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[l] at 2/4/23 5:00am
It’s been one year since the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’ occupation of Ottawa. Since then, anti-hate groups and activists have been calling on policy makers to take action against growing far-right extremism in our country. In this clip, MP Leah Gazan outlines the “deeply troubling” growing white nationalist movement in Canada and condemns the leaders behind it.  “When you have leaders of mainstream political parties fraternizing with white nationalists, fraternizing with residential school deniers, fraternizing with leaders of a convoy [which was] funded, in large part, by the alt-right wing in the United States — this is deeply troubling.”  Leah Gazan is Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. She is currently the NDP critic for Children, Families, and Social Development. She is also the critic for Women and Gender Equality, and the deputy critic for Housing. Gazan is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, located in Saskatchewan, Treaty 4 territory. This is a clip from rabble’s most recent live politics panel: ‘Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy.’ The panel featured guests MP Leah Gazan, Jim Stanford, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Karl Nerenberg. With co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies. Off the Hill is a live panel unpacking current issues of national significance. This series features guests and discussions centred on the impact politics and policy have on people. Our series focuses on how to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill.To support Off the Hill’s mission of mobilizing individuals to create progressive change in national politics — on and off Parliament Hill — visit rabble.ca/donate. The post In 2023, we must be vigilant about growing white nationalism in Canada appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, Canadian Politics, alt-right, off the hill]

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[l] at 2/3/23 8:50am
Surely it was mere coincidence that two of the principal actors in Alberta’s COVID-19 drama had soft post-pandemic landings announced Wednesday. Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney, pushed out of office by the schemes of the current premier, former talk-radio host and conspiracy theorist Danielle Smith, has found a presumably plush sinecure at Bennett Jones LLP, the law firm so big it has two head offices, one in Calgary and the other in Toronto.  “We are delighted that Jason has joined Bennett Jones,” said Hugh MacKinnon, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer. “He brings an extraordinary combination of leadership and public policy experience to the firm and our clients.” Kenney will be a member of Bennett Jones’ public policy group, the firm noted in its press release, so no client need fear the former premier will have any influence over legal advice.  It may seem odd to some readers for a politician who is not a lawyer to land a position at a well-known law firm, but in reality it’s not all that uncommon. Indeed, a prominent Toronto law firm that shall remain unnamed once found a Conservative prime minister’s former college dorm mate close enough to power to hire for such a position!  Obviously, Bennett Jones is hiring the former premier and federal cabinet minister for his connections and influence, not for his political advice.  Meanwhile, the better deal went to Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health (CMOH), who has been hired as a deputy provincial health officer by the Government of British Columbia. It was never completely clear whether Hinshaw jumped or was pushed when she left the office in mid-November 2022, but her days were obviously numbered after Smith was sworn in as premier just over a month earlier. The previous summer, Smith had demanded an investigation into the $277,911 bonus Hinshaw had received from the Kenney Government for her work during the pandemic, in addition to her $363,364 per annum salary.  According to B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Hinshaw has signed on for six months in the position, but you’ve got to know that the chances are pretty good she’ll stick around in the land of plum blossoms and sea breezes.  “Dr. Hinshaw will support the work of the office of the PHO,” Henry said in a B.C. Government news release yesterday. “I feel very fortunate to work alongside such talented and dedicated public health experts and I know their expertise will be a great assistance as we emerge from the pandemic and continue to address the many public health challenges facing the province.” Trish Tacoma, the dress designer who owns the Smoking Lily boutique in Victoria that created Hinshaw’s famed periodic table of elements dress that sold out soon after the former CMOH showed up wearing it at a weekly COVID update in 2020, will doubtless be delighted by this development.  The post Former Alberta premier and CMOH – both find soft landings appeared first on rabble.ca.

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

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[l] at 2/3/23 7:40am
It’s a grand old hubbub created by the sudden, dramatic entrance onto the media stage of ChatGPT, a program that’s devoured pretty much everything ever written and published, which can then produce articles or essays on any subject it’s asked about. And it’s online free. It seems to operate mostly by anticipating words likely to follow words you input and then so on down the line. Like “Napoleon” — and you’re off to the races. This sounds nothing like what we experience as thinking creatures. Although, on reflection, we can probably all recall people who talk like that — as witnessed by clichés I’ve dropped into this very column. I asked Adam Zendel, my colleague in a course I teach on media at U of T, to try ChatGPT since he marks course essays. He did and his responses included WOW, SPOOKY and “‘alarmingly good.” He said it’d likely get good marks, though it’s “about as stylishly written as an encyclopedia article.” When he spoke with the class, he said if they wanted to prove they’d really written their essays, to simply insert some signs of actual human life. He did seem energized by it, perhaps in contrast to the tedium that uni essays (and marking) have largely become. That may show less about a spooky new tech and more about worn out pedagogic practices still in use. Universities (and public schools like New York City’s) are in full panic though they’re uncertain why. They’ve proliferated administrators and support staff in recent years, some for “academic integrity” offices that breed eerie proceedings run by budding Grand Inquisitors. But that’s mostly about stuff like plagiarism, which ChatGPT isn’t. It’s not copying; it’s, ugh, creating — so it’s like asking your teacher parent about a topic and copying down what he says. There’s rules against that too but they’re harder to convict on. Writing in The Atlantic, Stephen Marche says “The College Essay Is Dead,” though for generations it’s been the way “we teach children how to research, think and write.” That would leave Grand Canyon-sized holes in the courses but a better question is: would it be a bad or good thing? Harold Innis, a colossal U of T prof a century ago, said that the formal, “polished essay” — of which he’d written and marked multitudes — was introduced by Chinese dynasties, c. 600-1300 C.E., to “prevent the literati from thinking too much.” Those literati can make trouble if they get too critical of state policies. It worked so well that potential troublemakers were kept occupied with their essays and eventually the Mongols took over. But why do polished essays disrupt critical thinking? Because they closet you inside your own thoughts rather than the freewheeling give-and-take of debate with others, where real creative thought occurs. Like what? Start with Socrates and his pupils in ancient Athens. Socrates never wrote down a damn thing, though his student, Plato, kept notes and wrote them up. Socrates said reading gave people a “conceit of wisdom” without true understanding, since they hadn’t properly interrogated the issues, through discussion. That’s why, wrote(!) Innis, writing is excellent for “disseminating” new truths but of little value in “discovering” them. This moment is a chance to reverse that course. Universities are in crisis. Enrolments in the humanities are alarmingly low and prideful overlords like Doug Ford don’t see the point in teaching anything that doesn’t lead directly to a job helping someone rich get richer. The result is grads who can do specified tasks but may have trouble thinking incisively about the mess their generation’s in. But wait, can there be another way to teach and learn? Talking and thinking together? The Socratic method! The oral tradition, still fitfully around, not just for teaching but marking! How do good ideas replace bad ones? Almost never because of their clear superiority. Almost always because the dusty entrenched ways became unusable with the arrival of some unexpected new factor: cue ChatGPT. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star. The post ChatGPT is the best thing to happen to teaching since the Socratic method appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Education, Technology, ai, teaching]

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[l] at 2/3/23 7:00am
This week on rabble radio, rabble labour reporter Gabriela Calugay-Casuga sits down with CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer Yolanda McClean. The two discuss ways of achieving gender and racial equity inside and outside of Canada’s labour movement.  The two also discuss CUPE Ontario’s recently launched initiative, Women in Leadership Development (WILD) program for Indigenous, Black and racialized women. You can learn even more about CUPE Ontario’s WILD program here.  About our guest Yolanda McClean is the first Black woman to hold either of the two top positions at CUPE Ontario. She is well known in the broader labour movement, serving as one of the two executive vice presidents representing CUPE at the Ontario Federation of Labour and also as the President of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists for Canada. McClean has also served on the CUPE national executive board for a decade as the diversity vice president for racialized members, and now as a regional vice-president for Ontario. 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 CUPE Ontario’s Yolanda McClean on empowering BIPOC women workers appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Labour, BIPOC, CUPE Ontario]

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[l] at 2/3/23 5:17am
Being a teacher in an underfunded system while being poorly paid and resourced can be heart breaking. Education International, which has affiliates in Canada, has started a global campaign to Go Public! Fund Education. 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 The heartbreak of being a teacher appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Education, Labour, education, teachers]

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[l] at 2/2/23 2:21pm
There has been virulent and negative reaction to this writer’s story, published last week, on the Holocaust. That was perhaps predictable, but it is still more than a little depressing. The article dealt with the virtual suppression, for many decades following World War II, of most public discourse on the Nazis’ systematic mass murder of millions of innocent women, children and men. This author suggested that the onset of the Cold War immediately after World War II pushed consideration of the crimes of Hitler’s regime out of sight and out of mind.  In the West, a new arch-enemy, the Communist menace, required our full attention, leaving no room to publicly honour and remember the victims of yesterday’s enemy. Some wrote to this writer to say there might have been additional reasons for the decades of near silence, among them the persistence of antisemitism. It is also plausible, they said, that Holocaust survivors did not want to relive the horrors they had experienced and that Jewish institutions in countries such as Canada and the U.S. were wracked with guilt because they did not do more to save those who were the targets of Nazi terror. As well, those same Jewish organizations had other and more immediate priorities in the wake of the war, most importantly settling the refugees and survivors. De-coupling current Israeli policies from consideration of the Holocaust Another ancillary point of last week’s article was that it would be unwise and unfair to dismiss the genuine suffering of Holocaust victims because the current extreme-right government of Israel pursues unjust and undemocratic policies. It is possible, this writer said, to champion rights for the Palestinian people and to honour the memory of Holocaust victims.  This latter view elicited strong reactions on opposite sides of the argument. Here is part of one example, which came in the form of a comment to the article, posted by a person who called themselves Gaslit:  “Poor Jews. How about stfu and speak out about the terrorist, fascist Jew nation? The holocaust was many decades ago, but Jews never stop talking about it … You would think the Israeli Jews werent currently committing their own genocide and occupation of the Palestinians with how much whining Israel and Israelis do. Im sick to death of the lies and gas-lighting.” Those are strong, discourteous and impetuous words, but at least have some connection to fact and argument. Then, however, the commenter went further and wrote: “If you want to know why people seem to hate Jews, open your goddamn eyes.” rabble deemed this comment, in its entirety, to be contrary to its standards and unpublished it.  I quote it here to show that the danger at which I hinted in the article – conflating the bad behaviour of the Israel government with “the Jews” – is real and present. Coming from a totally opposite and avowedly Zionist point of view another reader posted this on Facebook: “The author doesn’t mention Israel’s capture and trial of Eichmann as a turning point. He mentions Israel only to indict its current right-wing government. He repeats the meaningless meme ‘Palestinian rights’ and says one can support them without contradicting Holocaust awareness. He never mentions Israel’s right to exist or Israel as the major haven for victims of antisemitism.”  In 1960, Israeli agents captured the senior Nazi, war criminal, and one of the principal architects of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, at his hiding place in Argentina.  The government of Israel then publicly tried Eichmann, found him guilty and executed him, by hanging. At the time of the Nazi fugitive’s abduction, Argentina objected vehemently to the notional breach of its sovereignty. The Argentines brought the matter up to the United Nations, but eventually pulled in their horns and made peace with Israel. The Eichmann affair also provoked, or provided the pretext for, an upsurge of far-right antisemitism in Argentina, which was a frightening moment for the large and well-established Jewish community in that country.  Such a reaction might serve to underscore the argument that, in the years immediately following World War II, many Jews believed a strategy of letting sleeping dogs lie was preferable to dwelling on and seeking redress for the Holocaust. The capture of Eichmann, in retrospect, also serves to support the thesis that the West turned away from a fulsome consideration of the Holocaust in large measure because of the need to vigorously conduct the Cold War. Years after the Eichmann trial, in 2006, declassified U.S. Central Intelligence Agency documents showed that both U.S. and West German intelligence knew where Eichmann was hiding, but did nothing, because they feared what Eichmann might reveal about former Nazi colleagues who had found work with Western spy agencies. It is true that the Eichmann trial did focus international attention on the Holocaust, but that interest did not last. Of more lasting influence was a U.S. television min-series, broadcast in the late 1970s, and called simply Holocaust.  That product of the U.S. entertainment industry helped put the word Holocaust into wide circulation. Governments and non-governmental organizations subsequently adopted the word, and it acquired something resembling and official status, always written with an uppercase “H”.  Many critics and survivors, including writer Elie Wiesel, panned the TV series, saying it trivialized the murder of six million people. They also did not appreciate the fact that the broadcaster profited from the Holocaust by selling advertising time during the well-watched episodes.  Indeed, one of the broadcaster’s motives for commissioning Holocaust was to emulate the popular success of the earlier mini-series which depicted the African slave trade, Roots.  Whatever the merits of those criticisms, Holocaust the mini-series was broadcast throughout the world and did have a significant impact, most notably in West Germany.  Disingenuous to use the phrase Palestinian rights? The same Facebook commenter who brought up the Eichmann case also argued that the very phrase “Palestinian rights” is, in his words, “disingenuous”. He put it this way: “Behind the veil of this disingenuous formula, if one lifts the veil, one immediately finds the long-standing demands for Free Palestine from the River to the Sea, and for the Right of Return of the children and grandchildren of the Arab refugees of 1948, which presupposes the delegitimization and abolition of the Jewish state.” This writer is not sure everyone who cares about the rights of the five million people living in the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza) would advocate there should be a wholesale return of three generations of the Palestinian diaspora.  And it is important to recognize that there are currently no talks aimed at anything resembling a state for the Palestinians, let alone the return of the descendants of the refugees of 1948.  The recently formed far-right coalition government in Israel has no interest in such talks. It intends to expand illegal settlements on the West Bank and make it easier for Israeli settlers to own firearms. In that context, it is fanciful to argue affirming Palestinian rights has anything to do with the shape of a hypothetical, future peace settlement.  Proposing it is disingenuous and illegitimate to even to utter the phrase Palestinian rights is, of course, far more subtle and nuanced than ordering “the Jews” to “shut the fuck up”. But, to this writer, both interventions serve a similar purpose: to shut the door on reasoned and respectful conversation.  Readers are free to make up their own minds. No doubt we will hear from at least some of them. The post Holocaust story unleashes angry responses appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism]

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[l] at 2/2/23 11:23am
After months of scrapping with the United Conservative Party (UCP) government over the role Athabasca University (AU) should play in economic development for the Town of Athabasca, university president Peter Scott has been fired.  In a statement emailed to AU faculty and staff Wednesday ostensibly announcing the appointment of a new president, UCP-appointed board Chair Byron Nelson confirmed that Scott “has been released from his position as president of Athabasca University.” While the term “released” was ambiguous, Nelson soon after told media Scott had been “terminated without cause.” Nelson, a former Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidate, did not give a reason for Scott’s firing in the email, nor did he say in his statement how or when the decision was made, or precisely by whom – factors that could turn out to be important if a satisfactory severance deal cannot be reached with departing president, who was hired only in January 2022. According to the Globe and Mail, Scott’s five-year contract had a base annual salary of $305,000 and indicated he is entitled to 26 weeks’ salary as severance. Given the circumstances of his firing, arguably for trying to do what he was hired to do after moving from Australia, it’s possible that won’t be the end of the story.  Scott was touted as “an international expert in digital-first learning” when his appointment to lead the 53-year-old distance education university was announced. He had been vice-chancellor at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. He holds a PhD in psychology from Sheffield University in the U.K.  However, he soon made himself unpopular with Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides and former premier Jason Kenney by publicly opposing their scheme to force 500 employees and their families to move to the Town of Athabasca, population 2,800, 145 kilometres north of Edmonton. Scott’s firing seemingly confirms an unprecedented level of interference in the operation of the post-secondary institution by elected officials.  In a video message posted in August last year – watch it soon, because AU is bound to pull it down quickly now – Scott assailed the Kenney-Nicolaides plan as “1980s thinking” that would put AU on “the path to ruin.”  In the 12-minute video, he accused Dr. Nicolaides and the UCP of putting regional pork-barrel politics ahead of the interests of the university and its students. “I’m concerned that the minister has put AU in an unreasonable, untenable position,” he said. “Signing this agreement may set the university back 40 years.” Nicolaides eventually toned down his plans for a large move, at least for the time being, but continued to insist he wanted the university’s top executives to live in the town. He told members of the AU community he believed it was possible for AU to expand the worldwide “near virtual campus” Scott and earlier presidents had advocated while still keeping a significant number of employees at the university’s two-building campus in the town that few students ever see.  Whether the UCP government demanded Dr. Scott’s removal, the board decided to fire him on its own, or the decision was made by Nelson and other government appointees on the board, his replacement is presumably willing to live in Athabasca and be easier for the minister to get along with.  Alex Clark, the new president, was until Wednesday AU’s dean of health sciences.  He was a leading candidate in the search that chose Scott, Nelson’s email said. But given the state of turmoil, falling enrollment, the fact the university is facing a $5 million funding shortfall, plus the threats of cuts to funding if the university failed to do Nicolaides’ bidding, a normal executive search would probably have had trouble finding a qualified outside candidate willing to take the job.  Clark holds a PhD in nursing and is an RN. He is the author of a blog called “The Happy Academic” and, according to his official AU biography, was once named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. In a video Clark said that “as president, with an active residence in the town of Athabasca, I commit to grow AU’s contributions near and far.” The post Athabasca University President Peter Scott fired by Albertas ruling UCP appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, Athabasca University]

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[l] at 2/2/23 10:51am
In this clip, Clayton Thomas-Müller shares his thoughts on how a just transition and climate justice are only possible if the federal government stands up to big oil companies.  Crucially, Thomas-Müller says, the government must also listen to Indigenous Peoples and appreciate the knowledge they provide. “I think the Government of Canada needs to finally start listening to Indigenous knowledge carriers and the things that we’ve been trying to share as far as climate mitigation and, especially, adaptation … And I think this is something Indigenous Peoples bring to the table when we talk about a just transition and a reorganizing of Canada’s economic model.”  Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6-based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, located in Northern Manitoba. He is an Indigenous activist, campaigner and public speaker. He is also the author of Life in the City of Dirty Water. This is a clip from rabble’s most recent live politics panel: ‘Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy.’ The panel featured guests MP Leah Gazan, Jim Stanford, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Karl Nerenberg. With co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies. Off the Hill is a live panel unpacking current issues of national significance. This series features guests and discussions centred on the impact politics and policy have on people. Our series focuses on how to bring about progressive change in national politics — on and off the hill.To support Off the Hill’s mission of mobilizing individuals to create progressive change in national politics — on and off Parliament Hill — visit rabble.ca/donate. The post The federal government of Canada should protect people, environment – not big oil appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Indigenous, just transition, off the hill]

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[l] at 2/2/23 10:45am
February 1 marked a beginning and an end. It’s the first day of Black History Month, the national celebration honouring the hard-won achievements of African Americans over the painful arc of the more than 400 years since the first ship of enslaved Africans arrived in 1619. February 1 was also the day of the funeral for Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old African-American father who died on January 10 after being brutally beaten by five Memphis police officers three days earlier. As Tyre was laid to rest, a firestorm was erupting over how Black history is taught, with at least one state’s rejection of a proposed AP African-American history curriculum. Tyre Nichols was driving home on the evening of Saturday, January 7 when Memphis police pulled him over, they claimed, for reckless driving. Even the police chief later admitted there was no such basis for the traffic stop. “Get the f—- out the f——ing car!” one officer screamed, to which Tyre responded, “I didn’t do anything.” Police pulled Tyre from the car and roughly pinned him to the ground. Tyre appeared frightened but remained calm. As one officer Tased him, he escaped, running towards home. The police caught up with Tyre on a quiet residential street just a couple hundred feet from home. More police resumed the vicious attack. Police body cameras and a pole-mounted security camera documented the assault. Tyre’s final words as he was beaten into unconsciousness were to call for his mother. Less than 10 minutes after the initial traffic stop, Tyre, handcuffed and bloodied, was propped against a police car. When he fell over, he was again propped up, but otherwise ignored by the police and EMTs. Twenty minutes passed before an ambulance arrived. He died in the hospital three days later. The five officers, all of whom are Black, were fired and charged with 2nd degree murder. A white officer, heard on the video saying, “I hope they stomp his ass,” was suspended, as was another officer. Two Memphis Fire Department EMTs were also fired, as was their on-site supervisor, a lieutenant, for failing to adequately help Tyre. “He had a beautiful soul, and he touched everyone,” RowVaughn Wells, Tyre’s mother, said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “The boy smiled all the time. He loved his mother’s cooking. He loved his son. That’s why he came to Memphis in the first place, to be with his mom, build a better life for him and his son. But Memphis took my son away from me.” At the funeral, Rev. Al Sharpton delivered Tyre’s eulogy and family attorney Ben Crump spoke from the pulpit. Both men praised local racial justice and police accountability activists for bringing attention to Tyre’s murder. Among those recognized was Amber Sherman, member of the Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter. “It definitely took a lot of on-the-ground organizing, pressuring the folks in charge,” Amber Sherman said on Democracy Now! “If we hadn’t had the protest…if we hadn’t shown up at City Hall on MLK Day, if we hadn’t been continuing to show up at the DA’s Office and hosting a sit-in, if we hadn’t continued to pull up on people who are not responding to us, then we definitely wouldn’t be getting that video footage.” Change doesn’t happen without organizing and activism, as the history of Memphis so painfully illustrates. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Memphis in 1968, supporting striking municipal sanitation workers fighting for better, safer working conditions after two workers were crushed to death in a malfunctioning garbage truck. On April 3, 1968, King gave his famous “To the Mountaintop” speech at Memphis’ Mason Temple. The next afternoon, he was assassinated, standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. While King’s assassination is a well-known point in historical time, it falls on a continuum of systemic racism, white supremacy and violence against African Americans. Tyre’s killing now has a permanent place on that tragic timeline, along with the police killings of Michael Brown, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many more. Tyre and Breonna were both born on the same day, June 5, 1993. Neither will reach their 30th birthday. This is why honest, comprehensive school curricula on Black history is so important. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed the whitewashing of Black history, demanding the removal of topics like Black Lives Matter, police brutality and reparations, recently leading the successful effort to ban the new AP African-American history curriculum in the Sunshine State. So much for sunshine. Justice for Tyre Nichols and other Black victims of police violence ultimately relies on organized action from an informed citizenry. Black history needs not just to be a month, but taught every single day. Kids – and adults – need to learn the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This column originally appeared in Democracy Now! The post Justice for Tyre Nichols and the attack on Black history appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, US Politics, Anti-black racism, Black History Month]

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[l] at 2/1/23 1:49pm
A new year brings new reflections. At least it does for me. And it can bring about new perspectives to share. In rural Canada, one often shares ideas and perspectives around a big kitchen table. Historically, it is where a lot of organizing began for solutions. It’s true that you have to understand the problem to begin contemplating the solution. But most of the time, at least in this column, identifying the problem is on-going and happens often……you research the problem, substantiate why it is a problem, and speculate on where we are headed if the problem continues. But rarely do you have the chance, time or space to follow through on a thorough discussion of the possible avenues to take toward solutions. Some of us understand that drastic change is required in our food systems. And some of us also understand that world hunger is a problem of distribution of resources and not anything as simplistic as simply population or production. But as we fret and meet climate change, war, and other global conflicts head-on, such issues as agricultural production, distribution and environment may lead to having not enough food to feed the population. In other words, population numbers could be a problem — but what comes first when it comes to global hunger — population issues, lack of support for local food production, or not being prepared to produce food and distribute where it is needed. Asking fundamental questions such as these is when the solutions might begin to happen. I like to call this creative exercise when it comes to food as the big kitchen table. On most farms the big kitchen table was where meetings have been held to organize farmers, to rally around important social issues, to protect and ramp-up services for communities, etc. That big kitchen table might now be on the farm, in the urban, at conferences, on Zoom, or sitting around and chatting over your beverage of choice. I imagine the report I am about to share came from brainstorming and discussion by the IPES-Food the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. I can only imagine the discussions and conversations, zoom meetings, emails chats between this group of 23 independent experts of varied backgrounds from 16 countries covering five continents. It has lead to ground-breaking thinking on global food systems, We have heard of slow food and the 100-mile diet. Here is another phrase that will hopefully catch-on: IPES-Food brings us the “long food movement” and explains what our agri-food systems might look like up to 2045 if we dare dream about a better food system. Published in 2021, the report titled “The Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems to 2045” outlines some of the major issues — but quickly advances to how transformation might occur with farmers, communities, and sustainability at the centre. Essentially the report maps out two possible future scenarios: What could happen if agri-business is allowed to run its course; and what could happen if “instead, the initiative is reclaimed by civil society and social movements — from grassroots organizations to international NGOs, from farmers’ and fishers’ groups, to cooperatives and unions.” The report authors ask us to “…consider what this ‘Long Food Movement’ could achieve if it succeeds in thinking decades ahead, collaborating across sectors, scales, and strategic differences, working with governments and pressuring them to act, and transforming financial flows, governance structures, and food systems from the ground up.” Quite the challenge and an interesting read. This column has outlined some of the  major issues related to agriculture and our food systems — from land grabbing in Canada and pension fund speculation, agriculture and climate change, to urban farms, the shocks of COVID-19 on the food system, right through to the harm of pesticides like Roundup. But, even in this column, the big kitchen table discussions where solutions are mapped out coherently and globally have been wanting. The Long Food Movement will stand the test of time as we move into the next quarter century. While the full report, published in English, French and Spanish versions, is more than 175 pages long, there is also a 12-page report that can help to whet your appetite. From there you can move into the longer report, replete with amazing references ripe for exploration. The report outlines the various pathways and opportunities to a fairer, sustainable, and productive agricultural system based on the needs of the community. These pathways and opportunities call for: policies that promote healthy soils, diversity in crops varieties, livestock breeds and aqua- and agri-ecological food systems; deeper and more effective anti-trust and competition laws; recognition of food workers, their rights, and the key role they play in food production; and ethical consumerism IPES—Food publishes several reports in a year. Check this page to add to your 2023 reading material. The post The long food movement… a future in the making appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Economy, Labour, agriculture]

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[l] at 2/1/23 12:42pm
Talk about the perfect metaphor for Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government in the year of Our Lord 2023: A couple of guys day drinking in a 7-Eleven and yakking about it.  Well, bois, it just doesn’t get any better than this!  I speak of course of the social media video made by Red Tape Reduction Minister Dale Nally and his pal Larry about how the UCP is making Alberta a better place by cutting “red tape,” which as we all understand is a venerable pejorative term used by people who don’t like the rules to describe regulations.  The reference, by the way, to “bois” – usually pronounced boys – is a reference to the beer these two worthy gentlemen are quaffing. Is this a dogwhistle to the UCP base? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll know if they show up in another video wearing Hawaiian shirts and camo vests. Most likely it was just the only beer from an Alberta brewery on hand in the store.  Nally – who is the MLA for Morinville-St. Albert and also the Minister of Service Alberta, by tradition the least significant portfolio in an Alberta cabinet – was touting the government’s Jason-Kenney-era promise to “cut red tape,” a phrase that needs to be enclosed in scare quotes not just because many regulations benefit society but also because conservative efforts to reduce it so often result in the creation of even more regulation. For example, to allow customers to swill booze on the premises, 7-Eleven will require a restaurant licence and will also have to hire staff who have received the Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s liquor sales staff training course, which sounds like two additional pieces of red tape to me.  Premier Danielle Smith’s government has been pushing its not-very-significant red-tape initiative hard for the past couple of days, presumably to distract from the embarrassment caused by Justice Minister Tyler Shandro’s Alberta Law Society hearing and the privacy breach he publicly committed while it was taking place.  The idea of selling beer and wine in convenience stores has worked well enough for many years in Quebec and Newfoundland, which like Alberta remain part of Canada. It could work well here, too, if it is done right.  “It is because of our government’s red tape reduction that 7-Eleven locations with cafes, like this one here, are licensed to sell and serve alcohol,” enthused Nally, just in case you were thinking of letting the kids run down to the corner 7-Eleven by themselves, in his one-minute social media video.  But this deal seems to have been worked out only with the Dallas, Texas-based, Japanese-owned, multinational convenience store chain.  Moreover, the idea appears to have started out not as red tape reduction, but as part of COVID-19 mitigation measures to AGLC regulations for consumption of alcohol in parks and restaurant off-sales of beer and wine during the pandemic.  As CBC beer columnist and Athabasca University professor Jason Foster pointed out in his blog last week, “this decision stretches the definition of an eating establishment to the point of absurdity. Sure, 7-Eleven serves food. Hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza and other hot greasy things are its anchor. … But does that make it a restaurant? I am skeptical.” More importantly, Foster continued, “this push by 7-Eleven is more about finding a back door way to allow them to sell beer and wine like a liquor store. … This is about expanding retail sales to convenience stores.” “This change has the potential to upend Alberta’s liquor retail system,” he wrote. “It is being done without any consultative process with either Albertans or other players in the industry or without any open recognition of its potential impact on the liquor retail industry.  “Worse, it is being implemented in a way that clearly advantages one of the largest convenience store chains on the planet,” Foster added, noting that “a policy that clearly provides an unfair advantage to one for-profit player at the expense of others is bad policy.” Whether any of this benefits consumers can be debated. It is certainly unlikely to lower prices or address public health and safety concerns. It may drive some of Alberta’s many marginal liquor stores out of business, a change that certainly won’t stimulate economic growth, diversification and job creation, as Nally asserts it will in his video.  Not all regulation eliminations in the UCP’s red tape cutting exercise are bad. For example, allowing government offices to accept digital signatures makes sense and will ease the burden on public employees and businesses alike.  But most examples touted by the UCP are dangerous.  For example allowing cryptocurrency scammers to operate in a rules-free “regulatory sandbox,” making it easier for the parks ministry to cave in to off-road vehicle users by “moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach,” and making sure only pro-industry captured agencies make regulations affecting resource development will all have harmful impacts on Alberta and Albertans.  The post Day drinking with Dale and Larry: A metaphor for Alta.’s UCP government appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 2/1/23 9:27am
Resolving the climate crisis is a challenge — but not for lack of solutions. What’s needed is political will and public support. Considerable research shows existing methods and technologies could quickly shift the world away from fossil fuels — even without accounting for rapidly advancing renewable energy and storage technologies. As Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson told The Guardian, “We have wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, electric cars. We have batteries, heat pumps, energy efficiency. We have 95% of the technologies right now that we need to solve the problem,” adding that the remaining five per cent “is for long-distance aircraft and ships…for which hydrogen-powered fuel cells can be developed.” In his forthcoming book No Miracles Needed, Jacobson lists other benefits, including reducing pollution and related health care costs and deaths, lowering energy prices and improving energy efficiency (much of the energy from fossil fuels is lost as heat). David Suzuki Foundation research shows that by prioritizing wind, solar, energy storage, energy efficiency and interprovincial transmission, Canada could reach zero-emissions electricity by 2035 “without relying on expensive and sometimes unproven and dangerous technologies like nuclear or fossil gas with carbon capture and storage.” Although Jacobson sees a possible role for “direct air capture” technologies that remove CO2 from the air, he’s skeptical about carbon capture and storage, new nuclear, biofuels and blue hydrogen (which requires fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage to produce). “Carbon capture and storage is solely designed to keep the fossil fuel industry in business,” Jacobson told The Guardian. As many, including me, have pointed out, nuclear is expensive and takes a long time to build, while renewable energy is readily available at far lower costs. Biofuels still pollute and often require lots of land. As for the oft-repeated claim that mining for renewable energy materials is too destructive, Jacobson says the mining required for wind and solar is about one per cent of that required for the fossil fuel system in terms of the mass of materials. (That doesn’t mean we should dismiss mining-related issues.) Not everyone shares Jacobson’s optimism, but he makes compelling arguments and backs them with substantial research. Why wouldn’t we employ all available solutions, when failing to do so will lead to catastrophe? Much of the pushback is from oil, gas and coal interests and the short-sighted politicians, “dark money” groups and media that support them — as has been the case for the many decades we’ve known burning fossil fuels and destroying natural systems that store carbon are causing the world to heat to levels inhospitable to humans and many other beings. Plenty of industry propaganda is misleading and disingenuous, and counts on widespread lack of awareness among the public, especially older people who tend to vote more often. For example, arguments that Canada’s oilsands industry is cleaning up its act and reducing emissions fail to mention this only refers to operations emissions and not the far more serious problems caused by burning the fuels in countries we export to. Although the fossil fuel industry is responsible for significant misinformation, promoters of other large-scale power sources are also digging in, as it’s easier under current economic systems to profit from these often-monopolized sources. As one small example, a racketeering trial just got underway in Ohio against top Republican lawmakers accused of taking $60 million in bribes — mostly funnelled through a secretive, tax-exempt dark money group called Generation Now — to bail out ailing nuclear power plants by adding a surcharge to customers’ energy bills. A Guardian article notes the case follows similar scandals in Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. Money was also channelled through Generation Now to subsidize ailing coal plants by raising prices. Along with lobbying to increase solar costs, these moves increase prices for customers and slow or prevent cleaner energy from coming online. Governments worldwide are finally realizing we don’t have time to waste in shifting to cleaner energy and that doing so comes with many benefits beyond those for climate — especially if they ensure affected workers and marginalized people and communities are looked after in the transition. Politicians are accountable to the people they serve, not to wealthy corporate interests, so it’s important for all of us to demand action, through petitions, letters, calls, demonstrations and voting. People have the power! 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 Solutions to climate crisis exist, but we need the will to change appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Political Action, Dark money, mining, nuclear power, oilsands, renewable energy]

