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By Kevin Edmonds
The Other Side of Paradise Blog
Upon his return to Toronto, I had the opportunity to catch up with Raul Burbano, Program Director of Common Frontiers. Common Frontiers is a multi-sectoral working group based in Toronto that organizes research, educational campaigns, and political action on issues related to hemispheric economic, social, and climate justice. Raul reported from Honduras during the election and was gracious enough to take the time to talk about his experiences and provide some analysis of the current electoral crisis.
Kevin Edmonds: When you were on the ground in the days before the election, what was the general attitude of the public? Were they hopeful or did they see this coming?
Raul Burbano: We were on the ground from the 17-27th in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, El Triunfo de la Cruz, Arizona, and Valle de Siria. The mood was contradictory because in general people had high expectations for change, but at the same time expressed a lack of confidence in the process and in fair and transparent elections. As the elections drew closer, this became more apparent with people like cab drivers, vendors, and LIBRE activists sharing their personal stories about the irregularities within the voter registry. Stories of voters showing to be dead on the registry list and dead people registered to vote, names associated with pictures of other people, all disqualifying them from voting…this was the first sign that many pointed to as fraud.
KE: The Canadian delegation was the first to report and denounce the elections. What were some of the irregularities that caused your group to make this decision?
RB: Our delegation was part of the larger group, the Honduran Solidarity Network (HSN), and together we were the largest delegation of observers (190) spread across the country in 10 districts.
The atmosphere of fear and violence leading up to the elections must also be taken into account when considering fair elections. There were numerous reports of pre-election intimidation, violence, and murder of opposition candidates with as many as 18 from the LIBRE party murdered just 6 months prior to the elections. Two days prior to the elections masked men with guns, presumed to be military police, surrounded the LIBRE party headquarters in Tegucigalpa. Members of our delegation were present and observed the fear and anger of LIBRE sympathizers. The day before the elections Maria Amparo Pineda, LIBRE party’s Cantarranas polling station president, and other member, Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga, were assassinated after leaving a polling station training.
By Kevin Edmonds
The Other Side of Paradise Blog
Honduras’ elections on November 24 had the potential of reversing some of the worst pro-market, anti-people policies put forward by the government of Porfirio Lobo, who was the direct beneficiary of the 2009 coup that ousted the left-of-center Manuel Zelaya. Instead, the elections have been fraught with irregularities and violent intimidation, threatening to throw the embattled nation into further political disarray.
These elections were regarded as pivotal for Honduras, as the administration of the ruling National Party has done little to combat the country’s poverty rate which stands at over 60 percent. Instead the National Party has been focused on opening up the country to multinational corporations. This is best demonstrated by the National Party’s passage of a new mining law that would remove the moratorium on the granting of new mining concessions put in place by former president Zelaya in 2008. The new mining law, which was passed earlier this year, was drafted with the help of the Canadian International Development Agency. The law effectively allows for a return to destructive open-pit mining practices that have been linked to numerous human rights abuses and widespread environmental destruction.
In addition to revising the mining laws, as detailed last year by NACLA’s Keane Bhatt, the Lobo administration was also busy luring developers and investors to build highly problematic “charter cities.” Bhatt described these charter cities as “privately owned municipalities that would be managed autonomously, complete with their own police forces, tax codes, and legal systems. These cities would develop industries for export-oriented growth, like textile manufacturing; they would also sign onto international trade agreements independently, and manage their own immigration policies.”
After careful consideration of our own observations of the electoral process in Honduras we find the presidential elections to be inconsistent with democratic principles and rife with fraudulent practices.
We are not surprised that the LIBRE party rejected the preliminary projections of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE).
The context in which these elections occurred is extremely important. Honduras is a country of about 8.2 million people, the vast majority of whom live in abject poverty. Underemployment currently affects 57% of the economically active population. There are 4 billionaires in this impoverished country who own virtually all major commercial interests, including almost all the mass media. Honduras is also referred to by many as a “narco-state”, meaning most politicians and military leaders are closely aligned with drug traffickers who use Honduras as their primary trans-shipment point for cocaine from South America. These people also have tremendous financial resources. It is also important to note that the TSE of Honduras is comprised of members of the National and Liberal parties (the two parties who have shared power in Honduras for the last one hundred years) but not the LIBRE party and therefore cannot be considered neutral or impartial. In addition, there are no limits to electoral spending by political parties this favours those parties with large financial resources.
It is against these overwhelming powerful interests and tremendous obstacles that the opposition or resistance movement of Honduras has struggled for many years, and especially in the past 4 years since the military coup. The LIBRE party was born out of this struggle.
In visiting various voting centers in and around Tegucigalpa we witnessed evidence to support their claims of electoral irregularities. In numerous locations we bore witness to the open contempt aimed at opposition parties by electoral officials at the voting centers. The Party LIBRE, in particular, was denounced as being politically naive and, in addition, a threat to democracy.
At the municipality of Ojojona we were met by an official who identified himself as being in charge of the voting centre, despite the fact that his ID card indicated he was only a “vocale”, a support person at one of the voting tables. This official described himself as a US citizen and former navy seal with considerable land holdings in the area. He proclaimed his disdain for the LIBRE party stating, “we don’t want those commies here”. He went on to publicly express his “strong support” for the ruling National party. His conduct was visibly approved and condoned by the military police, present at the voting center.
At a nearby voting station in Santa Ana, security forces demanded details of our identification in an open attempt at intimidation regardless of the fact of our official status which was openly displayed. There were several complaints from voters shared with our delegation of attempts to purchase votes; there were complaints that the National party was doing this at numerous polling stations. In the community of El Aguacatal there was no “custodio” or person in charge of the voting center; a soldier had taken his place. In Surco de Cana there was no cellphone signal, and the custodio in charge did not know how to send the voting results which normally would be electronically transmitted to the central TSE office.
Observers from our delegation were concerned when visiting a polling station in La Joya, a barrio in Tegucigalpa where voters complained that serious infractions of voting rights had occurred. Members of the National party, it was claimed, were permitted entrance to the voting rooms while members of other parties had been loudly and publicly prohibited. At this particular polling station our accredited observers were harassed by TSE officials, supported by military personal, who demanded we refrain from observing ballot counting, which is a critical part of our obligations to ensure electoral fraud does not take place.
In the days leading up to the elections, there were numerous reports of intimidation by Honduran security forces. Masked men with guns presumed to be military police surrounded LIBRE party headquarters on John F Kennedy Boulevard for one hour, two days before the elections, and members of our delegation were present and observed the fear and anger of LIBRE party members. On the night of November 23 Maria Amparo Pineda Eduarte, a peasant Leader of Cooperativa el Carbón a member of the Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC), and president of a polling station for the LIBRE party in Cantarranas was assassinated along with Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga after leaving a polling station training. Many other such incidents have been documented elsewhere.
We urge the Canadian government not to recognize the results of the Honduran elections. There must be an opportunity to do a full, transparent, accurate count, and fully investigate the many reports of irregularities, intimidation and threats by authorities.
The International team of observers monitoring the Honduras election is facing continuing intimidation, according to reports filed in the past few days.
Common Frontier's Raul Burbano has been filing regular reports from within the country. You can read the latest on our special Honduras election page.
(Toronto, Ont.) – An international network of human rights organizations will be sending 180 official election observers to Honduras from November 17-27th 2013 to observe the upcoming general election, which will be taking place on November 24th.
Common Frontiers Canada is coordinating the Canadian based portion of the delegation which will be composed of representatives from various labour organizations, community groups, academics and a former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nations. The mission will travel to various parts of the country to meet with communities and groups impacted by Canadian investment in mining, maquiladoras and the mega tourism sector.
Honduras is widely viewed as the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides in 2012 (source: United Nations).
Since 2010, there have been more than 200 politically motivated killings and Honduras is now widely regarded one of the most dangerous places for journalists.
According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, Honduras has the regions highest rate of journalists killed per population.
The leading Honduran human rights group COFADEH has documented that at least sixteen activists and candidates from the main opposition party LIBRE have been assassinated since June of 2012.
The mission takes place on the heels of the Canadian government announcing the signing of the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement. Raul Burbano, delegation leader with Common Frontier’s says, “It’s disconcerting to see the Canadian government focus on increasing its corporate profits via trade and investment amidst a political and human rights crisis in Honduras”.
Members of the U.S Senate have expressed serious concerns over the increased repression and general atmosphere of fear in which the presidential elections will take place. Highlighting a “pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers, and LGBT activists".
Instead of addressing the crisis, President, Porfirio Lobo Sosa has responded by militarizing the country and deploying 1,300 troops into the streets under “operation liberty”. Critics argue this has just exacerbated the problem.
For more information: Raul Burbano Program Director, Common Frontiers: (416) 522 8615 or firstname.lastname@example.org or in Honduras 011 504 89014511
by Sandra Cuffe
Canada and Honduras inked a bilateral free trade agreement on November 5, amid political repression, increasing militarization, and controversial Canadian investment in the Central American nation.
Ed Fast, Canada's Minister of International Trade, and Honduran Minister of Industry and Commerce Adonis Lavaire signed the deal in Ottawa, less than three weeks before general elections are expected to change the political landscape in Honduras.
"It's really uncertain what's going to happen with the elections," said Karen Spring, a Canadian human rights activist living in Honduras. "It's a lot less likely for [Canada] to have a government - and the political conditions and the economic conditions - in [Honduras, after the elections] that would approve the free trade agreement or would allow it to be approved."
Recent polls show two leading presidential candidates: LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro, the wife of Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted as President in a coup d'état in June 2009 and the ruling National Party's Juan Orlando Hernández, former President of the National Congress who resigned in order to run for office.
The November 24 general elections are expected to mark the end of a longstanding two-party system. Nine political parties are participating, and it is unlikely that any one party will hold a majority of seats in Congress.
"Because of the strong political force of the LIBRE party and its bases, the National Front of Popular Resistance, there's a really good chance they can either gain a lot of seats in Congress or they can win the presidency," Spring told Upside Down World. Whether or not LIBRE congressional representatives would pass the free trade agreement or not is uncertain, but the political landscape will undoubtedly change. "I think the Canadian government knows very well that after the elections on November 24, it's going to be a lot more difficult to pass any free trade agreements," she added.
Dear President Enrique Pena Nieto and Governor Jorge Herrera Caldera:
Re: Arbitrary Detention of Trade Union and Community Members of the Elido La Sierrita
The United Steelworkers is a Canadian trade union representing workers in all sectors of the Canadian economy. We are Canada's largest mining union.
You will recall that I met with President Pena Nieto on August 23, 2013 as part of a global trade union delegation to discuss labour rights in Mexico.
We are alarmed with reports that we have received from Durango concern a pattern of intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders and against communities and orkers who are attempting to assert their legal rights in a dispute with the Canadian mining company Excellon Resources.
In particular we are very concerned with reports that on 8 November and 10 November the state police of Durango detained and interrogated, without charge, six members of the community La Sierrita de Galeana, three of whom are also members of Los Mineros section 309. This action comes just days before legal proceedings related to the dispute with Excellon Resources, and it can only be interpreted as an attempt at intimidation, and suggests collusion between authorities and the company.
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA -- It's time for Canada's labour movement to mobilize for a counterattack against the Harper government's anti-union policies, a Quebec labour leader said Thursday.
Jean Lortie, general secretary of the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, says the federal government has declared war on unions and the middle class and it's time to fight back.
"Everything that this government is doing on its anti-union agenda is attacking middle-class Canadians," Lortie told a news conference.
He said resolutions at the Conservative convention in Calgary last week, including some aimed at the CBC, showed a deep anti-union sentiment.
"I was there in Calgary last week and it was incredible," Lortie said. "In recent history we haven't seen that in Canada -- such a declaration of war against people and against Radio-Canada and CBC."
Treasury Board President Tony Clement spoke in favour of some of the Calgary resolutions and has made it clear recently that he is ready to take on the public service unions in his quest for budget savings.
"You don't level the playing field by saying public sector employees are given a by on the state of the economy," Clement said this week. "That isn't right, it isn't just. It's not conservative. It's not in the public interest."
If budgets are to be balanced, then public service salaries and pensions and sick leave must be addressed, he said.
Lortie predicted trouble if the federal government goes too far -- imposing U.S.-style right-to-work legislation, for instance, or attacking the long-standing formula that governs mandatory union dues.
"Don't cross that line, because it's going to be open war, it's going to be hell," he said. "Don't go there, because you're going to attack millions of workers in this country, millions of families."
NDP labour critic Alexandre Boulerice said the Harper government is trying to use unions to mask its own problems.
"They are just trying to focus out of their own incapabilities,"he said. "It is a right-wing agenda, a very strongly right-wing agenda on demonizing groups."
Lortie said efforts are in the works to organize a "rainbow coalition" of unions, environmentalists and other social activist groups to bring 20,000 people to Ottawa next summer to oppose the government's agenda.
In a country like Honduras, using free trade treaties to open the domestic economy to competition with countries with asymmetrical economies has only attracted transnational companies which operate and implement work systems that exploit Honduran women workers. In the first place, these companies register in export processing zones, or as various kinds of ‘maquilas’ -- for example: clothing manufacturers; spinning mills; call centres; agro-export companies, most of which are tax exempt. In other words, all they bring to the country where they establish themselves is the liability of jobs for the GDP, jobs under the supervision of a state that is passive and permissive when faced with violations of female workers’ human rights.
The ‘maqilas’ (sweatshops), acting in an openly discriminatory fashion, prefer to employ women because they have better hand-eye coordination, have little education, no organizing experience, because this kind of work is socially considered to be an extension of the domestic work imposed on women and because women’s gender socialization tends to make them work and accept the working conditions without demanding their human rights be respected.
These exploitative and enslaving working conditions --such as those which exist in Gildan Activewear headquartered in Canada and promoted by nation states and trade treaties—involve normal work days of an illegal 11 and a half hours, with obligatory overtime, bringing the work week to up to 69 hours. Its system of production goals and quotas is indexed to the salary paid; this therefore brings about the even greater exploitation of having to produce 500 dozen every day in order to earn a weekly salary of L1,600,00, which equals US$76.16.
These illegal working days and the obligation to meet the daily production quota cause damage to the women’s health such as occupational musculoskeletal ailments – currently The Honduran Women's Collective (CODEMUH by the Spanish acronym) is treating more than 100 male and female workers from the Gildan company who are living with health problems caused by substandard working conditions. 50 of them have been advised to move to employment which forbids performing repetitive movements and assuming positions which strain the neck and shoulder. This should sound a cry of alarm to governments and human rights defense organizations because fostering these kinds of industries and types of employment is violating a woman’s right to live a violence-free life, with decent working conditions, with no discrimination and with adequate health care.
