Reagan but have not received a response.  “Minister O’Regan has promised to introduce anti-scab legislation to the Canada Labour Code and has repeatedly emphasized the importance of free and fair collective bargaining,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward in a statement. “It’s time that this government shows Canadian workers they’re true to their word – by introducing anti-scab legislation now and intervening in the Iqaluit strike to support fair negotiations.”   Federal consultations for anti-scab legislation wrapped in February and workers have gone almost four months without any legislation coming to fruition.  More than 200 delegates from PSAC-North’s convention rallied in support of the IHA workers whose bargaining is being hurt by the use of scab labour. The struggle in Iqaluit demonstrates the urgent need for anti-scab legislation.  “As the former Minister of Indigenous Services, Minister O’Regan must know the importance of good jobs to the people of Nunavut. He should know the importance of leveling the playing field in collective bargaining by banning the use of scab labour. “ said Aylward “His intervention could stop this strike. And fast-tracking anti-scab legislation could make sure that a situation like this never happens again.“ The post Iqaluit Housing Authority’s accused of racism in use of scab labour appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, Labour, PSAC, scabs]

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[l] at 5/30/23 11:54am
As many pundits predicted, the result of Alberta’s 2023 provincial election rested on the ridings in cow-town, with a small handful of races in Calgary being decided by fewer than 500 votes. The final result in the legislature saw Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party (UCP) retain its majority with 49 seats to Rachel Notley’s NDP winning the remaining 38. Despite it not being enough to secure victory, the NDP in their hard fought campaign did manage to gain seats in Calgary, once a UCP stronghold. In the last election in 2019 the NDP only managed to walk away with three seats in Alberta’s most populous city, but this time they won 14 of Calgary’s 26 ridings. Dust continues to settle in Calgary Some of these results were so close that they likely will be reviewed in a recount. The closest of all was the riding of Calgary-Acadia which the NDP won with 10,954 votes to the UCP’s 10,957 votes, a difference of just seven votes. The loss of Calgary-Acadia in such a close race is surely an upset for the UCP. The seat had been held by Smith’s minister for justice, Tyler Shandro. Another closely contested Calgary race that the NDP managed to narrowly win was that of Calgary-Glenmore where Nagwan Al-Guneid defeated incumbent UCP MLA and Environment Minister Whitney Issik by just 30 votes with 12,679 to Issik’s 12,649. READ MORE: Cutting corporate taxes didn’t help investment in Alta. The NDP also managed a breakthrough in rural Alberta. The UCP was expected to secure all of Alberta’s rural ridings, but the NDP managed to pry away the riding of Banff-Kananaskis with Sarah Elmeligi defeating incumbent UCP MLA Miranda Rosin. The final gain of note for the NDP was that they managed to make their domination of Edmonton complete, winning the one riding held by the UCP going into the election. UCP Deputy Premier and Skilled Trades Minister Kaycee Madu lost their seat handily with 10,742 to the NDP’s Nathan Ip’s 14,368. Smith’s scandals cost UCP The UCP under Smith gained their smallest majority since 1971. Their ability not only to form government, but to form a majority government at that, does not tell the story of how close this race really was and how an NDP victory was a real possibility. Under Jason Kenney, the UCP had managed to gain 38 seats in the 2019 election, but Kenney was brought down in a bitterly fought challenge to his leadership in the spring of last year. UCP members revolted against Kenney’s heavy handed leadership style as well as a block of anti-vaxx, anti-lockdown members who opposed Kenney’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Former Wildrose Party Leader Brian Jean won a by-election to become a UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche on a platform to unseat Kenney. Jean led the campaign for a referendum on Kenney’s leadership. Kenney promised that he would stay on as leader if he received more than 50 per cent of the vote. While Kenney did gain just over 51 per cent of the vote, in the end, he felt there was not enough support for him to remain. The same anti-vaxx and anti-lockdown forces within the UCP that took down Kenney eventually helped elevate Danielle Smith to the leadership and the office of premier of Alberta. Since her election as leader in October of 2022, Danielle Smith had a string of damaging public scandals. READ MORE: Limiting debate, UCP rams through ‘Sovereignty Act Smith’s signature piece of legislation she campaigned on, the so-called Sovereignty Act was panned as a constitutional crisis waiting to happen. Smith had to make multiple “clarifications” and apology after apology for statements she had made in the past, whether it be comparing those who received vaccines to Germans who supported the Nazi party in the 1930s, or for saying that the unvaccinated were the most discriminated group of people in history. Finally, and most seriously, Smith was embroiled in a scandal where it appeared that she used her power as premier to attempt to interfere in criminal cases against those involved in the so-called ‘Freedom’ blockades at the Coutts border crossing. Most notably, a phone call between Smith and pastor Artur Pawlowski was leaked where Smith assured Pawlowski that she was discussing his case with prosecutors regularly. Pawlowski was charged with breaching a previous release order and with mischief for his actions at the Coutts border crossing in early 2022. In this case, Alberta’s ethics commissioner found that Smith violated rules around conflict of interest. Thanks to last night’s election, the UCP’s political fortunes are secure, at least for the time being. Danielle Smith and her political baggage, however, cannot feel that same security.  Her party and the conservative movement in Alberta has shown itself quite capable of toppling a leader for short-term political expediency; just look at what happened to her predecessor. The post Smith’s UCP ekes out a win in Calgary, secures majority appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Elections, Alberta Election 2023, Danielle Smith, Rachel Notley]

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[l] at 5/30/23 8:00am
In this clip, NDP Labour Critic and MP for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie Alexandre Boulerice brings our panel up to speed on the current challenges and wins in Canada’s labour movement today. Alexandre Boulerice has been the Member of Parliament for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie in Montreal for 12 years. In addition to being Deputy Leader of the party, Alexandre is the NDP Labour Critic. He is currently leading the fight for the adoption of a bill to ban replacement workers at the federal level. This is a clip from rabble’s most recent live politics panel: Off the Hill: Labour in high gear for action and change. The panel featured guests MP Alexandre Boulerice, OSBCU CSCSO president Laura Walton, policy expert and rabble columnist Chuka Ejeckam and rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg. Hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies. Off the Hill is a fast-paced live panel on current issues of national significance, hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies. This series focuses on the impact politics and policy have on people and on ways to mobilize to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill. To support Off the Hill, visit rabble.ca/donate. The post MP Alexandre Boulerice: Wins and current challenges in Canada’s labour movement appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, CLC, off the hill]

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[l] at 5/29/23 9:49am
No matter how badly they mismanage it, Alberta conservatives can usually expect to get a pass on the economy.  There’s no point carping about this. It’s not just Alberta. Public opinion research suggests it’s a common delusion among the populations of all the so-called advanced economies of the West, a half-century of powerful evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  Nor is there much point imparting truths that you know the folks who need to hear them won’t believe. Still, people keep trying.  Last week, with Alberta’s provincial election looming, Edmonton-born economist Jim Stanford released a paper that argues persuasively that from any perspective except corporate profits, the economic policies pursued by the United Conservative Party (UCP) government since 2019 have been a flop.  “In one area, Alberta has indeed led the entire country: the robust growth of corporate profits, which have expanded dramatically as a share of provincial GDP in the last four years,” the director of the Centre for Future Work, which operates out of Vancouver and Sydney, Australia, wrote in his study, The Failures of Trickle-Down Economics in Alberta. READ MORE: Cutting corporate taxes didn’t help investment in Alta. – raising them won’t hurt it “But on other indicators of economic and social progress – including employment, wages, capital investment, and economic growth – the province lags the rest of Canada, often ranking last among Canadian provinces,” wrote Dr. Stanford, who is the author of a regular economics column for the Toronto Star and holds academic posts at the University of Sydney and McMaster University in Hamilton.  Trickle down doesnt work “The business-centric policies implemented in Alberta over the last four years have failed to stimulate investment, growth, jobs, or prosperity,” he concluded in his study, which defines trickle-down economics as “the assumption … that reducing the regulatory, tax, and labour obligations of private corporations will spur them to expand their scale of operations, resulting in employment and income gains that ‘trickle down’ to the rest of society.” Instead, Stanford’s study concludes, “they have succeeded in redistributing income to the corporate sector, which has enjoyed unprecedented profitability. But that wealth has distinctly failed to ‘trickle down.’  “The empirical evidence suggests that policies promoting a more balanced vision of economic development – including pro-active efforts to stimulate higher wages, public services, investment (public as well as private), and better, more stable jobs – would be more successful at achieving a prosperous and fairer provincial economy,” Stanford goes on to explain. Of course, that last bit is the part the folks who have advocated and lobbied for the UCP’s policies really don’t want us to hear – which is why it’s unlikely that Stanford’s study will get much attention from Conservative-dominated media, which in Alberta is most of it.  The study shows that under the UCP, Alberta has had: The slowest economic growth in Canada Wages that fell far behind inflation Below-average job creation  A significant drop in business investment Among the slowest rates of economic growth in the country This comes as no surprise, of course. “Trickle-down economics” – a term popularized during the Reagan Administration in the 1980s – have been a catastrophic failure everywhere they have been implemented, which includes to varying degrees almost all of the industrialized West.  Equally, though, they have been a spectacular political success – boosted by corporate-financed propaganda mills commonly known as “think tanks” (although they are responsible for precious little actual thinking), an elite consensus among all governing parties in most Western democracies including supposedly social democratic ones, and sophisticated digital political manipulation strategies that came of age in the past 15 or 20 years.  Cutting taxes for the wealthy has never trickled down to the rest of society. It has just made the rich richer, the rest of us poorer, and society less equal.  Many long-term studies, including this British one in 2020, showed that over half a century tax cuts for the rich and major corporations never tickled down. Slowest growth in Canada So we shouldn’t be surprised that yet another study demonstrates that this idea – which was and is the core principle of the UCP economic platform under premiers Jason Kenney and Danielle Smith – hasn’t worked well.  How badly have UCP economic policies performed – in the midst of yet another oil boom, no less, for the last part of the party’s term in office? Between 2018 and 2022, Alberta ranked last in Canada in growth in average weekly earnings, change in the minimum wage, change in share of Canadian non-residential investment, change in labour compensation share of GDP, growth in real GDP per capita at basic prices, and change in the employment-population growth.  The study says: “The only economic indicator in which Alberta has led all provinces has been the growth of corporate profits: they increased by 145 per cent between 2018 and 2022, and the growth of profits relative to GDP in Alberta has led all provinces.” Someone is bound to raise the impact of the pandemic, which of course was very real during Mr. Kenney’s term at the helm. “To be sure, the COVID pandemic and its aftermath posed historic challenges throughout that period,” Dr. Stanford wrote. “But other provinces also suffered from the pandemic, and they outperformed Alberta on most criteria during this time.  “Meanwhile, revenues and profits received by Alberta businesses (led by the petroleum sector) have now rebounded dramatically – yet it is hard to find any evidence of that renewed wealth trickling down to the broad population of Albertans.”  Perhaps once upon a time there was a kernel of truth in the notion conservative parties by nature were more likely to be conservative about how they spent money, although the “facts” underpinning this popular belief were always shaky.  As big-C Conservative parties sank into neoliberal cant over the past half century, though, it has become increasingly apparent that this is no longer so.  Regardless of the final result in Alberta on Monday, this has undoubtedly contributed to the difficulties experienced by the UCP in this campaign. As many people have observed: Inequality is a political choice, not an inevitability. Albertans have an opportunity to influence that choice tomorrow. The post Alta.’s economy has lagged the rest of Canada under the UCP appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Economy, Elections, Alberta politics, corporate welfare, trickle down economics]