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[l] at 2/1/23 9:02am
On January 24, The Globe and Mail published a piece by John Ibbitson arguing in defense of Canada’s so-called ‘father of Confederation,’ Sir John A. Macdonald. In the piece, Ibbitson goes on to argue a defence of Canada itself, engaging in genocide apologia by asserting that Canada has done good in the world indeed, that Canada is good in the world and thus we should be grateful for its existence. Regarding Macdonald, Ibbitson’s main point is that Sir John A. does not deserve particular condemnation; “Injustice toward Indigenous peoples long predated Confederation and continues to this day. The record of racism toward non-European immigrants is lengthy and sordid. What makes Macdonald more culpable than the rest?” About Canada, though, Ibbitson argues that this country is uniquely worthy of celebration. But Macdonald and a handful of others also gave us Canada. They crafted a dominion unique in its balance of powers between federal and provincial, English and French. Immigrants from Britain and Eastern Europe came here. Italians and Portuguese and Chinese and South Asians and Filipinos came here. Muslims and Jews came here. Refugees came here, the latest from Afghanistan and Ukraine. Canada is far from perfect, but it is arguably the least imperfect country on Earth, if the embrace of diversity is your measure. This is an incoherent sentiment, to say the least. Canada is a Eurocolonial project, a site of ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples facilitating a predominantly European/white settler-colonial state. The fact that Europeans from various countries have settled in Canada is not set apart or against the argument that Canada is evidence of genocide it is the very same thing. They are the settlers, not something else. Further, immigrants and refugees who have come to Canada from elsewhere in the world are, in many cases, leaving other sites or consequences of Eurocolonial violence and structural, global white supremacy. Again, these are not effective arguments that the Eurocolonial violence and white supremacy which created and maintains Canada was or is justified, they are just further examples of the same thing. Ibbitson also conspicuously omits less flattering aspects of Canada’s global record and foreign policy. Canada has among the highest per-capita carbon emissions in the world, and the government touts being a destination for the global mining industry’s corporate headquarters. The day after UN Secretary-general António Guterres declared investing in new fossil fuel projects to be “moral and economic madness,” Canada approved its largest-ever offshore drilling project. The scale of Canada’s disproportionate contributions to climate change and global ecological devastation is shocking, and greatly deepens Canada’s role in propagating Eurocolonial violence and inequity throughout the world. This, before you even consider Canadian arms sales, support for medical IP restrictions, participation in imperialist foreign interference, and military support for war crimes and apartheid. None of this appears to enter Ibbitson’s analysis. Ibbitson goes on to write a damningly revealing statement; The answer could be that, as the first prime minister and a Father of Confederation, Macdonald personifies Canada. In pulling down his statue, some people are not simply protesting the legacy of residential schools – they are pulling down the symbol of an oppressive, colonizing state. In that sense, to pull down a Macdonald statue is to pull down the statue of every prime minister and every leader who contributed to oppression of Indigenous peoples. And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them? In my view, this demonstrates the ultimate point. Ibbitson is unwilling or unable to conceive of a world that is not both product of and structurally propagating white supremacy. This world, the one we see when we look around us, bears a history, centuries-long, of Europeans enslaving, murdering, mutilating, robbing, raping, displacing, and violently dehumanizing as many other people in the world as they could while enriching themselves. Millions upon millions upon millions of people, for centuries. Accounts of the treatment of enslavement people are shocking and sickening to a degree words simply cannot express. From his writing here, it appears that Ibbitson does not fundamentally object to these events. He claims to understand why Indigenous peoples may oppose Canada itself, but does not consider for a moment that this history presents a reason he should oppose Canada. The implication Ibbitson offers is; slavery, colonization, genocide, centuries of global racist inequity it’s all to his benefit, so he takes no issue with it. “And given what they’ve been put through, who could blame them?” Sir John A. Macdonald was an overt white supremacist. Macdonald authorized the creation of the residential school system, a structure explicitly intended to eradicate Indigenous cultures, knowledge, and ways of being. In implementing legislation to prohibit Chinese immigrants to Canada from voting, in addition to them being subject to a racist ‘head tax’, Macdonald argued a need to maintain “Aryan” character and European dominance in Canada. He should be specifically condemned, whether or not to a greater degree than his contemporary slavers and colonizers. (A common response to such points “everyone thought that way at the time! eagerly forgets that people who aren’t European are indeed human, and did not agree.) Ibbitson says that we should be cautious in our condemnation, because John A. Macdonald is part of who we are. Naturally this begs the question; who is “we”? The vast majority of people in the world have immediate and familial reasons to reject Eurocoloniality, to speak and act against a world built on and invested in maintaining centuries of horrific white supremacy. Ibbitson, however, does not see this as a call for solidarity. He motions toward some understanding of why a colonized people would reject the colonial state, but he displays no revulsion toward it himself. Ibbitson claims that Sir John A. Macdonald gave us Canada, and we should be grateful for that. To me, it seems what he means is that Macdonald gave him Canada, and he wants to keep it. The post Canadian media justifies Canadas genocidal foundations appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Globe and Mail, John A. Macdonald]

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[l] at 1/31/23 2:13pm
In an important ruling with global human rights implications, Federal Court Judge Henry Brown has informed the Canadian government that it must end the years-long arbitrary detention without charge endured by dozens of Canadian men, women and children in northeast Syrian jails and prison camps. The January 20 judicial repatriation order applied to four Canadian men “imprisoned against their will without charge or trial” under conditions Brown deemed “dire” (with one of those men having “reported to Canadian government officials that he had been tortured”). It was released a day after the federal government confirmed a settlement to repatriate 19 women and children who’d originally been connected to the same court case. Brown was quick to point out that in this case “the legal principles applicable to the Canadian men are the same as those applicable to the Canadian women and children.” These 23 Canadians – who have suffered conditions the UN describes as akin to torture – are among almost 50 who have been unlawfully detained at Canada’s behest in the Kurdish autonomous region of northeast Syria also known as Rojava. Going back as far as 2017, Ottawa has refused to respond to the Kurdish captors’ simple three requests: to send an official letter requesting repatriation, issue travel documents, and appoint a representative to attend in Rojava for a handover. While dozens of other countries, including the United States, have been able to manage the simple journey to Northeast Syria  – a well-documented fact relied upon by Brown – Canada instead spent those years in the full knowledge that it was prolonging Canadian citizens’ needless suffering by creating a racist None is Too Many “Policy Framework to Evaluate the Provision of Extraordinary Measures to Assist Canadian Citizens detained in North-Eastern Syria.” (None is Too Many is a phrase that was used by Canadian officials seeking to prevent entry of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, one with particularly contemporary resonance). RELATED: Islamophobia preventing Jack Letts from returning home to Canada The Policy Framework was infused with bureaucratic state security bafflegab and designed to ensure these tortured souls, over half of them under the age of 10, would perish abroad from disease, malnutrition and violence due to Canadian government-sanctioned criminal negligence causing death (“culpable homicide” being defined in the Criminal Code of Canada as any act which “directly or indirectly, by any means… causes the death of a human being.”) Judge Brown carefully parsed through the conditions for repatriation and declared that, as soon as reasonably possible, “Canada must make a formal request for their repatriation,” that the detainees “must be provided necessary travel documents,” and Canada be required to  “appoint either a delegate or representative to accept their hand over.” He made these findings based on well-settled Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence and Canada’s international treaty obligations “in the expectation the executive government will act in good faith as its counsel represented to the Court.” Judge rejects government’s Islamophobic framing The landmark decision ends a protracted legal battle that included three days of repeatedly delayed public hearings in December and January, with two sets of secret hearings. Brown, a highly respected expert on Supreme Court jurisprudence and practice, spoke barely above a whisper during the hearings, and appeared non-plussed with the government’s Islamophobic framing of the case. While Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer Anne Turley attempted to portray the children, women and men as alleged threats to the security of Canada, Brown asked questions revealing an intimate knowledge of the case and illustrated, in his own modest way, what can only be described as a loving commitment to the core constitutional principles and international human rights laws and treaties to which Canada, at least on paper, has committed itself. (Notaby, Turley similarly lost a 2009 case in which she fought against the repatriation of another Muslim Canadian abandoned abroad and tortured with Canadian complicity, Abousfian Abdelrazik. As The Globe and Mail reported at the time, Turley notoriously engaged in a vicious, racist cross-examination of Abdelrazik “attempting to discredit [his] assertions that he was beaten and abused by Sudanese police, suggesting instead that [Abdelrazik] mutilated himself and that ‘tribal’ practices of cutting or burning account for the scars on his body.”) No evidence of violence by detainees Critically, Judge Brown delivered as part of his 85-page decision a finding that should tamp down some of the inflamed and inaccurate reporting that has followed its release. “Notably the [government] Respondents do not allege any of the Applicants [detainees] engaged in or assisted in terrorist activities,” Brown declared. “The Respondents affirmed this position at the hearing.” In other words, if the government had any evidence that these 50 Canadian children, women and men had been up to no good in Syria, this had been their opportunity to share it. Possessing no such evidence, Canadian officials – who have based their refusal to repatriate on Islamophobic “national security” tropes and vague allegations of nefarious associations – must now halt their illegal practice of banishment and end their years-long complicity in the arbitrary detention of their own citizens. As if Brown’s finding was not enough to obliterate the government’s thin house of cards case, he also added, “Canadians are entitled to have political opinions, no matter how abhorrent they may be to other Canadians. The limitation is when Canadian opinion holders take actions, whether inside of [or] outside of Canada, that constitute offences against Canadian law including the Criminal Code of Canada. However there is no evidence to that effect before this Court [emphasis added].” Again, this should undermine any subsequent attempts to prosecute the Canadian returnees from conditions of torture. If Ottawa had any evidence of criminal wrongdoing, why didn’t it place that before the Court? Magna Carta rights inform decision To the consternation of DOJ lawyers who zealously fought right up until the last minute to perpetuate what had become the de facto exile of almost 50 Canadian Muslim men, women and children, Brown has issued what can only be called a radical decision (inasmuch as radical means to get to the root of things) by relying on the 808-year-old Magna Carta that informs and undergirds such a broad swath of constitutional governance, rights and principles in Canadian jurisprudence. “With respect, from its antiquity I conclude the 808 year old promise to end banishment and exile illustrates how long our constitutional order has concerned itself with protecting the right to enter and return to one’s country,” Brown writes, referencing the bedrock roots of Section 6(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada”). Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly defined 6(1) as a “foundational” and “fundamental” right preventing “the exclusion of membership in the national community.” The scope of this right, Brown noted, is “expansive, generous and powerful” and cannot be overridden by the Charter’s often abused notwithstanding clause. Brown also points out that the government lawyers chose not to invoke a Section 1 Charter argument that would have raised in this case the question of “reasonable limits” to the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada. In addition, Brown refers approvingly the Supreme Court’s Divito decision and the need for Canada to take actions and design policies in accordance with international law: Divito unequivocally states the right to enter or return to Canada guaranteed by subsection 6(1) must be defined generously and not in a legalistic manner in light of the interests it is to protect. It is “foundational” right because without the ability to enter one’s country of citizenship, the “right to have rights” cannot be fully exercised. The right to return to Canada, says Divito, is a “fundamental right associated with citizenship”…. Importantly, Canada’s international obligations not only inform Charter rights. Divito confirms earlier Supreme Court jurisprudence that: “the Charter should be presumed to provide at least as great a level of protection as is found in the international human rights documents that Canada has ratified.” The right to enter protected by subsection 6(1) of the Charter must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with or greater than Canada’s international treaty obligations. During the court proceedings, Brown questioned government lawyer Turley about the Magna Carta, noting he used to teach a university course on the document that is regularly ignored by what he referred to as “troublesome” regimes that essentially tell banished individuals, “You cant come back. We dont want you back. We dont like what you think… I just wonder whether thats so ingrained in our system as opposed to European systems, which in many cases may not have had constitutions like weve inherited [with] principles as referred to in the opening words of our Constitution. I just throw it out because its historical fact and interests me. Have any thoughts on it?” Turley, whose whole case rested on rejecting the Magna Carta, stumbled through an answer about “the law as it exists today in Canada” before deking off into another area of rights-denying submissions. Brown later repeatedly shot down her arguments in his decision. “The primacy of the right to return to Canada is reinforced in Canadian law,” Brown writes. “This is also a critical factor in this Judgment. Simply put, there is no known offence in Canada that carries with it exile or banishment as a penal consequence,” yet both by its actions and conscious inaction, exile or banishment were plainly the result for Canadians stuck in northeast Syria. Indeed, Brown carefully cited jurisprudence that Section 6(1) “forbids the executive from frustrating the rights of Canadians to enter and return whether by executive actions taken in Canada or abroad.” In this instance, the government’s None is Too Many Policy Framework, which he later called into question, was exactly the kind of obstacle employed to frustrate rights of the detainees. Ottawa failed to request repatriation Throughout the landmark decision, Brown is not shy about sharing his reservations about clear government misconduct. “The Applicants are Canadian citizens who are not able to return home in part because their government seems never to have formally requested their repatriation,” he writes at one point. Brown expresses concern that six months before the detainees even started their legal challenge, their lawyer wrote to Global Affairs Canada asking them to appoint a delegation to visit Rojava and receive the detainees, but no such appointments were ever made. “I appreciate this may not be the first step in the exercise of the Applicants’ right to return, but it is still one that I find essential to the exercise of the Charter rights at issue,” Brown declares. “The Applicants absolutely must have Canada make such appointments or they will never be able to return to Canada.” In addition, Brown also points out that although the detainees’ counsel “have repeatedly asked for travel documents not only before commencing this proceeding but up and to the close of oral submission, none have been provided. Instead Canada relies on and requires the Applicants meet the conditions in its Policy Framework. With respect, I am not persuaded compliance with the Policy Framework is a precondition of the exercise of the Applicant’s Charter protected right to return to Canada.” He adds as well in what can only by a stinging rebuke to the designers and administrators of the None is Too Many policy, that the Framework is “a likely very useful set of internal guidelines to assist the executive in assessing the situations of the Applicants, but it is no substitute for nor does it permit the executive to unilaterally derogate from subsection 6(1).” In addressing what he deems “not correct,” the government assertion that a Charter breach must be established before a remedy is granted, Brown also expresses his dismay at the inexplicable and indefensible failure of the government to act despite years-long requests for them to do so. “While I might have found Charter breaches in terms of travel documents and making a formal request for repatriation, rights requested almost two years ago but not afforded [emphasis added],” he writes, “I do not consider that necessary because of well-established jurisprudence that a Charter breach is not a necessary pre-condition for the declaratory orders to be issued in this case as already determined.” Later in the decision, Brown says that he remains “perplexed as to why the [government] did not share the Policy Framework with the Applicants [detainees] when they requested relief and were in effect requesting it in February 2021 [a month after it was created].” He ponders why the government  “for unknown reasons chose not to tell the Applicants of the Policy Framework until November 2021. The Court was not provided with a satisfactory explanation for what it considers an unreasonable delay in informing the Applicants of the Policy Framework. The Respondents delayed from February, 2021 to November, 2021 … a delay of nine months.” Human consequences of delay Beneath that language of a nine-month “unreasonable delay” is the human reality that never enters the government’s cynical calculations, even though family members have flooded Global Affairs Canada with individualized reports on the appalling, life-threatening conditions. Indeed, each moment of that nine-month delay was rife with risk and continued suffering, in which severely malnourished children are forced to eat sand and dirt, there is no clean water or nutritious food, there are rarely diapers or sanitary towels, there is no medical care, education, or privacy. It was an additional nine months where children played (and some drowned) in cesspools of human waste, sewage flooded their paper-thin tents, and wild dogs roamed the camps terrorizing people. As Brown would note repeatedly, the conditions for the imprisoned men were even worse. Throughout his decision, Brown outlines the hugely problematic process engaged by the creation of the secret Policy Framework, noting that without informing the detainees of the framework’s assessment criteria nor seeking their input, Global Affairs Canada conducted assessments on all of the detainees and concluded in 2021 that only one of them met the criteria for “consideration” (in that case, a deathly ill woman, Kimberly Polman, was finally repatriated a year afterwards). On the eve of the December 2022 repatriation hearing, in a clumsy move clearly designed to undercut the detainees’ case, Global Affairs Canada pulled a 180-degree move and informed the court that all of the women and children were suddenly, after all this time, eligible for “consideration” under the Framework, though no timeline was attached to that announcement. None of the men were thusly considered, a point of clear discrimination that Brown would repeatedly return to during the hearings and in his written decision. Brown’s clear discomfort with the discriminatory None is Too Many framework is frequently referenced, as when he writes that he finds himself  “compelled to observe the three threshold criteria for eligibility to be considered under the Policy Framework appear drafted to exclude the Canadian men imprisoned” in Rojava and that, if this were indeed the case, the policy could not withstand a Charter challenge. While pointing out the first two of those criteria apply only to children, the third is based on the premise that “Canadian men held in very dire circumstances in makeshift prisons” may only be considered eligible if they show their condition has “changed significantly,” and in the view of Global Affairs Canada, “none of the four men Applicants have met the threshold criteria.” In language that must feel validating to all those family members who have dealt with the maddening gaslighting of the rights-violating Framework, Brown expresses his disbelief that such a nonsensical policy could be engaged to prevent the enjoyment of Charter rights, noting with respect to the finding that the men did not meet the criteria: With respect these conclusions are very problematic. I say this because, based on evidence before this Court, the conditions of the Applicant Canadian men are even more dire than those of the women and children who Canada has just agreed to repatriate. Numerous questions arise. Do those incarcerated men, who imprisoned with 30 others in cells designed for 6, need to demonstrate they are now with 35 others or more? Do these Canadian prisoners receiving inadequate food and inadequate medical care need to establish their rations have been further reduced or their medical treatment terminated? Do those who allege they have been tortured…need to establish they have been tortured more frequently or in even worse ways? And how exactly are Policy Framework administrators to determine if conditions in the prisons for men have worsened “significantly” given these men have not been heard of since 2019? This issue was discussed at the hearing where I suggested this aspect of the Policy Framework was inacceptable from a Charter point of view, a view I am not persuaded to abandon. I add these comments based on the evidence before the Court as of 2019, not knowing their current situation but assuming it is the same or worse, which may not be correct, in the hope the Policy Framework will be materially revised, or that the Canadian male prisoners be considered for repatriation as is not the case with the Canadian women and children. Brown debunks government arguments At every turn in Brown’s decision, he dismisses the baseless arguments made by government lawyers, who were unable to sneak past this Supreme Court scholar poorly constructed rationales that, in one instance, he called “debunked”. Indeed, despite government exhortations to discard the numerous findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on this issue, Brown relied heavily on them, including the urgent June 2022 report sent to the Trudeau regime which reiterated “again that the urgent, voluntary and human rights compliant repatriation of all the citizens of your Excellency’s Government is the only international law-compliant response to the complex and precarious human rights, humanitarian and security situation faced by those detained in inhumane conditions in overcrowded prisons or other detention centres in North-East Syria, with limited access to food and medical care putting detainees lives at increased risk.” [Emphasis added].” These conditions, Brown writes, and the manner in which they violate Canada’s international treaty obligations, constitute “a matter the Court is unable to ignore or set aside in coming to its conclusions.” READ MORE: UN slams Canada’s failure to repatriate citizens illegally detained in Syria Critically, Brown discusses how, while one can be entitled to Charter Rights, the government of Canada can act in such a way that makes those rights become illusory. While Brown does place faith in the government acting on his decision, he says Ottawa must be “alive and sensitive and guided by the fact the Applicants do not merely depend on the goodwill or discretion of the executive but have the constitutional rights declared in this Judgment.” Importantly, he notes the court “is granting relief in accordance with binding jurisprudence,” finding  “no merit” to government arguments that this would somehow represent “an unprincipled expansion of the right to enter Canada,” adding his “declarations flow from the very dire circumstances of the Applicants” and international treaty obligations. Next steps for repatriation Because Judge Brown did not impose a timeline on repatriation beyond “as soon as reasonably possible,” there remains concern that a federal government which regularly professes its respect for court decisions and rule of law (but usually fails to act on them) will do what it always does in such cases: drag its feet and continue to perpetuate the well-documented rights violations suffered by these Muslim Canadians. While advocates will continue to apply pressure for immediate repatriation (which is entirely practicable given how often has been been occurring with other nations), Brown himself will no doubt be monitoring whether the faith he has placed in Ottawa doing the right thing is being honoured as well. Indeed, given that Canada has already agreed to repatriate 19 women and children, the exact same infrastructure will be in place for the remaining four men in the legal case. In addition, there are almost 30 more men, women and children not named in the lawsuit who should also be brought home (including the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children). In the meantime, as Global Affairs Canada said it is “reviewing” the decision and so-called “security” experts try to generate Islamophobic hysteria about the detainees’ return, it’s instructive to recall the words of lawyer Barb Jackman who, in representing one of the male detainees, Jack Letts, opened her arguments by noting she was counsel at two earlier commissions of inquiry that found Canada complicit in the overseas arrest, detention, interrogation, and torture of four Muslim Canadians. She noted with a combination of sadness and rage that none of the recommendations flowing from these inquiries had been substantively implemented, and that she was seeing in this case the same patterns of racial and religious profiling contributing to torture. The lethal cost of delay Against that backdrop of lessons unlearned and contemptuously ignored, Jackman informed Brown, “I’m appalled that we’re even here,” but added in comments that proved prophetic, “I’m glad it’s before this court because if there’s any obligation, it rests with you to make sure Canada does what it’s supposed to do, because they obviously didn’t listen” to the justices who presided over the earlier commissions of inquiry. Jackman noted the ease with which Canadian governments and their agencies have always improperly labeled Muslims as security threats. “Once you get the Islamic terrorist label on you, nobody wants to help you,” she said, adding that in the present case, where such labels were being improperly affixed to the detainees “from the highest levels of the Canadian government,” it appeared no different from cases she’d worked on 20 years earlier. As of December 2022, Jackman said, “Nothing has changed. Nobody’s looking at the actual facts of the case. Instead, [her client] is labeled a terrorist and they don’t want to help him. It’s one of the reasons why access to a court is so important, because a court will look at the facts and will try and determine what’s right in terms of the law and its application to human rights matters. The question you have to answer [is] can Canada wipe its hands of its citizens who are living in such appalling conditions over such an extended period of time? Are we the kind of country that doesn’t care about the humanity of our citizens who are outside our border when we know they’re dying?if you don’t tell the government of Canada to act to bring these people back, they’re not coming back.” Thankfully, Judge Brown heard Jackman’s challenge and answered her question well. Brown noted at the close of the December portion of the hearing that he felt an urgency to hear the rest of the matter as soon as possible because “Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.” While the detainees and their families have much to celebrate with this decision, they are all too aware that the government must also act quickly because, as Brown clearly stated, Canadians are dying or at risk of dying with every day of delay in implementing this historic decision. Advocates are calling for pressure on Ottawa to quickly repatriate through a Change.org petition. The post Federal court orders repatriation of Canadians illegally detained in Syria appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, Jack Letts]

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[l] at 1/31/23 10:10am
In 2019, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) Quebecs pension fund became the largest shareholder in one of the leading security services providers in North America, Allied Universal. Even for CDPQ standards, this was a very big deal, some estimate the total investment to be over 1.5 billion dollars. With such a massive investment of Quebecers’ hard-earned cash, one would expect the CDPQ to rigorously monitor and govern how this money is being used. It turns out it was used to enter into the apartheid business. A short time after CDPQ’s purchase of Allied Universal, the latter acquired G4S, another security service provider. This should have raised red flags at CDPQ headquarters since G4S’s misconduct and controversies are well documented. Most egregious of these controversies is G4S’s history of aiding and abetting Israel’s brutal security infrastructure. A human rights complaint to the OECD detailed how G4S provided and maintained screening equipment to several West Bank and Gaza military checkpoints, bases and colonies, helping Israel implement restrictions on movement of Palestinians. G4S also provided various other security services to the Israeli military and police. Ultimately, G4S was able to turn a good profit off Israel’s violent subjugation of the Palestinian people. Fortunately, following organized campaigns by human rights organisations and the BDS movement targeting G4S, the company finally decided to divest from its Israeli subsidiary in 2016. Despite this forced divestment, however, G4S continues to be active in enabling Israeli crimes. This time, its support of, and profiteering from apartheid are being carried out through its important stake in Policity Ltd. Again, it is hard to understand how this investment went under CDPQ’s radar, as Policity’s participation in Israeli abuses against Palestinians is almost as ubiquitous as was G4S’s prior subsidiary in that country. Policity, for example, has made money by partnering with the Israeli police to build and operate Israel’s National Police Academy. Make no mistake about it, the Israeli police service is not a small-time operation tasked with handing out parking tickets. According to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli police force is one of the main state organs engaged in the violent repression of Palestinians opposing Israel’s military occupation (think violent repression of protesters, house raids, brutal interrogation techniques, abuse of detainees). They have been widely denounced for their systematic use of torture and other illegal practices against Palestinian political prisoners, including children. In a way, these atrocities could be considered “corporate atrocities.” Companies are offered lucrative contracts by repressive states to support the creation of oppressive security frameworks. Senior corporate officials review and approve such contracts with only one objective in mind, increasing shareholder value. And in this case, tragically, Quebec’s pension fund is at the top of the food chain. Any corporate participation and profiteering from Israel’s brutal occupation, apartheid and other abuses is abhorrent, but to see the CDPQ involved in this cruel business should hit home for Quebecers. The CDPQ is not like any other investment fund: it is an institutional investor that manages several public and para-public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec. As such, it should hold itself to the strictest of fiduciary duties, investing responsibly and ethically. Because of this, a diverse human rights coalition called BDS Quebec launched a strong campaign last year challenging the CDPQ to cut ties with companies enabling Israeli human rights abuses.  Despite meeting face-to-face with representatives of BDS Quebec, however, the CDPQ has so far resisted calls to divest. Hiding behind intermediaries does not absolve the CDPQ of responsibility. In the 21st century, Canadian pension funds – especially the CDPQ – should be held to the highest standards of ethical investment. Other large funds have already taken this step: Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund has blacklisted G4S, as have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Kuwait’s national pension fund. There is no honour in being the last person to stand up for human rights and decency.  May the CDPQ be a leader, and not a laggard, in divesting from Israel’s occupation and regime of apartheid against Palestinians.  The post Quebecers’ savings fueling apartheid appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, Political Action, World Politics, apartheid, Israel]