It is critical that governments promote decent, secure jobs, and wages so that workers can live and not just survive.
Choloma Cortes, Honduras C.A
The Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH by its Spanish acronym) is a grassroots, feminist organization with 24 years of experience working with and for women in health, labour rights, gender-based violence, organizing and advocacy. They work with Honduran women, many of which work in clothing and textile sweatshops owned by transnational corporations including Hanes or HBI (US-based), Delta Apparel (US-based) and Gildan (Montreal-based).
Raul Burbano, Program Director of Common Frontiers
Stacey Gomez, Coordinator of the Americas Policy Group
As Canadian-based civil society organizations working for social and environmental justice as well as human and labour rights, we strongly oppose the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement. The lack of democratic and legal guarantees in Honduras is highly troubling – as are the levels of repression and impunity. In such a context, Hondurans can neither question the impact of trade and investment on their lands and livelihoods, nor reap the benefits of any potential economic growth. As a result, this FTA will put corporate rights ahead of community, human and labour rights.
In 2009, democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was ousted through a military coup d’état. The coup was staged by the Honduran army under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that had developed between the Supreme Court and the president. The move was widely condemned around the world, including by all Latin American nations, the European Union, the United States and the UN General Assembly. Canada’s refusal to consider any sanctions against the de facto regime or to condemn systematic abuses against the coup resistance in its aftermath was notorious.
In January 2010, Porfirio Lobo Sosa assumed the presidency through what many deemed undemocratic and illegitimate elections. Amnesty International released several reports of voter intimidation and problems during the elections. Most foreign governments and election-monitoring agencies refused to send observers and many countries rejected the results of the election.
Since the 2009 coup d’état, violence and repression in the country have reached an all-time high. Honduras is now considered the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides in 2012. In 2013, there have been on average 10 massacres per month.
Don Davies, MP
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic
Dear Mr. Davies:
I am writing about the situation in Honduras in the lead up to the election there. I was in Honduras as part of an observer team at the time of the last election in 2009. I was concerned about the level of the post-coup repression there, but am even more concerned as the election date comes up later this month.
I work for the BCTF and am responsible for our international solidarity program. We have worked with teacher unions in Honduras since 1985, when they had great difficulty from the military dictatorship of the day. We have continued this work since then, primarily in programs aimed at engaging women in the union leadership and the development of non-sexist pedagogy.
The current repression is even greater than in 1985, according to the folks that we work with. While I was there as an observer in 2009, I heard from everybody that the teachers were the backbone of the resistance around the country. They had the national networks and the experience of dealing with repression.
As I'm sure you are aware, the polls indicate that the LIBRE party has a lead in the polls. The right wing is fearful that LIBRE may win the elections and is stepping up the repression against activists to try to stop the election of LIBRE. The people we hear from are also fearful--that the election itself will not be free and fair and even if it is and LIBRE wins, that there will be another coup to maintain control of the country.
Canada clearly has a role in the situation in Honduras.
A Canadian developer is creating a tourist community on the Caribbean coast, with Canadians being the target of sales of tourist facilities. The impact of this is to force the Afro-Hondurans, survivors of slave revolts in previous centuries, off the land they have occupied for hundreds of years.
Canada's policies are in support of the Canadian mining industry. A trade agreement is about to be signed between Canada and Honduras which will entrench Canadian mining company rights over those of the indigenous and other communities in the country.
A trade agreement with Honduras is not between two countries, each of which is likely to make some gains. The people of Honduras will pay a heavy price if they lose permanently the power of their government to act in support of the interests of the indigenous, Afro-Honduran and general population, as happens in the type of agreement that is likely between Canada and Honduras.
The timing of the announcement is also clearly related to the election in Honduras.
I know that the NDP is trying to avoid being tagged as against trade, a position I heard you put forward in a meeting with Common Frontiers some months ago. However, I urge you to raise issues about a Canada-Honduras trade agreement, taking into account the negative impact it will impose on Honduras.
I also urge you to keep a watch on reports of pre-election repression and the election itself, speaking out against recognition of the election as fair and free if there is further violence or widespread cheating in the election.
Larry Kuehn , Director of Research and Technology
British Columbia Teachers' Federation
cc: Tom Mulcair, NDP leader
Jim Iker, BCTF president
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada has published the final strategic environmental assessment report on their website. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:
On November 21, 2001, Canada launched free trade negotiations with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua with the intent of establishing the Canada–Central America Four (Canada–CA-4) Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Negotiations between Canada and the CA4 countries reached an impasse in 2010, after almost nine years of negotiations, due to significant differences between the parties. As Canada and Honduras were closest in terms of concluding an agreement, it was decided to pursue bilateral negotiations, which were successfully concluded in August 2011. Parallel agreements on labour and environmental cooperation were also negotiated. The side agreements are intended to help ensure that trade liberalisation is not achieved at the expense of good labour or environmental practices. No date of entry into force for the Canada-Honduras FTA has yet been set. Once in force, some of the FTA’s provisions will be phased in over a period of up to 15 years.
This item originally aired Oct 25 on CTV in Alberta
Premier Alison Redford says the new Canada/EU trade deal will open markets for Alberta’s meat, create thousands of jobs, and lower prices on big-ticket items. Critics argue thousands of jobs will be lost and prices will go up in sectors like dairy and pharmaceuticals because of increased competition from European firms. This episode of Alberta Primetime features Frank Atkins, from the University of Calgary, and Erin Weir, from the United Steelworkers’ Union.
-Link to the video page (a preview is not available)
Originally published Sept 10, 2013 in Central Edition/El Libertador
Despite this data which reveals a disenchanted society, the most recent opinion poll by the Center for Studies for Democracy (Cespad) also finds that Honduran men and women maintain hope for change.
Tegucigalpa. With 73% of the population dissatisfied with democracy and the opinion of 59% that the elections will be “fraudulent”, Hondurans enter the final leg of the electoral process for November 24, 2013.
The above mentioned data are some of the findings of the Fifth Citizen Opinion Poll made public by the Center for Studies for Democracy (CESPAD), July 2013, which also warns that it is also about a fairness in that there are elevated percentages of citizens who are decided that their vote does make a difference and that with it they can produce radical changes in all areas.
For the organization the general elections on November 24, 2013 have the particularity that the politcial crises created June 29, 2009 left room for a reconfiguration of political forces. In this electoral contest nine political parties will participate, four will do so for the first time: The Party of Liberty and Refoundation (Partido Libertad y Refundacion-LIBRE), Anti-Corruption Party (Partido Anticorrupción -PAC), the Broad Electoral Political Front in Resistence (Frente Amplio Politico Electora en Resistencia-FAPER) and the Patriotic Alliance Party (Partido Alianza Patriótica).
By Karen Spring, Rights Action
"LIBRE party candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more killings and armed attacks [since May 2012] than all other political parties combined. The disproportionate number of killings of LIBRE candidates seems a clear indication that many of the killings have been politically motivated."
As the November 24, 2013 General Elections approach in Honduras, a discussion of human rights violations surrounding the electoral process is paramount in understanding the historical and political context in which the elections will take place.
This report is intended to promote that discussion by providing a list of killings and armed attacks against candidates, party and campaign leaders, and their families since May 2012, six months prior to the November 2012 Primary Elections. The purpose is to draw attention to the context of violence, insecurity and apparently politically motivated killings that are occurring in the lead up to the 2013 General Elections.
Brief Analysis of the Incomplete List
According to the full list (see the PDF below), which is undoubtedly incomplete, LIBRE party ('Libertad y Refundación' Party) pre-candidates, candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more killings and armed attacks than all other political parties combined. The disproportionate number of killings of LIBRE candidates seems a clear indication that many of the killings have been politically motivated.
These incomplete results highlight the terror, violence and impunity in which the November 24 General Elections will take place. Regardless of the political affiliations of the victims of these attacks, it remains unclear how "clean, credible, and reliable" elections on November 24, as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske has called for, can occur if so many attacks against candidates, campaigners and their families continue.1
A Context of Violence and Human Rights Abuses
Honduras has maintained a two party political system for decades. However, in the wake of the June 28, 2009 military coup a strong new political force emerged, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) which sought to oppose the coup through peaceful means. After overthrown president Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras, the decision to participate in the 2013 General Elections was taken by the resistance movement and the FNRP, and the first major third political party in the modern history of Honduras was created: the Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation) party, or LIBRE.
As the Canadian government prepares to sign the Honduras Free Trade Agreement this fall with the country that has the distinction of being the murder capital of the world a delegation from Canada is preparing to visit Honduras to engage with civil society groups and monitor the Honduran presidential elections.
Join us for a discussion on the impact of Canadian investment on Honduran women working in the maquiladora sector. Also meet the delegation preparing to visit Honduras to witness first-hand the impacts of Canadian investment on communities. They will monitor and report on the human rights situation, and presidential electoral process.
Maria Luisa - coordinator of CODEMUH (Honduran Women's Collective)
Bob Lovelace – Professor, and former chief of the Ardock Algonquin First Nations
Elio Ramirez - Honduran- Canadian and Student of Latin American Studies
For more details see Facebook event
Background - In 2009 the Honduran army staged a coup d'état under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that developed between the Supreme Court and democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. The crisis was prompted by Zelaya’s attempts to schedule a non-binding poll on holding a referendum about convening a constituent assembly. Instead of bringing him to trial, Zelaya was kidnapped and sent into exile on 28 June 2009. That same day, the Honduran Congress, in an extraordinary session, voted to remove him from office, after reading a false resignation letter attributed to President Zelaya, and appointed his constitutional successor, Roberto Micheletti as the new president. The coup was widely condemned around the world including by all Latin American nations, the European Union, United States and the UN General Assembly.
On November 24TH 2013, Hondurans will be heading to the polls to elect a new president. This time civil society opposition has organized itself politically to partake in the electoral process under the political party Libertad y refundacion (LIBRE). Their political organizing has made them targets of violence and intimidation. Together with civil society and Human rights organizations they are denoucing the escalation of political violence and repression by the state in the lead up to the elections. They are calling for International Solidarity by inviting the international community and media to visit Honduras and observe the electoral process.
Event sponsored by:
CUPE – National
Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN)
PSAC Social Justice Fund
The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Ecuador has established a commission that will assess whether Ecuador should terminate its remaining bilateral investment treaties. President Rafael Correa of Ecuador announced the appointments in an address on 5 October. They include a number of Ecuadorean government officials as well as international jurists and activists from several other Latin American countries.
Below are links to two articles about the commission:
QUITO, Ecuador--Ecuador has established a special commission to audit bilateral investment treaties, or BITs, signed with different countries and by several governments, the country's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Tuesday.
The Commission will work in a similar way to how Ecuador audited its external debt in 2008.
In 2008, an special debt audit commission said it uncovered "illegality and illegitimacy" in the country's foreign debt and recommended it stop servicing the nation's global bonds. Based on this report, the government of President Rafael Correa defaulted on about $3.2 billion of global 2012 and 2030 bonds.
A member of Venezuela's ICSID defence team and one of the authors of the "Profiting From Injustice" report are among 12 appointees to a commission that will assess whether Ecuador should terminate its remaining bilateral investment treaties.
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador announced the appointments in an address on 5 October. They include a number of Ecuadorean government officials as well as international jurists and activists from several other Latin American countries.
The international names include Argentina's former treasury attorney general Osvaldo Guglielmino, who led his country's ICSID defence team until his resignation in 2010; and Hildegard Rondón de Sansó, a Venezuelan former Supreme Court justice who is currently defending her government against a US$30 billion ICSID claim brought by US oil company ConocoPhillips.
Common Frontiers has joined with 12 other Canadian organizations, 30 others from around the world and one Canadian MP - Elizabeth May of the Green Party in signing a letter of protest to express their opposition to the imminent approval of the environmental license for the Canadian company Belo Sun’s Amazonian “Volta Grande” mining project.
The company seeks to install the largest gold mine in Brazil just meters from the “Big Bend” of the Xingu River, exactly where the river is to have its water flow drastically reduced as the result of the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. The indigenous communities that are most directly affected by the dam live on this stretch of the Xingu, which is also widely known for the endemic fish species that only occur there. To extract gold the project will require the use of huge quantities of cyanide, a highly toxic material, and will create a mountain of chemically active waste materials with a volume equivalent to twice the size of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, which will be left on the banks of the Xingu as a perpetual environmental liability.
Those opposed to the project have also launched of a compelling three and a half minute Belo Sun No! video, produced by Brazil-based Canadian documentary maker Todd Southgate. Please view this and share with your networks.
Additionally, the Brazilian group that led this letter, Social-Environmental Institute - ISA, has launched a grassroots petition through Avaaz We encourage you to also share that action with your supporters and members.
Thank you again for expressing your solidarity with indigenous peoples along the Xingu's Big Bend by signing the letter. We will keep you updated in the future about advances in the campaign to challenge the Belo Sun project.
As organizations in Canada and Quebec, we are appalled that Calgary-based Infinito Gold has decided to sue the Government of Costa Rica for $1-billion under the Canada-Costa Rica bilateral investment treaty. This is just the latest - and arguably most disturbing - attempt by Infinito management to intimidate the people, court system and government of Costa Rica over their rightful decision not to approve the controversial Crucitas gold mine near the San Juan River system.
Polls have shown that more than 75 percent of the Costa Rican population rejects the proposed Crucitas mine. Some of the largest protest marches in Costa Rica’s history have demanded the full enforcement of a countrywide prohibition on open-pit mining, as well as reparations from Infinito for unlawful environmental damage and the Canadian company’s prompt departure from the country. On three occasions, from 2010 to 2013, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica denied permission to Infinito to proceed with its project.
Instead of accepting judicial and popular defeat, Infinito lawyers will now seek to extort up to $1-billion from Costa Rica through secretive investment arbitration at the much-criticized International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Finally, we demand that Infinito Gold respect the will of the vast majority of Costa Ricans, stop its legal intimidation of the people and government of Costa Rica, abide by consecutive Supreme Court rulings against the Crucitas mine and immediately drop its claim at ICSID.