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[l] at 5/29/23 8:46am
This May Day, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with its main federal government employer, Treasury Board. The deal, if ratified by the union’s membership, will provide them with an average wage increase of 12.6 per cent over a four-year span. It will also provide a pensionable lump sum payment of $2,500 for each member, protections against contracting out and what the union called “the strongest remote work protections in the federal public service.” This is a significant, if imperfect, victory for working people in Canada and there are lessons for us to learn from it. The tentative agreement, if ratified, will end a period of nearly two years PSAC members have spent working without a contract. Their last collective  agreement expired in June of 2021. And despite the strenuously promoted and toxic propaganda to be found in business class news media whenever public service workers strike, PSAC members are not exactly “labour aristocrats”  raiding the public purse for extortionate contract gains. According to PSAC, 60 per cent of members earn less than $70,000 annually and 24 per cent earn between $40,000 and $60,000. Only 20 per cent of the union’s members earn over $80,000, and an average PSAC member working for the federal government earns an annual wage of just over $67,305, not much above the average Canadian worker’s annual salary of $61,119.24. The contract, if approved by PSAC  membership in a ratification vote slated to run from May 24 to June 16, will settle a strike that has been described as one of the largest in Canadian labour history. “During a period of record-high inflation and soaring corporate profits, workers were told to accept less – but our members came together and fought for better,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “This agreement delivers important gains for our members that will set the bar for all workers in Canada.” Some PSAC members were dissatisfied with the proposed contract, including the leadership of the PSAC bargaining unit at the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), (PSAC-UTE),  who held out for improved language before endorsing the contract a few days later. In announcing its support for the tentative agreement on May 4, PSAC-UTE leadership cited improved language on work life balance, an increased shift premium and an improvement in vacation accrual. They noted that the  agreement also includes a new five-day leave, including two days with pay, for self-identified Indigenous employees to engage in traditional practices such as hunting, fishing and harvesting. It would require viewing the agreement through  a truly distorted ideological lens to see the real but modest gains won by PSAC members  as too rich or dangerous to the economy at large. Unsurprisingly, pundits in the business class press were well supplied with such lenses. They always are, and we are often warned that while when employers rake off profits, that is good for the economy, but when workers take home a little extra in improved wages or conditions, it is economically dangerous and to be viewed with extreme alarm. Over at the Globe and Mail last December, for example, a scare headline warned about the “emboldening of Canada’s unions,” and the Postmedia chain marked the news of the tentative PSAC contract on May Day with a Howard Levitt column sternly warning that “ Government’s Capitulation on PSAC Strike will cast a long shadow over private sector.” According to Levitt, decent wage settlements for public employees will exacerbate labour shortages and drive inflation. In April, the Fraser Institute (where the interested reader can often find out what the ruling class is thinking, or, alternatively, what they want us to think)  weighed in on the prospect of a PSAC strike and admonished government that it must “…reject unrealistic union demands and better align compensation with the private sector to repair Canada’s finances,” a euphemistic way of prescribing a race to the bottom for Canada’s workers. Now, no one who is familiar with how class interests can shape perception will be surprised to discover so much hostility toward PSAC workers and their just and modest demands in the mainstream media and right wing think tanks like the Fraser Institute. After all, these are bodies that depend on business funding to exist, and regularly reflect and rationalize the class interests of our political and economic masters. While an anti-union bias is no surprise in the mainstream press and right-wing think tanks, it is notable how much venomous vitriol is devoted to attacking unionized public sector workers, and how often other workers are invited to join the attack. Why do those who speak for the ruling class save their particular rancor for public sector workers? Several possible explanations occur. First, public sector unions in Canada have been impressively  successful in organizing their workplaces over the past decades. If unionized workers in the private sector and unorganized workers across Canada can be persuaded that our sisters and brothers in public sector unions are lazy slackers out to …wait for it… “hold the public to ransom,” it represents a classic divide and conquer victory for the ultra-rich and powerful who are glad to turn us against each other and splinter our unity. There has been the usual din of such attempts surrounding the PSAC strike, and we should all recognize it for the deafening and toxic clamor it is. Second, unionized public sector workers in social services, education and health care are more likely to be female and of colour than not, and the attentive reader can hear the drumbeat of racism and misogyny in the background as their unions are attacked. We need to identify the implicit and structural power of these biases, and guard against being swayed by them. Solidarity is key to our victories, and the incessant media attacks on public sector workers are designed to dissolve that solidarity in a toxic flood of prejudice. In the words of the classic rock anthem, “We won’t be fooled again.” The post Lessons from the PSAC strike appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, PSAC]

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[l] at 5/26/23 2:44pm
Most people who read my articles already know that the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is holding a province-wide citizen referendum this month asking Ontarians if they want public hospital services privatized – Yes or No. Pretty straightforward, simple, with no leading statements. Volunteers have been busy finding convenient polling stations for the in-person vote happening Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27. Some volunteers even approached their local Legion Halls to ensure veterans, and their allies, could make their voices heard regarding the privatization of public hospital services. These polls are especially important for those veterans who perhaps don’t have access to a cell phone or computer to vote online. They also know they can count on a fellow legionnaire to drive them to the Legion Hall. Unfortunately, Pamela Sweeny, Executive Director of the Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Provincial Command sent word to some Legions requesting they not allow their facilities to be used for the citizen-run referendum. In an email to Sweeny, OHC Executive Director, Natalie Mehra voiced her concern and asked Sweeny to consider the impact that her decision would have on the democratic process and right to speak truth to power. In her email, Mehra reminded Sweeny of the intertwining history that veterans and our public hospital share. Most of Ontario’s hospitals were founded by municipalities, charitable, or religious orders. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that hospitals were used by middle class Ontarians for x-rays, surgeries, and birthing. Even then, cost was often prohibitive. Many local hospitals were constructed to care for veterans returning from WWI, during the Spanish influenza pandemic from 1918 to 1920, and again after WWII. In 1939, on the eve of Canada’s involvement in WWII, a major study found that 44 per cent of the young men called up for service were rejected because of poor health. That study, along with the experiences of war, the Spanish flu and the cost of medical and hospital care created the momentum for public health care that included public hospitals. In 1965 Canada got Medicare and in 1984 the Canada Health Act set out the main objectives to facilitate reasonable, continued access to quality health care to all Canadians, regardless of income or geographic location. The Ontario government has been contravening the Canada Health Act by opening private for-profit clinics and hospitals and allowing these corporations to perform surgeries. For-profit clinics don’t locate in small towns and cities. They operate in urbans centres where they can do high volumes of easy, profitable surgeries. Private for-profit hospitals and clinics siphon funding out of the public system and attract nursing staff by offering higher pay since they are not bound by government mandated one per cent wage increases. These corporations take the easy patients leaving the more complex and demanding cases for the public system to address while being under funded and under staffed. The Canada Health Act states that all medically-necessary hospital and physician services must be provided without user fees or extra billing. It also prohibits doctors from practicing both in the public system and the private system at the same time. This ensures care for every Canadian regardless of ability to pay because after all, health care is a basic human right. But what is going on in both health care and within the hierarchy of the Legion is a disregard for democracy, the democratic process, and the people’s right to voice their displeasure to those in power. During the last election, the Ford government categorically denied any plans to privatize hospital services and expand private for-profit clinics. Ford claimed that Ontarians would never have to pay with their credit cards, only their OHIP card. And, voters made decisions based on that misinformation and are now paying for health care that should be free. As Mehra pointed out in her email, “A citizen-run referendum is a democratic response to a profoundly undemocratic dismantling of our public healthcare services. Everyone who votes has a choice. They can vote for privatization, or they can vote against it, and the vote is being conducted by a secret ballot.” “Our veterans went to war against fascism. We believe that you have a deeper understanding of democracy than many. We hope that the democratic right of Ontarians to have their voices count about matters that are intrinsic to their health and their communities would be upheld and protected by you. We are not asking for your endorsement, simply that you not bar the opportunity for people to vote,” Mehra added. OHC is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization with members from every political party. It appears that the Legion hierarchy is perhaps invoking some partisanship in its decision and making universal health care a contentious issue. Advance polling has already taken place at some local legions. There was no commotion, no one was upset by it and most voters thanked the OHC volunteers for their efforts. In response to my enquiries around Legion Command instructing local Legion Halls many of which are the hub of their community to not allow voting during the OHC citizen referendum, I received the following response from Sweeny: “Good afternoon Doreen Below is the response I forwarded to the Ontario Health Coalition’s Executive Director: Thank you for your correspondence and background regarding the Ontario Health Coalition’s referendum. The Legion remains a nonpartisan and apolitical organization, focused on advocacy and supportive initiatives to improve the well-being of our Veteran community. While community groups are welcome to book space for things like private meetings, our branches cannot actively participate in events or activities that could be perceived as Legion support for an organization, a person, or their positions. This would include actions such as putting up posters, holding political rallies, or hosting a vote on a contentious civic issue. Please note we are not discouraging people exercising their right to vote. We appreciate your understanding and would request the removal of Legion branch locations from your website. Regards, Pamela Sweeny Executive Director The Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Provincial Command” Betty Hogg has been a Legion member of 35 years. When we spoke by phone, the 89-year-old said, “I can’t understand why the Legion won’t allow this vote. The veterans need health care. I’m a senior and need health care. We all need to able to have good health care.” Hogg went on to state, “We need to have convenient sites and we all know where the legions are. Health care is important and all the legion members should open the doors and let the voters come. We need our health care!” Use this map to find a polling station near you or vote online right now, right here. A version of this article first appeared on Small Change. The post Legion refuses to host Ontario Health Coalition referendum polling stations appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health, Human Rights, Political Action, Canadian Legion, ontario health coalition, privatization]