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[l] at 1/31/23 5:00am
When I first moved to Toronto, I rented a room above a restaurant in a not yet gentrified neighborhood. Across from me was one of those seedy boarding house hotels and sex workers worked the corner. I would see them on my walk home. When things were slow, they read books. As a bookworm myself, I was intrigued. It took me a couple of months to work up the courage to ask them what they read when they weren’t busy. They were amused by me. I was a weird college kid in weird outfits with a weird ask, but from then on, we would chat about books sometimes. They were the first sex workers I ever met. They made me feel welcome in my new neighborhood. A few years later, when I was a baby stripper, some of the girls would lend each other books in the changing room. Some were self-help, some business improvement, and some were books about sex workers, or sex worker memoirs. Eventually, we formed what we called “the ho bookclub.” Our book club went on for a year or two, before some of us left the club for good. I still read and collect books by or about sex workers, particularly books written by Canadian authors. I’m hoping to review books written by sex workers later this year, but for now, I’m going to focus on established feminist writers whose books can be easily found at local libraries and bookstores. Margaret Atwood and Heather O’Neill are Canadian, feminist, best-selling authors. Both have written about sex workers during their careers. There is not enough space in a monthly column for me to get into much detail about each author and their body of work. But there is space for me to tell you if sex workers feel seen in the books written by the above authors. I might as well start with the grande dame of Canadian literature herself, Margaret Atwood. As we’ve seen with the reversal of Roe v. Wade in America, her book and the current TV adaptation the Handmaid’s Tale is becoming less speculative fiction by the day. I remember first reading the book in high school, and remember thinking to myself that I, too, would have chosen to work at the clandestine brothel called Jezebel’s instead of hard labour in a nuclear wasteland without any safety precautions if the powers that be determined me to be too slutty to be used as a handmaid. I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to express that even in extreme situations such as being forced to choose between sex trafficking or a gulag, victims can and do express agency. And there is such a thing as a spectrum of consent.  Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy, like the Handmaid’s Tale, is speculative fiction. Year of the Flood is my favorite of the three because the protagonist is a stripper. Ren is a graduate with a fine arts degree in dance whose only career prospects are working in fast food or to work as a stripper. She gets hired as a feature entertainer at a club called Scales and Tails. The book begins with Ren being stuck in a decontamination suite at the club just as the environmental apocalypse hits. She survives on champagne and bar nuts and reflects on her life thus far and wonders if she will ever find her friend Amanda again. In this dystopian strip club/brothel, the women who work there are categorized by the owners as either talent or disposable, and the clients treat them as such.  The girls who are talent are expected to perform. They are provided some, but never enough, safety measures such as skin suit costumes and a decontamination suite if the suit gets ripped to minimize their interactions with the clientele. By contrast, the workers deemed as disposable are brought in from impoverished countries and the men can do what they wish to them with impunity their bodies are literally disposable. In her fictional world, and in my real world, class, or the perception of class, determines a sex worker’s earning potential and working conditions. On one end, we have white, conventionally attractive, college educated women who can brand themselves as luxury and charge accordingly. On the other end of the spectrum, we have sex workers who work outdoors. They are more likely to be living in poverty, racialized, disabled, living with addictions or mental health issues, and/or without access to education or social capital.  Think about it: when the Stormy Daniels scandal broke, people were tripping all over themselves to say that they too would engage in sex work for 130 thousand U.S. dollars and that Daniels has great business acumen. Would these same people rush to express their approval when they see a sex worker working outdoors, doing the same thing just in far worse conditions for exponentially less money? Would they want to be a sex worker in that scenario? With the exception of Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O’Neill sets her books in Victorian or Edwardian era Montreal. Her protagonists are, for the most part, teenage girls who engage in survival sex work. I’m sure, in part, writing about Montreal’s history is in itself O’Neill’s ongoing homage to her hometown. Montreal is glorious and deserves to be celebrated. But it’s also a hell of a lot less jarring to read about teenagers trading sex during a time where child labor was still legal and women weren’t allowed to vote or own property. I think for us as readers, it’s easier to stomach human tragedy when it’s at arm’s length we can tell ourselves that things are much better nowadays for young people, and that our social nets never let anyone “slip through the cracks.” We fall asleep with our book still open, in our cozy beds, surrounded by modern amenities.  O’Neill’s latest book, When We Lost Our Heads, is about two best friends Marie and Sadie, who get up to all sorts of strange and wonderful performance art. Marie is the only (legitimate) child of a sugar baron. Sadie is the child of a social climbing third rate politician. In an ever escalating game of truth or dare, the girls accidentally kill a maid. Marie is shielded from consequence. Sadie is sent abroad to some sort of remedial school. Years later when she returns, she runs away from home because her family wants to minimize their reputational risk and send her to the asylum. Instead, she runs away and meets George, an androgynous woman who was raised communally in a brothel. George hasn’t left the brothel, she splits her time between doing sex work, being a trained midwife for the brothel, and a clandestine abortionist for the wider community. She takes in Sadie and they have a beautiful love story. Sadie eventually becomes the brothel’s resident dominatrix. This book is unapologetically queer; there are no heaving bosoms. Instead, we get a love scene with a strap on followed by cuddles. The sex is real.  Equally real is the camaraderie among the sex workers. They help each other with clients. They hustle together. The work is hard, but the girls have a shared sense that helps them push through it.  On Sundays, they rest their bodies and smoke opium. Nowadays, it’s a facemask, foot bath and joint kind of hangout after work or on a Sunday afternoon, but the communal rest remains the same. The women at the brothel know each other’s bodies. They love each other. It made me want to work with these girls.  Sadie and George eventually part ways, but they put their time at the brothel to good use. They each become writers in their own right. Sadie becomes a famous erotica writer, and George writes political pamphlets that eventually empower young girls working in the factory to revolt, strike and demand better working conditions. There is no precautionary tale, they both move on from sex work relatively unscathed. If anything, their time at the brothel gave them inspiration and time to plan their next steps. If reading more books was one of your New Year resolutions, you should add Year of the Flood and When We Lost our Heads to your list. The authors’ creation of a parallel world as a way to lessen the blow about the impossible choices young women are faced with is masterful. Both books highlight and parallel key struggles that I, and other sex workers I know, face. They also reflect us as full humans: we are resilient and work hard. We love and are loved. We use our talents to uplift our communities in face of injustice.  I’m looking forward to reading books new book written by sex workers about sex work and sex workers. We have a lot to say! Consider reading along with me this year. The post Fact in fiction: Canadian authors reflect sex workers’ struggles appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Feminism, Human Rights, feminism, reading, sex work]

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[l] at 1/30/23 2:01pm
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have banded together to form Canada’s first 2SLGBTQI+ caucus. In many ways, the Canadian Pride Caucus cements the protection of 2SLGBTQI+ individuals in the country. Not only would this kind of governmental body be illegal in different jurisdictions around the world, there would not even be space for 2SLGBTQI+ people in politics. NDP MP Blake Desjarlais made history in 2021 when he became the first Two-Spirit Member of Parliament in Canada. He’s making history again by co-chairing the unprecedented caucus. “We have thousands, if not millions, of people in Canada who are members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community,” Desjarlais said in a mid-January interview with rabble.ca. “And it’s not such a far stretch to know that every single human society in the world, that we exist, no matter if governments allow it to exist or not.” Homosexuality has been legal in Canada for less than half of the country’s existence. Married gay couples in the United States will not even be able to celebrate their tenth anniversary until 2025. But as Desjarlais noted, it wasn’t until people like professor and activist Michael Phair stood up and said, “I’m done waiting around and watching my friends die of AIDS and HIV.” Phair’s outspokenness about the AIDS crisis helped him become the first openly gay politician elected in Alberta’s history in 1992. He remained a city councillor for 15 years. “If they’re not going to do it for us, we’re going to do it ourselves,” Desjarlais said of Phair’s leadership. Now, the fight for dignity and equality continues as Desjarlais warned “our safety isn’t guaranteed.” “We have to continuously work together to make sure we dont fall down a slippery slope, because its possible,” he said. Pointing out the trans community is undergoing a historic level of hatred, Desjarlais added solidarity, cooperation, and unity among the 2SLGBTQI+ community is more important than ever. “We are a part of the world here. We are part of this land — part of this world as anyone else and any living thing is,” Desjarlais said. “To diminish us and take us out of this world is to hurt our ecosystem and to hurt our environment for all of us.” Creating the Canadian Pride Caucus The caucus, which will bring together members of the Canadian House of Commons and Senate, was announced in December 2022 before parliament adjourned for the holiday season. Co-chaired by Senator René Cormier and Desjarlais, the Canadian Pride Caucus will consist of eight MPs from three federal political parties and two independent senators.  Desjarlais noted the goals of the caucus include working with civil society organizations while also raising awareness and advocating for 2SLGBTQI+ issues in a non-partisan way.  Other MPs on the caucus include New Democrats Lisa Marie Barron and Randall Garrison and CPC member Melissa Lantsman. There are also three federal ministers in the caucus. They include Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge, and Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault. The Liberal members are joined by Robert Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Rounding out the group of ten is a second independent senator, Kim Pate. In a joint statement issued last month, Cormier and Desjarlais noted the creation of the caucus came one year after Canada banned so-called conversion therapy practices, also known as acts of torture against 2SLGBTQI+ individuals. “Current events are a constant reminder that the rights of 2SLGBTQI+ communities are eroding and far from achieved around the world,” the co-chairs said. The creation of the caucus comes in the footsteps of the global Equality Caucus, which first met with politicians in 2020. In December, Sen. René Cormier tweeted about the creation of the Canadian Pride Caucus. “The non-partisan approach between parliamentarians has been proven elsewhere in the world,” said Cormier, Caucus co-chair. “Now it’s Canada’s turn to provide united leadership on this matter.” Caucus will help ‘create a better Canada’ For Desjarlais, the caucus has the ability to reshape perceptions about 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada, while debunking myths and countering the hyper-divisiveness endangering queer and trans communities. “I hope that the community sees it as a fair chance for us to try to create a better Canada — one that isn’t as scary as it seems on TV or on TikTok or on Twitter,” Desjarlais said. Desjarlais hopes the caucus can conduct enough substantial work to present it to a parliamentary committee. But in the meantime, he added, there are mandates and planning items to decide on. “I think this next year is going to be about the community,” he said, noting he hopes the caucus will provide a platform for as many stakeholders as possible to bring their priorities to the House floor.  According to Desjarlais, the caucus is slated to hold its first event in February. “We’re the folks who are going to help contribute to a greater society and a greater peace in this place,” Desjarlais said. “Because we have in the past and that’s our record.” The post 2SLGBTQI+ caucus a parliamentary first appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, 2SLGBTQI+]

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[l] at 1/30/23 11:53am
From rabble’s December 2022 ‘Off the Hill: A look back to leap forward’ panel. Join guests MP Leah Gazan, Chuka Ejeckam, El Jones and Karl Nerenberg. With co-hosts Robin Browne and Libby Davies. From the Freedom Convoy, to major action in Canada’s labour movement, to the ongoing war in Ukraine, to political leadership races on the provincial and federal levels… Our esteemed panel reflected on a year that had no shortage of newsworthy events, and then asked: what does this mean we can expect for the year ahead? Off the Hill is a fast-paced live panel on current issues of national significance. It features guests and a discussion you won’t find anywhere else, centred 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. Meet our guests Robin Browne is Off the Hill’s co-host. Robin is a communications professional and the co-lead of the 613-819 Black Hub, living in Ottawa. His blog is The “True” North. Nick Seebruch acted as Off the Hill’s co-host this month. Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. Leah Gazan is the member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. She is currently the NDP critic for Children, Families, and Social Development, as well as the critic for Women and Gender Equality, and the deputy critic for Housing. Leah is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, located in Saskatchewan, Treaty 4 territory. Jim Stanford is an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work, a labour economics research institute with operations in Canada and Australia. He previously served as economist and director of policy with Unifor. Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6-based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, located in Northern Manitoba. He is an Indigenous activist, campaigner and public speaker. Thomas-Müller has been recognized by Yes Magazine as a Climate Hero and is featured as one of ten international human rights defenders in the National Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He is also the author of Life in the City of Dirty Water. 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. The post Off the Hill: Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, Canadian Politics, Economy, Environment, Indigenous, off the hill]

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[l] at 1/30/23 9:04am
On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith threw down the gauntlet, accusing the CBC of defamation and demanding that the corporation retract and apologize for its January 19 report someone on her staff sent emails to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service challenging how it was handling cases stemming from last year’s highway blockade at Coutts.  Friday, the national broadcaster picked up the gauntlet, publishing an uncompromising statement by Helen Henderson, senior director of journalism and programming at CBC Calgary, standing by the story and vowing “there is much more reporting to be done and stories in the coming days will include further information.” So I guess there’s nothing for the premier to do but go ahead and sue the CBC and its reporters for defamation, eh? Well, don’t hold, your breath.  But while we wait to see what happens, it seems likely the premier will turn up the dial on her attacks against the CBC and the CBC’s reporting will reveal more about what was happening in the Premier’s Office to influence the way Crown prosecutors were dealing with cases related to the enforcement of public health regulations during the pandemic and protests against those policies.  A CBC report yesterday that quoted Henderson’s statement in full indicated it was drafted to respond to angry comments by supporters of the premier after Smith’s challenge was published.  Henderson’s statement drew attention to Ms. Smith’s 2019 comments about the Globe and Mail report that the Prime Minister’s Office pressured then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in a fraud and corruption prosecution of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. Wilson-Raybould resigned as justice minister and was later expelled from the Liberal Caucus in Ottawa over her conduct in the brouhaha.  “If anything warrants a Mueller committee-style investigation, it’s certainly this,” Smith, still working as the host of a right-wing talk radio show, said at the time – a reference to the 2017-2019 investigation by former FBI director Robert Mueller into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and President Donald Trump’s reputed involvement.  Henderson also noted that Smith has admitted she contacted Crown prosecutors and then later changed her story.  While the CBC story did not name the sources of its information, Henderson said, “CBC knows the names of the sources, knows where they work, and has carefully assessed the credibility of the information they offered, but agreed not to use their names so as not to put their jobs at risk.” “Let me emphasize here that we were very careful not only to confirm the bona fides of the sources we spoke with, but to corroborate the information they gave us,” she continued. “It was only after we had spoken with multiple sources and were satisfied with its credibility and authenticity that we published it.”  “We remain committed to reporting this story and all the stories we carry with transparency, balance and impartiality,” her statement concluded.  So it would seem that Premier Smith can bluster and threaten if she likes but that there is not much she can do to prevent the CBC from pursuing the story.  The post Premier throws down gauntlet with defamation accusation; CBC picks it up appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 1/30/23 8:31am
We’re going to be hearing a lot this year about inflation and layoffs. As anyone who buys gas or groceries can tell you, prices for necessities are spiking. Spoiler alert: our economic masters expect workers to absorb the impacts of economic change, from higher prices to disappearing jobs. A time-honored and knee jerk corporate response to inflation and other forms of economic turbulence is to lay off workers, a move that  is often rewarded, at least temporarily, by the stock market. (Although, like much pro-capitalist received wisdom, the link between layoffs and improved profit and performance is less robust than it appears to  be. More on that later.) In just the first three weeks of January, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced 12,000  job cuts around the world, with some of the bloodletting slated to occur in Canada. Amazon.com Incorporated expects to cut 18,000 world-wide. Similarly, Microsoft expects to lay off 10,000 workers this year. Canadian tech firms were also cutting workers in the opening weeks of the year, with hundreds of jobs lost at Lightspeed Commerce, Hootsuite Inc., Clearco and Thinkific. All told, over 70,000 tech workers were laid off in the past year, including the 3,700 jobs lost to the bloodletting over at the Twitter abattoir. And the tech sector was not the only one seeing significant layoffs. From iron mines on Baffin Island to food delivery apps in Winnipeg, Canadian workers are already  getting layoff notices this year, as management tries to prop up profits by reducing labour costs. The corporate slogan seems to  be “Thanks for your service. Now screw off.” The situation is now so serious, and the use of the layoff tactic so common, that Fortune Magazine, one of the iconic journals of the business class, recently published a long article on how to best conduct employee layoffs. One of the helpful layoff  hints Fortune  offered to top management was that they should obey local laws, apparently not an obvious practice for Fortune’s CEO readers! So, what does all this have to do with union strategies for the new year? The answer is simple: organize, organize, organize! Unionized workers, by and large,  have more protection from arbitrary dismissal, and better severance packages than unorganized workers. And the protection and benefits negotiated by unions for their members tend to drive up wages, protections  and benefits for unorganized workers in their localities as well. Unions create direct benefits for their members and indirect benefits for the larger economy and for their employers too, as was recently argued in a paper from the Atlantic Council. As mentioned above, it has long been assumed in ruling class circles and in the business aligned press that the best response for companies facing challenges is to lay off workers and make operations “lean.” But some fascinating  research reported in the Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018, suggests that mass layoffs are often not only cruel and heartless, but stupid, failing spectacularly to the achieve the bottom-line targets they were implemented to accomplish. The study’s authors note: “Yet other data on layoffs should give companies pause. In a 2012 review of 20 studies of companies that had gone through layoffs, Deepak Datta at the University of Texas at Arlington found that layoffs had a neutral to negative effect on stock prices in the days following their announcement. Datta also discovered that after layoffs many companies suffered declines in profitability, and a related study showed that the drop in profits persisted for three years. And a team of researchers from Auburn University, Baylor University, and the University of Tennessee found that companies that have layoffs are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as companies that don’t have them. After a layoff, survivors experienced a 20% decline in job performance.” The same Harvard Business Review researchers give an account of a powerful union-led push back against layoffs at a German plant operated by the cell phone company Nokia. When the company announced massive layoffs at the plant in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, unionized workers there fought back with mass demonstrations and consumer boycotts. The workers persuaded the German government to demand Nokia repay subsidies they had been given earlier. According to the authors, Nokia lost seven hundred million Euros in sales and one hundred million Euros in profits in 2008 and 2009 due to this effective labour fight back. We don’t always win when we fight back, but we always lose if we surrender. And unions represent an important way for workers to fight back. Sadly, unions have been targeted and in too many cases weakened by the shift to a globalized economy and the rise of right-wing authoritarian regimes and sophisticated anti-union ideologies around the world. Strikes are broken, labour law protections weakened, and the slimy, squalid doctrines of rugged individualism promoted. Collective efforts are disparaged in contrast to a neo-Hobbesian war of all against all. It is not an easy time to be a trade unionist, but it continues to be vital that we build and protect our unions. The challenge to build, expand and protect  independent, militant unions is a global one, but workers face different obstacles in different jurisdictions. For example, Canadian unionism, while in desperate need of renewal and expansion, is far stronger than organized labour in the US. American union density is at its lowest ebb since record keeping on this vital matter began in 1983. Union members make up only 10.1 per cent of the American workforce, down from over 20 per cent 40 years ago. Canada has seen losses in union density too, but not as disastrous as the American case. In 1981, 38 per cent of the Canadian workforce was unionized, a figure that fell  nine per cent to 29 per cent in 2022. So Canadian workers start from a better place than American, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want a union movement robust enough to fight back against what our business class masters have in mind for us. The post Thinking about inflation, layoffs and fighting back appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, inflation, layoffs, unions]

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[l] at 1/30/23 8:11am
Activists, community members, harm reduction workers and radical scholars have long called attention to the relations between K-12 schools, universities, and policing; prison expansion, gentrification, and the privatization of public space; houselessness, alternative street economies, substance use, and mental illness. As activists and scholars working in Toronto who are deeply concerned about these issues, we witness daily how neoliberal capitalist interests are directing money away from the people and away from social supports and programs. We know that it is not a coincidence that all of the following is happening simultaneously: the chaos of discussions around public health, housing and the mayor’s increasingly authoritarian decision-making power and lack of accountability; violent shelter hotel and encampment evictions; and calls in recent months for the increased “securitization” of public schools and the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) campus.   In response to an incident of sexual assault on October 26, 2022 at TMU, an online petition was circulated, calling for an increase of security on campus. The petition garnered over 13,000 signatures. On November 7, 2022, TMU announced “measures to enhance security on TMU campus” in response to “recent incidents on our campus [that] have been especially concerning for our community members.” The announcement details how TMU’s Community Safety and Security Team have already increased the number of security guards and municipal police on campus to protect what they call, “the wellbeing of our community.”  On Friday, December 2, 2022 students of York Memorial Collegiate Institute walked out of their school and marched with their community supporters to the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) offices to protest the horrific conditions they are being subjected to in their school. As the walkout and press releases by students demonstrate, students and those who love them are acutely aware of the violence in their schools, wherein police are not the answer, but indeed very much part of the problem. Students at York Memorial report being subjected to racial slurs, racist remarks, and discrimination from teachers; they do not feel supported or respected as human beings. The frequency with which police are called to the school has not improved the situation, instead students report being further terrorized by the presence and behaviours of armed officers. Certainly, many of them, especially those who are Indigenous, Black, and/ or poor people, are starkly aware that police do NOT keep them safe. And yet, beginning on Monday, December 5 (and continuing for several days) an urgent special meeting of the TDSB Board of Trustees discussed a motion to bring back the School Resource Officers (SRO) program, after voting to remove that same program from its schools less than five years ago.  Tireless organizing and activism by students, parents, educators, community members and educational activists led to the correct decision to remove cops from TDSB schools in 2017, and it is unconscionable that the board would now even consider reinstating that program. We add our voices to the many asserting that any move to revive the SRO program will send a clear message to the students and families most impacted by this decision, that the TDSB does not care about their well-being, about their education, or about their futures. Cops in schools do not end violence in schools; cops in schools subject students to normalized police surveillance, harassment, intimidation, assault, racial profiling, and criminalization. At TMU (formerly Ryerson University), activist students – most notably Black student activists – have described being subjected to relentless surveillance and harassment, especially when organizing against the presence of police in their school. Organizing and activism led by students forced the university to suspend plans for additional police presence on campus a few short years ago. Instead of committing to the long-term work of creating safer academic and local communities rooted in strong relationships, shared resources and harm reduction, universities too often prefer to “wait out” generations of radical students. This appears to be the case at TMU, as the senior administration has sought to maintain its authority through attempts to silence and push out student activists (Igbavboa, Singh, 2020). In the recent announcement regarding safety at TMU, the very first of the “community supports” the university identifies as key partnerships in these efforts is Toronto Police Service. Due to the ongoing resistance of the Indigenous landback movement, and increasingly militant action and refusals of normative white settler colonialism in academia, TMU has been forced to rebrand from emphasis on colonial historical authority (via the Ryerson name and legacy) to an emphasis on neoliberal capitalist authority (as an institution of a global city/metropolis). Universities seek to capitalize on sophisticated spaces of urban “diversity” and capitalist development, while erasing the poverty, criminalized activity, and alternative survival economies that always already exist in gentrifying cities. This involves the construction of disposable groups of people through carcerality using surveillance and police violence to criminalize ‘social problems’ and the (disproportionately Black, Indigenous) populations most directly subjected to them. The university has been mythically constructed as the antithesis and even solution to such urban social problems and peoples; hence TMU and the University of Toronto in downtown Toronto and those of us who work in these institutions can think of ourselves as progressive and embracing of international diversity without the burden of addressing the power relations and social hierarchy of racial capitalism (Leonardo and Hunter, 2007).  A report on anti-racism that was published in 2010 by Ryerson/TMU demonstrates the way racialized students, faculty and staff experience racial violence from the presence of cops on campus (Final Report of the Taskforce on Anti-Racism at Ryerson, 2010, pg. 30). This message has since been consistently communicated to the university administration by multiple student groups, faculty, and external community members, while additional research, such as the 2020 report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission details that Black Toronto residents are disproportionately targeted by police violence. The Scarborough Charter is a pledge to fight anti-Black racism and promote Black inclusion in higher education. Under pressure from activists after failing to sign on from the outset, Mohamed Lachemi, President of TMU, signed the Charter in October 2022 (Djan, 2022). A specific call to action listed in section 3.1 of the Charter states that Universities and Colleges Commit to Enabling Mutuality in Governance by:  3.1.1. reassessing the existing campus security and safety infrastructure and protocols with a view to protecting the human dignity, equality and safety of Black people on campus 3.1.2. undertaking periodic climate surveys that consider local community relations, to assess and guide initiatives to build inclusive campuses in a manner that is responsive to the specific needs of Black faculty, staff and students. Despite the commitment of TMU to address anti-Black racism in the university, TMU is engaging in policy to address sexual violence in a way that centres white neo/liberal values. It has ignored the broader knowledges of students, faculty, staff, and community members that would support measures that can address the overlapping, co-constitutive nature of racial, sexual, and state violence (Colpits, 2021).  In addition to discounting the labour of those who have worked for community-centred, trauma informed, non-carceral approaches to collective wellbeing at the university, TMU’s decision to increase policing on campus (whether by private security companies or the TPS) directly conflicts with the commitments of the Scarborough Charter. TMU’s touting of its ongoing intimacy with TPS as a way of addressing sexual violence dramatically fails to recognize the multitude of ways that racialized sexual violence is enacted in campus spaces and the greater community—including by police themselves. It is necessary to reflect on who feels (and who does not feel) reassured by increased policing practices in schools, and whose wellbeing is nourished (and who is directly harmed and traumatized) by police presence in schools and communities. Increased policing increases violence, especially violence towards Black and Indigenous community members, and those who are negatively impacted by lack of housing, by poverty, and by the criminalization of substance use and sex work.  TMU has implemented more police and security officers, disregarding substantial evidence of the effects of increased racial violence from increasing security on campus. Consistent efforts led by Black student groups over the years have detailed how actions to increase security on campus adversely impact the greater TMU community. As Dr. Anne-Marie Singh tells us, “these calls for increased security ignore the findings of both the Anti-Racism Taskforce Report and the Anti-Black Climate Report about the violent policing of Indigenous and Black bodies by campus security Reports which the Administration accepted with much fanfare but have now tossed aside” (personal communication, December 20, 2022). TMU administrators are thus well aware that increased policing on campus only provides a sense of safety for community members who feel protected by systems of white supremacy and the social hierarchy of racial capitalism. The clandestine violence of calling for a strengthened police presence on the TMU campus cannot and should not be ignored, nor should it be viewed in isolation from the ramping up of a racist and gendered moral panic about student violence in public schools. Bringing cops into schools is intricately connected to neoliberal capitalist interests, as is deploying cops to violently evict encampments and shelter hotels, as are court injunctions and the deployment of cops to violently extract Indigenous peoples from their land. Institutions of police direct money away from the people, as evidenced by the mayor’s unabashed 48 million dollar increase in funding for the police instead of addressing the crucial need for greater supports for housing, health and education.   At the same time that Black students are leading resistance to police presence in their schools, the poor are defending their communities and rights to permanent affordable housing, and Indigenous Land Defenders are continuing centuries of resistance to the unethical and illegal occupation of colonizers on their traditional territories. These issues are intertwined, and we stand in solidarity with those who are leading actions that imagine a future that transcends white settler colonialism. It is crucial that new and current students of all ages know of a narrative that differs from the common and timeworn myth that police protect and serve all of us equally and equitably. If we must walk out from schools and engage in hours, months, and years of advocacy and resistance to make it known, then we are valid and justified in doing so. Demands to increase police presence in schools and communities disregard the realities of those who know, live, and survive police violence as anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-poor violence. Cops do not keep our communities safe; cops keep normative white settler colonialism intact The post Education and the carceral state appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Education, Toronto Metropolitan University]

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[l] at 1/30/23 5:12am
In the second part of this two-part episode of the Courage My Friends podcast COP15 and 3030: Indigenous-Led Conservation and Saving the Greenbelt, manager at Springwater Provincial Park and former Chief of the Beausoleil First Nation, Jeff Monague, discusses principles of Indigenous-led conservation, the dangers facing First Nations communities from Greenbelt development and the need to shift our thinking in order to reconnect with the natural world. Reflecting on the meaning of reconciliation, Monague says:  “We cant think about conservation if we dont live or try to live that conservation…Were not doing that enough. In Canada, the government needs to do more. If it is reconciliation that theyre talking about, then they need to do moreReconciliation wont happen if all of your partners are not included. Lets say were going to spend $30 million on a project and then well give 1% of that to First Nations. Thats not reconciliation.”  About Jeff Monague Jeff Monague is a member of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island and currently resides near Coldwater, Ont. Presently, he is the manager at Springwater Provincial Park. He has been an instructor of the Ojibwe Language and has taught at every level, from junior kindergarten to post secondary at Georgian College. His book Ahaw Anishinaabem for beginners of the Ojibwe Language is available on Amazon. He is a former Chief and Councillor of his community on Christian Island and has been the Treaty research director for the Anishinaabek Nation. He is also a Canadian military veteran. Transcript of this episode can be accessed at georgebrown.ca/TommyDouglasInstitute or here.  Image: Jeff Monague / Used with Permission Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (podcast announcer); Bob Luker (voice of Tommy Douglas); Kenneth Okoro, Liz Campos Rico, Tsz Wing Chau (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 This is part two of a two-part episode. Catch up on Part I of this episode here.  The post COP15 and 3030 Pt. II: Indigenous led conservation and saving the Greenbelt appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Economy, Environment, Indigenous, Indigenous rights]