Blue Planet Project
Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)
CDHAL – Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
Council of Canadians
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network – Toronto
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network – Toronto
National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE)
QUISETAL - Coalition Québécoise Sur les impacts Socio-environnmentaux des transnationales en Amérique latine
Sierra Club Canada
JOIN US -- With the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) nearing, please join us for an event to examine and discuss NAFTA’s impact on communities and the environment. This event will take place alongside a meeting of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation—the commission in charge of overseeing the implementation of the trade pact’s environmental side agreement. While NAFTA’s environmental side agreement was touted as a way to foster the protection and improvement of the environment; enhance compliance with and enforcement of environmental laws; and, more broadly, to help ensure that trade liberalization would be accompanied by greater levels of environmental protection, the evidence after 20 years shows just the opposite.
On October 17th, panelists from Mexico, the United States, and Canada will come together to review environmental impacts of NAFTA, including: declining groundwater levels and increased deforestation in Mexico due to the intensified focus on industrial export-agriculture; increased pollution and toxics along the maquiladora region of the US-Mexico border; weakening of environmental laws to attract trade and investment; and the impact of broad investor protections on the ability of governments to put in place laws and policies that protect the environment. Panelists will also discuss the implications of this review for the negotiation of future trade pacts.
When: October 17, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Where: Communications Workers of America, 501 3rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Alejandro Villamar, Red Mexicana de Acción Frente al Libre Comercio
Stuart Trew, Council of Canadians
Cathy Feingold, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club
Kindly RSVP here
Pablo Solon, the Executive Director of Focus on the Global South presents ISDS and the case of Bolivia at the workshop on Global and Regional Investment Policy, 2 September 2013 Asia Hotel, Bangkok Thailand.
Produced by the Public Service Alliance of Canada—National Capital Region
and the NCR Young Workers Committee.
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On Friday September 13th, Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, Permanent Representative of Ecuador before the United Nations Organization in Geneva, presented, during the 24th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council, the Joint Declaration about Transnational Businesses and Human Rights. This Declaration was adopted and supported for around a hundredth States, clearly manifesting the shared vision about the responsibilities that the productive sectors must comply in matters of human rights.
The Declaration led by Ecuador and adopted by the African Group, the Group of Arabic Countries, Pakistan, Kirgizstan, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Peru, gathers up the concerns of the countries from the South regarding the flagrant human rights violations caused by the operations of transnational corporations, that in many countries, they have left as large debts, large effects on local communities and populations, including many indigenous peoples.
Likewise, the Joint Declaration expresses the need to combine efforts between the concerned States to create a binding international instrument regarding Transnational Businesses and Human Rights, which would crystallize the position defended by Ecuador since 2007.
This joint Declaration constitutes a milestone within the Human Rights Council of the UN, since for the moment; Ecuador has been the only country that has defended the idea of generating and international instrument about businesses and human rights. Nevertheless, after a hard work of lobbying carried out by the Ecuadorian delegation in Geneva, it was been possible to add support, especially of countries from the South which demand more equity and responsibility on behalf of the great transnational forces.
The undersigned Organizations and social movements welcome and give our support to the initiative of Ecuador and other States of the Human Rights Council of the UN towards the creation of a legal binding International instrument, within the framework of the UN’s system, that will make evident the obligations of the transnational cooperation in matters of human rights, economic and ecological crimes and particularly regarding the abuse and violations of them and promote the establishing effective mechanisms to redress the victims and make accessing to justice possible for the affected communities in case such remedy isn’t actually given in national jurisdictions.
Instituto Equit – Brazil
Justiça Global – Brazil
Hegoa Institute of Studies about Development and International Cooperation
Friends of the Landless – Finland
ATTAC – Argentina
CADTM – AYNA
Focus on the Global South
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
Human Rights Documentation Center “Segundo Montes Mozo S.J.” (CSMM) – Ecuador
Entre pueblos from the Spanish State
World Rainforest Movement – WRM
Food & Water Watch
Common Borders of Canada
Committee of Women of the Continental Social Alliance
ground Work, Friends of the Earth – South Africa
AIDC – South Africa
Trust for Community Outreach and Education – South Africa
Democratic Left Front – South Africa
Coordination for Human Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (CODPI) of the Spanish State
SHALIN – Finland
Latinamerikagrupperna (SAL) – Sweden
Economic Justice Network of FOCCISA (Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa)
KRuHA (People’s Coalition for the Rights to Water)
Ecologist in Action
Col•lectiu RETS: Respostes a les Transnacionals
War on Want
Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayuna (KILOS KA)
Unión Universal Desarrollo Solidario
Comité du Forum Social Lémanique, Geneva
Third World Network
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Welthaus Diözese Graz-Seckau
VCÖ – Mobilität mit Zukunft
SAVEGREEKWATER – Greece
Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence – Austria
It is with grave concern to see the upcoming Pan American Food Festival at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto being sponsored by Pacific Rubiales Energy; a Canadian based oil and gas company listed on the Toronto and Colombian stock exchanges. Pacific Rubiales Energy has been accused of being engaged in serious human, Indigenous, environmental and labour rights violations in Colombia. These abuses have been well documented by Colombian civil society and also Canadian based organizations.
Most recently, this past July, a 17 person delegation from Canada traveled to Puerto, Gaitan, Meta to partake in a People’s Tribunal on the Extractive Industry in Colombia. This delegation included labour leaders, a member of the Québec National Assembly Parliament and community based organizations.
While in Colombia, we heard heart-wrenching testimony from Indigenous communities about how Pacific had displaced them from their ancestral homelands and polluted their local water sources.
Indigenous communities fall very close to the actual oil wells used for extraction. The primary Indigenous communities impacted by the operations of Pacific Rubiales Energy in the Meta department are the Sikuani. Delegates heard testimonies from Indigenous leaders accusing Pacific Rubiales Energy oil operations of creating water scarcity, contaminating community water wells, using security forces to restrict the movement of Indigenous people on their own land and the stigmatization of those opposed to Pacific Rubiales Energy operations as guerrillas.
We heard testimony from workers who described inhumane working conditions at Pacific oil fields and discrimination and repression against those who attempted to speak out and improve those conditions.
The Colombian oil workers union, USO (Union Sindical Obrera), was invited to represent oil workers contracted by Pacific Rubiales Energy in Puerto Gaitan due to a series of complaints about working conditions, including the following; poor sanitation and toilet facilities at worker oil camps, cramped living quarters, the use of ‘hot beds’ (a system where one bed is shared by multiple workers using shifts), insufficient access to clean water, employment insecurity due to the use of 28 day contracts and uncompensated labour. In response, Pacific Rubiales Energy fired 90% of the workers affiliated with USO and used the threat of unemployment to suppress any support for, or activity by, the union.
These types of rights violations do not provide a fertile ground upon which to celebrate a Pan American identity, and we cannot imagine that the Pan American food festival and the Harbourfront Centre would knowingly engage with such an irresponsible company. We know that Torontonian’s from both the Latin American and Caribbean community and the community at large would be outraged to have a cultural festival associated with such an irresponsible corporation.
As David Coles, former president of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) said in his recent article on Pacific Rubiales Energy; “ As Canadians we need to stand up to say not in our name' when corporations like PRE do things that would never be permitted in this country”.
We implore you to rethink Pacific Rubiales Energy as a sponsor of your event to avoid being associated with corporate greed and exploitation.
Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association Toronto
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario
Circulo Bolivariano Louis Riel
Committee for Human Rights in Latin America
Council of Canadians (Toronto)
Grupo Cultural Victor Jara
Latin American Trade Unionists Coalition (LATUC Ontario Chapter)
Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
Ontario Public Services Employee Union (Social Justice Fund)
Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie
The Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance (CASA)
The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)
Toronto Bolivia Solidarity
Toronto Forum on Cuba
Toronto Haiti Action Committee (THAC)
Unifor – the Union
United Steelworkers (USW)
by John W. Foster & Bob Carty
This article originally appeared in "Embassy - Canada's Foreign Policy Newspaper"
The Canadian response to the Chilean coup d'etat of Sept. 11, 1973, was a contradictory mix of official resistance, personal courage and citizen activism energized by Canadian churches with a persistence that outpaced government refusals.
From an emergency meeting at the Ecumenical Forum in Toronto on Sept. 12, a coalition of church folk, the Latin American Working Group, trade unions and students organized to demand that the Trudeau government refuse to recognize the military junta and open our doors to refugees from Chile. Soon, an Inter-Church Committee on Chile was organized.
On Sept. 14 the leaders of the Anglican and United Churches and the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote the minister of external affairs to caution "against precipitous recognition of the unconstitutional regime" and to urge "the Canadian government to offer safe conduct and assistance to those refugees and many Chileans who wish to come to Canada."
The government, pleading the necessity of assuring the safety of three Canadians at large in Chile, and arguing that the generals were the de facto government no matter how they came to power, delayed only 18 days until Sept. 29 to recognize the regime.
Meanwhile, some 17 Chileans sought and received protection in the Canadian Embassy, bravely accepted in the ambassador's absence by first secretary Marc Dolgin.
KAIROS Policy Briefing Paper
By John Dillon
Program Coordinator, Global Economic Justice, KAIROS
KAIROS Policy Briefing Papers are written to help inform public debate on key domestic and foreign policy issues
In August, KAIROS welcomed Brenda Sayers, a band councillor from the Hupacasath First Nation on Van- couver Island. Brenda explained eloquently why the Hupacasath had filed a request in a federal court seek- ing a judicial review of the federal government’s deci- sion to proceed with the Canada-China Foreign In- vestment Protection Agreement (FIPA).
Their application asserts that the government had failed to consult with First Nations on an issue affect- ing their Indigenous rights as required by Section 35 of the Canadian constitution and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Their initiative also defends the rights of non-Indigenous Canadians.
The Hupacasath are concerned that the FIPA would permit Chinese firms to bring investor-state suits against Canada if any level of government were to undertake a measure deemed to restrict the firms’ interests, such as access to natural resources whether oil, natural gas, fish or forest products.
On August 26, the federal court in British Co- lumbia dismissed the request on the grounds that the potential adverse effects the First Nation cites are “speculative” and “non-appreciable,” that is not capa- ble of being estimated.1 The Hupacasath First Nation is considering an appeal and has pledged to carry on the struggle against the FIPA in collaboration with civil society allies.
We the undersigned organizations stand in solidarity with Colombian rural peasant farmers who along with other members of civil society, including miners, teachers, medical professionals, transport workers, and students have undertaken nationwide strikes. This past weekend an estimated 200,000 people blocked roads and marched peacefully across Colombia to protest the negative impacts on their communities of the U.S.-Colombia and Europe- Colombia Free Trade Agreements.
There is a growing discontent with Free Trade Agreements that benefit only large multinational corporations and impose privatization, deregulation and anti-union policies. President Juan Manuel Santos government’s economic policy known as “locomotora minero-energetica” is promoting the development of large scale mining and resource extraction in the hands of multinational corporations many of which will benefit Canadian companies like Pacific Rubiales Energy and Gran Colombia Gold at the expense of small scale local miners and workers.
We condemn the heavy handed tactics of the riot police who have used violence in the form of beatings, arrests and tear gas on peaceful protests in an effort to crackdown on civil society. Civil society is also condemning the targeted arrests and detention of peasant and labor leaders like Mr. Ballesteros, the Vice President of the Agricultural workers union, FENSUAGRO who was recently elected to the Executive Board of the trade union central CUT. Mr. Ballesteros is an organizer and spokesperson in the labour movement and has played a significant role in the current strikes.
We are also alarmed by the irresponsible comments of Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon who claimed that the striking workers are being controlled by "terrorist” groups.
We support civil society calls for President Juan Manuel Santos to guarantee the democratic right for peaceful protests and to establish a meaningful dialogue with striking sectors that will allow their demands to be met.
Bolivarian Circle Louis Riel
British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF)
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Christian Peacemaker Teams Colombia
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
Council of Canadians
Idle No More
The Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance (CASA)
The Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)
United Steelworkers (USW)
Leaders from Workers Uniting have sent the following letter to Colombia leaders, following the arrest of trade union leader Huber Ballesteros, president of FENSUAGRO:
"We are writing on behalf of Workers Uniting, the international trade union bringing together the largest union in Britain and Ireland, Unite the union, and United Steelworkers (USW), the largest private sector union in North America, to express in the strongest possible terms our outrage at the recent detention of the trade union leader Huber Ballesteros. Together our unions represent more than two million workers across the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and USA and we are calling for the necessary steps to be taken to ensure Mr. Ballesteros is released without delay."
" In July, Workers Uniting representatives travelled to Colombia to meet with Colombian trade unionists, grass roots organisations, politicians, and government representatives. Part of this trip was organised by Mr. Ballesteros. Our representatives, which included USW’s National Director in Canada, Ken Neumann, met with him personally in the national headquarters of the CUT where Mr. Ballesteros works after his recent election to the CUT Executive Committee. We have also worked closely with Mr. Ballesteros for many years in his position as the Vice President of the agricultural workers’ union FENSUAGRO, which is a Workers Uniting partner union. In 2011, Workers Uniting and FENSUAGRO signed an agreement titled “The Partnership for Life” which committed our unions to taking all necessary measures to guarantee justice for members of FENSUAGRO, which as you will be aware has been one of the most persecuted trade unions in Colombia. Mr. Ballesteros is also a National Organiser for the Patriotic March Social and Political Movement. As we understand, Mr. Ballesteros was arrested on 25 August 2013 at 1530 hours."
Indigenous, labour, environmental, human rights, faith-based and public interest organizations reject a federal court decision on Monday to dismiss a First Nations court challenge to the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) and are vowing to stand by the Hupacasath First Nation as the community decides its next moves in the high-profile case.
A growing number of communities, individuals and organizations in Canada are rallying behind the Hupacasath First Nation as it challenges the federal government’s power to sign over-reaching investment treaties like the Canada-China FIPA without first consulting with Indigenous communities who will be affected by the rights the deal gives to foreign investors to challenge local decisions. Investment treaties like the FIPA are criticized globally for undermining the democratic rights of communities to set environmental and public health measures, or to decide the scale and pace of often controversial oil, gas and other resource projects.
The undersigned* vow to stand with the Hupacasath should the First Nation decide to appeal the decision. We urge the federal government to refrain from ratifying the FIPA until Hupacasath First Nation and its counsel have had the opportunity to consider the court’s decision and whether to pursue an appeal. We commit to continuing to oppose ratification of the Canada-China FIPA and other trade and investment treaties that put corporate profits before the interests of communities, Indigenous or otherwise.