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[l] at 5/26/23 2:26pm
The circus came to the steps of the Alberta Legislature this week. The Pawlowski Bros. and Preachers and Press Corps Circus, that is, for lack of a better name. Actually, notorious Calgary street preacher Artur Pawlowski didn’t appear to have brought his brother with him, but he did drag his son along, at least one of his far-right preacher pals, and several candidates for his Alberta Solidarity fringe political party for his noon press conference on the east steps of the Legislature Building. The purpose of the presser, supposedly, was to expose the real dirt on Premier Danielle Smith’s controversial phone call to Pastor Pawlowski, which has blown up into a major issue in the campaign leading up to Monday’s provincial election. This would turn out to be a disappointment.  But the event nevertheless attracted a good crowd from the Legislature Press Gallery. After all, Pawlowski was Ground Zero of the ethics investigation that concluded Premier Smith attempted to interfere with the administration of justice on his behalf. It obviously didn’t work. He was found guilty on May 2 in Lethbridge for inciting protesters to commit mischief during the Coutts border blockade in January 2022, and of breaching bail conditions.  Yesterday, there were a few hecklers, a couple of hapless UCP supporters with signs urging right-wing voters not to split their votes, and several representatives of the usual right-wing video outfits. But the bulk of the crowd were supporters of Pawlowski’s new fringe party and real journalists hoping to add a little colour to an afternoon when most of the election action was 300 kilometres south of Edmonton.  Pawlowski – who apparently hasn’t been studying Dale Carnegie, the Canadian Constitution, or the Holy Bible very hard – loudly insulted the leaders of both Alberta political parties, the prime minister of Canada, the police, the justice system, the LBGTQ community, drag queens, public health officials, everyone there from the media, and probably others I’ve missed during what turned out to be more than an hour of calling his targets witches, devils, monsters, Gestapo, pathological liars, communists, Nazis and sundry other epithets. Still, to give him his due, Pawlowski kept most of the press corps glued to their spots by opening with a prayer to cast the demons out of the crowd. I mean, who wants to give in to a sudden urge to look for a public washroom at a moment like that? The Legislature’s wading pond was dry, part of a huge renovation project apparently intended to turn the area into a real-life set for The Last of Us – which may turn out to be appropriate depending on who wins the election Monday. Of course, even when it’s full, the pond is too shallow to drown any Gadarene swine that might have been driven from the presser, and the last creatures recorded frolicking there were UCP MLAs in July 2019. The newser? I’m sorry to report it was a bit of a bait and switch.  Pawlowski arrived late in a nice blue suit, evidently because no one had informed him the main steps of the Legislature were closed because of the construction project.  But first the media had to suffer through a sermon by a preacher friend of Pawlowski, introduced only as Shawn from Red Deer. Shawn blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for former Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, which seemed on brand if not entirely fair. Then there was a speech from the leader of Pawlowski’s new political party, named and branded in apparent tribute the preacher’s Polish heritage.  Then there was a speech from Pawlowski’s son, a young man who seemed almost as angry as his father.  Finally, the main event began with Pawlowski himself at the microphone delivering an hourlong jeremiad about Smith, whom he called a communist and “a bloody murderer,” Notley, whom he called “a witch,” and the gathered media, whom he called liars and implied were all Whores of Babylon. (I am pondering an update to my LinkedIn page.)  Alas, when he finally got to the promised Revelations about his conversation with Smith, there were only allegations.  Pawlowski alleged that he was offered cash bribes by representatives of the UCP to be quiet, a guaranteed seat in the Alberta Legislature if he ran for the UCP in a safe riding, the chance to run Smith’s COVID response investigation (a position now occupied by Preston Manning), and amnesty from prosecution.  Other than the amnesty, he was having none of it, he insisted. “I am not a whore.” He offered no receipts, however, and grilling by the media failed to move him to name names or specify times.  On the advice of his lawyers, he said, he couldn’t name the people in the government he talked to unless called to give sworn testimony.  He denied the premier’s claim her call was just two political leaders talking politics – it was only ever supposed to be about his trial and how she could help get him off the legal hook. “This phone call was always about the same thing – when are you going to introduce what you promised, the amnesty bill for people like me and thousands of other Albertans.” He said he didn’t know who leaked the video of the call but insisted, repeatedly, it wasn’t him.  Smith’s office later issued a terse statement saying she “is unaware of any of the conversations or alleged offers referenced by Pawlowski in his comments today, and strongly questions the credibility of his claims.” In a statement “to all Albertans” sent to media, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said, “I am deeply concerned about all we have seen today. Extremism being shouted from the steps of the Legislature. Hate and transphobia and a furthering of a division that only serves to harm Alberta. “This is the fringe of the fringe, and these are the folks Danielle Smith has been giving her time to. This is who she interfered in the justice system for. She broke the law in order to get Artur Pawlowski’s charges dropped—a man convicted of inciting violence against police. “Danielle Smith has given him a platform, and this is only the beginning. If Danielle Smith is elected Premier – this is what the next four years looks like. “Enough is enough. This is exhausting. There is one way to put a stop to all of this and that’s by electing a new Alberta NDP government on Monday.” The post Artur Pawlowski brings his circus to the steps of the Legislature appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 5/26/23 2:15pm
Brian Jean – once upon a time the leader of Alberta’s Wildrose Party Opposition and more recently twice an unsuccessful candidate to lead the United Conservative Party (UCP) – seems to be as energized as that famous battery-powered bunny these days. The UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche appears to be campaigning hard on behalf of Premier Danielle Smith, about whom he once complained that he had to clean up the mess she left behind as Wildrose leader in December 2014. That was when she infamously tripped across the floor of the Legislature with eight of her Opposition MLAs in tow to take the hand of premier Jim Prentice and join his Progressive Conservative government. As veteran Alberta political watchers will recall, that move was not just unprecedented, it was controversial to say the least.  Last fall, as Jean raced Smith to lead the UCP, he told the Calgary Herald, “The turmoil she left was incredible, and the best predictor of the future is the record of the past.” (Emphasis added.) Well, nobody’s going to fault him now for that diagnosis.  You’d have to say that Jean – sporting a new beard that’s a little too grizzled to look hipsterish, which is possible but not easy at 60 – is campaigning almost as hard as he did earlier last year when he won his current seat in a by-election on the novel political platform of getting rid of the sitting premier, Jason Kenney, and replacing him in the province’s top political job.  Back in 2017, Jean squared off against Kenney to lead the UCP. Kenney may not have beaten Jean fair and square, but he beat him convincingly in 2018. Thereafter, Jean fell off the radar for a spell, as he has from time to time in his political career, which began in 2004 when he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Athabasca. The riding then included the oilsands town of Fort McMurray, where Jean spent his formative years as the scion of an influential business family.  Jean had grown bored with federal politics and quit in 2014, not long after he had been discovered whiling away the interminable hours in the nation’s capital devising crossword puzzles and mailing them out to his hapless constituents in Canada’s carbon capital. By then the riding had been renamed, but it was pretty much the same real estate.  He rediscovered his zest for politics in February 2015, after Smith’s shocking floor crossing, when it looked as if the five remaining shellshocked members of the party’s caucus in the Legislature didn’t know what to do next. Jean announced he’d seek the unwanted leadership and got it on March 28.  That’s when he, in his own words, had to clean up Smith’s mess.  But if he thought he also had a chance to sashay right into the Premier’s Office in 2015, he had a surprise coming – along with almost everybody else in Alberta. That list would have included Rachel Notley, presumably, who nevertheless led her New Democratic Party (NDP) to a convincing majority victory on May 5 that year. It could have been worse from Jean’s perspective. He won his own new seat, Fort McMurray-Conklin, and emerged with a caucus of 21 members. He plugged along as Opposition leader until the merger of the Progressive Conservatives, by then led by Kenney, with the Wildrosers in 2017. After he was beaten by Kenney, a savvy former federal cabinet minister and ruthless campaigner, Jean lost interest in politics again, resigning his seat in the Legislature in March 2018. This lasted until Kenney’s popularity began to slip and, sensing opportunity, Jean was inspired to begin his 2022 campaign to unseat the man who had defeated him in 2017 and replace him.  Alas for Jean, it was the unlikely Danielle Smith who eventually emerged as the winner of the race to replace Kenney, narrowly beating the UCP finance minister, Travis Toews. Jean finished a disappointing third. Smith made up a portfolio for Jean, and declared him to be the Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development, which also included some of the duties of the labour portfolio – presumably on the reasonable grounds it makes sense to keep your friends close and potential ambitious enemies closer.  So now is about the time that one would have expected Jean to get bored again, start creating crossword puzzles again, or maybe decide to spend more time with his bride of seven years, a former staffer in his Parliamentary office in Ottawa, and their young daughter. Instead, suddenly, he would appear to have become a positive dynamo of electoral enthusiasm. The most likely explanation, of course, is just the thrill of the contest, and team spirit.  But could it be that Jean sniffs something in the air – an unexpected breeze, perhaps, on a hot spring day – signifying more change in the United Conservative Party?  Who knows what will happen Monday? Even the pollsters can’t seem to agree!  But if by some unexpected turn of fate, the UCP happened to be looking for a new leader soon, Brian Jean would be right there, thinking, Third time’s the charm! The post What’s driving former Alta. Wildrose leader Brian Jean appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, Brian Jean]

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[l] at 5/26/23 12:21pm
Since its election in 2019, the UCP government in Alberta has emphasized a classic “trickle-down” economic strategy. By boosting profits of private business, the theory goes, investment will expand, and the benefits of job-creation, rising incomes, and economic growth will then flow down to the rest of the population. Key ingredients in this business-focused recipe (which government calls the ‘Renewed Alberta Advantage’) include relaxed business regulation, a four-year freeze in the provincial minimum wage, privatization of public services, and a one-third cut in the provincial corporate income tax rate (from 12 per cent to 8 per cent). Those policies are now up for debate in the provincial election campaign. For example, the NDP proposes partly reversing the corporate tax cut: lifting it to 11 per cent, still the lowest in Canada. This has elicited dire warnings that corporations will flee Alberta, taking investment and jobs with them. Before putting much stock in these dark predictions, let’s examine whether the trickle-down strategy delivered any of its promised benefits in the first place. I have compiled official Statistics Canada data for 10 different economic indicators, comparing Alberta to other provinces since these policies were implemented after the last election. Contrary to promises, business capital spending did not increase under the lower tax rate. When the tax cut began in 2019, business non-residential capital spending weakened. It then plunged further in 2020, when the lower rate was fully phased in.  Of course, the COVID pandemic hurt business investment in 2020 – as was true in other provinces, too. But once the world economy re-opened, and global oil and gas prices surged, conditions for investment in Alberta improved dramatically. Yet capital spending remained weak, well below levels before the tax was cut. Statistics confirm the sustained weakness of capital spending in Alberta, despite lower taxes. Non-residential fixed capital spending totaled just $45 billion in 2021, almost 20 per cent lower than 2018. That equaled 12 per ent of provincial GDP in 2021 – the lowest since Statistics Canada began publishing provincial GDP data in 1981. Preliminary data suggests the investment share declined further in 2022, to just 11 per cent of GDP. Alberta’s share of Canada-wide business spending has also declined to historic lows since taxes were cut: falling to 21 per cent in 2022, from 24 per cent in 2018. Perversely, Alberta has seen its share of Canada-wide business investment fall more since 2018 than any other province. Meanwhile, B.C., Quebec, and Ontario have all increased their share of Canada-wide business investment – despite higher provincial corporate tax rates (12 per cent in B.C., and 11.5 per cent in Quebec and Ontario). In short, cutting the tax rate led to less investment, not more. So we shouldn’t believe doomsday predictions that investment will somehow disappear if the tax cut is partially reversed. It’s not just business investment that performed poorly over the last four years. By several other economic metrics, Alberta has badly underperformed other provinces. For example, employment grew significantly slower in Alberta in the last four years than the Canadian average. And that was despite Alberta’s relatively faster population growth. Relative to the working age population, Alberta’s job-creation (measured by the employment rate) performed worse since 2018 than any other province. Meanwhile, average wages in Alberta increased slower than any province, growing at barely half the Canada-wide average. Provincial wages have lagged well behind inflation, with real earnings (after inflation) declining by close to one per cent per year – eroding purchasing power and living standards. Economic growth was also slower in Alberta under trickle-down strategy: ranking eighth among provinces since 2018, and 10th in per capita terms. By one criteria, Alberta stands head and shoulders above the rest of Canada: the growth of corporate profits. Net corporate operating profits in Alberta grew 145 per cent between 2018 and 2022. And as a share of provincial GDP, the expansion of profits since 2018 dwarfs any other province. So it seems that trickle-down economics is not really about growing the economic pie. Instead, the whole strategy is designed to redistribute the pie: away from average workers, and towards corporations. By that standard, the ‘Renewed Alberta Advantage’ has been an unparalleled success. Unfortunately, the flip side of that unprecedented corporate success has been the erosion of real living standards for most people. Albertans know full well they have not been showered with benefits trickling down from above; their lives have become harder, not better. The province’s economic underperformance since 2019 is more evidence that trickle-down economics doesn’t work.Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work, and author of a new report, The Failures of Trickle-Down Economics in Alberta. The post Cutting corporate taxes didn’t help investment in Alta. – raising them won’t hurt it appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Economy]

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[l] at 5/26/23 11:28am
During Amazon’s annual general meeting on May 24, a proposal for an independent audit on working conditions in Amazon warehouses did not pass. This was unsurprising after Amazon’s Board of Directors advised their shareholders to vote against the proposal ahead of the meeting. The Board of Directors recommended against passing the proposal because they claim that the company regularly enhances safety processes and programs, they have shared workforce incident rates, they are transparent about their commitment to improve workplace safety and because there are already “independent directors” who review workplace incidents.  However, the reasons provided by the board give little comfort for those who are aware of the situation on the ground.  A number of Amazon shareholders, including members of the Canadian group, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), responded to the Board’s recommendation with a strong call to continue to support an audit into warehouse conditions.  “Although Amazon has committed to respect the freedom of association and collective bargaining rights of its employees and abide by internationally recognized human rights standards, numerous reports indicate that Amazon’s conduct towards employees seeking unionization appears to contradict its own human rights commitments,” reads a statement put out by SHARE and other investment groups.  While the proposal didn’t pass, the push coming from shareholders has revealed how important shareholders can sometimes be as allies to the labour movement. The working class holds their power in their labour and the ability to withhold that labour. As well, shareholder allies to the labour movement can also use their financial influence to up the pressure on corporations. Sarah Couturier-Tanoh, a member of SHARE who has been involved with the shareholder proposal on labour conditions, said that there are quite a few shareholders that are interested in addressing the mistreatment of warehouse workers. These shareholders have the capacity to escalate pressure in order to hold the board accountable.  “Last year, there has been some efforts I believe withhold votes to re-elect Judith McGrath, one of Amazons board members,” Couturier-Tanoh said. “I believe that a number of shareholders withheld votes against her re-election. So that could be an avenue that some shareholders might pursue in the coming year.” Getting Amazon to review their labour practices and create a better work environment does not have to wait until 2024, however. According to a report by Reuters, companies often take action on a resolution if they receive a backing of 30 per cent to 40 per cent of votes cast.  Couturier-Tanoh said that in 2022, a similar proposal received 39 per cent of shareholders support. She explained that when you remove the votes of shareholders who are also managers, the number goes up to 46 per cent.  “Its clear that workforce issues have been at the forefront of this meeting and that workforce issues are a top priority for a lot of investors of Amazon,” Couturier-Tanoh said. “And wherever the voting result is, I think considering last years votes and considering all the concerns that have been raised by a number of investors here, it really should prompt Amazon to be more responsive.”  For shareholders who may not be as concerned about the poor labour conditions, there is still reason to push for better practices. Couturier-Tanoh explained that the poor conditions in warehouses poses a reputational risk which could lead to a lower return for investors.  “When you have that amount of controversy its a reputational risk,” Couturier-Tanoh said. “It’s a regulatory and legal risk. So the effect the failure to uphold freedom of association and collective bargaining rights may have on Amazon would ultimately impact the long term value.”  Worker power comes from workers themselves. However, allyship from shareholders can help make necessary changes on urgent issues. While the shareholder proposal did not pass this year, pressure from worker organizing mixed with the efforts from organizations like SHARE may bring the Amazon Board of directors to account. The post How some Amazon shareholders allied with the labour movement appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, amazon]