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[l] at 1/27/23 2:42pm
Danielle Smith comes out swinging. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals do the rope-a-dope.  Remember, though, in addition to being prime minister, Trudeau is an actual boxer, and the son of a judoka to boot. So he understands the rope-a-dope strategy, about which there is nothing dopey.  Rope-a-dope is a famous boxing technique in which one contender leans against the ropes of the ring, covers up, and draws harmless punches until the other is exhausted enough to defeat.  How better to describe the federal Liberals’ response to the Alberta premier’s hysterical sallies against the federal government’s “just transition” program and just about everything else that happens in Ottawa? You must stop saying Just Transition, Smith bellowed in a performative letter to the prime minister posted to the Alberta Government’s website Thursday. READ MORE: Alberta’s UCP says ‘just transition’ is a divisive, polarizing term After all, just transition implies there will be a transition and a rare point of agreement for the disunited United Conservative Party (UCP) is that there must be no transition from oil and gas, no matter what, forever and ever, amen.  “Immediately drop the verbiage of ‘Just Transition,’” the premier’s letter demanded. “Rename the ‘Just Transition Act’ to the ‘Sustainable Jobs Act.’” (Never mind the iffy grammar here folks; there’s no time to go down that rabbit hole.) Ottawa’s response, delivered via social media: Sure. OK! “Dear Premier Smith,” came the prime minister’s response, channelled by Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan, and Tourism Minister and Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault.  “We thank you for the letter. Much of what you outlined is very much in line with what the federal government will bring forward – including the preference for the term ‘Sustainable Jobs.’” The premier’s punch lands softly, leaving no bruise.  Smith further demands: Ottawa must “vow that all provisions of any forthcoming legislation will be designed to incentivize investment” in the oil and gas sector.  Ottawa’s response: Sure. OK. “We will always support and make sure Alberta continues to be a global energy leader, now and for generations to come,” the letter from the federal trio says soothingly.  The premier’s letter also claims, falsely, that the Just Transition program if implemented “will risk a full 25 per cent of Alberta’s economy and 187,000 jobs in Alberta.” The federal letter responds gently, “as many of Canada’s and Alberta’s major unions and industry have said, if we work together and get this right, it will create huge opportunities for workers across the province.” The premier’s letter: Dammit! I want a meeting with you about this! Right away! In February! (OK, that’s your blogger’s summary of what she said.) Ottawa’s response: Hmmmm … maybe …  “We have been working productively and closely with Ministers Savage and Guthrie,” the federal message gently notes. (Environment Minister Sonya Savage and Energy Minister Peter Guthrie, that is; some emphasis was added to make the three Liberals’ point perfectly clear. Sly smiles not shown.) “We look forward to continuing our ongoing work with you, your cabinet, unions and all partners on this important work.” No provincial Conservative’s head has exploded yet. But one imagines that the pressure in building. If that happens, there may be no need for anyone in Ottawa to “execute devastating offensive punches,” as the Wikipedia entry on the rope-a-dope puts it, for the win.  Just remember, though, as Senator Patrick Brazeau can tell you, if Trudeau decides to get off the ropes, he’s got a pretty good right, and a pretty good left too.  Tyler Shandro conduct hearing to go into overtime After hours of testimony and many delays yesterday, Tyler Shandro’s Alberta Law Society conduct hearing will have to continue later. Scheduled to end yesterday, the clock ran out on the three-day hearing into three complaints of unprofessional conduct in 2020 with more cross-examination of the Alberta justice minister required. More dates will be announced later by the Law Society.  The post Smith comes out swinging; Trudeau responds with the rope-a-dope appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, just transition, Justin Trudeau]

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[l] at 1/27/23 2:34pm
Premier Danielle Smith published a statement accusing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and journalists in its employ of publishing “a defamatory article” with the intent “to smear the reputations of the Premier, her office staff, Alberta Crown prosecutors and the Alberta Public Service.” If Smith sincerely believes this to be so, there is a simple solution available to her in law: the tort of defamation.  Smith and any of the supposedly aggrieved parties she mentioned in her press release are free to sue the CBC and its reporters for defamation.  Indeed, I think she should consider doing so.  The result could potentially be quite interesting, as the defendants’ lawyers would have the opportunity to cross-examine Smith and members of her office staff under oath about the matter complained of, statements made in the broadcaster’s exclusive January 19 report that staff in the Premier’s Office attempted to influence Crown prosecutors about cases related to the enforcement of public health regulations during the pandemic. The information uncovered would clearly be of significant benefit to the Alberta public.  Now let me be clear that by saying this, I am not offering legal advice. I am not a lawyer and therefore am not qualified to do so.  Still, Alberta’s Defamation Act, a copy of which can be obtained free on line from the King’s Printer of Alberta, is quite clear in setting out how one might go about filing a such a suit, and there is no shortage of lawyers in this province qualified and willing to help.  Of course, this is unlikely because the last thing Smith wants, I am pretty sure, would be actually to be cross-examined under oath about who in her office said what to whom on this sensitive and increasingly controversial topic. It can be observed with confidence, indeed, that the premier and her political staff were bluffing when they came up with the idea of Wednesday’s press release, which represents a new level of silliness for the Alberta government, which has been outdoing itself on this score since Smith became premier.  Smith was obviously furious about the damage caused by the original CBC story, and presumably also by another one published Wednesday morning that said she tried repeatedly over several months to pressure the office of Justice Minister Tyler Shandro to influence criminal mischief and other charges against an anti-vaccine preacher who took part in the Coutts border blockade a year ago. Said the press release: “The Premier calls on the CBC to retract its outrageous story and, further, that the CBC and the Official Opposition apologize to the Premier, Premier’s Office staff, Alberta Crown prosecutors and those in the Alberta Public Service, for the damage caused to their reputations and that of Alberta’s justice system.” This statement, in turn, baselessly suggests the CBC and the NDP Opposition were somehow working together.  The release concluded: “All communications between the Premier, her staff, the Minister of Justice and Ministry of Justice public servants have been appropriate and made through the proper channels. The CBC’s allegations and insinuations to the contrary are, once again, baseless.” Well what better way to prove that than to go to court!  Indeed, given that the premier’s statement itself defames the CBC and its employees, who are restrained from responding by the optics of a federal Crown corporation suing a provincial politician, I imagine the CBC’s defamation lawyers, for once, would be delighted to have the opportunity to defend the corporation’s journalism in court.  As a number of readers, including Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt, noticed, some of the wording of the news release mimicked the standard phrases used in lawyers’ demand letters seeking to bully journalists and members of the public into making unnecessary apologies.  “It reads like a demand email prior to a defamation lawsuit,” Bratt tweeted. “Is Smith planning on suing the CBC?” He added shrewdly that the premier’s admission in her statement that “the Premier and her staff had several discussions with the Minister of Justice and ministry officials, requesting an explanation of what policy options were available” to declare an amnesty for people charged with pandemic-related violations, tends to confirm some of the CBC’s reporting.  While Bratt has some experience receiving demand letters, I daresay your blogger has had even more, and the CBC’s lawyers will have vastly more than me.  It is important to note, as I have been advised by legal counsel on more than one occasion, such letters don’t mean very much at all if they are not followed by a statement of claim filed with the appropriate court.  They mean even less when they are conveyed in the form of an angry government press release.  And unlike some news organizations, I doubt the CBC will have much trouble corroborating its sources’ claims.  The post Smith accuses CBC of defaming her, her staff, and the whole public service  appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 1/27/23 2:04pm
On the evening of January 24, my wife and I attended a Holocaust memorial concert at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa: Silent Tears, The Last Yiddish Tango. The performance was based on poems written by elderly Holocaust survivors. The project had originated as a therapeutic exercise led by social worker Paula David with residents of a long-term care home in Toronto. It also included extracts from the memoir of Molly Applebaum, who, with an older cousin, spent almost four years buried in a wooden box on a Polish farm. A team of musicians set the words to music, based on a style of Argentine tango that was popular in Eastern Europe in the pre-World War II period. The music is elegant, yearning, and beautiful. The lyrics are unsparingly graphic, honest and heartbreaking. Song titles include: Some of Us Must Survive, The Numbers on My Arm, Bitter Winter, Don’t Let Us Starve, and A Victim of Mengele. Personification of the particular horror of the Holocaust The last title refers to the “angel of death”, Nazi doctor and SS officer Josef Mengele, who oversaw the so-called “selections” of the thousands of daily new arrivals at the Auschwitz murder factory. Mengele would indicate either this way to the gas chambers for children, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women and many others, or that way to the workers’ barracks for the minority deemed fit for slave labour. The song deals with Mengele’s notorious experiments on Jewish and Roma prisoners, and tells in excruciating detail about being administered poison and repeatedly raped, yet somehow surviving. Mengele’s schizoid personality personifies the particular horror of the Holocaust, a crime carried out by a people who considered themselves to be cultivated and civilized. Mengele could, at one moment, adopt the pose of a scholarly and kindly avuncular figure, giving sweets to children, especially twins, on whom he planned to conduct experiments. The next moment he could become the most vicious of sadists, revelling in his work of dispatching thousands to an agonizing death.  After the war, Mengele escaped to South America, where the governments of more than one country protected him. He was never apprehended and died of natural causes, as a result of a stroke while swimming, in 1979. Mengele achieved prosperity in exile, running a number of successful businesses. He lived a comfortable and respectable life, all the while claiming that he had merely been a good soldier who followed orders. Amazingly, Mengele even dared return to Europe, in 1956. He obtained an Argentinian residence permit using his real name, and, with that, a West German passport on which he travelled. He took a ski holiday in Switzerland with his son and returned to his German hometown of Günzburg for a week. He returned to Argentina, where he continued to live and prosper, under his own name. It was only in 1959, almost a decade and a half after the end of World War II, that the West German government, pressured by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, issued an arrest warrant for Mengele. From World War II to the Cold War The lack of interest in bringing a torturer, murderer and war criminal to trial is not, in retrospect, surprising. Those of us who grew up in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust can well remember how the society of the time enveloped the entire subject in a kind of cone of silence. One big reason for that deliberate turning away from those so-recently-experienced horrors was that just as World War II ended a new war started – the Cold War. The new world-wide conflict pushed a reckoning for the crimes of the Nazis to the back burner. There was a war crimes tribunal in the city of Nuremberg, which tried and sentenced a handful of senior Nazi leaders, some to death, but that was pretty much the end of it. Starting in the late 1940s, we in the West had a new enemy, the Soviet Union.  And we needed the help of many who had fought and served under the swastika to keep this new enemy at bay – especially after the Soviets succeeded in establishing a buffer zone of friendly Communist governments on their western flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  The prevailing Western view was that it would be impolitic to dwell too much on the crimes of the Hitler regime when we faced this new and fearsome adversary. For their part, the Soviets were equally uninterested in talking about the Holocaust and the deliberate enslavement and slaughter of millions.  The Soviet Union’s leaders did not want the suffering of the Jews, the Roma, and others who were the designated targets of the Holocaust to overshadow the Soviet peoples’ own massive, collective sacrifice.  The Soviet Union lost about 20 million people in the war, more than the entire population of Canada at the time, and about half the total fatalities of the war. In the West, as the Cold War dawned, popular culture found a new demon in the evil Communist. Hollywood came up with a whole genre, still studied by cinema historians: the Red Scare film.  Those B-movies – which had little artistic merit even if they sometimes starred big name actors such as Jimmy Stewart – often featured unsavory and unattractive villains, with foreign, often Jewish-sounding names. In the real world, there were spectacular espionage trials, most notably that of a pair of so-called atomic spies, an American Jewish couple by the name of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.  People who had survived the Holocaust got the message. You are yesterday’s news, if you were ever news. Get on with life and be grateful you have found a safe haven. A cone of silence over Nazi crimes The poems and memories that become songs in Silent Tears reflect that painful compulsion to keep silent, to bury the hurt and the trauma of the past.  Many of the songs refer to feeling almost embarrassed by the fact of having been victims of Nazi terror.  One song tells of how a survivor used to cover the tattooed numbers on her arm. The Nazis tattooed their millions of captives, and addressed them only by their numbers, never their names. I went to school in the immediate post-war period with many children of Holocaust victims, in Montreal, a city which gave haven to a relatively large number of survivors.  Montreal, with its large garment and fur industries, needed the skills a good many Holocaust survivors had. But the Holocaust was never a subject of study or even conversation in our schools.  There were no special presentations on January 27, or any other day, at the National Arts Centre, or anywhere else.  The prime ministers of that epoch, the 1950s and 1960s, did not make eloquent pronouncements on the enduring lessons of the Holocaust, as Justin Trudeau did this year, and other recent prime ministers did before him. Trudeau’s 2023 message was broadcast at the January 24 concert.  It took decades before anyone even coined the word Holocaust and longer before the word would enter the general discourse.  The United Nations designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance because that was the day, in 1945, when the Red Army liberated the largest of the more than 1,000 Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau, near the town of Oswiecim in Poland. The member states of the U.N. did not do so on the tenth anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation, in 1955, nor on the twentieth, nor on its thirtieth.  They waited until the sixtieth anniversary, in 2005.  Three years ago, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation, Jack Jedwab and the Montreal-based institute he heads, the Association for Canadian Studies, organized a memorial conference in Ottawa. Jedwab made a point of including not only Jewish survivors and those who had studied the Jewish experience, but also a representative of the Roma community in Canada, and Jean-Paul Samputu, a Rwandan musician who survived the genocide in his country. An extremist coalition in Israel does not negate truth of Holocaust Recognizing that others have suffered mass killings does not take away from the uniqueness of what happened to my own people, the Jews.  Nor does honouring and memorializing the unique centuries-long persecution of the Jews, which reached its apogee in the Holocaust, mean one approves of every act and policy of the current government of Israel. The current far-right coalition in Israel has chosen to shut down any hope for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and seeks to legislatively hobble the country’s Supreme Court, in large measure in order to remove judicial obstacles to illegal occupations on Palestinian territory. But the anti-democratic and at times violent policies of the most extremist Israeli government has ever had do not take away from the fact that for many the belated recognition of the Holocaust has had scant effect. Despite speeches by world leaders, commemoration events, and U.N resolutions, we are witnessing a frightening renewal of old-fashioned, right-wing antisemitism, in the U.S., in Canada, and in Europe.  Ironically, the Israeli far right is all too happy to make common cause with conservative- nationalist governments such as that of Viktor Orban in Hungary. Last July, Orban shocked many when he said Hungarians were not and should not become “a mixed race”. Much earlier, Orban’s government chose to revive the memory of Hungary’s leader from 1920 to 1944, Admiral Miklos Horthy. Horthy had been an ally of Hitler. On one occasion he admitted to being embarrassed that so many prominent Hungarians were Jews. “I have been an antisemite throughout my life,” Horthy wrote to another Hungarian politician, “I have never had contact with Jews. I have considered it intolerable that here in Hungary everything, every factory, bank, large fortune, business, theatre, press, commerce, etc. should be in Jewish hands, and that the Jew should be the image reflected of Hungary, especially abroad.” In his most recent statement about race mixing, current Hungarian leader Viktor Orban appeared to have in mind refugees from Africa and Asia, and, perhaps, Hungary’s large Roma population of more than 800,000. But that would be cold comfort to the 100,000 Jews of Hungary.  A significant number of those Jews had left Hungary for the West after the war, then returned, full of hope, following the end of the Communist regime. Now, Viktor Orban and his government scare them. And Hungarian Jews must scratch their heads in utter bafflement when they see the Israeli government cozying up to Orban and treating his regime as something of a role model. Here in Canada, some unruly elements of the far right have gleefully adopted antisemitic tropes and rhetoric.  Nili Kaplan-Myrth, an Ottawa doctor and school board trustee who actively promotes measures such as masking to counteract COVID, regularly receives hateful and ugly anti-Jewish messages on social media. There has been a disturbing number of antisemitic incidents in Canada over the past few years – synagogues defaced, school children harassed, cemeteries vandalized.  No matter how much the world collectively, if belatedly, recognizes the utter depravity of the Holocaust and the race hatred that led to it, such hatred refuses to die. And so, it is possible to, at one and the same time, support the rights of Palestinians and fight the kind of hatred Dr. Kaplan-Myrth has faced with stoic courage. The far-right dominated government of Israel finds it perversely expedient to make common cause with a European government which honours the memory of a proud and unrepentant antisemite.  That does not diminish the searing truth of what Molly Appelbaum has to say – and what many millions of others never got a chance to say. Such is the meaning of the words: “Never forget”. The post Why it took decades to talk about the Holocaust appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Anti-racism, Human Rights, International Holocaust Remembrance Day]

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[l] at 1/27/23 1:30pm
Abortion was decriminalized in Canada 35 years ago this Saturday, January 28. 36 years ago, if you wanted an abortion, it meant sitting in front of a panel of doctors, usually men, who would decide if your abortion was “necessary.” That is, if you could access such a hospital. Not all hospitals created those committees, effectively refusing to provide abortion care at all. If such a committee did deem your story good enough to warrant an abortion—many did not—delays could span weeks. Today, the legal hurdles are gone, but access is still a privilege not everyone in Canada has, and another question looms: Could what happened in the U.S. happen here too?  The answer is no, and yes, and it’s more complicated than that.In Canada, abortion is treated as health care. We do not have an equivalent law that could be repealed to simply snuff out our right to what is a very common and essential medical procedure. We can take a deep breath. That said, we must not discount the impossible. Five years ago, it would have been unthinkable that Roe v. Wade was going to be toppled. We must stay vigilant, human rights are not always on a straightforward path and sexual and reproductive rights are in the crosshairs of actors supporting the rise in authoritarianism across the globe, from Russia to the US to Poland to Hungary. READ MORE: Abortion rights affect us all And it is complicated because, while we focus on which laws protect the right to abortion, the real everyday issue is: Can I access one if I need one?  Our two organizations operate the only national emergency aid programs for those facing barriers to abortion in Canada. Through this frontline work, we get front-row seats to the challenges real people face every day when they need an abortion and are made to travel hundreds of kilometers to the nearest clinic or hospital where abortion is available. From our decades of experience, we know we have progress to celebrate–and that it is  thanks to the consistent work of those who continue to fight for people’s right to choose. Since the introduction of the abortion pill in Canada, we have seen the number of abortion providers soar as family doctors, nurse practitioners, and now midwives in Quebec, can provide their patients with abortion care. This will continue to close the gap in services between urban and rural areas. In 2021, the Federal Budget included the word abortion for the first time and created the first-of-its kind Health Canada Sexual and Reproductive Health Fund to help close the gap in access. In the last five years, our political conversations have finally moved on from “let’s not reopen the debate” to “how can we make abortion more accessible.” What persists is that not everyone can access abortion equally and those who are most impacted are those who are most vulnerable: people facing intimate partner violence, people in precarious immigration situations, people with lower socio-economic status, racialized people.   So you may ask, what can we do about it?  Across Canada, we need to stay vigilant and address the gaps and red flags: Abortion is still not a core-teaching in medical school, even though 1 in 3 people who can be pregnant will have an abortion in their lifetime. In 2021, a quarter of our elected officials in the House of Commons voted to restrict access to abortion. Next year, in 2024, the Health Canada fund will sunset if no commitment is made to make it permanent–leaving thousands of people in Canada without the support they need to access the abortion they want and have a right to.   As we mark this important anniversary, let’s keep our eyes on the prize: Rights are only real if people can truly live them in their daily lives. Rights don’t fight for themselves and so, let’s keep burning some bras and fight for abortion to be a right, not a privilege that depends on your bank account or postal code. The post 35 years after Morgentaler, abortion still not available for all in Canada appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Feminism, Health, abortion rights, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Roe v. Wade]

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[l] at 1/27/23 8:57am
Last month I had cataract surgery at the Bochner Eye Institute, a private clinic in Toronto.  It’s one of the 900 private clinics in the province doing simple surgery and diagnostics. The doctor asked me if I’d like to be able to see without glasses after surgery, pointing out that because I have an astigmatism, it would cost $4,000 per eye above OHIP. It’s called upselling but it didn’t work on me. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 13. I barely recognize myself without them, so it wasn’t an issue for me. As someone who has relied on alternative medicine all my life for most of my ailments, I’m used to paying for health care. All kinds of serious procedures and treatments whether dental, ocular, or psychological are not covered by health insurance. Moreover, up until very recently our Western medical system has ignored most preventative medicine. In that sense, public health care in Canada is a bit of a myth. Like most things, we compare ourselves to the U.S., who have about the worst health care system in the world and compared to them, our system is wonderful. For broken bones, cancer, and major surgery, public health care is excellent but it’s not perfect. So why has Premier Doug Ford’s (aptly nicknamed Doug Fraud by playwright Brad Fraser) recent announcement about the funding of new private clinics set up such a storm of protest? As Globe and Mail health reporter André Picard just pointed out on CBC radio, we already have private clinics in many provinces, and they haven’t undermined public health care. Yet, I would add, when the biggest province in the country announces that there will be big bucks to set up private for-profit clinics, health care corporations around the world will take notice. The danger is that private capital sees another opportunity to make profit from public money on the backs of the vulnerable. Ford famously said, “You will not need a credit card, all you’ll need is your OHIP card.” What he didn’t say is that the cost of that procedure might not be more for you, if you turn down the bells and whistles, but it will cost more to taxpayers because private, for-profit clinics care more for their shareholders than their patients. On top of that if there are more for-profit clinics, there will be more double billing. We had that fight in Ontario decades ago when doctors tried to argue that it was fair to pay more to get to the front of the line. They lost that fight but Mike Harris gutted the health system by refusing to increase funding to the public system. Today in B.C., a case is going through the courts with the same double billing argument. So far the court has rejected it but it’s on its way to the Supreme Court. If you have any doubt about for-profit clinics just look at what happened in long-term care. In an analysis of 93 long-term care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks that have resulted in death, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) found fatality rates of nine per cent in for-profit homes, 5.3 per cent in non-profits, and 3.6 per cent in municipally owned facilities. Nevertheless, the Fraud government issued 30-year licenses and expansions for 18,000 long-term care beds to the same for-profit corporations responsible for the deaths of 4,000 long-term care residents. The same for-profit operators that had to have the army sent in to help with neglected and dying residents. At this moment we are waiting to hear of the agreement made between the federal government and provinces for increased health care funding. There is a model for such an agreement in the daycare agreement released last year. The federal government under considerable pressure insisted that all new money go to non-profit or public daycare. Fraud has been working hard to get around that limit and the childcare movement is working just hard to counter those limits and to assist new non-profit daycares to establish themselves to meet the growing need. Why not include funding for only new private non-profit or hospitals sponsored clinics in the health care agreement? Medical clinics to do simpler procedures and diagnostics is a good idea. It’s cheaper, more efficient, and more comfortable than hospitals but they don’t need to be for-profit. Quebec has an excellent model in CLSC’s, non-profit community clinics that serve many Quebecers instead of individual family doctors. The Ontario Medical Association is suggesting something similar called ambulatory clinics that would be run by hospitals. In another article here Karl Nerenberg argues that the most important problem is access to primary care and that non-profit clinics are the best solution. The issue is not just private versus public, it is profit versus non-profit. Why should our taxpayer dollars pay the profit of more multi-national health organizations, which we already do through pharmaceuticals and long-term care? How much better would our response to COVID-19 have been if we still had a public pharmaceutical laboratory? There is no question in my mind that Doug Fraud is out to privatize medicare and any other public service he can to enrich his buddies and live out his limited ideology that the market is best despite all evidence to the contrary. But in my view, the best way to fight him is to insist on non-profit private clinics not to oppose clinics altogether. The post The health care debate appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health]

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[l] at 1/27/23 8:25am
“The first casualty when war comes is truth,” U.S. Senator Hiram W. Johnson of California said in 1929, debating ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a noble but ultimately failed attempt to ban war. Reflecting on the First World War, which ended a decade earlier, he continued, “it begins what we were so familiar with only a brief period ago, this mode of propaganda whereby…people become war hungry in their patriotism and are lied into a desire to fight. We have seen it in the past; it will happen again in the future.” Time and again, Hiram Johnson has been proven right. Our government’s impulse to control information and manipulate public opinion to support war is deeply ingrained. The past 20 years, dominated by the so-called War on Terror, are no exception. Sophisticated PR campaigns, a compliant mass media and the Pentagon’s pervasive propaganda machine all work together, as public intellectual Noam Chomsky and the late Prof. Ed Herman defined it in the title of their groundbreaking book, Manufacturing Consent, borrowing a phrase from Walter Lippman, considered the father of public relations. One publisher consistently challenging the pro-war narrative pushed by the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has been the whistleblower website Wikileaks. Wikileaks gained international attention in 2010 after publishing a trove of classified documents leaked from the U.S. military. Included were numerous accounts of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of civilians, and shocking footage of a helicopter gunship in Baghdad slaughtering a dozen civilians, including a Reuters journalist and his driver, on the ground below. Wikileaks titled that video, “Collateral Murder.” The New York Times and other newspapers partnered with Wikileaks to publish stories based on the leaks. This brought increased attention to the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. In December 2010, two months after release of the Collateral Murder video, then vice-president Joe Biden, appearing on NBC, said Assange was “closer to being a high-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers.” Biden was referring to the 1971 classified document release by Daniel Ellsberg, which revealed years of Pentagon lies about U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. With a secret grand jury empanelled in Virginia, Assange, then in London, feared being arrested and extradited to the United States. Ecuador granted Assange political asylum. Unable to make it to Latin America, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He lived inside the small, apartment-sized embassy for almost seven years. In April 2019, after a new Ecuadorian president revoked Assange’s asylum, British authorities arrested him and locked him up in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, often called “Britain’s Guantánamo.” He has been held there, in harsh conditions and in failing health, for almost four years, as the U.S. government seeks his extradition to face espionage and other charges. If extradited and convicted in the U.S., Assange faces 175 years in a maximum-security prison. While the Conservative-led U.K. government seems poised to extradite Assange, a global movement has grown demanding his release. The Progressive International, a global pro-democracy umbrella group, has convened four assemblies since 2020 called The Belmarsh Tribunals. Named after the 1966 Russell-Sartre Tribunal on the Vietnam War, convened by philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sarte, The Belmarsh Tribunal has assembled some of the world’s most prominent, progressive activists, artists, politicians, dissidents, human rights attorneys and whistleblowers, all speaking in defence of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. “We are bearing witness to a travesty of justice,” Jeremy Corbyn, a British Member of Parliament and former leader of the Labour Party, said at the tribunal. “To an abuse of human rights, to a denial of freedom of somebody who bravely put himself on the line that we all might know that the innocent died in Abu Ghraib, the innocent died in Afghanistan, the innocent are dying in the Mediterranean, and innocents die all over the world, where unwatched, unaccountable powers decide it’s expedient and convenient to kill people who get in the way of whatever grand scheme they’ve got. We say no. That’s why we are demanding justice for Julian Assange.” Corbyn is joined in his call by The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel–major newspapers that published articles based on the leaked documents. “Publishing is not a crime,” the newspapers declared. Never before has a publisher been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. The Assange prosecution poses a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and a free press. President Biden, currently embroiled in his own classified document scandal, knows this, and should immediately drop the charges against Julian Assange. This column originally appeared in Democracy Now! The post The Belmarsh Tribunals demand justice for Julian Assange appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, US Politics, Julian Assange, wikileaks]

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[l] at 1/27/23 7:52am
There’s something sad about the effect that increased legal access to gambling has had on the wide world of spectator sports. Bruce Kidd, a Canadian track champion in his time, wrote eloquently in the Globe and Mail about the diminution of sports’ inherent joys and uplift by slathering on new gambling opportunities, particularly online. It’s ironic that when alcohol is finally facing possible mandatory exposure for its illness effects — by way of labelling — gambling flows ever more freely. Maybe that’s the regulatory hydraulics of a vice: shut down one and the impulse flows to another. It infects everything, including the sports talk shows. The journos and ex-jocks can’t resist strutting their savvy about gambling, odds, the over-under. They sound like Damon Runyon characters in Guys and Dolls. I’ll die happy if I never have to hear the words, Al’s Brother, on TSN’s Overdrive again. The folks, including governments, getting rich off all this, make de rigueur calls for moderation and mental health — which has become the get-out-of-jail card for almost everything ugly done by the powerful. In fact the numbers of problem gamblers are pegged far below problem drinkers — not that it matters if you’re caught up in it as my family was, due to my dad’s gambling addiction. Is anything specific occurring right now that aids the voracious advances made by the gaming industry? I’ve always believed — based, I grant, on the family album — that people gamble most destructively when they’ve lost all hope of legitimately rising through merit or effort. In other words, when the game’s clearly rigged. In my teens, when I argued with my dad that moral wrongs must be fought at any cost, he countered, “Even when they’re wrong, they’re right.” But in the last 40 years of neoliberal policy, income gaps have risen to the levels of the Gilded Age; then, since COVID, they’ve gone even higher. So the appeal of pure chance (a.k.a. gamblers’ instincts, luck etc.) has risen too. Because the times are so unfair, potential gambling profits are staggering. Spectator sports have always played the role of distraction from the harsh realms of socio-economic injustice. Fandom took you to a realm where money isn’t what mattered — sometimes literally. During the era of the Original Six, pro hockey players sold used cars during the summer. Success seemed to rely instead on merit, skill, determination. Now, with gambling possible even during games — you can bet on individual moments, not just wins and loses — the ugly elements of reality that drove fans to games hoping that worthier values might prevail in life — have wormed their way back in, to mock those hopes in the act. More on MAID The government has paused the expansion of justifications for Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Act (MAID), which has already resulted in far more deaths here than comparable places like California. CBC’s Fifth Estate ran a fine hour on it recently. Mostly it showed people and let them speak for themselves. Minister of Justice David Lametti was the face of Smug Liberalism. He said Canadians have “faith” in our medical personnel. But MAID involves a small medical subset: some clearly honourable, others, in my opinion, questionable. That’s why caution’s required. A sympathetic MD who’s been with the program from the start said he’ll drop out if “mental illness” gets added, per the current plan. It makes him “sad.” That’s a guy you want in the program. A disabled man who couldn’t afford decent housing, applied for MAID. He didn’t want to die on the street. When word got out, people contributed enough to pay his rent. It was a “reprieve,” he said. Still, he thinks people deserve a dignified death if they aren’t allowed to live humanely. That’s complex thinking but he seemed up to it. I think I’d rather have him as justice minister than Lametti. How much do I think this matters? If the changes pass, and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre promised to repeal them, I’d vote for him next election. In a minute. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star. The post Online gambling undermines everything good that draws us to sports appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health, gambling, MAID, sports]

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[l] at 1/27/23 5:14am
When Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, thousands of Ukrainian seafarers were on their vessels away from their families. Transport unions helped by flying families out of the country, purchasing supplies and providing mental health counselling for the children. 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 Unions saving the families of 50,000 Ukrainian seafarers appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour]