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Common Causes - Peterborough
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP - UNIFOR)
The Council of Canadians
Forest Ethics Advocacy
Idle No More
Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Ottawa and District Labour Council
Sierra Club Canada
United Steelworkers (USW)
Trade Justice Network
West Coast Environmental Law
(Hupacasath Territory – August 27, 2013) The Federal Court of Canada has released its judicial review, Hupacasath First Nation v. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada and the Attorney General of Canada, regarding the pending ratification of the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (FIPA)
Brenda Sayers, a representative of the Hupacasath Nation stated "We are not surprised though we are deeply disappointed with the decision as we firmly believe the FIPA will have a profound impact on our inherent Indigenous rights and for all Canadians who cherish the environmental heritage we leave for our future generations. We will work with our legal counsel and will fully explore all options available to the Hupacasath Nation. We have until the end of September to decide if the decision should be appealed, and we trust the Government of Canada will not take steps to ratify the FIPPA during that time, which would effectively deprive us of our right to appeal. We would to thank all of the organizations, First Nations and individuals who worked, supported and donated to this great effort."
The Hupacasath First Nation filed a judicial review stating the FIPA was an infringement on inherent Aboriginal Title and Rights and due to a total lack of consultation the band council was compelled to launch a challenge under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.
"The Union of BC Indian Chiefs refuse to accept the Government of Canada's argument that there is no 'causal link' or 'potential adverse impacts' on our constitutionally-enshrined and judicially-recognized Aboriginal rights and the ratification of FIPA. The Court wholeheartedly accepted Canada's argument. First Nations leadership across this country are facing a federal government who stated in court that they do not need to nor ever intend to ever consult any First Nation regarding any trade agreement. The Court responded this total lack of consultation 'would not contravene the principle of the honour of the Crown or Canada's duty to consult' That is absurd, unconscionable and incredibly offensive," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
The Hupacasath First Nation was supported with legal affidavits from Serpent River First Nation and the Tsawwassen First Nation along with the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Chiefs of Ontario. As well, Leadnow.ca, the Council of Canadians, Avaaz, BC Federation of Labour, BC Teachers Federation, Canadian Auto Workers, Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union, KAIROS and ForestEthics fully supported the Hupacasath First Nation judicial review.
For further information contact:
Brenda Sayers, Hupacasath First Nation: (250) 731-4147
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs: (250) 490-5314
Ottawa – Ministers from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, including International Trade Minister Ed Fast, should stop their secret negotiations and immediately make public the 26 chapters of the TPP when they meet in Brunei this week, say Canadian groups, citing precedent for transparency in previous trade negotiations of this size and scope.
“It is a scandal that a far-reaching deal like the TPP could be signed in the coming months without anyone across the 12 participating countries having seen or had a chance to challenge some of the many new restrictions an agreement will put on our ability to govern in the public interest. The only acceptable road forward for the TPP is for ministers to publish the text now before it’s too late,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, a national grassroots activist and social justice organization.
“The TPP looks more like a corporate power grab than a trade deal from what we’ve seen of it. It would impose a free-market dogma on governments and override domestic laws in a way that would be rejected if put forward through democratic legislative processes,” says Raul Burbano, program director at Common Frontiers, a network bringing together labour, human rights, environmental, and economic and social justice organizations.
The Council of Canadians and Common Frontiers point out that only two of the 26 chapters relate to trade as most people understand it. The other chapters involve restrictions on government’s ability to make health policy, the criminalization of everyday uses of the Internet, new limits on access to affordable medicines, prohibiting ‘buy local’ policies (e.g. local food), encouraging privatization, discouraging the creation of Crown corporations or new public utilities, and empowering corporations to sue governments before private tribunals outside the court system when they’re unhappy with environmental or other measures that lower profits.
August 22 - 31, 2013
Do you know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Most people don’t. Yet this huge 12-country corporate rights deal is a cornerstone of the Harper government’s neoliberal economic agenda for Canada. And it’s almost done deal! As is typical with this government, the TPP is being negotiated in secret, as quickly as possible, so that we, the people, cannot affect the outcome in any way.
There have been 18 rounds of TPP negotiations. The next round in Brunei, from August 22 to 31, could be the last. We won’t let it be the last word. On August 29, we will begin to Flush the TPP out of the shadows. It is time to speak out against excessive TPP secrecy, and against another corporate power grab that threatens our public health, our access to knowledge and affordable medicines, our local democracy, and the earth itself. These agreements encourage corporation to extract indigenous lands, displace people, exploit migrants, transfer wealth from the poor to the wealthy and commodify the planet. Such broad based impacts require a united broad based response.
We are asking people concerned about this secretive agreement to demand that the text be made public immediately. Here is how you can support this call:
1) Organize a rally or demonstration in your community at a public square or outside the offices of a Member of Parliament.
2) Write letters to the editor or submit Op-Ed to local and national media outlets that have largely been silent about the TPP.
3) Organize a public discussion/event about the TPP. We can help organize and facilitate the event with you – just contact us!
4) Help spread the word by sharing, forwarding and retweeting links and messages on Twitter (follow @comfront01 and hashtags #StopTPP, #TPP, #TPPA, #FairDeal #TPPTuesdays) and Facebook.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is 12-nation (and counting) free trade and corporate rights deal that is being led by the United States but also includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Thailand, The Philippines and South Korea have also expressed interest in joining the talks, which would eclipse the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the ways democracy would be constrained in the interests of multinational corporations.
Of the 26 chapters currently being negotiated in the TPP, only two have to do with trade. The other 24 deal with issues as diverse as how a government regulates corporate activity, what Crown corporations can and cannot do, how long pharmaceutical patents or copyright terms should be, how the Internet is governed, the sharing of personal information across borders, banking and taxation rules, and when a company or investor should be compensated when environmental or public health policies interfere with profits.
From leaked chapters we know the deal threatens:
Public health and access to medicines: The U.S. is using the TPP to push for excessive patent protections that are guaranteed to make medication much more expensive and even inaccessible to the poorest countries involved in the negotiations. Across the world, health advocates are saying it is a matter of life and death that we say no to these changes.
Access to knowledge and the open Internet: The U.S. wants TPP countries to change their copyright laws in ways that restrict the open Internet, make it illegal to circumvent digital locks on copyrighted material even for non-infringing purposes, stifle innovation, raise prices of books, CDs and movies, and reduce economic opportunities to businesses, creators and the public.
Community Led Public Policy: The TPP will include an investor rights chapter and investor-state dispute process that will let companies sue governments in secret tribunals when public policies get in the way of profits. The policy can be legal, fair and not discriminatory in any way and still face corporate lawsuits demanding hundreds of millions, and sometimes billions of dollars in compensation. This powerful tool of corporate rule, designed to undermine communities, is alone enough to demand the dismantling of the TPP, NAFTA and the thousands of bilateral investment treaties globally that include investor-state dispute settlement.
For more information please visit:
or contact Raul Burbano - email@example.com
This call to action is endorsed by Canadian Union of Public Employees, Common Frontiers, Council of Canadians, OpenMedia and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. We encourage other organizations and groups to add their endorsement to this call to action and circulate it to their members. Endorsements can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org
OTTAWA ― The federal government’s decision to pave the way for the multinational giant Verizon to enter Canada’s telecommunications market will cost thousands of jobs and will not benefit consumers in the long run, says Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Verizon’s entry into Canada will result over time in the shifting of thousands of Canadian telecommunication jobs to the United States,” Georgetti says. “Verizon is a $115 billion company, more than three times larger than the entire Canadian telecommunication industry. The Canadian market will be merely an appendage to Verizon’s American operations. Research and innovation, network maintenance, customer service and all head office functions will be performed in the U.S.”
In September, Industry Canada will start a bidding process for 700 MHz of spectrum, which telecommunications companies use to provide and improve cell phone and other services.
Verizon has been given an advantage to acquire licenses in Canada by purchasing new spectrum that major Canadian companies cannot bid on. In addition, new rules will require the Canadian companies to give Verizon access to their cellular towers and network infrastructure. Verizon will also be able to purchase Canadian telecommunication companies while existing major companies are prohibited from acquiring these companies. The government’s stated aim is to enhance competition, improve service and drive down prices.
“All of this may sound fine,” says Georgetti, “but the government is stacking the deck in favour of Verizon and it is Canadian workers, Canadian-based companies and eventually Canadian consumers who will suffer.”
On August 20 and 21, the family of murdered Chiapaneco activist Mariano Abarca from the municipality of Chicomuselo where Blackfire Exploration carried out barite mining activities between 2007 and 2010 will launch the report “Corruption, Murder and Canadian Mining in Mexico: The Case of Blackfire Exploration and the Canadian Embassy” in Mexico City and be available for comments to the press.
The family of murdered activist Mariano Abarca, academic and human rights activist Sergio Aguayo Quezada and activist Gustavo Castro from the organization Otros Mundos-Chiapas, also member of the Chiapas group of the Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Communities (REMA-Chiapas by its initials in Spanish) will present the report. Canadian organizations including the Committee for Human Rights in Latin America of Montreal (CDHAL by its initials in French), Common Frontiers, the Council of Canadians, MiningWatch Canada and the United Steelworkers will also participate.
Organized by the Environmental Foundation “Mariano Abarca” (FAMA by its initials in Spanish), Otros Mundos-Chiapas, Friends of the Earth-Mexico and REMA-Chiapas.
WHEN & WHERE:
Tuesday, August 20th in the Human Rights Commission from 4:30pm - 7:30pm CDT (5:30 – 8:30pm EST)
Av. Universidad 1449, Col. Florida, Mexico City
Wednesday, August 21st in front of the Canadian Embassy from 10:30am – 1:30pm CDT (11:30 – 2:30pm EST)
Schiller 529, Col. Bosque de Chapultepec, Col. Polanco, Mexico City
Both events will be live broadcast by Hijos de la Tierra at: http://www.livestream.com/lostejemedios
The report presents findings of an analysis of hundreds of pages of documents obtained through an access to information request to the Department of Foreign Affairs, revealing how the Canadian Embassy in Mexico put considerable public resources at the service of Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration despite connections with suspects in the murder of Mariano Abarca, suspension of the company’s mine on environmental grounds, and widely reported allegations of corruption. The family of Mariano Abarca will present the report and seek a response from the Canadian Embassy to ensure justice is obtained in this case and that Canada adopts corporate accountability measures in accord with its international human rights obligations.
For more information, please contact:
Nadja Palomo or Marie-Eve Marleau, Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), nadja(at)cdhal.org, (514) 257-8710 x 334
Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers, burbano(at)rogers.com, (416) 522-8615
Elizabeth Berman, Council of Canadians, eberman(at)canadians.org, 613-410-2853
Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, 613-569-3439, jen(at)miningwatch.ca
Mark Rowlinson, United Steelworkers, mrowlinson(at)usw.ca, (416) 544-5952
Rick Arnold, rickarnold(at)i-zoom.net, (905) 448-2343
By Joanie Cameron Pritchett
President, Canadian Federation of Canadian Unions
Right now in Russia, the host of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics Games, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are facing untold oppression and brutality. The government has recently established new, draconian laws that violate their basic rights and put them at huge risk of further violence.
The Confederation of Canadian Unions has been proud to stand up for the rights and well-being of all equity-seeking peoples, like women, First Nations, persons living with special needs and people of colour.
The Confederation of Canadian Unions has created an online petition calling on the International Olympic Committee and the government of Russia to work towards guaranteeing the rights and safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered peoples.
Or you can go directly to the website and sign the petition here.
Love isn’t a crime. It’s something we need more of in the world today. I’m urging each of you to sign the petition and help raise awareness about this important human rights issue. And please send links of the petition to friends through email and Facebook.
Freedom and justice can’t wait any longer.
A study by Somos Defensores, a non-governmental protection program for human rights defenders, reveals shocking growth in murders of Colombian human rights defenders. The chart below illustrates that in 2012, the number of murders was nearly 14 times what it was in 2006. And 2013 is on a pace to be even worse.
The number of murders, although still high, remained relatively consistent around 30 per year between 2008 and 2011. But in 2012, the year after Colombia’s government passed a land restitution law encouraging displaced victims to come forward and claim stolen property, the number more than doubled to 69. The chart posted below, compiled by the Colombian newsmagazine Semana, puts the horrifying jump in context.
OTTAWA -- The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada is worried that if New York-based Verizon Communications takes over Canada’s telecommunications it will pass Canadians' personal data to US intelligence agencies.
In recent weeks it has come to light that Verizon has been working intimately with the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect the personal information of millions of its US customers. Reportedly, the company has even built a dedicated fiber-optic line running from New Jersey to a military base in Virginia to transfer all communications flowing through its operations centre to US authorities.
"It's long been accepted that there are privacy and national security concerns with foreign companies controlling Canada's telecommunications sector," says CEP President Dave Coles. "With Verizon so deeply tied to US intelligence agencies these concerns should be upgraded to code red alert status."
"If asked by US authorities for the personal information of Canadian subscribers Verizon would have ample reason to fulfill the request," says Coles. "The company's core business is dependent on Federal Communications Commission regulations, it has billions of dollars in US military contracts and Verizon is bound to comply with the US Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."
Returning from an international fact-finding mission to Colombia, United Steelworkers National Director Ken Neumann is calling on the Canadian government to take immediate action to defend human rights in the South American country.
"There are six specific areas in which the Government of Canada can make a significant, positive contribution," Neumann states in a detailed letter to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who will visit Colombia as part of a current tour of Latin American nations.
"I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my concerns with you, and urge the Government of Canada to take several immediate actions with respect to the very serious human rights situation that currently exists in Colombia," Neumann states in his letter to Baird.
Neumann was part of an international delegation that documented ongoing, human rights during a tour of Colombia from July 21 to 26. The delegation included trade union activists from Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as MP Paulina Ayala, the Official Opposition's deputy critic for the Americas and Consular Affairs.
"We saw violence, sorrow, pain, grieving, poverty and found a widespread perception that the Colombian government seems to worry more about its public image than the suffering of its own people," Neumann says in his letter to Baird.
"The human rights context in Colombia continues to be grave, and there are many specific situations that call for urgent and immediate attention from the Government of Canada."
By Dave Coles,
A Toronto-based company is trampling on the rights of workers, indigenous people and the environment in Colombia, but Canadian officials are more concerned with strengthening business ties in the country.
As president of Canada's largest energy union, I recently participated in a 17-person Canadian delegation to investigate alleged abuses committed by TSX listed Pacific Rubiales Energy (PRE), Colombia's largest independent oil producer. On July 13 and 14, I was a juror at a preliminary hearing of the Popular Tribunal Against Extractive Policies in Colombia, which took place near the Pacific Rubiales oil fields in the Eastern town of Puerto Gaitan.