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[l] at 5/26/23 11:21am
Recent months have seen significant activity in Canada’s labour movement — including a public service strike, actions against austerity across the country, and the CLC convention in Montreal. This month, our panel examined recent developments in Canadas labour movement and dared to ask the question: what’s next? Guests this month included MP Alexandre Boulerice, OSBCU CSCSO president Laura Walton, policy expert and rabble columnist Chuka Ejeckam and rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg. During the panel, we took three polls: About our guests Alexandre Boulerice has been the Member of Parliament for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie in Montreal for 12 years.  In addition to being Deputy Leader of the party, Alexandre is the NDP Labour Critic. He is currently leading the fight for the adoption of a bill to ban replacement workers at the federal level. Laura Walton was elected president of OSBCU in 2019, having first served as its vice-president. Formerly, she was president of CUPE 1022, which represents education workers at Hastings and Prince Edward County District School Board.  Chuka Ejeckam is a writer and policy researcher. His work focuses on inequity and inequality, drug policy, structural racism, and labour. He is also a columnist for rabble. Karl Nerenberg is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster and filmmaker, working in both English and French languages. He is rabble’s parliamentary correspondent and a regular panelist on Off the Hill. Off the Hill is a fast-paced live panel on current issues of national significance, hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies. Off the Hill focuses on the impact politics and policy have on people, and on ways to mobilize to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill. To support this panel, visit rabble.ca/donate. The post Off the Hill: Labour in high gear for action and change appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Labour, CUPE Ontario, off the hill]

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[l] at 5/26/23 8:59am
Home care is not included under the Canada Health Act making it a publicly funded service but not a publicly insured service. That means you dont use your OHIP card to pay for it. Instead, the provincial government uses tax dollars to pay private for-profit home care agencies contracted to perform a variety of services. In Ontario, publicly-funded home care falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and has always been delivered privately but never to this degree. The services, including nursing, homemaking, therapy, medial equipment, and supplies, were provided through the Home Care Program (HCP). Most of the programs were administered by Public Health Departments in regional municipalities with the remainder administered by public hospitals and the Victorian Order of Nurses. In 1993, the NDP proposed the Multi Service Agencies model that would have given users of the system a chance for more input. However, that model was unpopular because it was thought that it would erode the volunteer base charitable organizations depend on. In other words, it would have paid people for their labour instead of relying on free labour. In 1996, the Harris Conservatives introduced the competitive process that was managed by 42 Community Care Access Centres (CCAC). Today, CCAC number 14 and are accountable to Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS) – formerly known as Local Health Integration Networks (LHINS). Publicly funded home care agencies receive referrals through HCCSS who are responsible for determining eligibility and access to government-funded home and community services as well as long-term care homes. In addition to receiving millions in cash and shares for serving as Chair of the Board for Chartwell Retirement Residences since 2004, Mike Harris and his third wife, Laura, started the for-profit home-care franchise, Nurse-Next-Door, in 2012. In July 2020, Bill 175, Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, received Royal Assent. That bill changed who is responsible for administering home and community care. But Bill 175 fails to distinguish between disabled folk and other clients receiving home-care and community-care. Instead, the act refers to all clients as patients creating a medical approach to services without client input. The Ford government maintains the bill makes it easier for people to connect with care providers and access care. However, transferring the planning, coordinating, and delivery of home and community care services to Ontario Health Teams could lead to fragmented, inequitable services as well as inconsistent assessments that lead to inadequate care. This bill will ultimately usher in the privatization of last remnants of the home care. Peter Groves, a member of Hamilton Health Coalition, shares these concerns and his decades long experience with home-care validates those fears. Groves and his wife, Linda, live in a wheelchair accessible townhouse on the West Mountain. Born with cerebral palsy compounded by scoliosis and severe osteoporosis, Linda has used a wheelchair for the past 40 years. Linda is now fully dependent on Groves for help with her daily activities. The couple also rely on the assistance of two personal support workers (PSWs) and an electric patient lift to get Linda out of bed and into her chair in the morning and then, the reverse process at night. At one point, Groves had an issue with the private for-profit home care company he had been dealing with since 1996. He says the PSWs were great but some of those sent to fill in when an assigned worker was sick or on holiday have said, “I didn’t know your wife was in a wheelchair. If I knew that I wouldn’t have come.” Groves feels many PSWs don’t like the physical aspects of the job. He also believes theres a lack of standardized training to ensure a uniform standard of care across the province. While Groves acknowledges the Ford government has promised to train up to 8,200 PSWs through its accelerated college program, he believes fast tracking will negatively impact student learning and undermine their overall level of skill. That, in turn, will affect client experiences. Groves deals with two private companies – each of whom send one worker per shift – but the companies don’t communicate with each other. Their services are paid under the HCCSS, however if these companies are not fulfilling their contractual obligations, the HCCSS has no capacity for enforcement. Some PSWs are being pulled out of home care and reassigned to long-term care (LTC) by management compounding staffing and client issues within the home care system. For insurance purposes, Groves’ wife requires two workers each visit because moving Linda between her bed and wheelchair requires the use of an electric lift. There have been several evenings when Groves has had to step up and be that second person, but his own health issues are making it increasingly difficult for him to assist the PSW. That means Linda doesn’t get her full evening routine. Only one of the companies provides PSWs with Groves phone number to let him know if theyre going to be late. When workers from the other company don’t show up, Groves will contact the main office but they usually have no idea where the worker is or if theyre going to show. Groves has been told to find a family member or neighbour willing to help with Linda’s care, but the 65-year-old maintains, “Medical issues are a personal, private thing and no body’s business.” Groves also points out that workers know how to do what they are taught in school, but they havent learned how to adapt routines to the specific needs each client. Groves’ wife is extremely sensitive to movement and touch – both can cause her significant discomfort and pain. “Many workers over the years have said, if you’re doing it right there’s no reason to hurt her,” shared Groves. He finds some workers have limited empathy and are in need of sensitivity training. Part of the problem may lie in the fact that PSWs are not paid for mileage or travel time and clients are book back-to-back. That means PSWs often feel pressured to rush or cut corners in order to meet a demanding schedule. That has left Groves finishing his wife’s routine once the PSWs have moved to her chair or bed because the PSWs had to get to their next client. “The system Doug Ford is implementing isn’t working. A lot of home care is being privatized. When not-for-profit contracts are up for renewal, more and more are not being renewed,” observed Groves. Private companies are more costly to the public system and if the Ford government were to start charging user fees for home care, that would be a financial burden Groves and his wife would not be able to budget for. “My wife and I are both on OAS [Old Age Security] and GAINS [Guaranteed Annual Income System payments] so we’d be lost,” shared Groves. He added, ‘We have to get enough people stepping forward saying the system isn’t working. Doug Ford, you’re making it worse, not better.” Ontario Health Coalition is holding a citizens’ referendum to stop the privatization of hospital services. Everyone 16 years-of-age and over can Vote Online or in person at polling stations across the province on May 26 and 27. The post Privatization hurts at home health care in Ontario appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health, Human Rights, Political Action, long-term care, Personal Support Workers]

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[l] at 5/26/23 8:45am
Developments in machine learning and computer algorithms may be about to radically change many workplaces. Governments and employers need to share control with workers. Comments by the assistant general secretary of Public Services International, Daniel Bertossa. PSI affiliates in Canada include the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the BC General Employees Union (BCGEU). RadioLabour is the international labour movement’s radio service. It reports on labour union events around the world with a focus on unions in the developing world. It partners with rabble to provide coverage of news of interest to Canadian workers. The post How workers can help control AI appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, ai]

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[l] at 5/26/23 8:39am
As I write this column I am attending a writer’s retreat at Hollyhock on Cortez Island in B.C. The beauty of the place is awe inspiring. “Hollyhock exists to inspire, nourish, and support people who are making the world a better place,” reads a statement on their website. Yesterday I was in the hot tub looking out on the bay and the woman sitting next to me says “I love Pierre Poilievre.” I’m a little stunned but it is a sign of the times. Monday is Alberta’s election and at the moment it looks like Danielle Smith, an extreme right-wing nut job, might win. No less of a conservative than Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne has written: “It would be easy to dismiss the many odd things that come out of Danielle Smith’s mouth as the product of a disordered mind. Easy, and accurate. “The past week alone has provided several examples. Equating the vaccine-compliant majority with Hitler’s followers; suggesting police officers who enforced public-health orders should face criminal charges; calling for doctors to be removed from decision-making roles in the next pandemic, in favour of the military. ” A friend who was active in the pro-choice struggle back in the 80’s in Alberta tells me Smith was the most ferocious anti-abortion person in the province. Smith, like most Tories who want to win, keeps her views on abortion hidden but she recently admitted that she looks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem as role models for Alberta. In Ontario despite massive opposition, the corrupt Doug Ford government is privatizing health care as fast as they can. Bill 60 cuts core services including surgeries and diagnostics out of public hospitals into private for-profit hospitals and clinics. This at the same time as public hospitals are starving for funds and staff. According to the Ontario Health Coalition this will create two-tier health care in Ontario in which patients will be faced with an increasing array of user charges and extra-billing for care when they are sick, elderly, in need and least able to pay To drive back the privatization, the Ontario Health Coalition is organizing a massive citizen run referendum on privatizing health care. The voting takes place all over the province on May 25 and 26, as well as online. It’s a unique strategy that may or may not push the government back The Ontario Federation of Labour is organizing a cross province day of action on June 3 that includes opposition to privatization. The combination of both actions may force Ford to take a step back and just as importantly spark some energy in progressive social movements that has been sorely lacking. Part of the problem is our undemocratic electoral system. Doug Ford won a huge majority of seats with only 23.85 per cent of the vote. Because no matter who we vote for things seem to get worse, the turnout in the last election was the lowest in Ontario’s history with just 43.5 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot. While gerrymandering is not as much a problem in Canada as in the U.S., nevertheless the first past post system gives way too much weight to rural and suburban voters in a country that is highly urbanized. Partly because of COVID-19, where the left abandoned the field in supporting public health measures even though there were serious problems as described by Corvin Russell and I in an article on these pages in February 2022, and partly because of the rise in hatred against Justin Trudeau, while the NDP continues to support his minority government, the political Left is virtually absent federally. In Alberta, progressive Conservatives are actually supporting Rachel Notley as she moves right to win support away from Smith. We seem to be seeing a bit of a shift in Toronto where left-wing Olivia Chow is far ahead in the polls. After 15 years of right-wing leadership at City Hall, and a visible deterioration of living standards for most, people are looking for an alternative. The Toronto Labour Council just released an Environics poll of 1,001 eligible voters in the city. Fifty-five percent say the city should invest in better services even if it means a tax increase. This included the supporters of right-wing candidates. The fact of the matter is that Canada has never been as moderate as we pretend. Because of massive opposition to free trade, we implemented neo-liberalism later than many other countries but just as ferociously. We need a huge rise in progressive social movements to fight further cutbacks, privatization and increased power to the billionaires who are increasingly running our lives. The post What has happened to Canadian moderation? appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics]

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[l] at 5/26/23 8:00am
This week on rabble radio, we feature a segment from our most recent Off the Hill political panel. This month, our theme was ‘Off the Hill: Labour in high gear for action and change.’ Recent months have seen significant activity in Canada’s labour movement — including a public service strike, actions against austerity across the country, and the CLC convention in Montreal. This month our panel dove into recent developments and wondered what’s next for the labour movement in Canada. Our panel included MP Alexandre Boulerice, OSBCU CSCSO president Laura Walton, policy expert and rabble columnist Chuka Ejeckam and rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg. Hosted by Robin Browne and Libby Davies. If you like the show please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. And please, rate, review, share rabble radio with your friends — it takes two seconds to support independent media like rabble. Follow us on social media across channels @rabbleca.  The post The labour movement in Canada is in high gear for action and change appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Labour, CUPE Ontario]