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[l] at 1/27/23 4:30am
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: Will 2023 be a year of competing crises? On climate and the economy.’ Off the Hill takes a deep dive into the politics of cooling the economy and the planet as Parliament returns. The Canadian parliament returns on January 30. The spotlight is on the economy and the impact on Canadians. Our panel will unpack the critical issues related to the economic outlook and the climate emergency.  Our January panel included MP Leah Gazan, Jim Stanford, Clayton Thomas-Müller and Karl Nerenberg. Hosted by Robin Browne and Nick Seebruch.  About our guests Leah Gazan is Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. She is currently the NDP critic for Children, Families, and Social Development, as well as the deputy critic for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship. Leah is a member of Wood Mountain Lakota Nation, located in Saskatchewan, Treaty 4 territory. Jim Stanford is an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work. He previously served as economist and director of policy with Unifor. Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Treaty #6-based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, located in Northern Manitoba. He is an Indigenous activist, campaigner and public speaker. He is also the author of Life in the City of Dirty Water. 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. 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 Cooling the climate crisis – and the economy – in 2023 appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Economy, Environment, off the hill]

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[l] at 1/26/23 3:55pm
The chronic but never quite fatal decline of Postmedia has to be slowest-motion trainwreck in Canadian history. At this rate, the company will still be losing money churning out AI-written columns by virtual columnists with names like David, Rick and Don explaining why climate change isn’t a thing long after all human life on earth has been extinguished by global heating.  There’s probably a sci-fi story with legs in that scenario for some newly laid-off Postmedia hack hoping to kick-start a promising new career in a more respectable fiction genre.  Don’t knock it, similar predictions have come true.  Back in 2000, when your blogger was still on strike against the Calgary Herald, some wit put out a fake edition of the National Post with a story that promised the company (then known as Southam) would go green and “save thousands of hectares of Alberta forest by merging the Calgary Herald and the National Post.” After all, said the four-pager handed out to bewildered passersby at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, the Herald and the Post basically ran the same stories anyway.  We thought it was a joke. Who knew this would all come true in a few years – with the virtual twist that the Internet would make even lousier paperless papers possible?  Now it’s 2023 and the foundering newspaper chain is still in business – it’s principal business, one assumes, being giving big bonuses to executives, because it sure as hell isn’t very good at running newspapers.  Last week, we learned Postmedia is about to kill off yet another dozen community newspapers in Alberta by converting them to “digital-only formats” – you know, just like this blog, only in many cases I’d be willing to bet, with considerably fewer readers. The switch to digital is supposed to take place on February 27.  The list includes some venerable titles that have been bringing news to Albertans for generations.  The Toronto-based, U.S.-owned newspaper chain didn’t put out a news release or make a formal announcement, as you might have expected. The word got around after the Canadian Press got hold of a memorandum to staff saying so long to so many. In a virtual “townhall” for hapless employees facing the chop – a recording of which was leaked to the Globe and Mail – Postmedia CEO Andrew MacLeod made the usual excuses for the coming cuts.  “We need to have our costs be more in balance with the revenue environment that we find ourselves in,” he said, which is what newspaper executives always say when their increasingly shabby and uninformative product loses even more readers and advertisers to the Internet. The company did announce later in the day that it has finally sold off the huge and nearly derelict Calgary Herald Building on the east side of Deerfoot Trail – once upon a time the most fabulous newspaper plant in Canada, maybe the world, complete with a state-of-the-art vacuum tube system for moving award-winning stories from the newsroom to the pressroom – for a piddling $17.5 million. It took more than a decade to find a buyer willing to pay that much.  With high irony, the red brick mausoleum that looms over Cowtown’s rush hour traffic on the north-south freeway was sold to U-Haul Co., which can now rent trailers to Herald reporters to take their notes and desktop family photos home.  Postmedia has now reached the point where there would not be much point continuing to publish anything were it not for federal government subsidies and the aforementioned executive bonuses.  Postmedia reported last week that it lost $15.9-million in its first quarter, which for some reason ends on November 30, compared with a loss of $4.4-million in the same period a year earlier.  The company said that revenue from advertising and circulation were down 5.9 per cent and 5.4 per cent in the quarter. The only part of its business that turned a profit was its parcel-delivery service. So, for now, Postmedia will continue to print 19 newspapers in Alberta four dailies in Calgary and Edmonton and 15 smaller community newspapers.  It was obvious at the time Postmedia snapped up many Alberta community newspapers that this was going to end badly – and now that prediction is being played out. Speaking of U-Hauls, there was also word that the U.S.-owned newspaper corporation is sending its few remaining reporters in Saskatchewan home to work from their apartments, thus dumping the cost of running a premises in which to do business on their remaining underpaid hacks. You can expect the same thing to happen in Calgary as soon as U-Haul moves into its iconic new facility.  The dozen newspapers that will be newspapers no more – and won’t be very good websites either, since they’ll be filled with the same drivel that appears on all of Postmedia’s other websites – include some storied names. They are:         Drayton Valley Western Review       Airdrie Echo       Peace Country News       Fort McMurray Today       Leduc County Market       Cochrane Times       Bow Valley Crag and Canyon       Cold Lake Sun       Hanna Herald       Vermilion Standard       Pincher Creek Echo       Whitecourt Star In March 1999, according to the last edition of the Calgary Herald’s internal telephone directory published before the eight-month strike that began in November that year, there were 166 individual human beings employed in the paper’s editorial department alone! This doesn’t count those employed in administration, advertising, building services, distribution, electronic pre-press, financial services, human resources, marketing, paper make-up, plate-making, the press room, reader sales and services, security, sundry smaller departments, the cafeteria, and, I kid you not, the staff daycare. The paper they put out had its flaws, but all in all it was pretty good.  I doubt Postmedia employs 166 people in all of Alberta today. It would be considerable understatement to say its remaining papers are not so good.  At the end of the eight-month Calgary Herald strike in June 2000, with the union busted and most of us strikers taking buy-outs rather than return to that place, it seemed to me to be not just a rout, but a personal and professional catastrophe.  I’m very grateful now, though, to have left the newspaper business when I did, when there was still time for a just transition out of journalism. The post Postmedia closes 12 community newspapers in Alberta appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 1/26/23 3:31pm
Fighting over health care privatization is a familiar Canadian sport, but Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s current privatization push feels different. It’s more ambitious and forthright. And, in a new twist, commentators seem to be piling on his bandwagon, insisting that we gotta do things differently, ridiculing the Canadian reverence for public health care, even suggesting that it amounts to some sort of cult. Our public health-care system is struggling, and we’re told that the only way to fix it is to boldly, innovatively expand the role of the private sector. Another possibility is that our public health care system is struggling because the Ford government is starving it of funds, and the way to fix it is for Ford to inject those funds. Ontario is one of the richest provinces, but it spends less per person on health care than any other province. Please explain why, Premier. If Ontario just spent the average of what the other provinces have spent on health care per capita over the past five years, we’d be spending an additional $7.2 billion this year — more than enough to properly pay our beleaguered nurses, lure thousands more nurses to Ontario and bring back into use countless hospital operating rooms all over the province idled by years of budget cuts. Why opt for new private surgical clinics when we’ve got ample surgical facilities sitting empty in our hospitals? Instead, Ford bizarrely insists on capping nurses’ pay increases at a punitive one per cent, denying reasonable compensation to people who hold the key to reviving the system. Ontario is in relatively good financial shape and could easily invest more in health care, says Sheila Block, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Instead, Ford squanders money on tax breaks, giving up $8.2 billion in revenue annually from tax changes since 2018. And, when he gets additional health care funds from Ottawa in the upcoming federal-provincial deal, he could use those funds for further tax cutting, unless strings are firmly attached, Block notes. Allowing more private health care won’t solve this underfunding. It will simply mean more health services are carried out by profit-seeking entities that will pocket a share of the public money. We know about the profit motive — it permeates the business world, driving corporate managers to slash costs in evermore innovative ways so they can deliver ever-larger profits to shareholders. Presumably we can expect a softer, gentler version of the profit motive in the health care field — right? Oh, but wait, no! It turns out Ontario has carried out what amounts to a real-life experiment on the impact of the profit motive in health care — in the case of long-term care homes, where private equity and other innovative forms of cutthroat capitalism have had free rein. This real-life lab reveals that the profit motive operates pretty much the same in health care as in the corporate world: it has transformed nursing homes into lucrative businesses and, during the pandemic, into killing fields. Indeed, given that COVID death rates were four times higher in profit-making long-term care homes, it’s odd that commentators aren’t crying: “we gotta do something different!” Public health care has a deep intrinsic value; it isn’t just one possible option, to be considered along with private health care. Rather, public health care is the goal — just as public education is the goal when it comes to education — because these two public systems organize vital parts of our lives around the profoundly important principle of equality and accessibility for all. It’s that commitment to equality — utterly lacking in the marketplace that increasingly dominates our lives — that elevates these public systems to places of honour in our society, that makes them sources of inspiration of what we can achieve together as a nation. Instead of protecting our precious public health-care system, Ford wants to let the profit motive rip through it. We don’t so much have a health care crisis as a Doug Ford crisis. The post Premier Doug Ford should explain why he underfunds public health care appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Health, Doug Ford, health care, long-term care, privatization]

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[l] at 1/26/23 9:48am
January 25 marked Bell Let’s Talk day, a day many social media users may be familiar with. There is often a plethora of posts supporting mental health initiatives using the Bell Canada’s hashtag #BellLetsTalk.  For this year’s Bell Let’s Talk day, Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, wrote to Bell asking they turn the conversation towards themselves.  “Workers at Bell, across all units, experience workplace stress, mental health and illness, and workplace culture in vastly different ways,” reads a letter signed by Unifor National President Lana Payne, National Secretary-Treasurer Len Poirier and Quebec Director Daniel Cloutier.  The letter states that Unifor is “deeply connected” to Bell workers and other telecommunications workers. They said the 17,500 Unifor members work for Bell Canada or one outfits subsidiaries.  “For these members, workplace stress and other elements that are within Bell’s control such as job security, management practices and disciplinary procedures have been primary bargaining priorities for many years,” the letter reads.  Mental health cannot be addressed through ad campaigns Unifor said they want Bell Canada to collect data on mental health within their workplaces and set out a plan to improve mental wellness.  “The impact of mental illness on the job security and quality of so many Canadian worker’s lives cannot be addressed through advertising campaigns,” the union wrote.  Bell Canada is not the only workplace that needs to address worker mental wellbeing. A report released last year by Mental Health Research Canada shows that one third of Canadians are feeling burnt out at work.  Younger workers are feeling the stress most acutely, with 41 per cent of workers aged 18-34 experiencing burnout. As well, only 51 percent of workers feel the amount of work they are expected to do is often reasonable. Meaning almost half of workers who responded to the survey did not share this opinion. Amidst high levels of burnout and stress among workers, there have been calls for governments to legislate coverage and support for people who suffer psychological injuries at work.  For the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL), discussions around supporting those whose mental health suffers due to work has just begun. In December, they called on the provincial government to expand Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba coverage to those who suffer mental health injuries at work.  In Ontario, workers are eligible for support from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) if you have experienced a mental stress injury that can be shown to have resulted either from a traumatic incident or series of incidents at work that are substantial stressors However, the WSIB wrote on their website that they generally cannot provide benefits or services for mental stress caused by an employer’s management decisions or actions. These are the actions that affect job demands.  WorkSafeBC also offers benefits to those who suffer a psychological injury at work in B.C. However, workload and changes in working conditions are not covered.  MFL President Kevin Rebeck said that coverage for injured workers will help those who are suffering and that is why he is pushing for Manitoba to follow B.C. and Ontario’s example. However, there is another step that employers and governments must take. That step is prevention.  Prevention of work-related mental illness is possible Protecting mental wellbeing in the workplace is not impossible. In 2013, the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace was launched. This standard lays out clear steps for workplaces to maintain wellbeing.  The National Standard explains that risks to mental health are more likely to arise in situations where job demands consistently exceed worker skill levels or exploit them beyond what would be considered reasonable.  “Employers arent providing adequate staffing levels,” Rebeck said in an interview with rabble.ca. “Theyve piled additional duties on top of workers. Theyre asking them to do things that they havent had to do before. There isn’t proper training or support… All of these things are contributing factors that lead to people getting mental health injuries at work.” Many employers have not implemented the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, according to Rebeck. He said that doing so can help push forward prevention efforts related to mental health issues.  “Its something that we hope more employers will adopt and make sure that theyre living up to,” Rebeck said. “Its something weve been pushing the government to make sure we implement across the public sector as a whole. Were hopeful that by example, they can then help push it out to the private sector as well.”  Raising awareness about mental health can be beneficial, but the dialogue surrounding mental health has changed since Bell Let’s Talk day launched in 2010. As Unifor said, advertising campaigns are not the way to address workplace mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing efforts will only go so far when motivated by corporate profit. Perhaps it is time for employers and governments to take action that prevents psychological injury and supports those who have already suffered harm.  “I think a smart employer or smart government realizes that its not an expense, it’s an investment,” Rebeck said. “Employers who adapt and create safer and healthier workplaces will recruit and retain good workers. For those that dont, the opposite can happen.” The post Lets talk worker mental health appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, Bell Canada, mental health, Unifor]

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[l] at 1/26/23 8:44am
2023 marks the eighth year since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a list of 94 Calls to Action, but the Liberal government is making progress on those Calls to Action at a snail’s pace. The six volume Final Report and Calls to Action, published in December 2015, painted a roadmap to reconciliation, one that’s been little more then lip service. Speaking of lip service, 2022 saw the papal apology during a visit to Canada, recognizing the Catholic Church’s leadership in the implementation and abuses of the residential school system. A December 2022 report by the Yellowhead Institute concluded there remains a “tremendous amount” to be done from health, education, and child welfare to justice and Indigenous languages to advance reconciliation. The 49-page report noted that 13 Calls have been completed. At this rate, it will take 42 years, or until 2065, to complete all the Calls to Action. When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their findings in 2015, they characterized the legacy of the residential school system as “cultural genocide,” a term that became the subject of scrutiny by politicians and media alike. But by October 2022, in the wake of the discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children on sites of former residential schools, a milestone was reached in the House of Commons when NDP MP Leah Gazan moved for the federal government to recognize the history of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools as genocide. The motion received unanimous consent. September 30 is now recognized as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.  But the glacial pace with which the government is approaching these Calls is sending a message to Indigenous communities that it’s not a priority. A closer look at the 94 Calls to Action There are two categories of Calls to Action and it’s clear which one has become the favourite of the federal government.  The first 42 are known as Legacy Calls to Action, which address inequalities in child welfare, education, health, culture and language, and justice. The report notes many of the Legacy Calls to Action “aim to end injustices that Indigenous peoples are still experiencing.” The rest are known as Reconciliation Calls to Action, made up mostly of inclusion and education efforts. Report contributors Dr. Eva Jewell and Dr. Ian Mosby called out the failure of the federal government to implement Calls to Action that help further other Calls. “Part of the answer, of course, is that the data is often at odds with the government’s own narrative of progress,” Jewell and Mosby write. Call to Action 2 is just one example. It requires all levels of government to make public data related to Indigenous children in the child welfare system through an annual report. “This lack of transparency makes it difficult, if not impossible, to take the government’s own claims regarding their progress on the Calls to Action seriously,” they add. Without the dissemination of that critical information, Jewell and Mosby conclude, there won’t be enough data to accurately measure whether many of these Legacy Calls to Action have been completed. The first, Call to Action 67, saw the Canadian Museums Association open a national review of museum policies and best practices in order to determine their compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).  Meanwhile, Call to Action 70 urged the Canadian Association of Archivists to undertake a similar national review, as well releasing a reconciliation framework for Canadian archives. In addition to the two completed Calls to Action, 2022 also saw the introduction of Bill C-29, The National Council for Reconciliation Act. If the bill receives royal assent, it could achieve Call to Action 53. The Council would be mandated to monitor, evaluate, and report every year on the status of each of the Calls to Action, providing greater oversight and accountability into their completion. It would, according to the report, have the potential to publish data on, and therefore achieve Calls 2, 9, 19, and 30. The first sentence of the book of reconciliation AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald has said that, “if we were in a chapter of a book on reconciliation — we are, today, on the first sentence of that book.” Cindy Blackstock agrees. Blackstock is a professor at McGill University’s School of Social Work and serves as the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. “The fact that Canada has failed, yet again, to complete any of the Child Welfare Calls to Action in 2022 should give us pause,” Blackstock wrote in the report. Blackstock pointed out that there are currently more Indigenous children in the child welfare system than at the height of the residential school system. “Instead of being dedicated to reconciliation, Canada’s behaviour shows that they are resisting substantive change, preferring those Calls to Action they can easily perform and that makes them look good,” Blackstock said. The post Only 13 TR Calls to Action achieved over seven years: report appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Indigenous, truth and reconciliation]

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[l] at 1/25/23 9:34am
Mike Cardinal, a member of the Alberta Legislature from 1989 to 2008 and an influential minister in Ralph Klein’s Progressive Conservative cabinet, died on Jan. 12. He was 81.  Melvin Percy Joseph Cardinal, known by all as Mike, was the first Status Indian to hold a cabinet post in Alberta. He held five portfolios in the Klein Government during the years he served as MLA for Athabasca-Lac La Biche, Athabasca-Wabasca and Athabasca-Redwater, always winning handily. “I found I had to work twice as hard to get nominated and elected,” Cardinal told the Windspeaker newspaper in 1993, soon after he was appointed to cabinet. As an Indigenous person, he said, “you have to work very hard to get equal with the other guy.” In 1988, while running for the PCs for the first time, he told Windspeaker that he believed he was the first First Nations citizen to run for the Conservative party.  “He dedicated himself to improving the lives of people in Alberta, especially Indigenous people,” the obituary written by his family said. “His dream was for our people to be educated, self-sufficient and successful.” In 1990, while still a backbencher, Cardinal sponsored the Metis Settlements and Land Protection Act, which was intended to give Metis settlements ownership of their land, his Wikipedia entry notes.  Named family and social services minister in 1992 by Klein, Cardinal also held responsibility for Indigenous Relations during his time in that portfolio. He served in a variety of cabinet roles until 2008, when he chose not to seek re-election. These included the associate minister of forestry, minister of resource development, minister of sustainable resource development, and minister of human resources and employment (as the labour portfolio was known in those days).  Cardinal was born in 1941 in the town of Slave Lake into a family of 13. He was the son of a trapper and a homemaker. He dropped out of school in Grade 8 to work but returned later and graduated from Grade 12. Before entering public life, he spent a decade in the Alberta forest and timber industry. Before his election as an MLA, Cardinal was a town councillor in Slave Lake and a trustee on the board of Northland School Division No. 61 for six years, three of which he was board chair.  A traditional wake and pipe ceremony was held in Calling Lake on January 19.  The post Mike Cardinal, influential minister in Ralph Klein’s cabinet, dies at 81 appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Indigenous, Alberta politics, Mike Cardinal, Ralph Klein]

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[l] at 1/25/23 9:12am
By now, anyone paying attention knows that burning coal, oil and gas has created a crisis that threatens our survival. The scientific evidence — in fields including physics, geography, oceanography, meteorology, chemistry, biology and more — is indisputable. All major scientific institutions and national governments confirm this. Still, many people continue to deny or downplay the problem. Writers for major media outlets complain about climate “alarmism,” failing to realize that if you aren’t alarmed by what’s happening, you aren’t paying attention. A dwindling minority of the public prefers to believe industry propaganda over actual science, but it’s often those who aren’t adequately educated or versed in critical thinking, or who fear change. Others understand the threat but ignore it. Speaking to the latter, climate activist Greta Thunberg said, “To all of you who choose to look the other way every day because you seem more frightened of the changes that can prevent catastrophic climate change than the catastrophic climate change itself: Your silence is worst of all.” Fear and ignorance may be somewhat excusable. But what about those who knew, and still know, that overheating the planet with fossil fuels and destroying natural systems that keep the carbon cycle in balance will create calamitous consequences for humanity — but who say or do nothing, or cover up what they know, for the sake of profit? Recently uncovered documents and research papers show oil giant Exxon knew as early as the 1970s that using its products would cause global heating. Other oil industry organizations knew as early as the 1950s. Research shows projections from Exxon’s own scientists starting in the 1970s were astonishingly accurate — that burning coal, oil and gas would cause heating of about 0.2 C per decade. READ MORE: Lies, damn lies and climate change “We now have the smoking gun showing that they accurately predicted warming years before they started attacking the science,” said Geoffrey Supran, who led the study by Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Instead of providing urgent warnings and shifting from a business model that UN secretary general António Guterres calls “inconsistent with human survival,” Exxon executives have put enormous resources into downplaying, discrediting and denying research by their own and other scientists. In 2013, Exxons then-CEO Rex Tillerson, who later served as secretary of state under U.S. President Donald Trump, claimed that climate models were “not competent.” Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald told The Guardian that delays brought on by the misinformation have had “profound implications,” as the knowledge they covered up could have sparked a much faster shift to renewable energy. Now, everyone is affected: from heat domes to atmospheric rivers, floods to droughts, migration crises to global conflicts, the consequences are increasing daily in all parts of the world. It will only get worse as we hit tipping points that could set off irreversible changes. As just one of many examples, Greenland ice, which has helped keep the planet cool, is rapidly melting as the country reaches average temperatures warmer than in at least 1,000 years. This could add more than 50 centimetres to rising sea levels by the end of the century! Although it’s becoming impossible for industry executives to deny what science and observation confirm, they’ve come up with other ways to keep the money rolling in. They continue to argue that we’ll need their products for decades to come and that we “can’t shift overnight,” even though they’ve prevented us from starting the necessary transition that should have begun decades ago. And, as the implications of burning coal and oil are indisputable, they’ve started touting “natural” gas (which is almost entirely the potent greenhouse gas methane) as a “green” fuel. The Washington Post recently revealed how “dark money” groups tied to the fossil fuel industry have convinced lawmakers in the U.S. to enact legislation redefining fossil gas as “green.” The Empowerment Alliance and American Legislative Exchange Council (both anonymously funded) are working to get states to overturn renewable energy requirements or rebrand gas as “clean.” Enough is enough. We’ve already wasted too much time, too many valuable resources and too many lives just to enrich people who care little if at all about anything beyond themselves. It’s time to hold industry accountable and end the fossil fuel era! A cleaner future is possible. 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 Climate crisis? Who knew? Turns out the oil industry did appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Political Action, Exxon, Greta Thunberg, natural gas]

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[l] at 1/25/23 8:21am
Labour shortages in Alberta’s rural areas have always been an ongoing problem—specifically in the province’s agriculture sector where the labour demand is expected to grow within the next decade. The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program is an option to help relieve this shortage. Employers can apply to fill their job vacancies if there are no Canadian workers available for the position and TFWs can fulfill the vacancy while working towards permanent residency. While this may seem like a win-win situation, there’s a glaring issue that was identified in the Temporary Foreign Workers in the Prairie Region Policy Research, a research endeavour jointly commissioned by the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (AAISA) and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)—prairie regions, like rural Alberta, lack immigrant-serving service provider organizations (SPO). SPOs are needed to help migrant workers settle in Canada—this includes information on how to set them up with their health card or SIN number, helping them understand their worker rights and much more. Lynn, a former TFW who is now waiting on her permanent residency application, recalled the little resources and support services available to her when she worked in a remote community in rural Alberta. Due to Lynn’s precarious immigration status, rabble has agreed to protect her identity through the use of      a pseudonym. “They promised me an opportunity to get a better future. At the same time to get an opportunity to get a permanent residence [in Canada]. But when I went here as a TFW, they did not inform us or make us aware of any supports,” said Lynn. With no information on her worker rights, Lynn was subjected to verbal harassment from her coworkers, while her employer repeatedly violated her contract. The 40-hour work week that she was promised, was never fulfilled and on a low wage job with part-time hours, the surmounting living costs weighed heavily on her—but with nowhere to reach out to, Lynn’s mental health suffered. Additionally, Lynn was working on a closed work permit which by law, prevented her from seeking new employment—she was legally bound to her employer and feared that speaking up could harm her opportunity for permanent residency. READ MORE: Migrant workers and ‘the pandemic paradox’: The unseen hands that truly keep us afloat “You can’t complain because you are scared of getting terminated. Those are the things that was happened during my time. My mouth was shut because I was scared to get fired. I really didnt know where to seek support,” said Lynn. The TFW program has subjected many migrant workers, like Lynn, to workplace abuse and unsafe working conditions. Oftentimes, TFWs are trapped in these work situations. In rural Alberta, there are gaps of services and program delivery. While rural Alberta needs workers, TFWs need SPOs so they can understand their rights as workers and are not forced into an unfair or unsafe work environment. Few supports in rural communities for TFWs Agriculture is a prominent industry across Canadian rural communities, but the growing labour gap      threatens the sector’s potential growth and profitability. Alberta, for instance, had 2,800 unfilled agriculture jobs in 2017 which resulted in the industry losing $821 million in revenue. TFWs have been contributing to Canada’s agriculture labour force for years. From 2015 to 2019, there was a 52 per cent increase of TFWs working in agriculture. In 2021, there were 61,735 TFWs who entered Canada’s agriculture industry, alleviating labour shortages. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the role of TFWs in agriculture sectors was further emphasized—during a time of global crisis, they were essential workers at all levels of Canada’s food supply chain. “Thats when Canada realized the importance of [temporary] foreign workers … because a lot of foreign workers were working in the food chain industry, in the agriculture industry, in the agrifood industry—a lot of the operations stopped,” said Jessica Juen, Program Coordinator at CCIS. But the pandemic also highlighted the vulnerabilities TFWs faced. While TFWs answered the call to fulfill agriculture job vacancies in rural Alberta, immigrant serving SPOs in these regions were scarce and inaccessible.  “Its very evident that support for the temporary foreign workers—especially those farm workers—theyre really working in remote areas in Alberta. There is not a strong [presence of] migrants advocates or migrant serving agencies that they can access,” said Jay Zapata, secretary general of Migrante Alberta in an interview with rabble.      Migrante Alberta is a non-profit advocacy group for migrant workers, focusing on lobbying and campaigning for their rights. It is part of the national umbrella organization, Migrante Canada. According to the Alberta government’s Ministry of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism, supporting TFWs is crucial to Alberta’s rural economic recovery. There are a number of support services available across the province and are separated into three main streams: Settlement and Community Support Services, Language Assessment and Referral Services, and English as an Additional Language Drop-in Services. “Supports in these streams include orientation and information; referrals; translation and interpretation; and outreach for making community connections to ensure newcomers are aware of settlement and integration supports,” read a statement from the Ministry of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism. But it’s clear that these support services are not reaching TFWs as intended. These service gaps are described as SPO “deserts” and are especially apparent in rural Alberta. The TFW Prairie Region Project found that for the reporting period from January 4 to December 2021, out of the 4,929 approved TFW positions in Southern Alberta, only 918 workers were served by SPOs. In Central and Northern Alberta, SPO reach is much lower—out of the 6,106 approved TFW positions, only 496 clients accessed SPOs. In particular, Northern Alberta had insufficient organizational capacity and presence of SPOs.  “COVID-19 did not create the challenges and did not create those deserts. There were already [SPO] deserts before that. COVID-19 really underlined more the challenges of [temporary] foreign workers,” said Juen. Other than access to much needed settlement information, Juen and Zapata found that migrant workers needed mental health support. Currently there are no mental health services specific to migrant workers. TFWs could feel disconnected from their cultural communities when they enter a new country. Along with adjusting to their new environment and the stress of navigating a complex immigration system, TFWs experience isolation. “Mental health support is really a missing piece in the lives of migrant workers—and then when COVID hit it really doubled the issues of isolation. It heightened that isolation piece,” said Zapata. “That’s why mental health is so important, and we haven’t seen it come a long way.” Addressing immigrant-serving SPO “deserts” It’s evident that TFWs are essential to supporting Alberta’s economy, this was made blatantly clear during the pandemic. The scarcity of support services and information on settlement and worker rights, leave TFWs in precarious workplace situations and nowhere to turn to. “Temporary foreign workers have been key in Alberta’s rural economic recovery. Their skills and hard work are extremely valuable to rural communities. Supporting these workers is paramount to their success and Alberta’s success,” read the statement from Garrett Koehler, press secretary of Alberta’s Ministry of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism. “We will continue to be focused on supporting these workers, and we will stay connected with key partners to find ways to address gaps in support services,” the statement continued. However, fixing these SPO “deserts” would require a coordinated approach from stakeholders at all levels including employers, SPOs, provincial and federal governments and many other organizational agencies. While the solution is complex, addressing settlement needs and providing TFWs with their worker rights is a good place to start. Both Juen and Zapata suggested reaching TFWs either in their home country before they arrive in Canada or right when they land at the airport. “One of the conversations that is taking place right now with one of the consulates is where we will provide online information sessions while the foreign workers are in their country of origin. And if this becomes successful, then we can mirror it to other consulates,” said Juen. “The idea is that we can provide maybe four two-hour online sessions to provide information about life in Canada—and that will talk about whats the weather like, getting their SIN number, or getting their health card and about the rights and responsibilities.” There is also the recommendation of funding—SPOs in rural areas currently lack the organizational capacity to reach TFWs. A stream of funding from governments to SPOs is necessary to address this service gap. Zapata added that existing SPOs like CCIS, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and Migrante Alberta would benefit from additional funding, especially since they are trusted organizations for TFWs. “Work on this. Work with them so that they could be utilized more. I see them empowering the community as well … If we involve these associations, if we involve these organizations in these causes, they would be in a good position in advocating and promoting the welfare of migrant workers,” said Zapata. The post Temporary foreign workers in rural AB, lack access to service provider orgs appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, Labour, Temporary Foreign Workers]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 1/25/23 8:21am
Labour shortages in Alberta’s rural areas have always been an ongoing problem—specifically in the province’s agriculture sector where the labour demand is expected to grow within the next decade. The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program is an option to help relieve this shortage. Employers can apply to fill their job vacancies if there are no Canadian workers available for the position and TFWs can fulfill the vacancy while working towards permanent residency. While this may seem like a win-win situation, there’s a glaring issue that was identified in the Temporary Foreign Workers in the Prairie Region Policy Research, a research endeavour jointly commissioned by the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (AAISA) and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS)—prairie regions, like rural Alberta, lack immigrant-serving service provider organizations (SPO). SPOs are needed to help migrant workers settle in Canada—this includes information on how to set them up with their health card or SIN number, helping them understand their worker rights and much more. Lynn, a former TFW who is now waiting on her permanent residency application, recalled the little resources and support services available to her when she worked in a remote community in rural Alberta. Due to Lynn’s precarious immigration status, rabble has agreed to protect her identity through the use of      a pseudonym. “They promised me an opportunity to get a better future. At the same time to get an opportunity to get a permanent residence [in Canada]. But when I went here as a TFW, they did not inform us or make us aware of any supports,” said Lynn. With no information on her worker rights, Lynn was subjected to verbal harassment from her coworkers, while her employer repeatedly violated her contract. The 40-hour work week that she was promised, was never fulfilled and on a low wage job with part-time hours, the surmounting living costs weighed heavily on her—but with nowhere to reach out to, Lynn’s mental health suffered. Additionally, Lynn was working on a closed work permit which by law, prevented her from seeking new employment—she was legally bound to her employer and feared that speaking up could harm her opportunity for permanent residency. READ MORE: Migrant workers and ‘the pandemic paradox’: The unseen hands that truly keep us afloat “You can’t complain because you are scared of getting terminated. Those are the things that was happened during my time. My mouth was shut because I was scared to get fired. I really didnt know where to seek support,” said Lynn. The TFW program has subjected many migrant workers, like Lynn, to workplace abuse and unsafe working conditions. Oftentimes, TFWs are trapped in these work situations. In rural Alberta, there are gaps of services and program delivery. While rural Alberta needs workers, TFWs need SPOs so they can understand their rights as workers and are not forced into an unfair or unsafe work environment. Few supports in rural communities for TFWs Agriculture is a prominent industry across Canadian rural communities, but the growing labour gap      threatens the sector’s potential growth and profitability. Alberta, for instance, had 2,800 unfilled agriculture jobs in 2017 which resulted in the industry losing $821 million in revenue. TFWs have been contributing to Canada’s agriculture labour force for years. From 2015 to 2019, there was a 52 per cent increase of TFWs working in agriculture. In 2021, there were 61,735 TFWs who entered Canada’s agriculture industry, alleviating labour shortages. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the role of TFWs in agriculture sectors was further emphasized—during a time of global crisis, they were essential workers at all levels of Canada’s food supply chain. “Thats when Canada realized the importance of [temporary] foreign workers … because a lot of foreign workers were working in the food chain industry, in the agriculture industry, in the agrifood industry—a lot of the operations stopped,” said Jessica Juen, Program Coordinator at CCIS. But the pandemic also highlighted the vulnerabilities TFWs faced. While TFWs answered the call to fulfill agriculture job vacancies in rural Alberta, immigrant serving SPOs in these regions were scarce and inaccessible.  “Its very evident that support for the temporary foreign workers—especially those farm workers—theyre really working in remote areas in Alberta. There is not a strong [presence of] migrants advocates or migrant serving agencies that they can access,” said Jay Zapata, secretary general of Migrante Alberta in an interview with rabble.      Migrante Alberta is a non-profit advocacy group for migrant workers, focusing on lobbying and campaigning for their rights. It is part of the national umbrella organization, Migrante Canada. According to the Alberta government’s Ministry of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism, supporting TFWs is crucial to Alberta’s rural economic recovery. There are a number of support services available across the province and are separated into three main streams: Settlement and Community Support Services, Language Assessment and Referral Services, and English as an Additional Language Drop-in Services. “Supports in these streams include orientation and information; referrals; translation and interpretation; and outreach for making community connections to ensure newcomers are aware of settlement and integration supports,” read a statement from the Ministry of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism. But it’s clear that these support services are not reaching TFWs as intended. These service gaps are described as SPO “deserts” and are especially apparent in rural Alberta. The TFW Prairie Region Project found that for the reporting period from January 4 to December 2021, out of the 4,929 approved TFW positions in Southern Alberta, only 918 workers were served by SPOs. In Central and Northern Alberta, SPO reach is much lower—out of the 6,106 approved TFW positions, only 496 clients accessed SPOs. In particular, Northern Alberta had insufficient organizational capacity and presence of SPOs.  “COVID-19 did not create the challenges and did not create those deserts. There were already [SPO] deserts before that. COVID-19 really underlined more the challenges of [temporary] foreign workers,” said Juen. Other than access to much needed settlement information, Juen and Zapata found that migrant workers needed mental health support. Currently there are no mental health services specific to migrant workers. TFWs could feel disconnected from their cultural communities when they enter a new country. Along with adjusting to their new environment and the stress of navigating a complex immigration system, TFWs experience isolation. “Mental health support is really a missing piece in the lives of migrant workers—and then when COVID hit it really doubled the issues of isolation. It heightened that isolation piece,” said Zapata. “That’s why mental health is so important, and we haven’t seen it come a long way.” Addressing immigrant-serving SPO “deserts” It’s evident that TFWs are essential to supporting Alberta’s economy, this was made blatantly clear during the pandemic. The scarcity of support services and information on settlement and worker rights, leave TFWs in precarious workplace situations and nowhere to turn to. “Temporary foreign workers have been key in Alberta’s rural economic recovery. Their skills and hard work are extremely valuable to rural communities. Supporting these workers is paramount to their success and Alberta’s success,” read the statement from Garrett Koehler, press secretary of Alberta’s Ministry of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism. “We will continue to be focused on supporting these workers, and we will stay connected with key partners to find ways to address gaps in support services,” the statement continued. However, fixing these SPO “deserts” would require a coordinated approach from stakeholders at all levels including employers, SPOs, provincial and federal governments and many other organizational agencies. While the solution is complex, addressing settlement needs and providing TFWs with their worker rights is a good place to start. Both Juen and Zapata suggested reaching TFWs either in their home country before they arrive in Canada or right when they land at the airport. “One of the conversations that is taking place right now with one of the consulates is where we will provide online information sessions while the foreign workers are in their country of origin. And if this becomes successful, then we can mirror it to other consulates,” said Juen. “The idea is that we can provide maybe four two-hour online sessions to provide information about life in Canada—and that will talk about whats the weather like, getting their SIN number, or getting their health card and about the rights and responsibilities.” There is also the recommendation of funding—SPOs in rural areas currently lack the organizational capacity to reach TFWs. A stream of funding from governments to SPOs is necessary to address this service gap. Zapata added that existing SPOs like CCIS, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and Migrante Alberta would benefit from additional funding, especially since they are trusted organizations for TFWs. “Work on this. Work with them so that they could be utilized more. I see them empowering the community as well … If we involve these associations, if we involve these organizations in these causes, they would be in a good position in advocating and promoting the welfare of migrant workers,” said Zapata. The post Temporary foreign workers in rural AB, lack access to service provider orgs     appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, Labour, Temporary Foreign Workers]