The testimony was heart-wrenching. Representatives of indigenous communities told the Tribunal about how oil exploration on their lands had forced them to move to makeshift villages in housing constructed of plastic sheeting, cardboard and sticks. Women from outlying communities showed the jury bottles of orange and charcoal-coloured water, which they said was from their local water source, a river carrying effluent from PRE's extractive process. Union officials described the living conditions of workers forced to rotate off their shift to catch a few hours of sleep in a bed occupied by three other workers on different shifts.
Bay Street headquartered PRE has waged a vicious campaign against the Unión Sindical Obrera (USO). After a 2011 strike by thousands of USO members the company fired those who refused to disaffiliate from the 90 year-old energy union and join PRE's preferred "union". During that strike, Colombian Senator Alexander Lopez, who testified at the tribunal, said he was blocked by public security forces from freely travelling on a pubic road to the Rubiales oil fields. Lopez concluded that PRE's actions in Colombia warranted their expulsion from the country.
The testimonies at the Tribunal were disturbing, but what has transpired since may be even more troubling. Two days after, a USO member who helped organize the Tribunal was personally threatened. On July 16, Héctor Sánchez, who lives in a town near PRE's oilfields, received a note at his house declaring: "We see every step you make with your family. ... Don't ask for a stupid death, the same for your wife and child.... Don't leave them behind as orphans and a widow and don't become a widower yourself."
Brenda Sayers from the Hupacasath First Nation in Vancouver Island is undertaking a cross Canada speaking tour to share information about the Hupacasath's challenge to the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). She will be meeting with communities to explain how the FIPA will affect you and future generations and also update everyone on the Hupacasath First Nation’s court challenge.
Common Frontiers along with the Council of Canadians is hosting the Toronto leg of the tour.
WHEN: Friday August 16th
WHERE: Cecil Street Community Centre 58 Cecil St, Toronto
TIME: 6:30 - 9:30 pm
By Kevin Edmonds
The Other Side of Paradise
A blog post from NACLA - North American Congress on Latin America
On July 22, Ontario Superior Court Justice Carole Brown ruled in a landmark decision that lawsuits against the Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals regarding shootings, murder, and rapes at its former mine in El Estor, Guatemala can proceed to trial in Canada.
The plaintiffs in this case are indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’—who allege that security personnel working for Hudbay’s wholly controlled subsidiaries (HMI Nickel Inc. and Compaňia Guatemalteca De Niquel) committed human rights abuses at their Fenix mining project. The cases come from incidents occurring in 2007 and 2009. They consist of the following: 11 Mayan women charging that they were gang raped by security personnel during the forced eviction of their village, that security forces murdered indigenous leader and anti-mining activist Adolfo Ich, and that security personnel shot and paralyzed another man.
The incidents occurred over a struggle for the right to the land on which the Fenix site—a proposed open pit nickel mine—was located. The court ruling states that “The factual context from which these actions arise, as set forth in the pleadings, is as follows. Several indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ farming communities were located on a portion of the Fenix property. At all material times, the defendants maintained that they had a valid legal right to this land, while the Mayan communities claimed that the Mayan Q’eqchi’ were the rightful owners of the lands, which they considered to be their ancestral homeland. The plaintiffs allege in their pleadings that any claim to ownership by the defendants is illegitimate, as rights to those lands were first granted to the defendants by a dictatorial military government during the Guatemalan Civil War, and during the time when the Mayan Q’eqchi’ were being massacred and driven off their lands.” In addition to the human rights abuses cited in the lawsuits, security forces were also involved in the burning of numerous homes and armed intimidation in order to clear residents from the mining site.
The ruling strikes an important first blow against the unjust legal protections multinational corporations have worked so hard to set up in the global economy. Hudbay Minerals is arguing that they cannot be held legally responsible for the deadly and destructive actions of their subsidiaries in Guatemala because on paper they are separate legal entities—although that's not the case when it comes to making money.
Raul Burbano, the program director for Common Frontiers, states that “The ruling is an important step forward legally in the battle to hold Canadian based mining companies and their subsidiaries accountable for atrocities committed abroad. However, it should also serve as a stark reminder of the need for legislation in Canada to hold this industry accountable, and the failure of corporate self-regulation disguised as corporate social responsibility.”
The fact that this landmark decision happened in a Toronto court is all the more surprising and important. When it comes to multinational mining companies, Toronto is the belly of the beast—it is the global home base of mining companies, with an estimated 75% of the world’s mining companies headquartered in Canada. According to Alan Deneault, the author of Imperial Canada Inc: Legal Haven of Choice for the World’s Mining Industries, the reason for this high concentration is due to the fact that “Canada stands out as a judicial and financial haven that shelters its mining industry from the political or legal consequences of its extraterritorial activities by providing a lax domestic regulatory structure that it seeks to export through international agencies, diplomatic channels and ‘economic development projects'.”
A 2009 report by the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Corporate Social Responsibility: Movements and Footprints of Canadian Mining and Exploration Firms in the Developing World, concluded that “...Canadian companies have been the most significant group involved in unfortunate incidents in the developing world. Canadian companies have played a much more major role than their peers from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canadian companies are more likely to be engaged in community conflict, environmental and unethical behaviour...”
Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the Mayan vicitms, remarked that “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs. We would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”
While the outcomes of the current lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals are far from clear—and there is a long way to go—it is a necessary step in the right direction. The victory against Hudbay Minerals sets an important precedent whereby Canadian mining companies can be held legally accountable in the future for committing human rights abuses and environmental degradation which occur at their foreign operations. For far too long the industry has acted with near impunity – it is about time that companies become accountable for the destruction and death that they market as much needed economic development across the Global South. Whether or not the ruling will result in any change on how mining companies behave in the near future will be telling.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Project Syndicate
NEW YORK – Though nothing has come of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of global trade negotiations since they were launched almost a dozen years ago, another round of talks is in the works. But this time the negotiations will not be held on a global, multilateral basis; rather, two huge regional agreements – one transpacific, and the other transatlantic – are to be negotiated. Are the coming talks likely to be more successful?
The Doha Round was torpedoed by the United States’ refusal to eliminate agricultural subsidies – a sine qua non for any true development round, given that 70% of those in the developing world depend on agriculture directly or indirectly. The US position was truly breathtaking, given that the WTO had already judged that America’s cotton subsidies – paid to fewer than 25,000 rich farmers – were illegal. America’s response was to bribe Brazil, which had brought the complaint, not to pursue the matter further, leaving in the lurch millions of poor cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and India, who suffer from depressed prices because of America’s largesse to its wealthy farmers.
Given this recent history, it now seems clear that the negotiations to create a free-trade area between the US and Europe, and another between the US and much of the Pacific (except for China), are not about establishing a true free-trade system. Instead, the goal is a managed trade regime – managed, that is, to serve the special interests that have long dominated trade policy in the West.
There are a few basic principles that those entering the discussions will, one hopes, take to heart. First, any trade agreement has to be symmetrical. If, as part of the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP), the US demands that Japan eliminate its rice subsidies, the US should, in turn, offer to eliminate its production (and water) subsidies, not just on rice (which is relatively unimportant in the US) but on other agricultural commodities as well.
Second, no trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests, especially when non-trade-related issues like financial regulation and intellectual property are at stake. America’s trade agreement with Chile, for example, impedes Chile’s use of capital controls – even though the International Monetary Fund now recognizes that capital controls can be an important instrument of macro-prudential policy.
Ruling means that Canadian corporations may be held legally responsible in Canada for human rights abuse at their foreign mining projects
Toronto, Canada - In a precedent-setting ruling with national and international implications, Superior Court of Ontario Justice Carole Brown has ruled that Canadian company Hudbay Minerals can potentially be held legally responsible in Canada for rapes and murder at a mining project formerly owned by Hudbay’s subsidiary in Guatemala. As a result of Justice Brown’s ruling, the claims of 13 Mayan Guatemalans will proceed to trial in Canadian courts.
“As a result of this ruling, Canadian mining corporations can no longer hide behind their legal corporate structure to abdicate responsibility for human rights abuses that take place at foreign mines under their control at various locations throughout the world,” said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the 13 indigenous Mayans. “There will now be a trial regarding the abuses that were committed in Guatemala, and this trial will be in a courtroom in Canada, a few blocks from Hudbay’s headquarters, exactly where it belongs. We would never tolerate these abuses in Canada, and Canadian companies should not be able to take advantage of broken-down or extremely weak legal systems in other countries to get away with them there.”
Hudbay argued in court that corporate head offices could never be held responsible for harms at their subsidiaries, no matter how involved they were in on-the-ground operations. Justice Brown disagreed and concluded that “the actions as against Hudbay and HMI should not be dismissed.”
“Today is a great day for me and all others who brought this lawsuit,” said Angelica Choc, a plaintiff and widow of Adolfo Ich. “It means everything to us that we can now stand up to Hudbay in Canadian courts to seek justice for what happened to us.”
“This judgment should be a wake-up call for Canadian mining companies,” said Cory Wanless, co-counsel for the Mayans along with Mr. Klippenstein. “It is the first time that a Canadian court has ruled that a claim can be made against a Canadian parent corporation for negligently failing to prevent human rights abuses at its foreign mining project. We fully expect that more claims like this one will be brought against Canadian mining companies until these kinds of abuses stop.”
This is the second significant legal victory for the Mayan plaintiffs this year. In February, Hudbay abruptly dropped its argument that the lawsuit against it should be heard in Guatemala, not Canada, after fighting tooth and nail over this issue for over a year, forcing survivors of rape to travel to Toronto to endure extensive cross-examination and the legal team to spend countless hours compiling stacks of evidence, expert reports, and witness testimony.
For more information about the claims, see www.chocversushudbay.com.
WHAT: Gathering with food and speakers
WHERE: Dufferin Grove Park, Toronto
WHEN: This Monday. 5:30pm
WHY: The Global Day of Action Against Open Pit Mining is an initiative from our allies in Latin America.
Come learn about the impact of Canadian companies in mining conflicts around the world. Listen to people from the Global South talk about how they are organizing against these companies and get a feel for the popular resistance that these companies face!
-More info at the Facebook Event Page
On Turtle Island and across the globe communities are resisting the imposition of mining on their territories. On July 22nd these same communities will be taking actions to celebrate life, water and the defense of mother earth and at the same time rejecting toxic mining.
In Toronto we are doing a Solidarity event with those across the globe fighting for life, water the environment and to protect mother from the destructive forces of Mining.
We will also be standing in solidarity with those rallying at the opening of the Environmental Assessment Process for Taseko Mines Ltd. proposed New Prosperity Mine in Vancouver who are in solidarity with the TSILHQOT’IN community.
-see more on their Facebook event page
We'll have speakers from Argentina, Toronto and other parts of the world.
-See details of all the actions on a global scale
Organized by the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity network, Common Frontiers and Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.
By Nick Logan
MEDELLIN, Colombia – Colombian authorities are investigating accusations a Canadian resources company has used threats and intimidation to bust up union activity.
USO, a Colombian labour union, has filed a complaint with the country’s Attorney General alleging Toronto-based Pacific Rubiales Energy is trying to quash union activity and even blacklisting some workers affiliated with unions.
No formal charges have been laid.
Pacific Rubiales, for its part, denies all allegations against it, says many of its employees are unionized and it allows union workers onto its property as long as they’re peaceful. The company’s legal counsel suggested USO’s allegations are motivated in part because some of the company’s employees are part of a different union.
The Confederation of Canadian Unions and its affiliates throughout the country have been leaders in the fightback against the bureaucratic and anti-democratic C-377, a private members bill put forth by Conservative MP Russ Heibert.
As we have said before, the bill will radically increase red tape and the administration costs of unions, cripple organizing efforts and political and social activities, and interfere with the private, internal activities of democratic organizations.
C-377 requires all labour organizations to file detailed financial reports with Revenue Canada, with information to be published on a government website. This includes any and all expenditures on organizing, education and training, conferences, political activities and lobbying, and collective bargaining. Payments to officers, staff and even the recipients of pension and health plan payments are also required to be included in the reports.
According to Mathieu Ravignat, a Quebec NDP Member of Parliament, Bill C-377 will create approximately 17.5 million hours of paperwork for unions throughout the country, and each of them will need an average of 700 hours of work annually to comply with the requirements.
And because of these huge additional costs, as well as the enormously expensive penalties for not being able to comply with the law, C-377 specifically targets moderate-sized, independent unions like CCU affiliates.
TORONTO, July 11, 2013 /CNW/ - The United Steelworkers (USW) union is asking federal Information CommissionerSuzanne Legault to investigate the Conservative government's failure, for more than eight months, to release information on a Canadian mining company's controversial operations in Mexico.
"This case reflects a disturbing pattern by Stephen Harper's Conservatives to obstruct public access to government information," said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada.
"It also demonstrates how the Harper government condones the bad behaviour of Canadian mining companies operating abroad, where communities are protesting environmental, social and human rights abuses," Neumann said.
The USW filed requests under the Access to Information Act last November with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), asking for the release of government documents relating to Canadian mining company Excellon Resources Inc.
Excellon operates a silver mine in Durango, Mexico, where communal landowners and workers have accused the company of numerous transgressions of their environmental, economic and labour rights.
More than eight months after the USW filed the information requests, and despite repeated follow-up requests made by the union, the government has failed to release a single document.
Recently, a similar complaint concerning the operations of Canadian company Blackfire Exploration in Mexicolanguished for 19 months before DFAIT replied.
In February 2013, the federal Information Commissioner stated in a CBC report that Canada was "at a record low in terms of timeliness" in responding to information requests. "Canadians should be angry" about the Harper government's handling of "a fundamental democratic right," Legault said.
This spring, Legault's office launched an unprecedented investigation into complaints that the Harper government is restricting public access to taxpayer-funded science.
Under the Harper government, Canada's access to information record ranks a lowly 55th in the world, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy, which notes the Conservatives have not given the Information Commissioner any authority to order resolutions of access complaints.
The USW believes the Canadian government may have acted irresponsibly in supporting Excellon Resources in its ongoing disputes with Mexican landowners and supporters of Los Mineros, the only democratic union that is seeking to represent workers at the Excellon mine.
"Although we expect much of the information we requested will be redacted based on some phony pretence, we believe that our complaint with the Commissioner is fundamentally necessary to protect our democratic right to obtain information and to hold our government accountable" said Neumann.
"This is also part of our effort to expose the Harper government's secrecy and how it supports corporations as opposed to working people in Canada and abroad."
Los Mineros is contesting in the Mexican courts the loss of an election to represent workers that included pressure and threats from mine management; the sudden appearance of some 100 men - many carrying sticks - who at one point blocked the mine entrance to prevent workers from entering; and the presence of a large number of heavily armed municipal, state and federal police.