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[l] at 5/26/23 7:39am
I’m mighty miffed that David Johnston, special rapporteur extraordinaire on the foreign interference file, has been pretty successfully smeared by Pierre Poilievre as a tool of the Liberals and the left. How horribly unjust. By any decent historical standards he should’ve been permanently stained over the past two decades as a reliable tool of the Conservative right. Why? Back in 2007, PM Stephen Harper, the smarter and more menacing version of Pierre Poilievre (who was part of Harper’s government) had a big problem. His own right-wing predecessor, Brian Mulroney, had been caught taking wads of cash in hotel rooms. Some kind of hearing was unavoidable but Harper wanted to suppress the scuzzy reasons behind it all so he hired David Johnston to “frame” the terms of a hearing. Johnston did so, excluding any questions about motive since that ground had been “well-tilled,” which it hadn’t. Harper was so pleased that he said whatever they paid Johnston hadn’t been enough. Harper was in a minority and had a governor-general, Michaëlle Jean, not entirely responsive to his needs if an election led to a political crunch. So he appointed Johnston as next GG. Patently implied subservience to Canada’s right-wingest PM ever is surely what should’ve lastingly tarnished Johnston’s reputation. Yet, in the only act of his that I consider bold and unexpected, Poilievre has ignored that history of pro-Conservative vassalage by Johnston and cast him as a 100 per cent lifelong tool of Liberals like Justin Trudeau, his “ski buddy.” And it worked! Never underestimate the power of the historical memory hole. Johnston had one great card to play against Poilievre: Hey, look, I served you guys well and faithfully. Instead he went with his CV and accolades, as in a sappy plea to the Star editorial board: “ … follow the facts … be as honest as you can … look your kids in the eye and say … and your grandchildren — your grandpa did the right thing … that sounds hokey but that’s how I lived (my) life.” The guy still thinks he’s playing James Stewart in the Canadian version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Though Stewart would never have done a scene where he tells his grandkids how great a guy he is. (That’s why generations loved Stewart, even though he happily served as a highly ideological Cold War icon in films glorifying the FBI and Strategic Air Command, institutions once again resonant.) Johnston has always been a tad dim. As GG, he pulled a major gaffe by calling Indigenous Peoples “immigrants,” which invoked a long-standing right-wing talking point against land claims etc. He had to apologize. In his rapport this week he focused hard on China’s role, though I’d say he’d been expected to diffuse any racist potential in the interference issue. He told CBC that “Chinese influence” had “come upon us like a tsunami” — managing to avoid a strictly Chinese image but still landing on a regional Asian one. Hurricane or tidal wave would’ve sufficed. He’s dumber than your average distinguished Canadian. I’m still agnostic on a public judicial inquiry. I think it depends on what you see as the issue. If you think it’s foreign interference, not just in elections, but even more in matters like dissident politics by diaspora members, then I think enough is known. It’s sufficiently horrifying to get right down to criminally charging people, expelling diplomats and making sure the laws are adequate. The focus should be on action and stopping this intimidation garbage fast. OTOH, if you think Justin Trudeau is a knowing Chinese agent or at least a willing dupe, as Pierre Poilievre says (“We know Justin Trudeau has something to hide … Beijing interfered to help him win the election …”) then appoint a judge and have at it. Personally, though, I’ve never seen the impartial magic in black-robed folk who sit a level above everyone else, get called by hoary honorifics and bowed to by lawyers whenever they exit. Still, À chacun son gout. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star. The post Johnston failed to play his one great card against Poilievre appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Elections, China, David Johnston, foreign interference]

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[l] at 5/25/23 5:22pm
“We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always just-ice.” These lines are from The Hill We Climb, a poem recited by then 22-year-old Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman at President Joe Biden’s swearing in on January 20, 2021. Her words resonated with extra force that day, as she wrote the poem just two weeks earlier, on January 6, as she watched the Trump-inspired MAGA mob storm the U.S. Capitol. Trump’s desperate efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat failed, but the racist, nativist movement of Trumpism is still alive and well. More than two years later, Gorman’s remarkable poem is back in the news. It was published as a book not long after the inauguration, and this week Gorman tweeted that the book had been banned from an elementary school library in Miami-Dade County, Florida. That Florida is the state where this highly acclaimed literary work was banned should come as no surprise. Under Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who formally launched his presidential campaign on Wednesday in a glitch-ridden Twitter livestream hosted by billionaire Elon Musk, Florida has become ground zero for systemic, state-sponsored censorship, intolerance and discrimination. DeSantis clearly sees his path to the White House is to out-Trump Trump. It seems there isn’t a historically marginalized group or progressive policy that DeSantis isn’t willing to attack. DeSantis is casting shade over the Sunshine State. Residents, citizen and non-citizen alike, are suffering under a barrage of punitive legislation, targeting the LGBTQ community, African Americans, and immigrants. DeSantis signed a draconian six-week abortion ban in April. A year before that, he launched a campaign against the Walt Disney Company after Disney publicly opposed his anti-LGBTQ legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. He banned the College Board’s Advanced Placement African-American studies course in an assault on Critical Race Theory. The NAACP is so alarmed with Florida’s drastic policies that it has issued a travel advisory for the state. “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP’s advisory reads. ”Before travelling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of colour.” LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, seconded the travel ban, in response to a DeSantis-signed law going into effect on July 1, that severely criminalizes undocumented immigrants. “LULAC believes that these hostile and dangerous new laws create a clear and present danger to Latinos in Florida and to Americans in general,” LULAC President Domingo Garcia said on May 17. “We’re issuing a travel advisory for anybody travelling to Florida. Florida is a dangerous, hostile environment for law-abiding Americans and immigrants…you can be arrested for literally taking somebody to the hospital, for literally taking somebody to Disney World.” DeSantis’s attack on education didn’t stop at the AP African-American studies course. He targeted Florida’s renowned, progressive public New College of Florida, replacing its board of trustees with handpicked political hacks who immediately fired the president and key administrators and dissolved the school’s diversity office. In response, the American Association of University Professors formed a Special Committee on Academic Freedom and Florida. In a preliminary report issued this week, the committee wrote: “Academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance in Florida’s public colleges and universities currently face a politically and ideologically driven assault unparalleled in U.S. history. Initiated and led by Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican majority in the state legislature, this onslaught, if sustained, threatens the very survival of meaningful higher education in the state.” This is all part of DeSantis’s so-called “War on Woke,” which he intends to take national should he win the White House. People are organizing to stem the damage DeSantis is doing on a daily basis in Florida. PEN America, Penguin Random House and several authors and parents are suing the school board in Pensacola, Florida, for banning books from school libraries. “We are suing in Escambia County to challenge the removal of books from classroom and school libraries,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “This effort disproportionately targets books by and about authors of colour, LGBTQ narratives…we’re asking the school board to put these books back on the shelves, and the court to vindicate children’s right to read.” “History has its eyes on us,” writes Amanda Gorman in The Hill We Climb, currently unavailable to elementary school readers in Miami Lakes, Florida. “We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.” This column originally appeared in Democracy Now! The post Florida is a real-life horror under Ron DeSantis appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: US Politics, florida, Ron DeSantis]

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[l] at 5/25/23 10:09am
May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity, also known as World Biodiversity Day. In a previous column I included information on Seeds of Diversity, a Canadian non-profit working with volunteers in an attempt to save heritage and other seed. The challenges are huge, and the efforts are stoic…and it is seed by seed by seed. In May, the federal government also approved practices that allow seeds to be  genetically edited without federal government oversight, assessment, or regulation. Essentially the decision means that farmers won’t be able to trace if seed is gene edited or not. In early May the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, approved the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) guidance or recommendations on gene-edited seed, essentially deciding not to regulate these seeds, and also not to let consumers know when seeds have been gene-edited. More specifically, those genetically modified seeds — known as “Plants with Novel Traits” (PNTs) — that do not introduce foreign DNA will no longer be regulated by the CFIA. Prior to this change, all of these seeds were regulated under the CFIA’s Seed Regulation. Now, instead, biotech companies and product developers modifying and selling these seeds will be allowed to ‘voluntarily’ disclose information, but will not be obligated to do so. It also means, of course, that the CFIA will not have access to this information or data either — unless these corporations decided they should. The Minister’s decision was announced on May 3 and since then opposition has  been growing with organizations calling on Members of Parliament to voice their deep concern. There is also a demonstration planned outside of MPs offices in several cities across Quebec on May 26. Call it lack of judgment on the part of the Minister, call it ignorance or stupidity, call it bowing to corporate lobbying, call it vested interest and risking consumer health and the safety of food in the name of profit and the encouragement of so-called industry development,… I could go on… but anyway you cut it or call it, this move on the part of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the federal government is a huge, huge, mistake. But at times it becomes clear whose interests inspire such reckless decisions. This is one such occasion. In October of 2022, 14 organizations across Canada (Council of Canadians, Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, Environmental Defence, FarmFolk CityFolk, Friends of the Earth Canada, Greenpeace Canada, the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers Union, among others) sent a letter to the Federal Agriculture Minister following a report by Radio-Canada that alleged the President of the CFIA compromised the agency’s independence in the face of corporate lobbying. The letter notes that the CFIA was unduly influenced by corporate lobbyist CropLife,  by taking that multinational biotech company’s recommendations on deregulation of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seed and incorporating these directly into CFIA summary recommendations. In January of 2023, the President of the CFIA resigned (or retired suddenly) her position, but those same summary recommendations have now been approved by the Federal Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau. Sadder yet — and just as risky — is that this announcement follows an action by the federal government in May of 2022, to abandon safety assessment of new gene-edited foods. So now both new gene-edited foods and new gene-edited seeds are no longer being assessed or monitored by Health Canada or the CFIA. There will be no independent review of these food or seed products. We will need to trust the corporate world to let us know how things are going! When seed or food is manipulated through gene editing will no longer be traceable! Neither farmers or consumers or buyers of Canadian seeds and food products on the international markets will have the ability to know for certain if genetically modified seed has been introduced into a crop. Essentially, the biotech industry will be able to regulate itself, and ‘voluntarily’ provide this information if it so chooses. The ramifications for organic producers are huge since, according to these now approved recommendations, farmers will have no way of knowing if genetically modified seed has been introduced into their crops — unless of course, the fox guarding the chicken coop decides to let them in on it. Organic farmers need to certify that their products are free of GMOs. All genetic engineering, including gene editing, for organic food and in organic farming is prohibited by the Canadian Organic Standards. Saskatchewan farmers through Sask Organics have been vocal about the impact of this change. “This decision runs directly counter to the minister’s commitment to find a solution that ensures organic farmers can continue to farm organically,” said Garry Johnson, President of the farmer-led organization SaskOrganics. “Not ensuring full disclosure of all GM seeds through a mandatory public registry, will make it challenging for organic farmers to meet the requirements of the Canadian Organic Standards.” And if farmers cannot farm organically, well then we will not be eating organic either. A rabble article published in 2021 explained in detail the concerns regarding gene editing and, in this case, the removal of regulations for gene-edited foods. The campaign has been ongoing over the last few years to push for more oversight with more than 105 organizations and countless individuals, supporting the call for more regulation and transparency, not less, and warning governments of the ramifications related to removing government assessments and independent monitoring. Among the organizations listed are farm and ecological organizations, but also the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Council of Canadians, Équiterre, and the Indigenous Environmental Network, to name but a few. Now the campaign has moved toward calling for the reversal of the federal Agriculture Minister’s approval of the CFIA guidance related to “Plants with Novel Traits” (PNTs) aka genetically modified seeds that do not introduce foreign DNA. It’s hoped that continued pressure calling for mandatory, independent safety assessments and mandatory reporting to government for all genetically engineered seeds and crops will force this decision to be reversed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Bibeau. Several organizations, including the Canadian Organic Growers. the National Farmers Union (NFU), and CBAN-the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of farm, ecological and civic organizations, are calling for a reversal of this decision noting that this change is the most serious development in the short history of GMOs and that Canada is in the middle of a global fight over the future of our food. This NFU policy and backgrounder on gene-edited seed provides additional detail. The language may seem alarming and so it should. Organic farmers, and consumers seeking certified organic foods, in particular, will be the most impacted by this decision. But, the general public, our trading partners, and others will also be affected. It really is a question of health and safety, listening to the current science, and erring on the side of caution. “This is a shocking abdication of responsibility by our regulators. The government has fully turned GM food safety over to companies using confidential, privately owned science,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of CBAN, in a recent media statement. “Canadians should be aware that the government will no longer be assessing the safety of many new genetically modified foods and seeds. This decision asks Canadian farmers and consumers to trust unseen corporate science. We need independent science, not corporate self-regulation.” All of this despite a Pollara poll published in April of 2022 that confirms that more than half of all Canadians are seriously concerned about the safety of genetically modified foods. The poll extrapolates that more than half of Canadians want the government to undertake independent safety assessments of genetically modified foods. And 68 per cent of Canadians ( seven out of 10) say they want the government to make it mandatory for all food products that are genetically modified or that contain genetically modified ingredients to be labelled as such. “Allowing the sale of GM plants and foods without overseeing corporate science puts the health of Canadians and our environment at risk,” said Thibault Rehn of the Quebec network Vigilance OGM (GM Watch), one of the groups supporting the Quebec demonstrations on May 26. “The government has allowed the biotechnology industry lobby to win an end to safety regulation.” The trajectory of this campaign can be viewed by visiting No Exemptions led by CBAN in Canada For a global perspective on recent research see Gene Editing: Unexpected outcomes and risks. I guess the good news is that May 22 is recognized as the International Day for Biological Diversity. And also that there are many individuals and organizations that are clear on the need to push back on the lack of assessment and traceability of gene edited seeds and foods. Numbers will be needed! The post Feds abandon safety assessments of gene-edited seed and food appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Economy, Environment, GMOs]