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[l] at 1/24/23 9:28am
Email, WhatsApp, ProtonMail and Signal are the 21st Century equivalents of a pot full of pink geraniums on your apartment balcony to signal a meeting in a darkened parking garage.  Combined with the fact Premier Danielle Smith is in effect the boss of the Alberta civil service, this renders meaningless the “comprehensive review” of government emails over the past four months by the Alberta Public Service looking for messages between someone in the Premier’s Office and someone at the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.  “The review was conducted by the Public Service Commission and internal IT experts between Jan. 20-22,” the government said in a statement.  “Almost a million incoming, outgoing, and deleted emails were reviewed,” it said – although not by human eyes, obviously.  Ergo, the statement reached the convenient conclusion that “no further review will be conducted unless additional evidence is brought forward.” So that puts the ball back in the court of the CBC, which broke the story on January 19 that a staff member in Smith’s officer sent “a series of emails” last fall to the Alberta Crown Prosecutors office challenging the way prosecutors were handling the cases that resulted from the blockade at the Coutts border crossing in February. Accusations of interference with the administration of justice swiftly followed.  At the least, the CBC is now going to need to explain why it is confident in the sources it agreed not to identify because they justifiably “fear they could lose their jobs.”  Premier Smith, true to form, jumped right in with a statement of her own, also published on the official Government of Alberta website today.  “I have full faith that the public service conducted a thorough and comprehensive review,” Smith’s statement said. “I would like to thank them for the seriousness with which they took this matter as well as their commitment to working non-stop over the past number days to provide Albertans with results to put their concerns to rest. “An independent Crown prosecution service, free from political interference, is integral to the preservation of public confidence in the justice system,” she added piously.  “We ask the media and public to also respect their independence as they carry out their important work,” the statement concluded self-righteously.  Nothing to see here, folks. Move along please.  The post Search of AB Premiers office email conveniently finds no impropriety appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, Danielle Smith]

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[l] at 1/24/23 9:16am
On December 5, nuclear scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found a great breakthrough. After decades of arduous work and research they were able to ignite a nuclear fusion reaction which produced 33 percent extra energy. It is also called fusion energy gain factor, i.e., more power output than input. They proved generating “net gain” is possible from a fusion reaction. Fusion power is a proposed form of power generation that would generate electricity by using heat from nuclear energy. It may revolutionize electricity generation, and availability for all at a much cheaper price.  There are two types of common nuclear reactions. Nuclear fission is the splitting of one large atomic nucleus into smaller fragments, and the joining of two smaller atomic nuclei into one nucleus is called nuclear fusion. Fusion occurs in the Sun and other stars. The process releases energy because the total mass of the resulting single nucleus is less than the mass of the two merging nuclei. The leftover mass is converted into massive amounts of nuclear energy, which can be converted into electricity. Nuclear energy can be produced by performing nuclear reactions artificially, and fusion reactions can be the basis of future fusion power reactors. How exactly does nuclear fusion work?  Will it be beneficial for an average person? To reap the benefits of this breakthrough, what do we need to do? The answers to these questions will help us understand the achievement, and its real benefits to humanity. The nuclear mechanism of fusion reactions is quite simple, they occur when two or more atomic nuclei come close enough for long enough that the nuclear force pulling them together exceeds the electrostatic force pushing them apart, fusing them into heavier nuclei. Since hydrogen has a single proton in its nucleus, it requires the least effort to attain fusion, and yields the most net energy output. Also, since it has one electron, hydrogen is the easiest fuel to fully ionize. The energy produced by scientists in California by fusion reaction –three megajoules-is greater than two megajoules poured onto it by the 192 laser beams used to trigger the fusion reaction. High intensity lasers fused hydrogen atoms into Helium releasing energy in the process. READ MORE: Pull the plug on nuclear subsidies Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma — a hot, charged gas made of positive ions (an atom with one extra proton) and free-moving electrons that has unique properties distinct from solids, liquids, and gases. At extreme temperatures electrons are separated from nuclei and a gas becomes a plasma-an ionized state of matter like gas, an exceedingly elevated temperature is required to keep a gas in the plasma state. This breakthrough opens doors to cheap, unlimited power with abundant fuel resources, zero carbon emissions and negligible environmental impact, which means fusion does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions or global warming. Fossil fuels are a continuous source of pollution, and they are destroying the environment. Mastering it could save humanity from climate change. On an industrial scale, it could help create a virtually limitless source of clean energy on Earth, with the power to generate four million times more energy than burning of coal or oil, according to the UN’S International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The fusion energy industry appears attractive to investors, and to estimate the net economic gains, detailed studies will be required by experts. The energy source is giant, but economics will make it viable for investors. Hydrogen is the fuel for fusion reactions and nature has inexhaustible resources of hydrogen. Big energy giants have already committed to spend $5 billion US on 35 fusion reactors. Hopefully the first fusion reactor by General Fusion will be ready for testing by the 2030’s. Once evaluated successfully it will be able to change the way we live, and investors will invest billions of dollars in this industry for the production and distribution of electricity for the public at a much cheaper rate. The hope is that it will be used to help humanity, not unlike the COVID-19 vaccines, where billions of dollars were invested in research and development, but pharmaceutical giants started reaping huge profits by setting up their own price structure.  Effective and strong regulatory control is important to reap the rewards of the challenging work of the scientific community to serve humanity. The post Nuclear fusion, a great breakthrough  appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, Fusion, nuclear power]

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[l] at 1/24/23 9:03am
Egypts President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will be the chief guest at Indias Republic Day celebrations on January 26 in New Delhi. This coincides with the 12th anniversary of Egypt’s January 25 revolution, which Sisi turned against. In India, Republic Day marks when post-colonial India adopted its constitution and declared itself a republic.  The constitution, work of a committee chaired by the eminent Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a Dalit, guarantees full equality and rights to all Indians and declares the country a secular, socialist republic. It is this history and context which has made Republic Day a very significant national day in India.   However today’s India is led by a Hindu ethno-nationalist party committed to converting it into a Hindu nation. People are living through times reminiscent of 1930’s Germany. The fundamental guarantees provided in the constitution are being violated. Legislation and actions reminiscent of the Nuremberg laws are being passed. The government of India has been called out by domestic and international human rights organizations for unleashing and engendering violence and detentions against Muslim, Dalit and Christian minorities as well as any human rights defenders.  Meanwhile, January 25 marks the start of the 17 days in 2011, which forced one of the regions longest-serving and most influential leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, from power. We recall that moment of incredible exhilaration as all Egyptians aspired to more democracy and social justice. Unfortunately, on July 3, 2013, then General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi staged a coup détat that toppled President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of Egypt and returned the country to dictatorial rule..   Since his ascent to power through dubious elections, El-Sisi has governed Egypt with an iron fist. Under his direct command, on August 14, 2013, two encampments of protesters in Rabaa and Al Nahda squares, demanding that President Morsi be reinstated, were dismantled by lethal force and more than 1,000 people were killed.  To date, no one has been held accountable. Since then, all dissenting voices have been silenced and more than 60,000 political prisoners languish behind bars in abject conditions. Given this context, members of the Egyptian and Indian diaspora find it unsurprising that President El-Sissi has been selected by the Modi government as the guest of honour for this year’s Republic Day celebrations in India.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s as India and Egypt came out of years of colonialism, they led the non-aligned movement and strove to become self-sufficient. While these early years were not without problems, it is unfortunate that today India and Egypt have strayed so far. It is indeed a tragedy that this rich history and heritage is being tarnished today by leaders of our two countries of origin, who have turned their backs on the promise that was initiated decades ago.  Instead, they are appropriating this history and legacy for their own ends.  What is happening in Egypt and India should be of interest to all Canadians, even if they are not of Egyptian or Indian origin. Support for governments that violate fundamental rights diminishes democracy everywhere. In this context over 50 eminent Canadians including Margaret Attwood and Naomi Klein issued a letter last summer, for the release of Indian human rights defender, Teesta Setalvad. And in November, letters were sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and leaders of the opposition, concerning a Canadian Member of Parliament hoisting on Parliament Hill, a flag identified with a fascist Hindu nationalist organization whose member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.  The government of Canada must not turn a blind eye to anti-democratic abuses that violate our adherence to international treaties against torture and respect for international human rights. Written by: Jooneed Jeeroburkhan Ehab Lotayef Samaa Elibyari Co-signed by: Ajay Bhardwaj Ibrahim Alsahary Jasmine Lail Jooneed Khan Minoo Gundevia Mostafa Henaway Mohamed Kamel Nilambri Singh Saifali Lokhandwala Titas Banerjee (all members of the Egyptian and Indian diasporas in Canada) The post Egyptian, Indian diasporas deplore human rights abuses in countries of origin appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Human Rights, World Politics, egypt, india]

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[l] at 1/24/23 8:43am
The federal and provincial governments are heading toward a deal on health care, which they could announce any day now. Both sides have been sending out positive signals. They say they have found large areas of agreement. Such an accord will inevitably include a significant increase in the federal contribution, which now goes up at a mere three per cent per year. For their part, the provinces will agree to some tangible measures of accountability for how they spend the money.  The deal cannot come too soon. The crisis in the health care system is real. The recent deaths of two women who sought, but failed to get, treatment at emergency departments in Nova Scotia hospitals drove that point home. One woman waited hours in agony and when doctors finally saw her it was too late. The other got tired of waiting, left, and then, within an hour, died. Not just in Nova Scotia, but throughout Canada wait times are a huge challenge facing our provincially-run health care systems.  Canadians in every province fear they will suffer pain and discomfort, or worse, while they wait for essential treatment. Wait times and lack of family physicians Even before the pandemic wait times were, overall, unacceptably long.  Emergency departments were frequently over-crowded, in large measure because, lacking adequate primary care, many Canadians had no choice but to go to emergency when they had relatively minor health problems such as colds and coughs. There were also long waits for many diagnostic procedures and surgeries, especially those considered elective, that is, not essential to save a patient’s life.  Hip and knee replacement surgeries, and some non-urgent pediatric surgeries, were chief among those.  Some patients, in some provinces, also reported distressingly long wait times for tests to detect cancers and for cancer treatments – although provincial health systems were generally more prompt for such essential care than for the elective kind. The pandemic made all of that worse.  In response to the exigencies of COVID, hospitals had to radically change their modi operandi, which meant even longer waits in emergency departments and indefinite delay for tens of thousands of surgeries. Health care in this country has not yet recovered. Today, the surgical backlog, to cite but one issue, still numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Of equal importance, frontline health workers, such as nurses, are suffering burn-out at an alarming rate, while hospital emergency departments must, more than ever, deal with a range of problems that more appropriately belong in community, primary healthcare settings. Indeed, the difficulty millions of Canadians have in accessing basic, primary care might be the greatest of the many challenges facing the health systems everywhere in this country. There are multiple millions of Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, who do not have, and cannot find, a family doctor. My wife and I consider ourselves lucky to be enrolled with a family medicine centre in Ottawa. The team there provides us with humane and high-quality care, without unreasonable wait times.  But every time we phone the centre we get a reminder of the generalized crisis in primary care. Before we get through to a person, almost the first words of our family medicine group’s recorded greeting are:  “Please note, we are not taking new patients.” That is a sadly familiar message throughout Canada these days. Family doctors are the gatekeepers of our health systems. Without a referral from such a physician it is extremely difficult to see any kind of specialist.  Even routine matters, such as getting prescriptions refilled or having regular check-ups and routine tests, are problematic when you do not have your own doctor.  Public health authorities regularly enjoin Canadians to “consult your doctor” before getting a vaccine or test or procedure, or if they have symptoms of disease – words that must ring hollow for the millions of Canadians who have no doctor. Time to innovate in primary care Canada’s health systems need more trained people and more facilities to provide grassroots, basic care.  The fee-for-service model for family medicine, with individual doctors forced to act as small business operators, might have once worked, in a simpler time. It does not fulfill our medical needs in 2023. Today, we need bold and innovative solutions to the primary health-care crisis. We need to study what other countries with similar health care systems to ours do, and we need to be ready to think outside the box.  Among the possible solutions are local community health and social service centres, with doctors, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, dentists and even physio and occupational therapists under one roof. A more modest option is the family medicine centre, where doctors, nurses and other professionals, including administrative staff, operate in a group practice setting, often affiliated with a hospital.  Doctors at our family medicine centre, and others like it, are not paid per-patient-visit or per-procedure, which is the unfortunate norm for most doctor payments throughout Canada.  Family medicine centres use a payment system called capitation. Doctors are paid a fixed annual amount per enrolled patient. They don’t bill the provincial insurance scheme for each visit or procedure.  There is greater financial stability and predictability and far less bureaucratic paperwork with capitation than with fee-for-service. Family doctors in their own practices frequently complain about their costly and time-consuming administrative burdens. But capitation is only one of many options. Creating salaried positions for doctors is another.  In the final analysis, there is no add-water-and stir, instant, magic solution. It will take a concerted and focused effort on the part of governments, community organizations and medical professionals to make sure every Canadian has access to high-quality, primary health care, in their own community.  It will also take money – to train and hire more doctors, nurses, and other professionals. If Canada were to succeed in making primary care a lot better than it is now, among the benefits would be less pressure on emergency departments.  And if vastly improved primary care were accompanied by enhanced preventative medicine and population health measures – which means everything from reduced air pollution to greater economic security – we could put a damper on the demand for the acute care hospitals provide. In that context, it is more than a bit surprising that when the Doug Ford government of Ontario decided the time had come to innovate in health care its first priority was to open the door to for-profit centres to perform elective surgeries. Some, including the Ontario premier, have characterized concerns about his for-profit plan as a knee-jerk reaction from the usual left-wing suspects. READ MORE: Doug Ford’s private surgery plan is driven by ideology not innovation But it is not just the New Democrats, healthcare activists and unions who are protesting.  The College of Physicians and Surgeons is also concerned. They worry the new for-profit facilities will make the situation for hospitals worse, not better, by luring away nurses and doctors.  Dr. Robert Bell, the former head of Toronto’s University Health Network and former Ontario Deputy Minister of Health, is also strongly opposed to using the profit motive as part of the solution for long surgery wait times. Bell sees great virtue in setting up not-for-profit surgery facilities outside of hospitals, especially if they are associated with hospitals or community health centres. But, he argues, inviting in corporations seeking to make a profit from the taxpayer-funded health system would have a harmful impact. In an article for the Globe and Mail Bell writes: “With an expanded mandate … for-profit surgery providers will almost certainly compete for staff, including nurses, currently employed in hospital operating rooms … Just as Ontario emergency rooms have closed this past year because of inadequate staffing, we may see operating rooms shuttering – especially on nights and on weekends – even though there will still be a need for surgeries.” Bell points out further that in two of the provinces Ford cites as models for expanding private surgeries, Alberta and Saskatchewan, wait times for hip and knee replacement surgery are substantially worse than in Ontario. Instead of proceeding with the false panacea of a private-sector magic wand, Bell has some constructive suggestions for Ford. For one thing, the premier could repeal Ontario’s Bill 124, which restricts salary increases for nurses to far below the rate of inflation. Another idea would be to move surgeries to not-for-profit, “dedicated community facilities”.  No help from the feds It is understandable that prime minister Justin Trudeau would want to be diplomatic in his reaction to Ford’s plan. There are delicate negotiations happening and Trudeau does not want be seen as trampling on provincial rights. Health care, like education, is clearly a provincial jurisdiction in this country. The Constitution Act of 1867, which we used to call the British North American Act, unambiguously says so. Over the years, the federal government has gotten involved in health care through its power, affirmed by a series of court decisions, to spend in provincial areas of responsibility. In the 1980s, when provinces allowed practices such as extra billing by physicians to undermine the universality of their healthcare systems, the federal government pushed back with the Canada Health Act. That Act allows the federal government to use its only lever, its financial contribution, to punish provinces who defy its basic principles of comprehensiveness, universality and portability.  The Canada Health Act has helped keep health care throughout the country accessible to all, rich and poor alike, on an equal basis. But it does not forbid contracting out of medical procedures – including surgeries –  to the private sector.  And so, the federal government is not going to stand in Doug Ford’s way.  If the people of Ontario want their government to focus not on its misguided privatization plan, but on the real problems facing their health care system, they are going to have to make that happen themselves. The post New health accord should confront most pressing crisis – primary care appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Health, health care, primary care, privatization]

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[l] at 1/23/23 2:03pm
We won’t sugarcoat it – sometimes working in activism can be onerous, overwhelming and downright disheartening. It can also feel, at times, thankless.  Is anybody listening? Does anyone care? How can I get people to understand and support my cause? Why would anyone listen to me?  rabble.ca was created by progressive journalists and activists. So we understand that activism requires amplifiers to help build movements and create change. Activism needs journalism that pays attention to how change happens at the grassroots.  Our ‘rabble rousers to watch’ series does just this.   As is the case every year, our most recent ‘rabble rousers to watch’ survey yielded inspiring results. We heard back from people across the country in response to our annual survey with exciting suggestions of people making real change in their communities and nationally.  Lets travel across our vast country to meet a few of our nominees. Starting in New Brunswick, Black Lives Matters activists are organizing to dismantle all forms of anti-Black racism and to support Black healing. Drive a few hours west and in Peterborough, a grassroots movement has come together to support the homeless population by providing miniature homes and support services. Keep travelling west and in Medicine Hat, meet an inspiring retired man with disabilities who is devoting his life to advocating for all persons with disabilities living in poverty in Canada. Visit Calgary, and youll meet an Indigenous activist who is nominated for her steadfast advocacy for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Sail over to Victoria, B.C. and learn about a community-led action group which has been created to save urban forests from development by lobbying their city council to improve tree preservation bylaws. These are just some of the nominees our readers put forth, and we are excited to share their stories, their struggles, and their issues with you through our Lynn Williams activist toolkit. Become a rabble rouser today Our non profit newsroom, rabble can only tell these kinds of important stories of transformative social change with the support of generous individual community members like you. No amount is too little (or too much).  If you have the means to do so, please become a rabble rouser by supporting rabble.ca with a one-time or monthly donation today.  We can only do this work with your help, rabble rouser! By donating to rabble, you’ll be joining our efforts to amplify the critical work being done in communities across the country.  In solidarity,  Kim Elliott, publisher  Breanne Doyle, managing editor  If you’re interested in learning about previous years’ rabble rousers to watch, click here. The post Thank you for nominating ‘rabble rousers to watch’ in 2023! appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Political Action, rabble rousers to watch series]

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[l] at 1/23/23 12:03pm
Content warning: The following story contains mentions of sexual assault. Please proceed with caution and care. If you require support, there are resources available. The number of decisions a survivor must make in the wake of a sexual assault is dizzying. Whether to go to the hospital; whether to agree to a forensic examination; whether to report the assault to police and start a criminal investigation, or launch a civil action against the assailant.  Survivors must make these decisions within a limited amount of time. DNA evidence, for example, can generally only be collected within 72 hours of an assault. While the specialized medical and psychological support offered by a group like Calgary’s Sexual Assault Response Team is only available for a week. And too often, survivors must make these decisions on their own. All while coming to terms with the violence they’ve endured. That’s an injustice.  The criminal justice system isn’t built for survivors It’s an injustice that the criminal justice system only magnifies.  Canadian society rewards the perpetrators of sexual assault by all-but indemnifying them. Fewer than 1% of the sexual assaults that occur each year result in legal consequences for their perpetrators. Meanwhile, those survivors who choose to report their victimization face a criminal justice process that the Supreme Court itself has recognized “can be invasive, humiliating, and degrading for victims of sexual offences”. Complainants are too often subject to brutal cross-examinations that emphasize “whacking” the complainant; or encounter discriminatory myths and stereotypes about sexual assault survivors, like that a victim’s previous sexual activities make her less worthy of belief.  Is it any wonder that, in the words of Dalhousie law professor Elaine Craig, “numerous studies have concluded that, despite progressive law reforms aimed at protecting witnesses in sexual assault cases, for many the impact of testifying as a sexual assault complainant remains traumatizing and harmful.” What’s more, survivors must navigate the criminal justice system without the benefit of legal counsel.  Crown prosecutors represent the public, not complainants. Any charges the Crown lays are the state’s; this means a survivor cannot choose to withdraw them if she has a change of heart.  Meanwhile, defense lawyers represent the accused, working in opposition to complainants and their evidence.  The bottom line: Those few, brave sexual assault survivors who report their victimization have to navigate an often-hostile process by themselves. And too often this leads to their revictimization at the hands of the criminal justice system.  All of this is reflected in the low participation rate of sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system. Only 6% of all sexual assaults are reported to the police, making it the most underreported crime in Canada.  Indeed, it’s a wonder any survivors report their victimization at all. The ways lawyers can help One solution is to make legal aid lawyers available to sexual assault survivors, regardless of whether those survivors choose to report their victimization to law enforcement.   In my home province of Alberta, this would look like providing certificates that survivors can redeem at participating law offices for legal services and advice, irrespective of survivors’ income. There are lots of ways such a program would make the criminal justice system fairer and more humane for survivors. From the get-go, legal aid lawyers could provide survivors with expert information and advice about whether to report their victimization at all. Information about, among other things, what participation in the criminal justice system looks like; what the potential harms are, and whether those harms outweigh any possible benefit; even what the likelihood of conviction is in a given case. If a survivor does decide to make a report, a legal aid lawyer could liaise between the survivor and the police or Crown prosecutor’s office; removing the burden from complainants to keep abreast of developments in their case, and explaining any developments that come their way. If the matter goes to trial, a legal aid lawyer could prep the survivor for the process of giving evidence in court.  Now to be sure, Crown prosecutors have a professional obligation to prep their witnesses for trial, which includes prepping survivors for the sorts of questions they are likely to be asked in cross-examination. But remember, the Crown doesn’t represent survivors. A lawyer acting for the complainant could prep them for questioning by both the Crown and the defense in a way that is sensitive to the complainant’s fears and interests. For example, the lawyer could start prepping their client far in advance of the trial in order to desensitize them to the trauma of having to relive the violence they suffered, something the Crown prosecutor is unlikely to have the time to do. Finally, if an abuser is convicted, a legal aid lawyer can provide the survivor with assistance in drafting a victim impact statement and a statement on restitution. There are rules about what can and cannot be included in both; as well, each document needs to be drafted in such a way that it helps the judge make an informed sentencing decision. A lawyer would have the expertise to ensure a complainant drafts these documents in valid and effective ways.  Removing the burden from survivor organizations To be sure, some of these services are already provided by survivor support organizations. Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, for example, provides survivors with information about their reporting options, assistance with writing a victim impact statement, and accompaniment to court. But there are limits to what organizations primarily staffed by social workers can provide victims navigating the legal system.  For one thing, they can’t provide legal advice. They lack the expertise in the nuances of the law and the legal system that come from formal legal training and practice experience.  For another, they don’t owe clients the same duty of fearless and zealous advocacy that lawyers do at law.  Complainants deserve someone who will do more than simply support them. They deserve someone who will fight for them and their interests if it comes to it. Making state-funded legal counsel available to survivors would remove the burden from survivor support organizations to provide quasi-legal services and allow them to specialize in what they do best: providing emotional and social support to victims of sexual abuse. A modest proposal Nothing about what I’m proposing is radical. Canada already recognizes survivors’ right to legal counsel in a select few circumstances. Take the records-screening regime, which applies to documents related to, among other things, medical treatments or counselling services a survivor has received.  Under section 278.3 of the Criminal Code, an accused in possession of such documents must seek permission from the judge trying their case before introducing those documents into evidence at trial. There are plenty of reasons why such documents might not be admissible, and complainants have a right under the Criminal Code to make submissions about the documents’ admissibility with the aid of legal counsel.  More broadly, some provinces have already established programs to provide free, independent legal advice to sexual assault survivors. In Ontario, for example, survivors are entitled to up to four hours of free legal advice by phone or video at any point after the assault has occurred; importantly, however, this program does not provide for legal representation. A similar initiative exists in Nova Scotia, which entitles survivors to up to two hours of legal advice.  These rights and programs are important, but insufficient. Survivors in every province deserve legal advice and representation at all stages, including before a matter is reported to the police. And they deserve as much legal support as is necessary to help them navigate the criminal justice system, not an arbitrarily limited number of hours of advice. A national program to provide free legal counsel to sexual assault survivors is necessary.  In the end, it’s a matter of justice in the face of extreme physical and psychological trauma. The post Sexual assault survivors deserve free legal counsel appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Feminism, Political Action, law, sexual assault, survivors]