Communal landowners on whose land the mine is located have also been fighting Excellon in the Mexican courts to get back their land and to enforce agreements the company made with them. In October 2012, another group of thugs attacked and destroyed a peaceful encampment where workers and landowners were protesting the actions of Excellon.
SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Joe Drexler, USW Strategic Campaigns, 416-544-6009, 416-434-7907, email@example.com
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming elections and call for International Solidarity:
On November 24TH 2013, Hondurans will be heading to the polls to elect a new president. This time civil society opposition has organized itself politically to partake in the electoral process under the political party Libertad y refundacion (LIBRE). Their political organizing has made them targets of violence and itimidation. Together with civil society and Human rights organizations they are denoucing the escalation of political violence and repression by the state in the lead up to the elections. They are calling for International Solidarity by inviting the international community and media to visit Honduras and observe the electoral process.
What are we proposing?
We know there will be intense media attention on Honduras during this period and we hope to utilize this to widen the discussion around other issues impacting Honduran civil society including democratic governance, the Harper Free trade agenda, Canadian investment Human and labour right violations.
We are proposing to send a delegation to Honduras from November 17th- 27th 2013 of 6-8 people from Canada that includes members from labour, civil society and NGO’S. The first part of the trip will focus on visiting various parts of the country and meeting with different civil society groups including labour, human rights and campesino organizations. The delegations will also provide election monitoring at various stations where most required during the elections.
The cost per participant will be $900 and that includes at least two meals a day, accommodations, transportation inside the country, translation, official international observation status for elections and facilitation by experienced delegation coordinators. Cost does not include airfare to and from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Common Frontiers sent a bi-national delegation from Canada and the US to conduct human rights accompaniment and observation to Honduras during the November 29, 2009 elections.
Our delegation will be led by Raul Burbano who led a human rights fact finding delegation to Honduras in 2010 just after the coup d'état. He has also been an international observer during the 2009 Presidential Elections in the Plurinational State of Bolivia and most recently for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela during their 2010 Parliamentary Elections.
For more information contact Raul Burbano
BY Ethan Cox
Cue the white smoke, we have a pope! Er, I mean a location, and a date. After two days of meetings that ranged from tense and acrimonious to joyful and celebratory, participants at the planning meeting for Canada's first ever People's Social Forum managed to arrive at a consensus.
Held in Edmonton on the 2nd and 3rd of July, this planning meeting followed on the heels of the hugely successful first preparatory meeting which took place in Ottawa in January. While the attendance was around 50 people, short of the 150 who descended on Ottawa, key organizers from across the spectrum of social movements were there.
Despite the logistical difficulties of getting to Edmonton, the Quebec caucus was the largest in attendance, and organized labour was heavily represented within it. In the words of Antoni Shelton from the Ontario Federation of Labour, "labour support and participation from Quebec has been strong, now the rest of us need to step it up." Shelton argued labour rights should be central to this process, and strongly articulated the need to resist the attack on labour and the Rand Formula in Canada, which he described as the "lifeblood of union movement."
In addition to heavy representation from labour, including several delegates from the CSN, Quebec's second largest labour federation, who came with promises of full organizational support, the Quebec delegation included the two co-founders of Idle No More Quebec, a representative of the Quebec Women's Federation, former student movement spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Michel Lambert and Roger Rashi from Alternatives, the Montreal-based international solidarity NGO which has been spearheading the project, and a number of other activists representing various groups and constituencies.
While the second day saw decisions made on all the key points needed to move the forum project forward, the prognosis was not always so rosy. Tensions were briefly inflamed as the meeting got underway on the night of the 2nd, when two delegates made statements to the effect that Alberta's struggles were more important than those in other provinces, that there was too much Quebec involvement in the process, and that all immigrants were colonizers.
These statements did not sit well with others, including Nadeau-Dubois and Shelton. Nadeau-Dubois went to the microphone to make the point that we all have struggles, and must work together without dividing ourselves on such a silly basis as whose struggles are more important than others. Meanwhile, Shelton made a powerful intervention referencing the fact that as a black man, his ancestors were brought here against there will, and were equally the victims of colonialism. "As a slave nation, when we talk about the perfect Canada, this is often left out of the discussion."
Thankfully, rifts were patched up by the next day and work could begin in earnest on making the critical choices needed for the Forum project to proceed. First up was the proposed text of the People's Social Forum charter. This was adopted unanimously after some changes proposed by the Indigenous caucus were added, and will be available online shortly.
Common Frontiers – MiningWatch Canada – Council of Canadians – United Steelworkers
(Ottawa, July 4, 2013) On June 19, 2013, the Constitutional Chamber (Sala IV) of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court unanimously rejected Infinito’s appeal of the November, 2011 decision of the Court’s Civil and Administrative Law Chamber (Sala I) annulling the concession for the company’s proposed Crucitas open-pit gold mine.
This marks the third and final time that a Chamber of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court has shut down Infinito Gold’s efforts to develop the controversial Crucitas site near the San Juan River, which forms the country’s northern border with Nicaragua. According to MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Jamie Kneen, “This is a victory for the people of Costa Rica over a Canadian mining bully that has sought to bend the country to its will, and silence opposition to its mine – this court decision will also help to preserve Costa Rica’s reputation as an ecologically-minded and democratic country.”
Infinito Gold’s multiple lawsuits should be more than enough to qualify the Canadian company as a vexatious litigant. Not only has Infinito attempted to intimidate the Costa Rican government, but it has also sought to silence opposition voices by initiating five lower court actions against two university professors, a lawyer for an environmental group, and two Congressional Deputies. It has lost the first three court cases, but intends to appeal. Comments Kneen, “Infinito has been a vexatious litigant in Costa Rica for years and should now pack up and leave – but not before it pays all court costs and for the environmental damage it has already caused.”
BY Raul Burbano
For the second year in a row, the Conservative government has failed to live up to its moral obligation to analyze the impact of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCOFTA) on human rights.
The reporting obligation, embedded as a side agreement in the FTA, was hailed by the Liberals as a "new gold standard" for human rights reporting in free trade agreements and touted by the Conservative government as a meaningful way to address human rights accountability in trade. Civil society, labour and human rights organizations feared that it was merely unenforceable window dressing.
Last year's report, referred to by many as a "non-report," promised that a real study would come in 2013. It would "provide an analysis of any noticeable changes in trade and in human rights situation in the most active economic sectors stemming from the agreement" and some basic "baseline information" about human rights and trade in Colombia.
Released mid-June, this year's report falls way short of the promised gold standard and confirms suspicions that the reporting obligation was mere window dressing. It speaks almost exclusively of macroeconomics and trade flows, and -- most alarmingly -- limits its scope to actions taken by the Canadian government under the FTA's Implementation Act. Clearly absent from the report is any data or analysis around changes in the human rights situation or the impacts of Canadian investment on human rights in Colombia, rendering the report virtually irrelevant.
One could be forgiven for thinking the government is aware of the human rights issues in Colombia and trying to evade public and media scrutiny on the issue. Rather than publically announcing the release of the report as a good news story for trade and human rights, it surreptitiously tabled it through the back door just before Parliament rose for the summer.
The report outlines a consultation process with stakeholders that is indicative of a deeper issue with the Harper government: contempt for genuine broad-based popular consultation. This is evidenced by its "public call for submissions" for civil society. An unpublicized posting on DFAIT's website gave participants just over a week to provide input into this important debate. Not surprisingly, no submissions were received. The government went through the motions of a consultation process, but clearly did not provide a meaningful or genuine opportunity for input.
Canadians should be outraged at the government's lackadaisical report and its disingenuous attempt at public consultation on the serious human rights situation impacting Colombians. They should also question the waste of taxpayer dollars on a process that included expensive Ministerial travel with outcomes as trivial as "designating formal contact points" but did not actually meet its goal of examining how free trade is impacting human rights in Colombia.
Considering the alarming prevalence of human rights abuses, violence, intimidation and assassination in Colombia, the Conservative government has missed an important window of opportunity to hold the Colombian government accountable for the deplorable human rights situation there. It has shown, once again, that corporate rights dominate our government’s agenda, at the expense of human rights and labour concerns.
According to a recent article published in Embassy magazine, "more than one third of Colombia’s Indigenous peoples are threatened with extermination, according to the country's highest court -- a crisis fueled by the violent imposition of megaprojects on indigenous territories. And in 2012, over 280 Colombian trade unionists received death threats and 20 were killed -- making it one of the world's most dangerous places for unionists."
Last month, two Colombian union leaders from the Colombian Oil Industry (USO) toured various cities in Canada to denounce violations by Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy. Their final statement denounced the "failure of the governments of Canada and Colombia to comply with labour and environmental agreements and respect human rights, in spite of commitments being ratified by both governments under the CCOFTA."
The report does highlight one notable piece of information, which contradicts a key narrative of the government's Americas' policy. This narrative often used to counter opponents of free trade agreements with troubled countries like Colombia and Honduras, claims that increased mutual prosperity leads to economic development -- which in turn improves human rights. However, the report fails to prove this connection, stating instead that "there is no evidence of a causal link between the reductions in tariffs by Canada in accordance with the CCOFTA and changes in human rights in Colombia."
The report makes it clear that the Canadian government is not walking the talk when it comes to human rights. Its failure to undertake a genuine Human Rights Impact Assessment not only makes a mockery of the principles behind the reporting obligation but also demonstrates the government's lack of regard for human rights. This report further undermines Canada's credibility in Latin America and across the globe.
Raul Burbano is the Program Director at Common Frontiers
BY PAULA BOUTIS
via Rabble.ca - Pro Bono column
Amidst all the excitement around the Federal Court's May 23, 2013 decision (pdf) in which the court held that "electoral fraud occurred during the 41st General Election," the court was also asked to dismiss the applications outright on the basis of how the applicants were funding their legal bills.
This was one of many tactics employed by the respondent Members of Parliament (MPs) to derail the litigation and prevent it from ever being heard.
This issue around how the litigation was funded is of general importance in the context of public interest litigation. In public interest cases, the litigants, whether non‑profits or individuals, have limited financial means to pursue the litigation. Funding public interest litigation only gets harder and harder, so it was refreshing to see a complete vindication of the funding of this case by the Council of Canadians.
By Rachel Warden ,Barbara Wood
Published in Embassy Magazine
On June 14, the Canadian government quietly tabled its second report on the human rights impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. So quietly, in fact, that even those who had been anticipating its release almost missed it. The report was deposited with the clerk at the end of the day, rather than during routine proceedings in the House.
The reporting obligation was enshrined into law in 2010 to address widespread concerns that the free trade agreement would exacerbate the alarming human rights crisis in Colombia. The government has touted the reports as a meaningful way to ensure human rights accountability in trade with the troubled Latin American country.
Unfortunately, this latest report’s tone and content—and the quiet way in which it was tabled—seem intent on avoiding scrutiny and leave us wondering what the government is trying to hide.
The report’s narrow scope limits itself to an analysis of actions taken under the trade agreement’s Implementation Act, the act that governs Canadian domestic implementation of the agreement. By interpreting its reporting obligation this way, the government avoids any examination of the impact of Canadian investment—including oil, gas and mining—in Colombia. This arguably defies the very spirit of the exercise. Canadian extractive interests in Colombia were one of the government’s primary motivations for signing the trade deal. They were also the most pressing concern voiced by human rights groups worried about the agreement’s impacts.
Mining sector under scrutiny
This concern was justifiable and still is: Canadian companies represent more than half of Colombia’s mining sector. A May 2013 report issued by the Colombian government’s comptroller general shows that 80 per cent of human rights violations, 87 per cent of forced displacements, 78 per cent of crimes against unionists, and over 89 per cent of crimes against indigenous people and Afro-Colombians occur in mining and oil-producing regions.
These percentages are all the more alarming when one considers the magnitude of these problems: Colombia remains the country with the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world, with 256,590 new cases in 2012. More than one third of Colombia’s indigenous peoples are threatened with extermination, according to the country’s highest court—a crisis fuelled by the violent imposition of megaprojects on indigenous territories. And in 2012, over 280 Colombian trade unionists received death threats and 20 were killed—making it one of the world’s most dangerous places for unionists.
Despite the government’s claims that the free trade agreement would improve human rights, labour rights abuses—especially in the oil and gas sector—are still widespread.
Last month, two Colombian union leaders visited Canada to denounce violations by Canadian oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy. The company has been accused of union-busting, harsh working conditions, illegal hiring practices, and wages lower than standards set by Colombian labour law and the International Labour Organization. There have also been a series of attacks against unionized workers attempting to negotiate with the company.
Engaging in resource development in this context carries a high risk of contributing to, or profiting from, these existing human rights and labour violations. Such risk requires the highest standard of due diligence, not only from the corporations involved but also from the governments that promote this investment. Failing to analyze the impacts of the Canadian extractive sector in Colombia shirks this responsibility.
Furthermore, due diligence in preparing the human rights report would have required a serious and credible consultation process with stakeholders, including human rights organizations and affected communities. Instead, the government posted a call for submissions on its website and did no outreach—despite having been recently approached by many groups seeking opportunities to provide input. Participants were given seven working days to respond to the unpublicized call. Not surprisingly, no input was received.
The government’s first annual human rights report on the trade deal, which came out last year, was a non-report. The government admitted as much but argued that the deal had not been in force long enough to conduct a proper analysis of the free trade agreement’s impacts.
Last year’s report did, nonetheless, outline some useful methodological steps for subsequent years. These steps included clustering the economic sectors affected by the FTA (including the extractive sector) and pairing them with relevant human rights analysis. Despite the stated plans, no such analysis was conducted in this year’s report. Instead, the report ends with the simplistic statement that “it is not possible to reach any conclusion on whether any changes in human rights in either country have occurred.”
At best, this conclusion suggests that the free trade agreement and its labour and environmental side deals—and Canada’s Americas Strategy more broadly—are not helping to improve the human rights situation in Colombia as promised. At worst, it suggests that our government is consciously turning a blind eye to serious human rights abuses when they benefit Canadian commercial interests.
Rachel Warden and Barbara Wood are co-chairs of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s Americas Policy Group, a Canadian civil society group focused on development and social justice issues in the Americas.
By Curt Petrovich,
The ambitious, now 11-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been raising the ire of U.S. senators as well as reporters, lawyers and labour groups all over the world for the exceptionally high level of secrecy surrounding its negotiation.
But is it possible Canada is raising that bar even higher still?