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[l] at 5/24/23 5:24pm
This may surprise some readers, but back in the early 1970s, yours truly was a callow youth working as a cub reporter for the Calgary Herald, when newspapers did their own fact-checking. This important task was done by a special category of editorial employees known as copy editors. Some younger readers may have trouble believing this was so, and some may even have never heard the term.  That is because copy editors – like linotype operators and paperboys crying, “Read all about it!” – are now memories from the distant past. And yet, I can assure readers that such creatures existed. As for newspaper copy editors, I even earned my paycheque for a spell doing that job for two large, profitable and perfectly respectable daily newspapers, one of which was the very Herald mentioned above.  In the 1970s, the Calgary Herald considered itself “the newspaper of record of Southern Alberta (a bit of a self-conscious riff on how the New York Times then described itself) and, accordingly, took errors of fact seriously.  A cub reporter could lose his or her job for making more than a couple mistakes that found their way into print. Having a correction published about your story, and noted in the files, was considered a grave humiliation. And those copy editors – God-like entities in the hierarchy of the newsroom – were charged with ensuring it never happened, or at least with vanishingly infrequency.  I mention all this ancient history because of a column published by the same Calgary Herald as well as other newspapers owned by the Postmedia newspaper (and identical website) chain on May 18, which contained errors, and which therefore became a topic of heated discussion on social media.  You see, it has come to pass – and this is not a good thing – that members of the public, for example, University of Alberta professors, have to take on the role of the copy editor without reward, except for the abuse of other social media users, of course. (This falls under the general heading of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Especially in Alberta.) So when Andrew Leach, professor of environmental and energy economics at the University of Alberta, pointed out some serious errors in a column by Licia Corbella that ran under the headline, “Rachel Notley can’t run on her record as premier because it’s a disaster,” he was subjected to the usual abuse from the usual suspects, no doubt as he expected.  In her column, Corbella wrote that when the NDP came to power in 2015, the province’s debt was $11.9 billion, but that when the United Conservative Party was elected in 2019, it had grown to $85.9 billion. “Thankfully,” she continued, “the UCP brought in surplus budgets and whittled away at Notley’s reckless debt.” Leach took issue with that on social media, writing: “Reality: total taxpayer supported debt in 2019 was $62.7B. Total in 2023 was $79.4B.” In the same tweet, he added rhetorically: “Does whittled not mean what I think it means?” “She is, unquestionably, living in a world of her own imagination,” Leach said of the columnist in another tweet, pointing to an Aug. 27, 2020, story in the Calgary Herald, headlined, “Alberta $24-billion budget deficit largest in Canada in percentage terms in three decades.” The subhead added, “Deficit will be $16.8 billion higher than forecast this year.” Corbella’s column also said, of Notley’s time as premier, “Every economic indicator went down except … the debt.” This phrase also made it into the sub-head on the National Post’s version of the story.  This too prompted a riposte from Leach: “Reality: Employment? Up. GDP? Up. Population? Up. Labour productivity? Up.” A certain amount of inevitable palaver followed, wherein apologists for the UCP government argued for the consideration of various factors in defence of the government’s performance. Fair enough, said Leach, but, “That there was a good reason for deficit budgets doesn’t mean there weren’t deficit budgets. That there was good reason to take on more debt doesn’t mean that more debt wasn’t taken on. This holds for NDP and UCP governments.” In other words, the facts are the facts, and Postmedia did not report them accurately.  There was a day when reasonable efforts would have been made at the Calgary Herald to avoid misinformation of this sort being published.  In the event some was and someone pointed it out, an appropriately humble correction would have promptly appeared – something I doubt we are likely to see in this case.  Be that is it may, I should add that a regular reader points out that the oft-quoted $11.9 billion starting point for Alberta’s debt when the NDP came to power also appears to be a misrepresentation of the facts as reported in the historical tables of the Government of Alberta’s 2021-22 annual report. Or, as my interlocutor put it, “more than a stretch.”  Add debt from government business enterprises to “total debt” as shown in the historical tables, and the total debt for the last year of the Progressive Conservative government of Jim Prentice would appear to be $32.8 billion, not $11.9 billion.  “The difference in ‘total debt outstanding’ between the last PC year (2014-15) and the last NDP year (2018-19) is not $74 billion, but $53 billion,” my informant wrote. “Still a significant sum,” but Postmedia then neglects to say that “‘total debt’ increased by a further $30.6 billion under the UCP to $111.4 billion over the next two years by the end of fiscal year 2020-21.” “Over four years, the NDP added an annual average of $13.3 B in debt,” he said. “In its first two years, the UCP added an annual average of $15.8 B in debt. But according to (Postmedia), it’s the NDP who drove the economy into the ditch.” Well, this is murky stuff, possibly too deep for even for the copy editors of the Herald’s Golden Age (so known because Bill Gold, a conservative but an honourable one, was the editor).  The Herald – knowingly or otherwise – mischaracterizes the economic management of the NDP government and omits facts to spruce up the image of the UCP, which fared even worse in its first two years.  And that’s before we consider the potential future impacts of Premier Smith’s R-Star scam, which could easily turn out to be the biggest boondoggle in Canadian history if it’s allowed to proceed.  On debate night, Notley mostly told the truth, Smith not so much  Speaking of fact checking, Brett McKay and David Slater of MacEwan University and well-known Edmonton-based investigative journalist Charles Rusnell fact checked the statements made by Premier Danielle Smith and Opposition Leader Rachel Notley in their May 18 debate.  Their conclusion, published in The Tyee: “Notley was the more truthful. Smith made numerous misleading statements in which figures were cherry-picked or taken out of context and in some cases her statements were flat out false.” Since past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, all Alberta voters are advised read this story.  The post Copy editors apparently a thing of the past at Postmedia appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 5/24/23 3:23pm
In a press conference on Tuesday, May 23, David Johnston, former governor-general of Canada, reported to the public that Chinese political interference had not influenced recent federal elections. “I have no examples of Ministers, the Prime Minister or their offices failing to act,” he said. Johnston had been appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a special rapporteur to investigate foreign political interference after reports by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) were leaked to the public and revealed that China had attempted to interfere with the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. In his report, Johnston found that while foreign interference in Canada’s politics is a growing problem, that China had not influenced the results of the 2019 or 2021 elections. However, Johnston did not share publicly how he reached this conclusion and did not recommend a public inquiry into the matter. “What has allowed me to determine whether there has in fact been interference cannot be disclosed publicly,” Johnston said. “A public review of classified intelligence simply cannot be done.” Instead, Johnston recommended that the prime minister invite both intelligence oversight bodies, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) to review the classified information and his report. He explained that the reporting that had been done in the media on these allegations of interference was based on incomplete information. “Much of what has been reported is based on limited and partial intelligence,” Johnston said. “That reporting has been made without the benefit of the full context provided by all relevant materials. Experienced intelligence professionals understand that individual pieces of intelligence must be viewed with considerable skepticism. It is extremely rare to draw conclusions, much less take action from a single intelligence report.” He said that much of what has been reported in the media had been misconstrued. “In some cases, the material I reviewed tell a very different story,” he said. READ MORE: Canadians can undermine their own democracy without China’s help Johnston further recommended that leaders of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), the NDP, and the Bloc Québecoise seek to obtain security clearances so that they may review the classified material in question as well. For his part, CPC Leader and leader of the Opposition Pierre Poilievre stated that he would refuse to even attempt to view the classified information saying that he would never want to be restricted on what he can say in public. A reputation hit job As a part of his press conference on Tuesday, Johnston dedicated a significant amount of time to discussing allegations over his closeness with the family of the man who appointed him special rapporteur, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Poilievre and his Conservatives created a narrative in the public alleging that Johnston and Trudeau were the closest of friends. Johnston attempted to correct that perception, however, stating that his relationship with Justin Trudeau amounted to a few ski trips together when the latter was a youth, and that he served as principal of McGill University when Trudeau was a student there. He explained that his family owned a condo at the foot of popular Quebec skiing destination Mont-Tremblant and that Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, had a cottage 50 kilometres away in Val-Morin. He said that his contact with Justin Trudeau at that time was limited to driving the youth home to his father’s on a couple of occasions after skiing and that there was no other significant contact between the two until Trudeau became an MP while Johnston was serving as governor-general. Johnston also had to account for his relationship with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. Johnston is a member of the foundation, which he explained as being akin to a shareholder of a corporation. “About a year after I became governor-general, I was invited to become an associate of the foundation, which is like being a shareholder of a company,” he said, stating that he had only been to four of five of the foundation’s general meetings. He further explained that his donations to the foundation amounted to between $300 to $400 a year, which he said is less than one per cent of his and his wife’s annual charitable contributions. These explanations were not enough for Poilievre however, who continued to call Johnston “a ski buddy, cottage neighbour and family friend,” in a press statement on Tuesday. This Liberal operative and close family friend of the Trudeaus was seen as independent enough to be appointed to Canada’s highest office, governor-general by former Conservative prime minister and Poilievre mentor Stephen Harper in 2010. Public confidence not restored by Johnstons report Despite his attempts to defend his impartiality and his arguments that the evidence he based his conclusions on must be kept secret, Johnston drew criticism from across the political spectrum and not just from Poilievre. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh stated nothing short of a full public inquiry will restore confidence in Canada’s democratic institutions. Nothing short of an independent public inquiry on foreign interference is good enough. Im deeply disappointed in the rapporteurs report. Well be taking these concerns directly to the PM and use all our tools in Parliament to get answers for Canadians. — Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) May 23, 2023 In his own response, Prime Minister Trudeau defended Johnston’s integrity, pointing out that he was appointed governor-general by a Conservative and urged his fellow party leaders to apply for security clearances to view the evidence. “I look forward to party leaders choosing to actually get the security clearances necessary to see the facts that underpin this report, Trudeau said on Tuesday. While the evidence that Johnston based his report on will be kept classified, Johnston will be holding further public hearings on matters such as the way threats are communicated from intelligence agencies and government officials. The post Johnston’s foreign interference report further shakes public confidence appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Elections, China, David Johnston, foreign interference]