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[l] at 1/23/23 9:56am
Populist leaders who inspire their angry followers to storm the national capitol seem to be in vogue these days. But if Canada is in search of such a strongman, it’s not clear that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre — or PP (as he’s affectionately called) — really fits the bill, as some are now suggesting. Donald Trump earned his strongman stripes building a crooked real estate empire in rough-and-tumble New York City, while Jair Bolsonaro developed his tough-guy habits as a captain in the Brazilian military (where he learned to express his manhood by declaring he’d rather find his son dead than dating someone with a moustache). PP, on the other hand, acquired his street-fighting ways in the dark and savage jungle known as … Canada’s Parliament. But while Poilievre’s handlers may be trying to fine-tune his bio to increase his street cred, it might not matter to those angry men who are, after all, not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Indeed, perhaps the one thing that could be said about them is that they are, well, confused. An insightful article in The Walrus, co-written by prominent pollster Frank Graves, describes how Poilievre is making gains among disaffected Canadian men — particularly young men — who “complain they have not seen the kind of progress their parents and grandparents did. Pensions and secure retirement are a mirage.” These men are correct, and their anger at being left behind as the world economy zooms ahead is understandable, even poignant. Where they get off course and start lapsing into loopy thinking is in their inability to grasp who’s to blame for their predicament. And this is where a populist strongman can make hay. A strongman purports to be on their side, grasping their grievances and feeling their pain. Typically, the strongman urges them to vent their rage by storming the seat of government or, in the Canadian version supported by Poilievre, parking in front of Parliament and clogging the surrounding streets with enormous trucks, hot tubs and bouncy castles. Strongmen offer up a clear villain: government, or in Poilievre’s words “this big beast called government.” Government’s evil is apparently perpetrated by all those who exercise its authority, notably public health officials trying to curb a pandemic. Blaming government is a clever bait-and-switch, since the root grievance of the angry men is their economic insecurity. And it wasn’t government officials (or pointy-headed public health authorities) who made them economically insecure. The corporate world did that! If pensions and secure retirement are a mirage today (which they are), it’s because the cutthroat corporate world of recent decades stopped providing pensions to its employees. The corporate world also pushed governments to adopt a whole range of pro-business policies that destroyed the earlier economic order based on the New Deal, under which economic rewards were distributed much more equitably. Indeed, that New Deal order had treated the economic security of workers as vital — the very glue that made democracy work; if working people could achieve economic gains and financial security, they would value highly the democracy that delivered all that. This has been stripped away over the past four decades as the corporate elite has managed to impose the new pro-business order, redirecting income and wealth to the top, slashing social supports and undermining the ability of the common people to achieve economic gains through unionizing. This leaves today’s uneducated workers with little hope of retiring comfortably or buying a house, as their uneducated parents and grandparents did. No longer tethered to a democratic system that doesn’t deliver as it used to, they become a volatile, malleable mass, susceptible to the snake oil of a wily strongman. Poilievre is hoping working people won’t notice that he’s not, in fact, offering them a return to economic security. But, what the hell, he’s just as angry as they are! And he’s delighted to champion them as they lash out at public health officials, blast the horns of their oversized trucks and frolic in steamy hot tubs in the public square. The post Pierre Poilievre offers his anger, but no solutions appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Pierre Poilievre]

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[l] at 1/23/23 9:51am
“We need to make sure that the solutions are driven by the people of Haiti themselves,” noted Justin Trudeau after meeting US president Joe Biden in Mexico City last week. In December Canada’s prime minister was quoted in a release saying Canada was working to “support a Haitian-led solution” to the country’s crisis while in October foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly declared, “we need to support a Haitian-led solution” and later said, “the solution to this crisis must be Haitian-led.”  As Canadian officials have traveled the hemisphere discussing Haiti in recent months, they’ve repeatedly talked about “Haitian-led” solutions to the country’s problems. The cognitive dissonance is stunning.  They can do so because the commentariat don’t challenge their statements. Imagine Trudeau getting together with the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan to announce a British Columbia-led solution to Vancouver’s housing crisis. It would be ridiculed. But, observed Rick Salutin, “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.”  The Toronto Star columnist vividly captured an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Haiti?  So, it was disappointing to see one of the only left voices given space in the dominant media engage in “fact-free blather” in “Does hypocrisy matter in foreign policy? Yes and no — take Bob Rae”. Contrasting Trudeau’s support for US imperialism with Lester Pearson’s supposed independent streak, Salutin writes, “In the Vietnam era, PM Lester Pearson tried clumsily to straddle both sides of the raging conflict over that U.S. invasion and actually got himself throttled by President Lyndon Johnson on the White House porch for it. Yet, I think people elsewhere at least recognized his effort.”  Sadly, Salutin’s “White House porch” incident is itself fact-free blather at worst or nationalist folklore at best. According to the mythology, the day after Pearson spoke out against the war in Vietnam at Temple university in Philadelphia the US president accosted him. But here’s part of Pearson’s 1965 speech: “the government and great majority of people of my country have supported wholeheartedly the US peacekeeping and peacemaking policies in Vietnam.” As I detail in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: The Truth May Hurt, which I gave Salutin during one of a number of our conversations on Canadian foreign policy, all that Pearson called for at Temple was a pause in the US bombing campaign of North Vietnam. When Pearson met Johnson the next day the president was mad because senior US foreign-policy planners were debating a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam (which would take place months later and when Washington restarted their bombing campaign Pearson publicly justified it). By speaking out Pearson effectively sided with Johnson’s opponents in the US administration after he enabled the bombing campaign. As Noam Chomsky argues in the foreword to my book, Pearson abetted war crimes by having Canadian International Control Commission officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964.  The story about Johnson challenging Pearson at Camp David – not the White House – the day after his supposed antiwar speech only came to light a decade later, once US actions in Vietnam were widely discredited. In 1974 former Canadian ambassador in Washington Charles Ritchie wrote: “The President strode up to him and seized him by the lapel of his coat, at the same time as raising his other arm to the heavens.” Ritchie reported Johnson saying, “you don’t come here and piss on my rug.”  READ MORE: Time for Trudeau to follow his own advice on Haiti While the ambassador’s description is almost certainly an exaggeration, subsequent commentators have further embellished Richie’s account.  Six decades later one of the only left-wing voices allowed in the corporate media promotes liberal nationalist mythology. It’s an element of the intellectual climate that allows politicians to “blather freely” on international affairs. If we assume Canadian politicians’ aim is to assist the world’s poor, we are less likely to investigate their claims seriously. ‘Benevolent Canada’ mythology enables government officials to utter obviously untrue statements such as Canada seeks a “Haiti-led solution” (not to mention claims that Canada promotes the “international rules-based order,” Russia’s murderous war was “unprovoked”, Canada promotes a “feminist foreign policy”, etc.).  A cursory look at recent Canadian history shows the absurdity of Trudeau and Joly’s claims. Eighteen months ago the US and Canada-led Core Group selected current leader Ariel Henry through a tweet while a decade earlier those two countries intervened to make Michel Martelly president, which set-in motion ongoing criminal PHTK rule. In maybe the starkest example of Canada undermining Haitian solutions, Canadian officials brought together high-level US, French and Organization of American States officials to discuss the country’s future in 2003. No officials from the elected Haitian government were invited to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting, which discussed ousting then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and placing the country under UN control.  Canadian officials’ declarations about “Haitian-led” solutions are designed to paper over this history and grant some legitimacy to Ottawa’s imperial actions. The media laps it up partly because Canadians generally believe this country is a benevolent force internationally, reality be damned. Only once journalists do their self-proclaimed job of telling the truth is this likely to change. The post Ottawa gets away with more foreign policy ‘fact-free blather’ appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 1/23/23 9:39am
Other than geriatric former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, 80, Premier Danielle Smith’s “Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel” hasn’t even been appointed, or if it has the public hasn’t been informed.  And even this assumes Manning is not in fact the entire “expert panel” – which, as we shall see, is a possibility.  The panel’s ostensible purpose is “to review the legislation and governance practices used by the Government of Alberta during the management of the COVID-19 public health emergency and to recommend changes necessary to improve government response to future health emergencies.” To assist it in this work, the panel has published an online form on the government’s website asking Albertans to “share your ideas with the panel.”  However, the survey, if that’s the word, has only one question. And that question is pretty silly, considering.  It asks: “What, if any, amendments to legislation should be made to better equip the province to cope with future public health emergencies?” Remember, most of the Albertans who respond will have only a rudimentary understanding of the province’s public health legislation, if they have any understanding at all.  Many from among the United Conservative Party (UCP)’s base will have the notion that any kind of organized public health regulatory framework is bad. Because freedom!  Still, you’d think that Manning, the superannuated godfather of the Canadian right, would at least try to make it appear as if he’s doing something to earn the $253,000 he’s being paid by Alberta taxpayers to stage-manage this charade. Apparently not.  It sure looks as if the single question – maybe there will be more later when the panel gets its act together, or maybe not – is intended to elicit the responses the government wants to hear from the already tuned-up anti-vaxx rage machine that engineered Smith’s entrée to the Premier’s Office. The NDP Opposition suggested the objective of Manning’s appointment was simply, in Opposition Health Critic David Shepherd’s words, “a desperate call for help from Danielle Smith for Preston Manning to help cement her support on the far right.” “Over a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of Albertans’ money to hire someone to chair a committee that has obviously been struck for political gain,” Shepherd said in a statement sent to media. This is credible, but it’s likely not the whole story.  Certainly Manning, the man who by most accounts talked Smith and her Wildrose MLAs into crossing the floor of the Legislature to join the Progressive Conservatives back in December 2014, is not looking for answers like the one suggested by conservationist Kevin Van Tighem, the NDP’s candidate in the Livingstone-Macleod riding where Ms. Smith lives.  “What a weird survey,” Van Tighem tweeted last night. “I answered: make the Chief Medical Officer more independent, have her/him report directly to the Legislature not to a Minister or to the Cabinet, and increase penalties for violations of public health orders.” The one-question survey also shows signs of having been thrown together in extreme haste – no doubt the result of the need to distract from the latest revelations about efforts by staff in the Premier’s Office to interfere with the administration of justice in the aftermath of the Coutts blockade.  The fact of the single question is strong evidence of unseemly haste.  Would-be respondents can link directly to the survey page through the panel overview page, type their response into the form and submit it without registering. The system responds: “Thank you for participating. Your comments will be shared with the panel.”  That is all. It doesn’t ask for a name, an email address, or anything else. It’s not clear if system even records if you’re from Alberta? (Readers outside Alberta should give it a try and see what happens.)  If you want to say the same thing again without even having to use another browser, feel free. The ‘Manning inquiry’ will accept multiple responses too. Is anybody even going to be reading these by-design anonymous comments?  Meanwhile, would-be respondents entering through the “online engagement portal” at your.alberta.ca are urged to “stay connected by registering an account. You will be able to participate in and be notified of engagement opportunities on topics that matter to you.” Very well, but if you register, there is still only one question, no effort is made to determine if your registration email address is legitimate, or that you are who you say you are. So, really, it seems likely all you are doing is signing up for more spam.  The best that can be said about all this is that it’s negligent. The site architecture is incomprehensible. So how is this a legitimate way to develop policy?  A one-question survey with zero respondent demographics lends the thinnest veneer imaginable to a claim a public consultation led to whatever Smith and Manning cook up for this preposterous exercise. In its hurry to be seen doing something, this government barely trying to make this look like a legitimate consultation! Even Jason Kenney’s ridiculous “Fair Deal” Panel, of which Manning was also a member, had more apparent legitimacy than this nonsense. According to the government’s uninformative press release about the panel, Manning will present a final report with recommendations to the government on November 15.  The order signed by Smith establishing the panel says it will exist until November 30. It is not clear from the order when additional panel members will be named, or even if they will be.  “The President of Executive Council may appoint additional members to the Panel from time to time by amendment to this Order. The Chair may recommend additional members to the President of Executive Council who may consider such names in further appointments under this Order,” the order states. (Emphasis added.) Or may not, obviously.  The premier is the president of the Executive Council.  Everything else about this announcement and survey suggests the whole thing was cobbled together in about 10 minutes over coffee – or perhaps something stronger.  As many have observed, the last time Ms. Smith took Manning’s advice, the result was that the NDP led by Rachel Notley was soon elected.  The timing of this fatuous exercise, however, suggests its objectives also include providing justification for postponing the election scheduled for May 29.  After all, how can Manning report if the election goes ahead on May 29, as the Election Act now says it must, and the UCP is not re-elected?  Either the law will have to be amended to delay the election until after November, or Manning, who luckily for his retirement security is already able to collect a generous Parliamentary pension, risks not getting paid for his efforts. The post Manning COVID panel survey asks only one question!  appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, preston manning]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 1/23/23 9:10am
How many more clarifications will be required to explain the latest news report about Premier Danielle “Calamity” Smith’s interest in what Alberta’s Crown prosecutors have been working on? Quite a few, by the sound of it.  No sooner had the brouhaha over whether Smith had been trying to influence prosecutors to take it easy on COVID-related charges started to settle down than the CBC reported yesterday someone in her office fired off emails to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service last fall challenging decisions about cases resulting from the Coutts border blockade a year ago. “I’ve never called a Crown prosecutor,” the premier had told listeners during her Corus Radio program last weekend. “You’re not allowed to do that as a politician. Everyone knows that.” Postmedia’s reliably conservative columnists were certainly prepared to take Ms. Smith’s word for it.  “I have no doubt the premier never talked to any Crown prosecutors about halting court proceedings against Albertans charged for refusing to wear masks or holding in-person church services during the pandemic,” columnist Lorne Gunter of the Edmonton Sun declared yesterday, his column written not long before the CBC story appeared. “In other words,” Gunter continued loyally, “I’m sure she never compromised the impartial administration of justice by pressuring prosecutors to stop prosecuting pandemic scofflaws.” Think again! Mind you, the CBC story makes it sound as if the Premier’s Office wasn’t as worried about the charges faced by some turbulent priest as much as it wanted to get the guys charged with plotting to murder those Mounties off the hook!  Whatever was going on, it’s extremely hard to believe at this point Smith didn’t know exactly what the staff in her office was up on a file they all had to be talking about at the time.  If she didn’t – as keeps happening with this premier – it shows her in almost as bad a light, unable, or perhaps unwilling, to ensure staff members obey the law.  The Premier’s Office issued a statement insisting the premier knew nothing.  “This is a serious allegation,” the statement said. “If a staff member has been in touch with a Crown Prosecutor, appropriate action will be taken.”  So at the very least, someone is now going to have to be thrown under the bus to save Smith from the tide of panic said to be rising within the United Conservative Party (UCP) caucus.  At this point, with the story still alive and lively as another weekend approaches, it’s hard to believe that the different factions in the UCP caucus aren’t meeting secretly, organizing hush-hush conference calls and confidential Zoom meetings to plot ways to remove or save their calamitous boss.  This could become public soon. Meanwhile, since the CBC story did not name the staffer alleged to have made the call, Albertans have the opportunity to play an entertaining game of Legislature Building Clue. Was it Ms. Scarlett? Rev. Green? Solicitor Peacock? A list of possible suspects can be found here.  Preston Manning now has a paid provincial partisan pandemic panel to run! Will Preston Manning drop his plans for a national partisan pandemic panel now that he’s been offered a chance to run a paid provincial partisan pandemic panel?  Premier Danielle Smith told media Thursday the creaky godfather of the Canadian right, now 80, will have a budget of $2 million and be paid $253,000 to chair the “investigation” into how the Alberta government responded to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.  Only last fall, Manning was trying to drum up support for a “national citizen’s inquiry” to take an “independent” look into the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the while observing “the highest evidentiary standards,” naturally. In other words, to act as a sort of counterbalance to the national inquiry headed by a real judge at which participants in the Ottawa Occupation Convoy feted with Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts by Conservative Party leaders last February managed to make themselves look pretty awful.  But in a Postmedia column Thursday, the former Reform Party leader almost sounded as if his enthusiasm for the national inquiry is waning now that he’s found a paid gig. “I have been personally supportive of this initiative by participating in and providing advice to the support group organizing it,” he noted coolly.  “Most encouragingly, on the provincial scene in my home province, the new premier, Danielle Smith, has expressed a strong desire to strengthen Alberta’s capacity to deal with future health crises,” Mr. Manning went on, sounding more cheerful. “In particular, she has identified a need to appoint a panel to review the statutory basis of Alberta’s response to the public health emergency created by COVID-19. She has asked me to organize and chair the panel, an invitation which I have accepted with enthusiasm.” (Emphasis added.) “The purpose of this panel would NOT be to review or rehash the entire gamut of the Alberta government’s response to COVID,” Manning insisted. “Rather the specific task of the panel would be reviewing the Alberta statutes that informed and authorized the government’s response to COVID-19 and proposing amendments to such legislation that might better prepare the province to address future public health emergencies.” Whether or not the panel, other members not yet named, tries to conduct a witch hunt against public health officials who did their jobs or to undermine the Trudeau Government in Ottawa, no good will come from any effort to “review the statutory basis” of Alberta’s public health laws. Likewise, the presence of Manning as chair will do nothing for the credibility of the panel’s recommendations.  The post It’s hard to believe Smith didn’t know her staff was emailing prosecutors appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics]

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[l] at 1/20/23 2:27pm
The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) announced the result of an internal forensic audit on Monday, January 16. Due to the audit findings, the union filed a statement of claim with allegations against former union president Warren “Smokey” Thomas, former First President and Treasurer Eduardo Almeida, and former OPSEU accountant Maurice Gabay. OPSEU said these former executives had received compensation they were not entitled to. These allegations have not yet been tested in court. According to a CBC article, co-counsel for Thomas said these allegations are false and that the statement of claim is “riddled with errors.”  The union commenced legal action after moving forward with a forensic audit when the new OPSEU board was elected in April 2022.  “Through that process, numerous concerns came to light that required further third-party scrutiny,” OPSEU president JP Hornick wrote in a document circulated to OPSEU members. “We wanted and needed to get this right. With the support of the Board, we engaged a forensic auditor—a well-respected third party who would give us a full picture of exactly what happened, who might have been involved and the full impact to our finances.”  Hornick said in this document, which is now available on the OPSEU website, that the union is still strong and its finances are still stable. Still, in the wake of this news, members of OPSEU have expressed a sense of hurt and betrayal.  On Facebook, user Lynn Yule Hopper commented, “Its like a kick in the teeth from people we trusted.”  In a reply to another comment, Hopper expressed concern about the lack of procedures in place to maintain transparency and accountability within the union.  “I am now retired, but when working, our local had 2 non executive members do a check of the books every year,” Hopper wrote. “Its unbelievable that an audit was not performed every year at the highest level with the most money.”  Hopper did not respond to rabble’s request for an interview before the publication of this story.  This marks the second time in the span of about a year where a Canadian union alleged misconduct against former executives. In March 2022, former Unifor National President Jerry Dias was charged with breaching the Unifor Constitution by accepting money from COVID-19 rapid test suppliers that he introduced to employers of the union’s members.  There may be troubling attitudes brewing among union executives. As Hornick said in the OPSEU document, unions are made to build worker power and push justice forward. But these alleged acts by previous OPSEU executives would constitute an erosion of union member power.  On Twitter, user Ashlyn O’Mara responded to the story with a tweet saying, “This is what happens when the majority of union members sit idly by and just assume the union is acting in their best interest and is competent. I’ve lived it.”  O’Mara did not respond to a message requesting further comment but this reply illustrates a sentiment that in order to keep union power in the hands of workers, executives must commit to transparency and be held accountable.  Hornick wrote that she is committed to rebuilding trust.  She wrote, “I recognize the privilege it is to lead OPSEU/SEFPO and assure you that I will ceaselessly honour that commitment.” The post OPSEU levels allegations against former execs appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, OPSEU]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 1/20/23 9:07am
On a recent Saturday in Havana, I was thrilled to learn that Interactivo was performing an outdoor concert. A jazz fusion band which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, Interactivo had a regular weekly gig in the basement bar at Brecht theatre in Vedado for years, a venue they recently lost. Another concert scheduled for the huge Chaplin theatre in October was also cancelled. Which was why I was so happy to learn of this outdoor concert, to take place in a park across the street from their usual Brecht location, during the opening weekend of the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, an annual event which often brings me to the country.    But it was not to be. A couple hours before the concert, bandleader Roberto Carcasses announced on social media that this too was cancelled. “Bad weather” was the reason given by the authorities. There was indeed some wind but no rain. I could not help but wonder if this spate of cancellations Interactivo has run into have something to do with Roberto Carcasses’ outspoken defence of freedom of expression and against the severe prison sentences handed out to those convicted of various forms of “sedition” in the protests of July 2021 throughout the island.   Interactivo is known for its musicianship and high-octane performances. Their lyrics do not, typically, generate controversy. Yet Carcasses himself takes risks. He is known to sing (and speak) tributes to open heartedness over ideology. A recent song, written on the occasion of the 2021 protests by artists outside the Ministry of Culture, proclaims his love for his “Trumpista” uncle in Miami as much as his “Fidelista” aunt in Havana.   So instead of seeing my beloved Interactivo, I made my way to Chaplin theatre to see the premiere of Fernando Pérez’ new film El Mundo de Nelsito (Nelson’s World). This was hardly a bad second choice. Like Carcasses, Perez is also a popular figure in Cuban culture. His films depict the city of Havana, as a curator might in the world’s best gallery, and the city loves him back.  El Mundo de Nelsito continues his tradition of profoundly human filmmaking and was clearly loved at its premiere; the first and only full theatre I saw during the festival(films are almost always sold out at this event). But I think the audience was captured as much by Pérez’ introduction as the film itself. Visiting his family outside the country, he spoke by video. He warned the audience the film was a jigsaw puzzle and asked us to give it time to come together  (he was correct, and we did, and it was worth it). But he also addressed Cuba’s current moment directly.  “I dream of a country where films are not censored,” he said, referring perhaps to Carlos Lechuga’s 2022 release Vicenta B, a mediation on migration and family separation featuring Afro Cuban protagonists, which was famously and scandalously excluded from this festival.   “I dream of a country where protest is not criminalized,” he added, a reference, perhaps, to a state that, in the name of revolution, jails teenage protestors. Pérez was not the only one to speak up at this Festival. At the Festival’s opening ceremonies, actress Andrea Doimeadios took the stage. Referring to herself as “the only young actress who wants to be in Cuba right now” she proceeded to poke fun at some of the assembled functionaries. Addressing the head of the Department “Ideologico del Partido de PCC”, she said “I’ve always wondered what you all talk about in that department.” She comes by her sarcasm honestly, she’s the daughter of a celebrated humourist. A couple days later the head of the major film school on the island denounced the country’s filmmakers for being “anti-communist.” In return, a letter of thanks to the Festival was circulated by a number of filmmakers, actors and other participants.   This is a country which, in addition to the plethora of long-time sanctions applied by the US (continued by Biden), has still not recovered from a devastating hurricane which took out the entire electrical supply in September. Some areas outside Havana are still experiencing blackouts of 8-10 hours daily. The economy continues in freefall and inflation is crippling access to basic foods (as well as much else).  Food prices have tripled, at least, in the past year. The example repeated to me by several friends:  A dozen eggs cost over 1,000 Cuban pesos (beyond the five eggs per person monthly quota provided by the state). The average wage is around 4,000 per month, pensioners receive 2,000 monthly. Roughly translated, in terms of an average Canadian salary, an “extra” dozen eggs would cost almost $500. Problems this severe often lead to one solution: getting out. The country continues to experience huge rates of emigration, approximately 250,000 this year, more than the number of migrants in other well-known crisis periods in the past decades.   With problems like this, who cares what artists say? Actually plenty of people, given the importance of the arts and culture in Cuban history. Artistic education and access to the arts has been one of the hallmarks of Cuban state policy for decades. When popular jazz singer Daymé Arocena (who lived at the time in Canada) recorded a song and video in support of the July 2021 protests, none other than the Minister of Culture himself went after her, trashing the work as “insignificant” artistically. When political leaders go after insignificant musicians (with a huge domestic and international following), the place of music in this climate of political tensions is clear.   The film festival was just one example of the political polarization and mistrust that characterizes Cuba today, in the cultural world, on social media, in the continued economic crises and inequalities that helped to create the climate of unprecedented public protests. There are Cubans abroad who advocate the cessation of remittances to family on the island, in order to increase pressures for regime change. This strategy of “starve your grandma to bring down the government” is yet another indication of the high-stakes fault lines. As one friend said to me, (herself an Afro Cuban woman in the cultural world, located well outside the privileges of state power), the ugliness of this climate is even sadder when set next to the spirit of neighbourly cooperation which characterized the pandemic and quarantine period in Cuba. Not to mention the success in developing a vaccine independently and distributing it throughout the island.  Which is why the increasingly restricted space (literally and metaphorically) for films and music is profoundly connected to current economic and political crises. Musicians and other artists of course find themselves among the current wave of migrants. Oliver Valdes, a popular drummer, now performs occasionally with a group of musicians he calls “Los que se Quedaron” – those who stayed,” satirical Cuban humour at its best. I would have had more opportunities to hear some of my favourite Cuban musicians in Miami than I did in Havana. And one hardly even needs to leave Canada to hear first-class Cuban musicians. A new generation of Cuban migrants are making a name for themselves here: Elizabeth Rodríguez and Magdelys Savigne of the Juno winning OKAN, jazz saxophonist Luis Deniz, taking their place alongside celebrated musicians who have been in Canada for decades: Alex Cuba, Alexis Baro, Hilario Duran, just to mention a few examples. But more to the point, unless the open minded and open-hearted embrace of a multiplicity of perspectives advocated by the many artists like Carcasses and Pérez prevails, this climate of polarization will continue, to everyone’s detriment. The post Music, film and political deadlock in Cuba appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Arts, World Politics, Cuba]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 1/20/23 9:07am
On a recent Saturday in Havana, I was thrilled to learn that Interactivo was performing an outdoor concert. A jazz fusion band which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, Interactivo had a regular weekly gig in the basement bar at Brecht theatre in Vedado for years, a venue they recently lost. Another concert scheduled for the huge Chaplin theatre in October was also cancelled. Which was why I was so happy to learn of this outdoor concert, to take place in a park across the street from their usual Brecht location, during the opening weekend of the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, an annual event which often brings me to the country.    But it was not to be. A couple hours before the concert, bandleader Roberto Carcasses announced on social media that this too was cancelled. “Bad weather” was the reason given by the authorities. There was indeed some wind but no rain. I could not help but wonder if this spate of cancellations Interactivo has run into have something to do with Roberto Carcasses’ outspoken defence of freedom of expression and against the severe prison sentences handed out to those convicted of various forms of “sedition” in the protests of July 2021 throughout the island.   Interactivo is known for its musicianship and high-octane performances. Their lyrics do not, typically, generate controversy. Yet Carcasses himself takes risks. He is known to sing (and speak) tributes to open heartedness over ideology. A recent song, written on the occasion of the 2021 protests by artists outside the Ministry of Culture, proclaims his love for his “Trumpista” uncle in Miami as much as his “Fidelista” aunt in Havana.   So instead of seeing my beloved Interactivo, I made my way to Chaplin theatre to see the premiere of Fernando Pérez’ new film El Mundo de Nelsito (Nelson’s World). This was hardly a bad second choice. Like Carcasses, Perez is also a popular figure in Cuban culture. His films depict the city of Havana, as a curator might in the world’s best gallery, and the city loves him back.  El Mundo de Nelsito continues his tradition of profoundly human filmmaking and was clearly loved at its premiere; the first and only full theatre I saw during the festival(films are almost always sold out at this event). But I think the audience was captured as much by Pérez’ introduction as the film itself. Visiting his family outside the country, he spoke by video. He warned the audience the film was a jigsaw puzzle and asked us to give it time to come together  (he was correct, and we did, and it was worth it). But he also addressed Cuba’s current moment directly.  “I dream of a country where films are not censored,” he said, referring perhaps to Carlos Lechuga’s 2022 release Vicenta B, a mediation on migration and family separation featuring Afro Cuban protagonists, which was famously and scandalously excluded from this festival.   “I dream of a country where protest is not criminalized,” he added, a reference, perhaps, to a state that, in the name of revolution, jails teenage protestors. Pérez was not the only one to speak up at this Festival. At the Festival’s opening ceremonies, actress Andrea Doimeadios took the stage. Referring to herself as “the only young actress who wants to be in Cuba right now” she proceeded to poke fun at some of the assembled functionaries. Addressing the head of the Department “Ideologico del Partido de PCC”, she said “I’ve always wondered what you all talk about in that department.” She comes by her sarcasm honestly, she’s the daughter of a celebrated humourist. A couple days later the head of the major film school on the island denounced the country’s filmmakers for being “anti-communist.” In return, a letter of thanks to the Festival was circulated by a number of filmmakers, actors and other participants.   This is a country which, in addition to the plethora of long-time sanctions applied by the US (continued by Biden), has still not recovered from a devastating hurricane which took out the entire electrical supply in September. Some areas outside Havana are still experiencing blackouts of 8-10 hours daily. The economy continues in freefall and inflation is crippling access to basic foods (as well as much else).  Food prices have tripled, at least, in the past year. The example repeated to me by several friends:  A dozen eggs cost over 1,000 Cuban pesos (beyond the five eggs per person monthly quota provided by the state). The average wage is around 4,000 per month, pensioners receive 2,000 monthly. Roughly translated, in terms of an average Canadian salary, an “extra” dozen eggs would cost almost $500. Problems this severe often lead to one solution: getting out. The country continues to experience huge rates of emigration, approximately 250,000 this year, more than the number of migrants in other well-known crisis periods in the past decades.   With problems like this, who cares what artists say? Actually plenty of people, given the importance of the arts and culture in Cuban history. Artistic education and access to the arts has been one of the hallmarks of Cuban state policy for decades. When popular jazz singer Daymé Arocena (who lived at the time in Canada) recorded a song and video in support of the July 2021 protests, none other than the Minister of Culture himself went after her, trashing the work as “insignificant” artistically. When political leaders go after insignificant musicians (with a huge domestic and international following), the place of music in this climate of political tensions is clear.   The film festival was just one example of the political polarization and mistrust that characterizes Cuba today, in the cultural world, on social media, in the continued economic crises and inequalities that helped to create the climate of unprecedented public protests. There are Cubans abroad who advocate the cessation of remittances to family on the island, in order to increase pressures for regime change. This strategy of “starve your grandma to bring down the government” is yet another indication of the high-stakes fault lines. As one friend said to me, (herself an Afro Cuban woman in the cultural world, located well outside the privileges of state power), the ugliness of this climate is even sadder when set next to the spirit of neighbourly cooperation which characterized the pandemic and quarantine period in Cuba. Not to mention the success in developing a vaccine independently and distributing it throughout the island.  Which is why the increasingly restricted space (literally and metaphorically) for films and music is profoundly connected to current economic and political crises. Musicians and other artists of course find themselves among the current wave of migrants. Oliver Valdes, a popular drummer, now performs occasionally with a group of musicians he calls “Los que se Quedaron” – those who stayed,” satirical Cuban humour at its best. I would have had more opportunities to hear some of my favourite Cuban musicians in Miami than I did in Havana. And one hardly even needs to leave Canada to hear first-class Cuban musicians. A new generation of Cuban migrants are making a name for themselves here: Elizabeth Rodríguez and Magdelys Savigne of the Juno winning OKAN, jazz saxophonist Luis Deniz, taking their place alongside celebrated musicians who have been in Canada for decades: Alex Cuba, Alexis Baro, Hilario Duran, just to mention a few examples. But more to the point, unless the open minded and open-hearted embrace of a multiplicity of perspectives advocated by the many artists like Carcasses and Pérez prevails, this climate of polarization will continue, to everyone’s detriment. The post Music, Film and Political Deadlock in Cuba appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Arts, World Politics]