A case in point was the three-day negotiating session of the TPP that was held in Vancouver recently. And which the federal government had no intention of even mentioning until it was leaked, after the fact, by news media in Peru.
Even then, getting Ottawa to be a little more forthcoming on the most basic details proved futile.
Kind of like that Monty Python sketch "The argument."
You know the one where the customer enters a room after having paid to participate in an argument and asks the man behind the desk, "Is this the right room for an argument?"
The man replies, "I've told you once." "No you haven't," the customer insists.
"Yes I have," says the man. "When?" asks the puzzled customer. "Just now."
And so it goes. The bit never gets old.
We are delighted to confirm that the second General Assembly of the Peoples Social Forum will be held next July 2nd and 3rd in Edmonton, Alberta.
The venue will be the Telus Centre at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The purpose of this upcoming GA is to decide on the location, date and themes of the Peoples Social Forum scheduled for the summer of 2014.
We have chosen Edmonton as important events are planned this year in Fort McMurray, just north of the Albertan capital. On July 5th and 6th many hundreds of people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and people suffering from tar sands expansion.
We are holding our General Assembly in Edmonton as a gesture of solidarity and support to all those fighting tar sands expansion. Many of the participants in our General Assembly will make their way to Fort McMurray and join our First Nations and Metis brothers and sisters in this year's Healing Walk.
For more information contact Raul Burbano
The speakers will share their experiences and findings from a recent international fact-finding mission examining the implications of large-scale gold mining on water in El Salvador, as well as its linkages to Free trade agreements, international trade tribunals and Canadian mining interests.
When: Friday June 21ST
Time: 6:30- 9:00
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto (252 Bloor St. W)
Betty Araniva – Salvadoreños en El Mundo
Raul Burbano – Common Frontiers
Stacey Gomez – Mining Injustice Solidarity Network
Event sponsored by The Salvadoran Canadian Association (ASALCA), Council of Canadians and Common Frontiers, The Latin American Solidarity Network.
In 2009, El Salvador stopped issuing exploration and exploitation permits. Now, two mining companies – Canadian-based Pacific Rim and US-based Commerce Group – are suing the small Central American country for over $400 million in compensation through a secretive World Bank trade tribunal, in a costly legal battle. Meanwhile, communities in El Salvador continue to grapple with the environmental degradation, human rights violations and displacements caused by the activities of these mining companies locally.
In May international delegates from 12 countries representing 22 organizations concluded a three day fact-finding mission in El Salvador aimed at examining the local impacts and future threats of large-scale gold mining in the country. The delegation included visits to three key sites, illustrating the impacts of transnational gold mining at different stages, as well as local resistance and resilience. Sites included: the town of San Sebastian, department of La Unión where Commerce Group operated a gold mine on and off for decades; communities in the department of Cabañas where Pacific Rim’s exploration activities gave rise to widespread opposition; and the town of Asunción Mita, department of Jutiapa, Guatemala, on the border with El Salvador, home to Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco project.
Media Release from CAW.ca
A tentative collective agreement has been reached between the CAW and VIA Rail this evening, following days of tense, round-the-clock negotiations in Montreal.
"We're very pleased to have reached a tentative deal with VIA Rail," said Bob Orr, Assistant to the CAW National President. "This has been a long and emotional process for our master bargaining committee. We've spent days engaged in very tense bargaining on issues most important to members and we're happy to have settled this contract without a labour disruption."
-read the media release
By Stuart Trew
Council of Canadians
The Council of Canadians (along with Common Frontiers) was one of 125 global movements and civil society groups to endorse this statement of solidarity with efforts in Latin America, led by the Ecuador government, to reform the investment arbitration system. This corporate-biased regime, found in most Canadian free trade agreements with Latin America and globally, as well as in treaties like the Canada-China FIPA, NAFTA and proposed for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, is being challenged globally as an assault on democracy that must be radically changed or dismantled.Please share, and join the 4th Annual Healing Walk near Fort McMurray Alberta. The tar sands are growing out of control, destroying the climate for all Canadians and poisoning the water of everyone living downstream.
Statement of social movements and civil society organizations regarding the proposals of the 1st Ministerial Conference of Latin American States affected by the interests of transnationals
As social movements and civil society organizations, we consider International Investment Agreements (IIAs) -- such as the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and investment chapters in the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and other similar, so called, Association Agreements -- to be part of an architecture of impunity of transnational corporations (TNCs). As such they undermine peoples' and nature's rights, as well as the sovereignty and constitutions of nations, democracy and the public interest. These agreements further consolidate the asymmetry of laws that propagate that the rights and power of corporations are protected by 'hard law' and are above the rights of peoples and communities. We believe that Nation-states should have not only the obligation but also the full freedom to implement laws and policies in favour of the people and the environment, without the threat of being sued by transnational capital.
For this reason, for many years, we have been promoting and we are part of active national, regional and international campaigns like the struggles against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the FTAA, the WTO, and later the struggles against BITs and FTAs from the European Union, the United States and Canada with developing countries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP); and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We also form part of the continental campaign against BITs and for a new regional financial architecture, and the Global Campaign Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity, among others.
In this regard, we propose advancing an alternative legal framework for international economic relations that is based on democratic principles of solidarity and justice, and prioritizes the rights of humans and nature over private interests and profits. This framework should include binding obligations for private and public transnational corporations on issues of human rights, as well as economic, labour, social rights, and respect for Mother Nature. It should also guarantee governments' possibility to enact public policy for the realization of these rights. In this context, any investment agreement should also include a mechanism for public participation and democratic discussion with representatives of the relevant social sectors.
Therefore, we, the undersigned organizations
1) Express our solidarity with the people who suffer daily the impacts and consequences of the actions of corporations, either private or public. We also recognize the efforts of people and governments that have undertaken specific actions to prevent harmful corporate investments and ensure that sovereignty, self-determination and the rights of peoples and nature are respected.
2) Reject the demands of investors and transnational corporations in international tribunals, and particularly the billionaires' arbitration awards against States. These tribunals that overwhelmingly represent the interests of transnational capital over the interests of people from sued countries. We reiterate our solidarity with the people and countries affected, along with our demand that States annul, denounce and stop signing the various agreements and treaties that unlawfully subjected them to foreign jurisdictions and violate rights.
3) In the same spirit, we welcome the organization of the First Ministerial Conference of Latin American States affected by transnational interests, held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on 22 April. We remain hopeful that this initiative flourishes, especially because of the urgent need to put an end to transnational investments from private or public capital that do not contribute to the good living of people and of nature.
4) Taking note of the various proposals included in the final declaration of the Conference, we support the creation of an International Observatory on investment disputes, the establishment of the Permanent Conference of Latin American States affected by the interests of transnational corporations; and the search of global agreements between countries of the South that reinforces the defense of our people and countries against the actions of transnational corporations. We are committed to contribute timely to these processes with our experience, observations and recommendations. We will remain vigilant to make this happen, with the hope that this initiative is not limited to private transnational corporations but also covers state corporations as well as a comprehensive mechanism for repairing the impacts on people and nature.
5) Taking note that the Declaration refers to the need to create mechanisms for ongoing dialogue with social movements and organizations. We believe that such mechanisms could be a step conducive to the creation and consolidation of a process of direct participation of the people and movements. We offer the knowledge and experience of our organizations and movements, accumulated over decades of work, to contribute to the task at hand. We are ready to start a dialogue to discuss the way forward in making concrete these mechanisms.
6) In the same context of dialogue and in order to have meaningful participation, we specifically request information regarding some of the regional proposals that are moving forward, such as the regional mechanism for the settlement of investor-State disputes currently under negotiation in UNASUR.
On July 5-6 people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion. Find out more at http://www.healingwalk.org or follow the hashtags on Twitter at
#IdleNoMore #INM #SovSummer #HealingWalk
Please share, and join the 4th Annual Healing Walk near Fort McMurray Alberta. The tar sands are growing out of control, destroying the climate for all Canadians and poisoning the water of everyone living downstream.
Let's call on the Alberta and Canadian governments to stop the reckless mismanagement of these resources. We need our governments to work with First Nations and bring people together to make wise choices about stewarding the land in ways that are sustainable and fair.
Tell Minister Joe Oliver & Premier Alison Redford to come to the Healing Walk and walk the land, breathe the air, and drink the water. http://www.healingwalk.org/helpfromhome
This video is made of scenes from the film "Occupy Love" directed by Velcrow Ripper. Produced by Nova Ami, Velcrow Ripper & Ian MacKenzie. Music in these scenes by Christen Lien and Zoe Keating. Learn more at http://www.occupylove.org
The former NASA scientist criticized by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver earlier this week for his views on the Keystone XL pipeline is responding by calling the Conservatives a desperate and "Neanderthal" government.
In an interview with Evan Solomon airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, James Hansen defended his position that approving the proposed pipeline would be disastrous for the environment.
During a stop in Washington, D.C., to shore up support for Keystone XL, Oliver said Hansen, a leading climate change activist, is "crying wolf" with his "exaggerated" comments about the effects of Alberta's oilsands development on the environment. The minister also said that when a source of energy represents 1/1000th of global emissions, "to say it's the end of the planet if that's developed is nonsense."
Hansen has said if nothing is done to stop Canada's oilsands development it will be "game over for the climate," a position that Oliver said he likely regrets taking and that has hurt his credibility.
Not so, Hansen told Solomon. "Not at all," the award-winning researcher said. Hansen was named one of Time magazine's most influential people in 2006. He retired earlier this month from NASA so he could devote more of his time to environmental activism.
"I think he's beginning to get worried because the secretary of state, John Kerry, is well-informed on the climate issue and he knows that his legacy and President Obama's is going to depend upon whether they open this spigot to these very dirty, unconventional fossil fuels," Hansen said about Oliver. "We can't do that without guaranteeing disasters for young people and future generations."
via Postmedia News
Electoral fraud occurred during the last federal election, a federal court judge ruled on Thursday, but there is no proof that it affected the outcomes in six ridings at issue, so the elections will not be overturned.
The court challenge was brought by the Council of Canadians, which sought to overturn the election of six Conservative MPs who won close ridings where there was evidence that someone tried to affect the results by calling opposition supporters and telling them their polling stations had moved.
Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley ruled that the calls “struck at the integrity of the electoral process by attempting to dissuade voters from casting ballots for their preferred candidates. This form of ‘voter suppression,’ was, until the 41st General Election, largely unknown in this country.”
The evidence points to “a concerted campaign by persons who had access to a database of voter information maintained by a political party,” Mosley writes, but says there was no allegation that any of the candidates in the six ridings were responsible for the campaign.
“I find that electoral fraud occurred during the 41st General Election but I am not satisfied that it has been established that the fraud affected the outcomes in the subject ridings and I decline to exercise my discretion to annul the results in those districts.”
The decision fails to give the Council of Canadians the result it sought, but may pose a political problem for the Conservatives, who have steadfastly rejected any suggestion that the party mounted a voter suppression campaign beyond the infamous “Pierre Poutine” robocall in Guelph, Ont., which the party has blamed on rogue elements.
Canadian Mining Companies are having a negative impact on human and labour rights in Mexico, concludes Steelworker and civil society delegation that travelled to Mexico in February 2013. Video highlights delegation's findings.
From the Council of Canadians
Stephen Harper’s executive decision that Canada should try to join the Pacific Alliance political and trading bloc should be as controversial as his taking a trip to Peru and Colombia to dodge questions about overspending and lack of accountability in the Senate, says the Council of Canadians.
“It’s highly symbolic that the first people Harper met when he got off the plane were mining company executives,” says Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow. “The Pacific Alliance, like Canada’s existing trade and investment deals in Latin America, puts the profits of those companies above anything else. The deals, like the Alliance, have nothing to say about the environmental and human rights impact of mining in the region, which is more and more controversial, with growing resistance to Canadian mines in particular.”
The Pacific Alliance is a political grouping of right-wing, market fundamentalist governments in Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico that is widely regarded as a counterweight to more positive regional integration efforts on the continent. As Harper seeks to enhance “rights” for mining companies through closer ties with Pacific Alliance countries, for example, other countries, including Ecuador and Bolivia, are cancelling investment treaties and looking to set up new regional trade and investment rules that give equal space to the protection of human rights, water and the environment.
“As starkly set out in a leaked 2012 confidential government document, trade and economic opportunities for corporations have become the driving forces behind Stephen Harper’s foreign policy,” says Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew. “Harper is using foreign policy to promote corporate interests and help his board room friends undermine movements in Latin America against Canadian mining and toward a more fair and balanced trade and investment system.”
Canada has had observer status with the Pacific Alliance since November 2012.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685
email@example.com | Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs | www.canadians.org
By Raul Burbano Program Director - Common Frontiers
From May 10th to the 12th close to 50 delegates representing 22 different organizations from four continents gathered in San Salvador to take part in the first ever international fact finding mission around the impacts of metallic mining. It was organized by the International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador in collaboration with the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador known as La Mesa; a diverse coalition of organized communities, NGOs, think tanks, and faith based organizations opposing mining.
Public Forum in San Salvador:
The first day of the fact finding mission was composed of a forum at the University of Central America, (UCA) in San Salvador. The forum gave delegates an opportunity to hear from local and international delegates about the situation of mining in the region and opened up a space for dialogue and exchange of ideas with the general public and representatives of the government.
The first panel, entitled “National voices and opposition to mining in El Salvador”, provided a panoramic view of the national issues including human rights, legislative and a moral and ethical perspective on mining. This later point raised important questions that are not typically part of the debate when reflecting on mining and its impacts. Panellist José Maria Tojeira, Director of Pastoral at UCA spoke about it being unethical and morally wrong for a poor country like El Salvador to finance gold mining, a luxury that only benefits a small group.
It is this same small group that helps maintain the world in a state of war, hunger and inequality. Reflecting on how Pacific Rim reacts to those who oppose it, he recounted how they have dedicated resources to insult their opposition calling them fanatical and ignorant. In response, he wrote an article in a local newspaper calling them imperialists and recalled the reaction he received. “I got a call from the Canadian ambassador telling me to moderate my language”.
Canadian embassies’ intervening on behalf of mining companies is not uncommon, even when presented with overwhelming evidence suggesting the companies are behaving unethically. This was recently highlighted in a report released by civil society organizations in Canada surrounding Calgary -based Blackfire Exploration in which the Canadian embassy in Mexico was unequivocal in its support for Blackfire even after evidence surfaced potentially linking Blackfire with corruption and murder.
By: Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – The prime minister heads to South America this week to suss out membership in a new trading bloc that many aren’t sure Canada ought to join.