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[l] at 5/24/23 10:14am
As the impacts of climate disruption become more frequent and intense, we need a range of solutions. One that’s getting a lot of attention is nuclear power. Industry is pushing hard for it, especially “small modular reactors,” and the federal government has offered support and tax incentives. After 30 years without building any new reactors, Ontario is also jumping onto the nuclear bandwagon again. How should we react? Along with its many known problems, as an inflexible, costly baseload power source, nuclear is becoming as outdated as fossil fuels. Small modular reactors will create even more waste and cost more — and slow the necessary transition to renewable energy. Many disadvantages of nuclear are well known. It can contribute to weapons proliferation. Radioactive waste remains highly toxic for a long time and must be carefully and permanently stored or disposed of. And while serious accidents are rare, they can be devastating and difficult to deal with, as the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters demonstrated. Uranium to fuel nuclear also raises problems, including high rates of lung cancer in miners and emissions from mining, transport and refining. Add that to the water vapour and heat it releases, and nuclear power produces “on average 23 times the emissions per unit electricity generated” as onshore wind, according to Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson. But the biggest issues are that nuclear power is expensive — at least five times more than wind and solar — and takes a long time to plan and build. Small modular reactors are likely to be even more expensive, especially considering they’ll produce far less electricity than larger plants. And because the various models are still at the prototype stage, they won’t be available soon. Because we’ve stalled for so long in getting off coal, oil and gas for electricity generation, we need solutions that can be scaled up quickly and affordably. The last nuclear plant built in Ontario, Darlington, ended up costing $14.4 billion, almost four times the initial estimate. It took from 1981 to 1993 to construct (and years before that to plan) and is now being refurbished at an estimated cost of close to $13 billion. In 1998, Ontario Hydro faced the equivalent of bankruptcy, in part because of Darlington. READ MORE: Pull the plug on nuclear subsidies Ontario’s experience isn’t unique. A Boston University study of more than 400 large-scale electricity projects around the world over the past 80 years found “on average, nuclear plants cost more than double their original budgets and took 64 per cent longer to build than projected,” the Toronto Star reports. “Wind and solar, by contrast, had average cost overruns of 7.7 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.” China has been building more nuclear power plants than any other country — 50 over the past 20 years. But in half that time, it has added 13 times more wind and solar capacity. As renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage technologies continue to rapidly improve and come down in price, costs for nuclear are rising. As we recently noted, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment report shows that nuclear power delivers only 10 per cent of the results of wind and solar at far higher costs. In the time it takes to plan and build nuclear, including small modular reactors, and for much less money, we could be putting far more wind, solar and geothermal online, and developing and increasing storage capacity, grid flexibility and energy efficiency. The amount it will cost to build out sufficient nuclear power — some of which must come in the form of taxpayer subsidies — could be better put to more quickly improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal. Putting money and resources into nuclear appears to be an attempt to stall renewable electricity uptake and grid modernization. Small modular reactors are likely to cost even more than large plants for the electricity they generate. And, because more will be required, they pose increased safety issues. David Suzuki Foundation research shows how Canada could get 100 per cent reliable, affordable, emissions-free electricity by 2035 — without resorting to expensive and potentially dangerous (and, in the case of small modular reactors, untested) technologies like nuclear. New nuclear is a costly, time-consuming hurdle on the path to reliable, flexible, available, cost-effective renewable energy. The future is in renewables. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at davidsuzuki.org. The post A clean energy transition means moving away from nuclear power appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Climate Change, nuclear energy]

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[l] at 5/24/23 9:33am
As the province of B.C. enters its seventh year of a public health emergency related to the toxic, unregulated drug supply, more people are dying from unnecessary overdoses than ever. Since the public health emergency was declared on April 14, 2016, to combat overdose deaths, more than 11,000 people have lost their lives.  For chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, the number of overdose deaths is “a crisis of incomprehensible scale.” According to preliminary numbers released by the B.C. Coroners Office, nearly 600 people died in the province from an overdose in the first quarter of 2023. At least 374 deaths were reported to the Coroners Service between February and March, meaning more than six people died from toxic drugs on any given day in B.C. this year. There were 177 toxic drug deaths reported in February. March saw the number climb to 197. Between January and March, 596 people died from overdoses. That is the second-highest total ever recorded in the first quarter of a year, with 599 deaths in the same time period in 2022. The number of deaths represent a provincewide death rate of 44.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Data from the province found 2022 to be the deadliest year on record for deaths due to toxic drugs, with 2,314 people losing their lives.  Overall, the B.C. government has classified unregulated drug toxicity as the leading cause of unnatural death in the province, making up more deaths than homicides, suicides, motor vehicle incidents, drownings and fire-related deaths combined. The government has also admitted there is no evidence that prescribed safe supply is a factor in the rise of toxic drug deaths. Politics of safe supply ‘getting worse’ Jean Swanson, a writer, anti-poverty activist and former Vancouver city councillor, called the number of toxic drug supply deaths in 2023 “horrific.” “There’s a lot of really, really good people that have been trying to fight for the solution, which is safe supply,” she explained in an interview with rabble.ca. “We haven’t got it yet and the politics of it are actually getting worse.” It is the weaponizing of solutions like safe supply in right-wing politics that Swanson attributes to her loss in the 2022 Vancouver municipal election. “The right-wing politicians are really using that issue to create a wedge and try and get elected, rather than to try and solve the problem,” Swanson said. For Swanson, the only thing advocates can do is keep up the pressure. READ MORE: Drug decriminalization: The sweet spot between legalization and prohibition Pressure can come in the form of civil disobedience, something Swanson is no stranger to. She was arrested in 2021 for giving out cocaine, heroin and meth outside of the Vancouver Police Department headquarters. The demonstration did not result in charges. Speaking of law enforcement, Swanson argues the rise in the “pushing police as the answer narrative” has only contributed to the public health emergency. Without an adequate response, people will continue to die from a toxic drug supply in B.C. As that number grows, so will the amount of people who have known someone or had a family member impacted by the crisis. “That’s eventually going to happen, probably, to Pierre Poilievre and Danielle Smith,” Swanson said. “I really don’t want to wait that long.” Comparing the safe supply of drugs with alcohol, Swanson argued there is not much difference between a bar and supervised drug consumption site. “Liquor is really harmful and is actually responsible for more deaths and sickness than illicit drugs,” she said. “And yet, because it’s regulated and legal, people don’t die from the first sip.” Anti-safe supply advocates are ‘pro-drug dealer’ For Garth Mullins, host of the Crackdown podcast and board member of Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, the political will to bring the number of overdose deaths down is all but non-existent. “If there was, then you would expect to see in budget documents and government policies the success or failure of programs measured against declining deaths,” Mullins noted. He pointed out the Ministry’s goal is to reduce deaths by 50 per cent by the end of 2023, a statistic that becomes less feasible as six people die each day in the province from poisoned drugs. Mullins thinks the government simply does not care about the crisis, adding politicians “care much more about whether people are using drugs or not using drugs.” “They’re pretty obsessed with the opioid molecule in your bloodstream and not whether there’s air in your lungs,” he said. Rather than focusing on saving lives, Mullins spoke about the “new moral panic” growing around safe supply programs, with attacks reaching new heights last week in the National Post. “If drug users can be all rounded up, then that’s where the dream ends for them,” he said. “It’s just we’re going back to being invisible.” The moral panic Mullins speaks about reflects a growing trend of zero-tolerance drug policy gaining traction among conservatives. The decades of drug war propaganda in journalism, pop culture and public policy has not helped the cause either. “The problem for them [right-wing leaders] is that they would rather that we die out of the visual range of their base,” he said. He attributes part of the backlash to safe supply programs to the fact that they are often small, tiny pilot projects that simply do not have the capacity to effectively combat the crisis. It is not the mission that is flawed, but rather, the funding to see them through that is jeopardizing its success. Without action, it is clear the number of toxic drug supply deaths will continue to rise. “Health Canada has models that show what will happen if no substantive programmatic changes occur,” Mullins said. “Things are just going to keep getting worse.” Mullins believes the solution to the crisis lies in funding low-barrier safe supply programs across the country that do not subject clients to urine tests and surveilled consumption. After all, he says those who are dying from fentanyl should be getting prescription fentanyl. By regulating drugs the same way as alcohol, those who use them can be sure of what is in the substance and how strong it is. Governments can also prohibit the substances from people under a specific age. “Society gets to decide certain rules around the sale of alcohol, but it does not have the ability to decide any rules around the sale of drugs,” Mullins said. “So the people who are anti-safe supply are actually ending up being pro-death and pro-drug dealer.” The post Six people are dying in B.C. each day from unregulated toxic drugs appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health, overdoses, safe injections sites, safe supply]

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[l] at 5/24/23 9:09am
Technology, smartphones, social media have all become fundamental parts of modern life. As the digital space becomes more ingrained in daily interactions, the role it plays in union organizing continues to grow.  Last week, Sarah Beth Ryther from Trader Joe’s United and Josh Thole, who helped Minor League baseball players get their first collective agreement, sat down for a panel discussion at the Canadian Labour Congress convention in Montreal on how the made technology work for the labour movement rather than against it.  WIth rising remote work, app-based gig jobs and more, meeting colleagues in person is not a regular occurrence for many. While technology may create some separation, it also provides tools for organizing across wider regions.  “You can capture a whole country using digital organizing,” Thole said in an interview with rabble.ca.  Thole has become very public about his collaboration with the platform Action Network, which he said played a huge role in organizing Minor League baseball players.  “Without technological tools, I wouldn’t be here,” Thole said. “Wed still be organizing, theres no question.”  Technology becoming a bedrock for organizing Ryther and Thole both said that technology provides a chance for people to keep themselves organized and focus on building connections with other workers.  “I think were finding that you need a high level of organization,” Ryther said. “Technology like Action Builder and Action Network allows you to track folks in real time and anticipate problems you might have with communication.”  “Organizing is fundamentally about relationships. Its about those connections, and Action Builder and Action Network allow you to make those connections to track those connections,” Ryther added.  The tracking aspect also allows for people to ensure that the whole community is supported while organizing, according to Ryther.  “Being able to see where you have weaknesses in connection, weaknesses in community is what helps turn online interest into in-person mobilization,” Ryther said. ”It’s about finding out how to close that gap.” Ryther said that Trader Joe’s United is still a “baby union” and that working to unionize more stores is a big undertaking. Technology allows her to understand where the union is at now and where they can go next.  “Action Builder and Action Network are allowing us to scale in a way that doesnt feel intimidating,” Ryther said.  Ryther added that the tools she is using lay out what an organizer needs in an easy to understand way, which conserves energy for other work.  Beyond keeping an organized list of contacts, allies and anti-union people, technology also helps a movement gain solidarity from those who are not directly affected.  “Social media can be a really, really big tool that we use to make our campaigns visible,” Ryther said. “Ive had people contact me in many different weird ways. They found old social media accounts, theyve emailed me at old email addresses, theyve emailed family members. This kind of shows you how desperate and excited people are. It shows how much energy there is in terms of folks wanting and needing to organize. They go through all these hoops to get in touch.”  Ryther pointed to the success of the Starbucks United’s Twitter account as an example of how social media helps build union support.  While creating initial connections and building union support have been a big part of technology’s role in organizing, one contribution that may not be immediately obvious is the layer of protection that technology provides against union busting.  While Thole was organizing minor league players, he said that combating anti-union sentiment was a huge obstacle.  “We were worried about an anti-union campaign run against our guys. We had to protect the players as much as possible, because they instilled a lot of trust in us,” Thole explained. “So how in fact, were we going to get to all of these guys without having to go into clubhouses or go to minor league facilities? The secrecy was a big piece. Had it not been for Zoom, Action Network and Action Builder it would have been impossible.” The post Technologys role in the future of union organizing appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, Gig economy, organizing]