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[l] at 1/20/23 8:08am
In Ian Fleming’s 1958 novel Goldfinger, James Bond’s adversary Auric Goldfinger observes: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” With the Bolsonaristas storming Brazil’s capitol buildings last week, we have moved past coincidence when it comes to shambolic plots to overthrow democratically elected centre-left politicians. Although every news organization on earth seems to have talked about the parallels between the Bud Light Putsch of January 6, 2021 and the Bolsonarista Blitz on January 8 this year, there seems to be less attention paid to the fact that Canada’s convoy protest was working from the same playbook. Now, to be clear, unlike the other two insurrections, the Convoy of Crazy Canucks never stormed our Parliament building. But it was whipped up through the same social media channels, shared the same shambolic decentralized organizational structure, and its supporters were egged on by the same media outlets, professed similar aims to force a centre-left politician to be replaced, and were feeding from the same troughs.  Often, the best way to predict the next five years of Canadian politics is to look at whatever risible nonsense right-wingers in the United States are doing right now, and imagine it being done more stupidly and with less basic competence. This basic incompetence of Canadian conservatives and the construction hoarding around the Parliament Building are probably all that spared Canadians the sight of a defaced Confederation Hall. Since the convoy protestors were largely unable to apply their violent methods to their intended political targets, organizers are now trying to rewrite the past to claim they organized a peaceful protest. But ignoring the terrorist nature of the convoy protest only makes us more vulnerable to the next attempted insurrection. In the year after a horde of incensed suburbanites ransacked the U.S. Capitol, more than 900 of the 2,000 participants were prosecuted – and of those least 400 have either pleaded or been found guilty.  In the two weeks since a mob descended on Three Towers Plaza in Brasilia, more than 1,000 people were taken into custody and warrants were issued for additional organizers. In both countries, the institutions of government are taking steps to show that this type of conduct has no place in a civilized society. In Canada? There was a mealymouthed statutory inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act, which often seemed more concerned with determining if the government overreacted, rather than issuing a firm condemnation of the actions of the terrorist mob.  There’s a stark difference to be seen in how the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack tackled the root causes of the violence in Washington, and how the Emergencies Act Inquiry focused on institutional failures by police. The former was an exercise in accountability, the latter is about being able to move on. Consequently, Canadians are quietly watching as charges are withdrawn, a concerted effort is made to forget the Convoy ever happened, and media continues to minimize the risk to democracy. The risk is ever present, and basic incompetence by Convoy organizers is the only reason that Ottawa residents aren’t currently being assaulted by a disorganized army of disgruntled riffraff. I can guarantee you that the American-based propaganda machine and the financial backers of Canadian insurrectionists are taking note of our government’s weak-sauce response. We will come to regret it. The post There’s a sedition super-highway – Canada needs to take the off-ramp! appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Bolsonaro, Freedom Convoy, January 6]

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[l] at 1/20/23 7:51am
“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” So says the Gospel of Matthew.  I speak metaphorically, of course, of the final days of the United Conservative Party (UCP).  Alas, despite what we’re hearing – mostly rumours at this point – the end is not yet.  Indeed, there are powerful arguments for the disunited United Conservatives to stick together no matter how unhappy it makes them in the hope they can make it together through one more election. Premier Danielle Smith – as incompetent and unpopular as she is turning out, once again, to be – only got the job last October and the next Alberta general election is scheduled to be held at the end of May.  By that schedule it’s far too late, as the venerable Western political metaphor advises, to switch horses in mid-stream. Indeed, it was probably too late last fall when the UCP foolishly decided to switch out Jason Kenney for Smith. It may even be too late if the UCP moves to put off the May 29 election, which would require a change in Alberta legislation but would be unlikely to face a constitutional hurdle.  Still, there’s a whiff of smoke in the air, as if a cow has kicked over a lantern in a stable somewhere, and flames are just starting to spread.  On Saturday, the Breakdown, an Alberta political podcast, tweeted: “Heard from multiple reliable sources today that the UCP caucus is a hairs breadth away from boiling over and prospective leaders to replace Smith are actively being discussed.” The Breakdown’s thread continued: “Apparently caucus is split along rather predictable lines, and there are increasing concerns within the larger faction that Smith is more focused on the ‘Danielle Smith Show’ than she is actual governance or winning the next election. “This all comes at a time where the same groups that elevated Smith are becoming more frustrated with her constant equivocation on her promises to them,” the folks at the Breakdown said. “One source told us today that there is a very real possibility of a new leader before the next election.” On Sunday, former Progressive Conservative deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk tweeted an intriguing fragment of a message from, he said, a member of Premier Smith’s cabinet.  “It would be easy to leave,” the purported minister lamented, with a certain lack of clarity. “To stay. Not so easy when I see something that has been said that is unacceptable from my new leader. Honestly. Is she going to lead this party in the next election? I don’t know. Do you? Won’t be me but who? A good opposition is as important as a good government.”  Lukaszuk commented that Smith “indeed has problems when her cabinet ministers exchange among themselves messages like this one.” Most of us would want to respond to the mystery minister: So, resign already? Make a scene!  Still, if this really was said by a member of Smith’s cabinet, it’s hard to disagree that it suggests the premier’s problems are growing.  Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt was speculating that the extremist Take Back Alberta group that targeted Jason Kenney and championed Ms. Smith in last year’s leadership review vote and the leadership election that followed it, is now moving to push out Jason Nixon, one of Kenney’s most influential lieutenants. “Jason Nixon has lost control of his riding association.” Bratt tweeted. “Take Back Alberta is taking credit. Will they try, with support of new UCP Board (now 1/2 rep from TBA), and re-open UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre?” Alert readers will recall that at this time last year, farmer Tim Hoven’s campaign to challenge Jason Nixon for the UCP nomination in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre got off to a strong start – before the he was controversially disqualified for being “associated with extreme or hateful views,” in the words of then-Premier Kenney.  Cancel culture, yelled his supporters. Now it does rather look as if Conservative cancel culture is coming Nixon’s way.  In her Substack commentary yesterday, University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young also suggests “there are signs of trouble behind the scenes,” noting another social media report that Premier Smith has agreed to let the UCP Caucus vet choices for her planned COVID panel. Surely this is another sign of disunity in the ranks – although the social media source Young cited doesn’t make it clear whether this oversight was demanded by what she called the party’s moderates or its anti-vaccine loonies.  “Smith finds herself in the lonely position Jason Kenney occupied not so long ago,” Young wrote. “The Calgary/establishment wing of the party wants more consistency and good governance. The convoy/Take Back Alberta wing of the party wants to re-litigate COVID.” So, Apocalypse Now? Or apocalypse later? I can’t answer that question. Yet. The post Are these the last days of the UCP, or just another self-inflicted speed bump? appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, Alberta politics, Danielle Smith]

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[l] at 1/20/23 7:30am
Doug Ford said the answer to the healthcare crisis must be “bold, innovative and creative.” So he innovated, created and gave us — capitalism? And not the buccaneering, high-risk, compete-till-you-triumph-or-die version. His is no-risk capitalism, paid for by the government’s stash of citizens’ taxes. When Ford says we’ll pay with our OHIP card, not our credit card, that’s the same way he’ll pay high-profit firms like the disastrous corporate long-term care facilities during COVID. The status quo is not acceptable so you replace it with the status quo? Capitalism has been in place since at least the 1700s, after it fought a spirited battle against feudalism and won. Do you know what it took to finally get public health care here in the 1960s? Doctors went on strike in Saskatchewan against Tommy Douglas’ plan. The government flew in MDs and nurses from the U.K. By mid-decade, most docs realized they were doing rather well and cheerily caved. Look, expanding clinics that do cataracts or MRIs — 98 per cent of which are private, for-profit, including those corporate gargantuans in long-term care — will do nothing for the true crisis, which is about staffing ERs and hospitals, not eye care. In fact, it will intensify and worsen that genuine crisis. We’ll end up with a society in which some get their cataracts fixed — a good thing — but others go into crisis while in the waiting room and then die still being evaluated, as recently happened in Nova Scotia. They’re now adding care providers to waiting rooms there. It’s the staffing, stupid, not the physical facilities. Which Ford worsens by capping wages so that staff will likely migrate to private clinics where wages aren’t capped and work conditions don’t include knowing that people may be dying while waiting for treatment. We already have a highly mixed system. Family docs are private, running their businesses, or pharmacies. We aren’t Cuba or North Korea, despite Ford’s lusty witticism about that. They’re paid by the state but retain their autonomy, as patients retain the ability to choose. That’s why it’s called mixed, contra a Globe editorial’s ignorant claim about the “blind fear of private delivery” here. To be honest, which columnists should be, I don’t really see the point of big profits in health care. I speak practically, not moralistically. Current business models like “just in time” delivery make no sense in medicine and are potentially criminal. It’s one thing to delay delivery of, say, decals, due to supply chain screw-ups and another to have patients die owing to staff or supply shortages. For-profit health care also leads to more “upselling” and extra-billing. Have you ever had a funeral director contemptuously fling a brochure at you describing government-mandated low-cost caskets that he must offer, and then glide unctuously toward the deluxe coffins in his showroom? The pressure is on for that kind of thing whenever profits are involved. Above all, if you must siphon resources to reward shareholders with profits, patients will suffer or die as a result — if not at those institutions, then among the public generally. I suppose I’m missing something subtle here but we did see lots of unnecessary carnage at highly profitable LTCs during COVID. The Star noted that, “of the 20 worst-hit homes in Ontario’s second wave, 17 are for-profit.” Then, as Bob Hepburn wrote here, Ford “gave out new 30-year licences to private operators that will result in 18,000 more beds” in LTCs. If not for those death rates, we’d have had a fairly decent record during COVID. The profit motive has the ability to ruin almost anything it touches, though it doesn’t always matter much outside medical contexts. Take Will Trent, the new U.S. network show about a dyslexic, damaged cop in Georgia. Good premise, fine cast, sharp scripts. But, due to lavish time allotments for ads, episodes must be 40 minutes versus 60 or more and it feels shallow and rushed. Could have been a Luther or Perry Mason, but it isn’t. Happily, real lives weren’t at stake. This column originally appeared in the Toronto Star. The post Profits put patients at risk appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Health, health care, privatization]

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[l] at 1/20/23 7:00am
The British government has adopted legislation demanding during a strike. Employees designed under the Strike – Minimum Service Bill for striking. Plus: How the right wing in the US is attacking public education. And the LabourStart report about union events. 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 Cancelling the right to strike in the UK appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour]

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[l] at 1/20/23 7:00am
This week on rabble radio, were joined by rabble parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg and Réal Lavergne, president of Fair Vote Canada. The two join editor Nick Seebruch to debate what electoral reform might look like in Canada.  At the top of the month, Nerenberg shared a piece calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to revive the idea of electoral reform for Canada. Read that piece here. In the article, he explained that Canada’s current ‘winner-takes-all’ system often puts an unpopular leader in power. He wondered: might a ranked system be a more equitable way of deciding the leader of the country? Might we aim for that way of voting by the next election?  Lavergne thinks it’s not that simple.  Together, the three dissect Canada’s current voting system and discuss how a fairer way to vote might be accomplished in the future.   Join us for Off the Hill this month!  Mark your calendar! In our first political panel of 2023, join guests MP Leah Gazan, economist Jim Stanford, Indigenous campaigner and climate activist Clayton Thomas-Müller and parliamentary reporter Karl Nerenberg as they speculate what’s to come in the year ahead. Canadian parliament returns on January 30. The spotlight is on the economy and the impact on Canadians. Our panel will unpack the critical issues related to the economic outlook and the climate emergency. Dont miss out! Register for this free event here!   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 What electoral reform might look like in Canada appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Canadian Politics, electoral reform, Justin Trudeau]

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[l] at 1/20/23 6:34am
Over the last few years, diversity and equity in labour movement leadership has been growing. And while these historic elections have been a great step forward, equity and diversity work needs to grow beyond just ticking boxes.  Susanne Skidmore, the first openly queer woman to be elected president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said that unions are still celebrating ‘firsts’ when it comes to diversity in labour leadership.  “The work has been happening on the ground to get people to the place where they see themselves moving up in leadership positions,” Skidmore said, “but theres still more work to do.”  After her election in 2022, Skidmore said it was important that people talk about how she is the first openly queer woman to be elected to her position.  “There are still glass ceilings that exist in many parts of the world, whether its private industry, the labour movement or government,” Skidmore said. “Its still very important that you know, that we talk about equity and that we talk about who we are so that folks who come up after us can see themselves in these positions as well.”  This era of ‘firsts’ has still left many marginalized labour leaders vulnerable.  JP Hornick is the first queer president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). They said that their queerness has always informed their organizing.  “Our existence is inherently politicized,” Hornick said, “and it means that you have almost no choice but to engage with that. You can either engage with that passively or actively. You can either experience the conditions that restrict your life or you can push back against those social forces that would tell you to shut up.”  Hornick said the reason she feels its important to have her queerness inform her activism is because it helps her to address worker needs outside employment as well.  “What motivates us is not just our social position as workers,” Hornick said, “but how that fits into the larger social milieu. You cannot in any way separate out worker justice from climate justice, from environmental racism, from racism and xenophobia.The labour movement has to be rooted in social justice, or we have abdicated our responsibility for building worker power.” Another historic election that occurred in 2022 was the election of Lana Payne as National President of Unifor. Payne is the first woman to have this position and she said that she hopes this will encourage other women to become or stay involved with the union. READ MORE: Lana Payne elected as new National President of Unifor “I hope that it really does show that leadership positions are for everybody.” Payne said. “I think its important that were at a place where this can happen.”  While she recognized her election was important, Payne said she doesn’t want people to fixate too much on individual power. Instead, a more equitable labour movement will focus on collective power.  “You cant really create worker solidarity if youre not including everybody in that process,” Payne said.  The recent historic elections and growing diversity in the labour movement indicate progress, but Jan Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), said people must remember that work cannot end there. Simpson is the first Black woman to lead a national union.  Since her election in 2019, Simpson said she still sees that there are too few racialized people in positions of leadership.  “I am one racialized person on a board of 15 people,” Simpson said, “therefore the microaggressions I face daily are invisible to those who do not look like me.” Simpson said that the labour movement must work through white fragility and white defensiveness to be able to continue progress forward.  “Racial capitalism was built on the foundation of the white supremacy of mostly well-connected old men which is a faulty and false notion that continues the systemic evils of racism, patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism,” Simpson said. “Sadly, the union is not immune, and as it has embraced racial capitalism, it replicates the systems that keep these injustices in place. Unions and union leaders must re-commit to uncomfortable, difficult conversations about how we work together with equity seeking groups to begin to dismantle their policies, procedures and practices within their union and the House of Labour that perpetuate and uphold the legacies of racism, patriarchy and more.” One pioneer in the internal reflection needed for the labour movement to live the values it projects is Yolanda McClean, the first Black woman to be elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario.  McClean is reviewing the CUPE Ontario policy manuals to ensure that an anti-racism lens has been taken to union policy. As well, McClean is leading the Anti-Racism Organizational Action Plan Committee which has launched training programs that empower women to become more involved in the union.  “Thats how we change things,” McClean said. “When we really do something thats proactive. And just paper is not going to work. You actually physically have to make changes.” The post Pushing equity forward within the labour movement appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Labour, B.C. Federation of Labour, cupe, cupw, OPSEU, Unifor]

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[l] at 1/19/23 2:01pm
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is getting carried away. Literally. She joined thousands in the village of Lützerath, Germany, to oppose the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine, one of the dirtiest forms of coal. Police in riot gear hauled her away as the mass arrests progressed. Greta wrote on Twitter, “Yesterday I was part of a group that peacefully protested the expansion of a coal mine…We were kettled by police and then detained but were let go later that evening. Climate protection is not a crime.” As Greta was being detained, thousands of the global elite were arriving in Davos, Switzerland for the 53rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The WEF is touted as a place for leaders to engage in peer-to-peer dialogue to address the world’s most pressing problems. Hundreds arrive by private jet, which, on a per-passenger basis, is the most heavily polluting mode of transport. This gathering of high carbon emitters heard from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We are flirting with climate disaster. Every week brings a new climate horror story,” he said. “The consequences will be devastating. Several parts of our planet will be uninhabitable. For many, this is a death sentence, but it is not a surprise. The science has been clear for decades…We learned last week that certain fossil fuel producers were fully aware in the 1970s that their core product was baking our planet.” Guterres was referencing a study published in Science further proving that fossil fuel companies long knew greenhouse gasses intensified human-induced climate change. This study followed a December report issued by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee documenting decades of greenwashing and climate change disinformation by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Exxon, Chevron and other big oil companies knew that when they were burning fossil fuels in the 1970s, it was causing climate change and that this was going to be a major problem for humanity,” Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna, who helped lead the investigation, said on the Democracy Now! news hour. “They had the best scientists. And yet their CEOs, their executives went out for decades and lied to the American public, did not disclose their own science. As a result, we never started the transition, and we are in the world of pain that we are in today.” The “world of pain” he referenced has descended on Khanna’s home state of California, battered over the past two weeks by climate-fuelled rain and snow storms, landslides and mudslides, driven by what climate scientist David Swain described on Democracy Now! as “atmospheric rivers…corridors of highly concentrated atmospheric water vapor moving quickly through the atmosphere.” In addition to billions of dollars in damages, these unprecedented storms have claimed 22 lives to date. Congressman Khanna blames the massively profitable fossil fuel companies. “They should be held accountable like Big Tobacco was held accountable.” While Davos is buzzing with World Economic Forum activities “to drive tangible, system-positive change for the long term” and spur “proactive, vision-driven policies and business strategies,” the Alps, in which the resort town is nestled, are suffering a climate crisis of their own. An unseasonably warm winter has left much of the huge mountain range barren of snow, with the multi-billion-dollar ski and winter snow sports industry in a crisis. In 2019, Greta Thunberg, then 16 years old, told the World Economic Forum, “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act…as if the house is on fire. Because it is.” Three years later, she is back in Davos, fresh from the coal protests in Lützerath, with other youth climate leaders including Vanessa Nakate from Uganda, Helena Gualinga from Ecuador, and Luisa Neubauer from Germany. They have issued a letter to the CEOs of fossil fuel corporations, that reads in part: “This Cease and Desist Notice is to demand that you immediately stop opening any new oil, gas, or coal extraction sites, and stop blocking the clean energy transition we all so urgently need…If you fail to act immediately, be advised that citizens around the world will consider taking any and all legal action to hold you accountable. And we will keep protesting in the streets in huge numbers.” The World Economic Forum has been discussing world problems for just about as long as ExxonMobil has been lying about climate change. Scientists revealed this week that Greenland just had its hottest decade in 1,000 years and that its massive ice sheet is rapidly melting, causing more sea level rise. Catastrophic climate disruption is here, and disruptors like Greta Thunberg are clearly not the ones who should be arrested. This column originally appeared in Democracy Now! The post Lies, damn lies and climate change appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Environment, World Politics, Climate Change]

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[l] at 1/19/23 12:46pm
Recently, a student approached me about food price inflation, its impact on the student body, and the strategy generally adopted by the Bank of Canada to combat inflation. We were reviewing media articles in class on the prices frozen by Loblaws on their no name brand goods in conjunction with the billions that were added to the wealth of its CEO, Galen Weston Jr., especially during the pandemic. The course, which I recently introduced at MacEwan University, is titled Humanistic Economics, where I eschew fancy mathematics and lead students through critiques of standard textbook theory and introduce them to alternative perspectives on topical issues including inequality, minimum wage, and free trade. Thus, when asked about food inflation, I did not scurry to extract data on the Consumer Price Index for food prices or the average weekly earnings, both of which are easily available from Statistics Canada. Other economists have already presented such extensive information in their online articles. My objective is also not to highlight supply chain issues, which are highlighted as factors contributing to food price inflation. Rather, I am more interested in highlighting the perspective that economic issues are too important to be ceded to the “experts”, a point made by student activists Earle, Moran, and Ward-Perkins, who wrote The Econocracy (p. 4). After all, it is not the well compensated “experts” who bear the brunt of high food prices but the working-class people. Such people appropriately termed as the “precariat” have been increasingly marginalized by globalization, technological change, automation, insecure gig economy jobs, and the weakening of unions since the days of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher. Thus, it is not the cold numbers or the prescriptions of “experts” that should be given precedence in explaining food price inflation and its alleviation. Rather, we should be highlighting the stories of the precariat who can tell you first-hand about the pangs of hunger and the desperate strategies they are undertaking to cope with the higher cost of living (or rather existing). The reason for my radical approach is that I have become viscerally disillusioned by standard textbook theory that paralyzes any initiative towards the alleviation of the concerns of the poor. Take for instance, price ceilings on medicines, the push towards the $15 minimum wage, raising the top tax rates or imposing wealth taxes, all of which address inequality by influencing the existing distribution of resources. In each such instance, standard textbook theory teaches us that such policies would introduce deadweight loss (a measure of inefficiency), distort incentives to work, and would be counterproductive to our stated goal of ensuring an affordable living standard for the precariat. However, textbook theory is stuck in the days of 18th and 19th century thinkers like Adam Smith and David Ricardo, even as the world has moved on from the simple economies based on the baker, butcher, and the brewer and towards complex economies shaped by large multi-national corporations. Moreover, despite the challenge posed by cutting edge scholars like Thomas Piketty in France, Lars Osberg in Canada, or even Blanchard and Rodrik, who assembled a constellation of 29 voices in their 2021 book Combating Inequality, to push the idea that the time of “ifs and buts” has long passed, inertia has paralyzed standard textbook theory to inaction. Returning to the questions posed by the student, I must emphasize the work of Canadian economist Lars Osberg who wrote The Age of Increasing Inequality. He is clear that increasing interest rates to target low inflation destroyed jobs in manufacturing industries, reduced the growth in real wages, led to the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, reduced overall growth, and instigated cuts in income transfer programs and government services including healthcare and education (p. 55-59). Thus, he explains that the wage stagnation of the middle-class arose due to the “price stability” policy of increasing interest rates. This background on the Bank of Canada policies from the 1980s and 1990s allows us to question its policies in the 2020s in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the COVID pandemic. After all, despite the increase in interest rates to combat inflation, food price inflation remains a pressing problem. No wonder, post-Keynesians are skeptical of monetary policy to achieve the twin goals of price stability and full employment and instead emphasize the predominant role for fiscal policy. What this means is for the government of Canada to initiate drastic action to implement confiscatory taxes (ala Piketty) on the wealthy to redistribute resources to the poor (at least for those who have not completely bought Modern Monetary Theory). The initiative of the wealthy will not die out and they would rather be motivated to work more to retain their wealth ranking and maintain their level of conspicuous consumption. Moreover, instead of making arguments that the rich will vote with their feet, we should rather be asking what sort of people abandon their responsibility towards meeting the social contract. On the other hand, such redistribution would offer the precariat some respite as they starve in the cold Winter. Additionally, instead of suggesting the poor to adopt budgetary strategies like buying canned or frozen food, a lot which is replete with high levels of sugars and sodium, we should be questioning why must the citizens of one of the most advanced countries in the world have to put up with such penury. To recapitulate, I would like my students to view economics through the lens of democratic participation in which the voices of the precariat are heeded and placed at the forefront instead of privileged “experts” that uphold the neoliberal world order and the inequitable status quo that rests on low corporate income taxes, low top tax rates, zero wealth and inheritance taxes, low minimum wage, and draconian budgetary cuts. The post Addressing Canadas food price inflation appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Economy, food insecurity, inflation, price gouging]

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[l] at 1/19/23 9:09am
The proposed Fredericton Correctional Centre has been recommended by the Department of Justice of Public Safety (JPS). The new jail would be built on the site of the Vanier Industrial Park. A Planning Advisory Committee meeting in December saw an outpouring of opposition to the proposal in the form of dozens of letters by residents, calling the move “unjust” while also raising concerns about the devaluation of homes in the area and the safety of community members. According to the meeting’s minutes, the JPS “studied the trends and the current situation facing adult correctional facilities” and ultimately favoured the construction and development of a new facility in the Fredericton region.  The recommendation cited “increased crime trends” as well as the “increased response of law enforcement.” The decision to respond to what officials claim to be a rise in crime has received backlash from residents who believe the city’s priorities are out of touch with the needs of constituents.  The province states that the new facility will “help relieve capacity pressures” on other jails across New Brunswick — particularly at the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre. According to the report, submitted by Senior Planner for the City of Fredericton Tony Dakiv, jail facilities in the province are regularly seeing an average of 620 inmates per day. Some clients, according to Dakiv, are “required to be double bunked” due to overcrowding, as well as more stressful and potentially dangerous environments because of it. The proposed facility would include 100 beds in five housing units, with 100 personnel working in the jail. Not only would it lock up people sentenced to jail terms, it would also include those being held in custody who haven’t been convicted of a crime. PAC rejects rezoning proposal. Will city council do the same? In November, Fredericton city council narrowly voted six-to-four to sell land at the end of Blizzard Drive to the province for just over $1 million. But in order for the facility to become a reality, rezoning will need to take place. In the meantime, it goes against city zoning laws to build a jail on that piece of land.  The opposition from Fredericton residents was made loud and clear. On December 14, the city’s Planning Advisory Council (PAC) voted four-to-three recommending city council reject the zoning request. While officials say their priorities lie on better addressing “cultural identity, mental health and addictions,” Dr. Martha Paynter, author of Abortion to Abolition: Reproductive Health and Justice in Canada, isn’t convinced. In an email to the PAC last month, Paynter outlined the variety of extreme health dangers that not only harm prisoners, but also the communities where they are located. Paynter, who works directly with women involved in the criminal justice system, noted prisons are “rife with mental illness, chronic disease, infection, violence and injury.” Paynter noted that between the physical harms of incarceration, from malnutrition, injury, infection, and loss of muscle mass, and the “enduring trauma of family separation, prison violence, and the stigma of criminalization,” harms in prison always find their way back to communities.  A form letter submitted by many of those in opposition to the facility pointed out a major contradiction. While officials claim the facility is needed to combat rising drug crimes, the letter argues the notion “makes no sense,” due to the fact that “trafficking sentences would be served in the Federal system.” “All signs indicate that the prison will be targeting the most vulnerable members of our communities: people with mental illness who live in poverty,” the letter to the PAC reads. “To allow a prison would directly support the criminalization of vulnerable populations who were not born with enough luck and privilege.” An accompanying petition has been signed by more than 800 people, according to the clerk at the January 9 Fredericton city council meeting. Those in opposition of the facility point out that the location is within a two kilometre radius of at least 700 current homes, with the closest being under one kilometre away. With planned and approved housing developments being built in the area, the nearest residence would eventually be under 500 metres away, and within the radius of over 1,000 homes. Chris Collins, who appeared at the meeting on behalf of the petition group, noted most residents they spoke to had no idea a jail facility was being considered in the area. Others thought the PAC rejection vote meant the matter was over with. Monday marked the first and second readings of the proposal by city council. A third reading and subsequent vote are scheduled for January 23, where a decision will be made whether to allow the jail to be built. The post Proposed jail facility in Fredericton sparks backlash from locals appeared first on rabble.ca.

[Category: Political Action, prisons]

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