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[l] at 5/23/23 4:56pm
Calgary may be the battleground in Alberta’s May 29 provincial election, but NDP Leader Rachel Notley stopped in Edmonton Friday morning to tell a throng of supporters packed into the entrance hall of the Citadel Theatre in the city’s downtown what her party would do for Alberta’s nowadays-neglected capital city.  “Our moment is now,” Notley told the capacity crowd of the Alberta NDP’s plan “to build a better future for Edmonton. “We are going to invest $1.8 billion into this city over the next three years, creating 5,000 new jobs in the process.” “We will build the new South Edmonton Hospital,” she continued, her emphasis reminding listeners that while the United Conservative government talks about its plans for the facility, it has stayed on the back burner since the UCP was elected in 2019. “We will get started on a new stand-alone Stollery Hospital, so no parent ever has to wait with their child in an overflowing emergency room. The Stollery, Edmonton’s children’s hospital, is now part of the University of Alberta Hospital complex and another project unlikely to be started under the current government, vague promises notwithstanding.  “We will build more affordable housing, thousands of new units and rental supports to lift people out of poverty and get them on the path to stable, healthy lives with more opportunity for everybody,” Notley said. (Most Edmontonians understand that affordable housing is part of the solution to the persistent social problems in the city’s downtown.)  “We will build and we will modernize 40 schools,” Notley said, schools in areas like the southwest, where Nathan Ip can tell you we desperately need them.” (A tip of the hat to the former three-term school trustee and NDP candidate in Edmonton-South West, the only Edmonton riding to elect a Conservative in 2019.) “No more ‘coming soon’ signs in empty fields. Just high quality education for your children delivered by 4,000 more teachers!” Ip, vice-chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, introduced Notley at Friday’s event and is thought to have a strong chance to defeat controversial UCP minister Kaycee Madu. Notley also promised an NDP government would build a new advanced skills precinct at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. There, she said, borrowing a page from the Joe Biden strategic handbook, “we will train thousands of new apprentices across all the skilled trades in partnership with unions and we will do that so that more Albertans can get good paying jobs that support their families and contribute to Alberta’s prosperity.” The opposition leader and former premier also promised to revitalize the capital city’s shabby downtown – neglected by successive Conservative governments, and lately supposedly the target of a law and order policing campaign by Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party. (A personal observation: As someone who walks through Edmonton’s downtown almost every weekday, including Friday on the way to the Citadel, is that there is no sign of Smith’s claimed boots on the ground.) “We’ll revitalize our downtown and support entrepreneurs and small business owners who – guess what? – won’t be paying any small business tax under an NDP government,” Notley promised. (We can talk another time about the merits of Alberta’s tax race to the bottom – it clearly resonates with voters.) “We will do all this without asking families to make sacrifices,” she added later.  “Instead, we will ask the biggest, most profitable corporations to pay their fair share.” The UCP, of course, will try its best to create the fear that any tax increase – even a tiny one affecting powerful fossil fuel corporations making out like bandits in the currently troubled world economy – will put Alberta on the road to poverty and perdition.  Later in her remarks, the NDP leader turned to the elephant in the room of Alberta’s 2023 election: Smith’s bizarre behaviour and many outrageous statements, and those of many of her candidates.  “My opponent, Ms. Smith, she doesn’t really like to talk that much about her team,” Notley observed. “The latest round of controversial comments coming from the UCP are ugly, embarrassing, and offensive. Just look at what’s been in the news. And look, also, at how Danielle Smith has responded. “When her deputy premier is caught last week on video saying people should pay to visit Emergency Rooms, she claims it was made up. But it’s there. On film. (This is a reference of one of Smith’s two deputy premiers, Nathan Neudorf. The other is the aforementioned Madu.)  Notley continued: “When her candidate in Calgary-Fish Creek made deeply misguided and racist comments about black Albertans, she said… nothing at all.” (That UCP candidate is Myles McDougall.) “And when her candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka compared children to, you know, I don’t even want to say it,” Notley began – a reference to Jennifer Johnson, the UCP’s now-notorious transphobic “poop-cookie” candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka.  “Let me try again. When the UCP goes after some of the most marginalized kids in our province, and Danielle Smith waits days to respond! You know you have a leadership problem. And we know that. Because, you know the real problem, honestly … is the leader!  Smith has said so many things, Notley explained, “all of them in high definition,” that it is hard to know where to begin. “She goes out and she calls criminals to discuss their criminal charges, interfering in the justice system and breaking the law in the process. My friends, that is wrong, and she must be held accountable. We cannot let this become the new Alberta. We must stand together and defend the Alberta that we know and we live in – inclusive, welcoming, compassionate, anti-racist, and pro-trans-rights.” Both Smith and Notley will know in a few days how much respect Albertans have for each other, and for the rule of law.  The Citadel was the site of one of Notley’s largest and most enthusiastic rallies in the lead-up to the 2015 election – and we all remember how that one turned out. So perhaps the venue has a lucky vibe for the premier and her election team.  If anything, the crowd was bigger and more enthusiastic Friday than in 2015 – so big, in fact, that the room was at capacity and even the fringiest outposts of the alt-right digital media had to admit that Notley’s supporters raised the roof. The post Rachel Notley unveils NDP plan to invest $1.8B in Edmonton appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 5/23/23 2:34pm
What would you guess a Canadian minister of international development actually does? Likely answers might include overseeing aid to poor countries, attending meetings about international assistance, lobbying his cabinet colleagues about the importance of aid,  and meeting with foreign officials to discuss ways of making a better world.  Certainly not selling arms. That would never be part of the job description, right?   Turns out, in Canada, it is. During a recent foreign affairs committee meeting, Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe asked Harjit Sajjan, “How does selling arms to Qatar fit with your mandate as Minister of International Development?”  The question was prompted by a briefing note obtained by The Maple showing Sajjan was advised by his staff to lobby for a light armored vehicle deal when he visited Qatar last fall.  The arms deal was listed as one of the international development minister’s “key messages” to raise with Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. In public, Sajjan talked about human rights and development. In private?  The international development minister’s promotion of arm sales to a monarchy highlights the militaristic, profit-oriented, nature of Canadian aid policy. In essence, even the most benevolent element of Canadian foreign policy is heavily shaped by geostrategic and corporate prerogatives.  Canadian aid’s role in assisting the controversial mining industry is another example. During the Stephen Harper government, there was significant attention devoted to how the international development minister used aid to support the mining sector. The Trudeau government has largely continued this policy, spending more than $100 million on aid projects assisting the mining sector.  On the geopolitical front, Sajjan’s predecessor in the position, Marie-Claude Bibeau, ramped up Canada’s low-level proxy war with Russia.  As part of the Liberal government extending Operation Unifier, Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine, Bibeau was the first G7 minister to travel to the line of contact between the warring factions in the east of that country.  Her July 2018 visit followed Canada’s move to ease restrictions that required Canadian military trainers to stay in the western half of Ukraine, away from the fighting in the east that had left over 10,000 dead.  After visiting Haiti a few months later, Bibeau disparaged mass protests against austerity, corruption and an illegitimate president.  Asked about Canada’s position on the protests, by TVA, Bibeau responded by attacking the popular uprising in Haiti, demanding, “The violence must stop; we will not come to a solution in this way.”  But the violence was overwhelmingly meted out by the Canadian-backed regime. If Ottawa and the U.S. hadn’t strenuously backed the PHTK regime, Haiti would likely be better off today.  The primary objective of Canadian overseas aid has long been to advance Western interests, particularly keeping the Global South tied to the U.S.-led geopolitical order. Initially conceived as a way to blunt radical decolonization in India, Canadian aid remains primarily about advancing Ottawa’s geopolitical objectives.  Historically, military intervention has elicited aid. Call it the “intervention-equals-aid” principle or “wherever Canadian or U.S. troops kill, Ottawa provides aid” principle.  From Korea in the early 1950s to Vietnam in the 1960s to Iraq at the start of 1990s and the former Yugoslavia at the end of that decade, Canadian assistance has followed U.S. and Canadian troops. In the early 2000s, the top recipients of Canadian aid were Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, which were all sites of foreign occupations.  In a slightly different manner, Canada’s unprecedentedly generous recent disbursements to Ukraine highlight the link between aid and war. Over the past 15 months, Ottawa has given $6 billion in bilateral assistance and third-party aid to Ukraine, while providing another $2 billion in arms. The aid is part of Canada’s contribution to the NATO proxy war.  Rather than be about what the ministerial title suggests, Canadian aid policy has long been linked to war, geopolitics and arms firms.  The post <strong>Truth about Canadian aid policy revealed in briefing note</strong> appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: World Politics, politics]

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[l] at 5/23/23 1:44pm
Luis Marco Siega is a volunteer with the Halton Health Coalition, and is encouraging the public to get engaged with the upcoming citizens referendum on health care in Ontario. “I’m part of this community. I’m a citizen of this country. I want my fellow citizens to have the same benefits that I have,” said Siega. Siega lived in Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, Boston and Ottawa over the course of his life before settling in Oakville, Ont. When he heard about Bill 60: Your Health Care Act, Siega joined Halton Health Coalition. Bill 60 essentially proposes to expand for-profit health care in Ontario by allowing a still undefined range of procedures and services to be carried out in new facilities called ‘integrated community health services centres.’ Historically, redirecting public health care to for-profit agencies has resulted in poorer patient access, safety and outcomes at a greater overall cost. “I want the people in my community to be able to have access to health care when they need it,” Siega shared. “I pay my taxes just so my neighbour doesn’t have to worry about whether he has enough money to pay for health care.” Siega lived in the US for several years. There he encountered people without access to health insurance through their work and others whose health insurance wasn’t comprehensive enough requiring them to pay out-of-pocket. “Even something small like a couple of thousand dollars, people don’t have that in their bank account. Therefore, they take on health care debt,” shared Siega. “It’s upsetting from an ethical standpoint and also from an economical standpoint. We have people struggling with health care debt on top of any other expenses they might have.” Siega saw a lot of money concentrated into the hands of health care insurance companies leaving people without enough to spend on groceries, housing, and student debt. According to Siega, the average Canadian values free universal health care and Ontarians in particular are not comfortable with the Conservative government’s expanded privatization plans and the lack of accountability to their constituents. “I’m opposed to privatization of any kind. People pay their taxes so they have access to their community hospital and clinics. Privatization creates a barrier for people who can’t pay,” said Siega. The business graduate who has worked in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, claims the scrutiny is much greater for non-profits, as is transparency. Not-for profits also have a cap on administration costs as opposed to costs for personal support workers, nurses, or program staff where there is no cap. Costs must be reported quarterly to the government to ensure the not-for-profit is on track to hit pre-set targets. For-profit health care is all about how much money the corporation can make. These facilities can choose to pick a small number of the easiest cases as long as they make a profit. “We will be subsidizing an organization whose goal and efforts will be directed towards improving the profits for their shareholders as opposed to making sure the people in our communities are healthy,” observed Siega. He points out that Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, which limits public service wage increases to one per cent, applies to nursing staff and PSWs in not-for-profit settings and not to private clinics or agencies who pull these workers from the public system with higher wages and bonuses. Siega encourages everyone in Ontario who cares about universal health care to get involved and volunteer with their local Ontario Health Coalition and to vote during the May citizen referendum to stop the privatization of hospital services. “Even if you think it’s a small thing to do, it has a big impact,” Siega said. The referendum is being run by regional health coalitions and will allow Ontarians to weigh in on Premier Doug Fords privatization efforts. The post Health coalitions across Ontario prepare for citizens referendum appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health, Political Action, Bill 124, Bill 60, Doug Ford, ontario health coalition, privatization]

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[l] at 5/23/23 1:39pm
It baffles me the way some political developments turn into scandals while other clearly scandalous developments turn out to be political nothing-burgers. Take, for instance, dramatic new numbers showing that privatized health care is more expensive than public health care — not just by a little bit, but wildly more expensive. This has all the makings of a scandal, particularly in Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford has been barrelling forward with plans to significantly increase health care privatization — plans he never revealed before his re-election last year. There’s fresh evidence why these plans are terrible: Quebec government data, released in April, show that surgeries at private clinics consistently cost the government more, often more than twice as much. And a May 12 CBC report revealed that our public hospitals, increasingly forced to rely on nurses supplied by private agencies, are paying those agencies up to eight times the going rate. Let’s just consider the folly of the nursing situation. Imagine that there are two nurses. Nurse One, employed in the emergency department at Toronto General Hospital, earns only $37.10 an hour, despite working under often gruelling conditions. (This is the actual median wage for registered nurses at hospitals in Toronto’s University Health Network.) The Ford government has blocked Nurse One from winning a higher wage, by capping nurses’ wage hikes at one per cent a year since 2019, even as inflation soared above seven per cent. One might conclude the Ford government is simply determined to keep nursing costs low. But that’s not really the case. Which brings us to Nurse Two. This second nurse became so disheartened by Ford’s low pay and dismissive treatment that he quit his hospital job and now works for a private nursing agency at roughly double the pay. Lots of other nurses have followed his path, leaving our hospitals seriously short-staffed and obliged to hire nurses from private agencies. Taking full advantage of the hospitals’ desperation, the agencies jack up the price. At crunch times, their rates go as high as $300 an hour — costing the hospital (ultimately, the government) about eight times what it pays Nurse One for the same work. Most of this excess pay ends up in the hands of the private agencies, which, as middlemen, are scooping up tens of millions of dollars of public money. This reckless use of public money could be avoided if the government simply paid Nurse One a reasonable wage. Ford’s refusal to do this suggests he has an agenda that has nothing to do with good governance. Rather, he seems motivated to crush the nurses, along with all other public sector workers struggling to catch up after three years of being held to a 1 per cent wage cap. Although the cap was struck down by the courts last fall, the Ford government is appealing that decision and fighting to maintain the cap. In addition to trouncing public sector unions, Ford appears keen to undermine public health care, thereby smoothing the way for more privatization. Certainly, he seems fixated on privatization and promoting private business interests. He doesn’t seem to understand that, as premier, his job is to protect the public, which includes shielding our valued public programs from pillaging by private businesses, whose only concern is making a buck. Ford and his ministers, steeped in their stag-and-doe ways, seem unaware that they are elected to be guardians of the public interest (even writing that, I realize how ridiculous it sounds, in their case). In the legislature, Health Minister Sylvia Jones appears unable to coherently defend health care privatization, lapsing into corporate pep-talk that “Innovation is not a bad word.” Of course, innovation isn’t bad. Indeed, it’s good. What’s bad is the way Jones and the rest of the Ford government use “innovation” as a cover for crushing workers and channelling public funds to private interests. That’s not innovation. It’s a betrayal of their role as public guardians. And, in any reasonable political universe, that would be a scandal. A version of this column first appeared in the Toronto Star. The post Ontarios shift to private health care will cost much, much more appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Health, Doug Ford, health care, Health Care Privatization]

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