The Pacific Alliance was formed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru in 2011 and Canada took a spot on the sidelines the next year, along with several other countries as observers.
This week, alliance leaders will meet in Cali, Colombia, and be joined by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as well as leaders from other observer nations.
“This will be the first time the prime minister has had the opportunity to participate in this forum, to experience the forum, to see what it has to offer,” said Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for the prime minister.
The goal of the nascent alliance is to tear down what economic borders remain between their countries, creating an integrated market to rival and compete both internationally and regionally with that of Mercosur, the trading bloc created in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Alliance countries are already an economic powerhouse: according to the World Trade Organization, together they exported about $534 billion in 2011, compared to about $355 billion from Mercosur.
Bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and the four alliance countries totalled $39 billion in 2012, compared with $9.7 billion the year before in trade with Mercosur.
The Conservative government declared a stronger relationship with the Americas as a foreign policy priority in 2007 and has been wooing them ever since, ramping up its enthusiasm for ties with the region since its economies sailed through the global economic downturn in 2008.
But Canada already has free trade agreements with all four alliance countries and is involved in negotiations for the much broader Trans Pacific Partnership, which includes them as well as Asian countries, New Zealand and the United States.
That’s raised questions about why joining this new alliance is something that Canada needs and has the resources to tackle.
Even pro-trade Tories raised this question at recent hearings on the alliance in the House of Commons.
“Where I’m coming from is that we already have relationships with all of these countries,” said Tory MP Ed Holder in March.
“We don’t need to do this, but maybe we do. What I’m looking for is the argument for Canada to do more than just sit at the table and watch.”
Harper’s participation in the meeting is about figuring that out, said MacDougall.
“From our perspective, there is no point picking one over the other, it’s a question of pursuing on all avenues and all fronts,” MacDougall said.
“We do have strong relationships with the four original members, and with some of the other observer countries so it makes sense for us to explore more ways to further strengthen that relationship while we’re also pressing on the Trans Pacific Partnership, which includes another set of countries.”
Among the issues being explored by the alliance are the removal of visa requirements for is members, something that would pose a challenge to Canada’s ongoing efforts to tighten up borders by imposing visa restrictions on many countries, including those in the alliance.
The alliance also wants to strengthen security co-operation.
Canada has tried this once before with Mexico, in the form of the security and prosperity partnership with the United States, a deal that collapsed in 2009 to be replaced by the bilateral Beyond the Border plan with just the United States.
Canada’s relationship with the Americas has been framed mostly in economic terms, though Canada insists part of its Americas strategy is also increasing democratic governance and security in the region.
Some observers have said those two planks aren’t getting the same attention.
“The record of action to date has been narrowly focused on free trade agreements and the protection of corporate interests and investments at the expense of deep engagement on such important issues as development, security, corporate accountability, democratic governance, and human rights,” Sheila Katz of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation told the House of Commons committee in April.
For example, as part of a recently-signed free trade deal with Colombia, the two countries agreed to table reports about the effect the deal has on human rights.
The second such report was May 15, 2013 due last week but since the House of Commons wasn’t sitting, it couldn’t be tabled, MacDougall said.
It’s unlikely to appear before Harper returns from his trip.
Prior to arriving in Colombia, he will travel to Peru for bilateral meetings with that country's president.
Report prepared by the USO International Committee, May 14, 2013.
-download a PDF version of this report
By invitation of several social organizations and unions of Canada, a delegation from our Union visited three major cities in Canada from April 30 to May 9 (Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto).
In each of these places, we spoke out against the governments of Canada and Colombia, which have not complied with agreements on labour, the environment, and respect for human rights, despite having ratified these commitments as part of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries that came into effect in August 2011. The two countries pledged to protect, enhance and enforce the rights of workers, strengthen cooperation around labour issues, and deepen their respective international commitments.
As part of this tour, many social organizations and unions, as well as Federal opposition parliamentarians, professors and students from Carleton University in Ottawa, journalists, and environmental organizations, among others, attended meetings at which the Union officials spoke out against the disastrous role of Canadian multinational companies in Colombia, including Pacific Rubiales Energy (PRE), which controls a high percentage of domestic oil production.
Evidence was presented about Pacific Rubiales Energy imposing its own state in Puerto Gaitán, deep inside the department of Meta. In Canada, the public was shocked to learn that the four top executives of this multinational, who had supported the coup against Venezuelan president Chávez, namely Miguel de la Campa, José Francisco Arata, Serafino Iacono and Ronald Patín, each earned an average of $11 million dollars, according to the January 2012 issue of Dinero magazine (http://www.dinero.com/internacional/articulo/ejecutivos-pacific-rubiales-entre-20-mas-ganan-canada/142553) , while the workers and residents of nearby communities affected by petroleum production live in deplorable conditions due to the little knowledge of their rights.
In July 2011, about 13,500 workers, the vast majority of them contract workers employed in precarious working conditions, called on us to assist them. During our visit, we observed that more than 90% of the workers were not directly hired by Pacific Rubiales, but rather outsourced, hired under “garbage contracts” characterized by low wages, long working hours, and overcrowded housing, among other irregularities. The USO presented a demand package in the context of agreements with the government and with this multinational, aimed at improving the working conditions. The negotiations were only partially resolved, which served to show that both Pacific Rubiales and the Colombian government, represented by the Minister of Labour, were ignoring International Labour Organization Conventions 87 and 98, both of which have been ratified by our country. These two core labour conventions guarantee the right of free association and the right to collective bargaining. The Canadian multinational set up blockades using vehicles, pipe structures and chain link fences across the public road. These actions occurred with the assistance and the approval of the company’s own security forces, in conjunction with the Colombian public safety forces. These actions were taken systematically against our Union as well as against Senator Alexander López Maya, who attempted to visit the workers in the field in 2012.
There is photographic evidence of environmental pollution, including the dumping of contaminated wastewater into rivers and water sources. Upriver from the PRE, these sources flow with pure water. As well, there was recognition of the difficult conditions facing indigenous communities. Their conditions have worsened due to being displaced from those areas where oil is being extracted, in addition to the general lack of enforcement of the agreements signed by this multinational.
The reality is that PACIFIC RUBIALES ENERGY is Canadian multinational company that is virtually unknown in that country, as we learned while we were in Canada. However, it is public knowledge that this company is investing millions of dollars in Colombia in media campaigns with the aim of positioning the company positively in the public mind. The company is now using slogans such as “Pacific is Columbia,” “Pacific is there for you,” and “Pacific- 100% behind Colombia.” These slogans imply that Pacific Rubiales is a model of corporate social responsibility. PRE has sponsored fairs and events in major cities around the country. On one occasion, the company brought former US president Bill Clinton to Bogotá to go golfing with President Juan Manuel Santos. The company is also a major shareholder in a cable news network, and attempted to buy the major newspaper, El Tiempo. PRE also made a large investment in its image ($8 million dollars) by becoming a sponsor of the Colombian national soccer team.
Many organizations we met with committed to standing with us through our various campaigns and public protest activities against the behaviour of multinationals in the energy and mining sector, especially Pacific Rubiales. A protest is planned for July 13th, followed by a popular tribunal in August to put these multinationals on trial for their ethical and political transgressions in Colombia.
Alejandro Villamar Calderon
Council of Canadians
From Embassy News
By Ally Foster
Calgary-based mining company Infinito Gold Ltd. has served notice to the Costa Rican government that it considers the country to be violating a Canada-Costa Rica investment treaty and the company intends to pursue arbitration.
Costa Rica has not permitted the company’s subsidiary, Industrias Infinito SA, to continue developing its Las Crucitas mine, which has seen operations stalled since 2010 due to legal battles.
The company served notice to Costa Rica on April 4, according to a news release on Infinito’s website.
Shortly after, eight Canadian civil society groups signed an open letter asking that “Infinito Gold respect the will of the vast majority of Costa Ricans and drop the threat of international arbitration.”
The letter, signed by MiningWatch Canada, Common Frontiers, Sierra Club Canada, Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine, the Council of Canadians, the Blue Water Project, the Polaris Institute, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was also sent to Trade Minister Ed Fast and Costa Rica’s ambassador in Ottawa, among others.
There has been no response to the letter from the company, the Canadian government, or the Costa Rican Embassy in Ottawa, said Jamie Kneen, communications and outreach co-ordinator with MiningWatch Canada, on May 9.
Costa Rican media reports and the letter signed by the Canadian groups say the company is seeking the rights to go ahead with the project or else it will look for $1 billion US in compensation for lost profits.
Infinito Gold did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
By Sarah Anderson and Manuel Perez-Rocha
Institute for Policy Studies
In the context of high global prices for natural resources, governments seeking to ensure that their people benefit fairly from these resources and do not suffer from environmentally harmful extractive projects are finding themselves increasingly at odds with transnational corporations.[i]
In these battles over resource rights, transnational companies are increasingly using a powerful and relatively new weapon – the right to sue governments in international arbitration tribunals granted under a complex web of free trade agreements (FTAs) and thousands of bilateral investment treaties (BITs).
This report explains the institutional framework that allows global firms to extract enormous profits in international arbitration tribunals. It then documents the increased use of these rights by transnational corporations involved in the oil, mining, and gas industries, particularly in Latin America.
This analysis is particularly important in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement currently being negotiated among 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. As of April 2013, Japan was also on track to join the talks, and other countries like South Korea and Thailand have also expressed interest.
Transnational corporations in the extractives sector are increasingly turning to international arbitration tribunals to resolve resource disputes.
Documents released from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) under an access to information request raise serious concerns about the conduct of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico. Throughout a conflict involving Blackfire Exploration’s mining activities in the municipality of Chicomuselo, Chiapas that saw an activist shot and ultimately triggered an RCMP investigation over corruption, it appears the Embassy provided instrumental and unconscionable support to the operations of a Canadian mining company in Mexico.
Blackfire Exploration is a small, privately held, Calgary-based company that obtained mining concessions in Chiapas, Mexico in 2005. In 2008, its Payback mine began to produce barite, a mineral used for drilling petroleum wells. The mine operated for approximately two years before being closed by Mexican authorities for violating environmental regulations. Two much more serious scandals involving the mine bracketed its suspension: a week earlier on November 27, 2009, local anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca was murdered; and days later, allegations that the company was involved in the corruption of a local mayor surfaced in the Canadian news media.
In March 2010, United Steelworkers, Common Frontiers, and MiningWatch Canada carried out a fact-finding mission to Chiapas at the invitation of the Mexican Network of Mine Affected Communities (REMA, by its initials in Spanish). The delegation looked into the impacts of Blackfire’s Payback mine in the town of Chicomuselo, where murdered activist and father of four Mariano Abarca lived, and in the outlying communities of Ejido Grecia and Ejido Nueva Morelia, where the mine was located. It produced a report in early 2010.
As part of its research, the delegation met with the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. Although the Embassy repeatedly denied any involvement in the investigation of Abarca’s murder, the delegation knew that an Embassy Political Counsellor had travelled to Chiapas two months after Abarca’s death. The delegation requested a copy of the report from this trip, but the Counsellor refused to provide it. Several months later, the organizations filed an access to information request, and after 19 months DFAIT released Embassy documents dealing with Blackfire. The release consisted of more than 900 pages of sometimes heavily redacted emails, briefings, and other files dated from November 2007 to May 2010, spanning a period from before Blackfire’s mine was operating until six months after Abarca was killed.
Overall, the released documents suggest that in the case of Blackfire, the Embassy provided virtually unconditional support in spite of the company’s behaviour and the Embassy’s awareness of the tensions around the mine site. The documents also establish that Mariano Abarca was known to the Embassy before he was murdered. In July 2009, Mariano delivered a speech outside the Embassy in Mexico City, and in August 2009 the Embassy reported receiving 1,400 letters about Abarca following his arrest and detention based on a complaint filed by a Blackfire representative in Mexico. Even after Abarca had been killed, the mine had been suspended, and corruption allegations had surfaced, the Embassy continued to defend the company to Mexican state officials and provided it with information on how to sue the state of Chiapas under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for closing the mine.
An analysis of the DFAIT documents and ancillary materials supports the following conclusions. First, the Embassy’s active and unquestioning support may have acted as a disincentive for Blackfire to comply with local and international laws. Second, in doing so, the Embassy failed to uphold Canada’s own policies, as well as its international obligation to promote universal respect for human rights.
The picture pieced together is tremendously unsettling, especially given Canada’s role as a top investor in Mexico’s mining industry. Approximately 75% of the world’s mining companies headquarter in Canada, and many of these companies are associated with serious conflict. In 2011, Canada’s Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Counsellor reported that 204 of 269 foreign-owned companies in Mexico’s mining sector in 2010 were Canadian.
Canada’s prominent role in Mexico’s mining sector, and our findings in this case, lead us to make several recommendations, some of which are:
United Steelworkers, MiningWatch Canada, Common Frontiers
Join us to discuss and share strategies to build a peoples movement to stop the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and explore sustainable and equitable forms of trade.
- Eva Portillio - Coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean solidarity network
- Stuart Trew - Trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians and
- Raul Burbano - Program Director for Common Frontiers
Special guests from Mexico and Peru via skype
Organized by the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, Common Frontiers, and The Council of Canadians
Endorsed by - the Canadian auto workers
I would like to bring to your attention my grave concern over your actions and comments that undermine the sovereignty of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and contribute to the political polarisation in Venezuela. By neglecting the facts you are doing a disservice to Canadians and Venezuelan’s alike and adding fuel to a conflict that can only be resolved internally.
Your position as an elected member of the Canadian Parliament is a privilege that comes with great responsibility. A responsibility to ensure that you undertake due diligence when advocating for or against issues or at a minimum, present them in a manner not overly biased as is evident in your works around Venezuela.
It was a delight to hear that you had travelled to Venezuela to witness the presidential elections as this would afford you the opportunity to see participatory democracy in action. In looking at your initial on the ground report the day of the elections, it would appear that the democratic process in Venezuela worked very well;
“I witnessed democracy in action as I visited polling stations in Caracas.” said Mr. Karygiannis.[i] .
This would further be validated by all 170 international observers on the ground that day who also praised the transparency and integrity of the Venezuelan electoral process, “What we found was an election system which was transparent, inherently reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited”. [ii]
Upon your return to Canada it appears you’ve taken a radically different view by coming out attacking and criticizing the Venezuelan government and its electoral process. Going as far as saying it is “reminding us of dictatorships” in your emergency session request to the House of Commons on April17th. That same request also referenced the point that people were killed on the streets, alluding to them as innocent opposition members merely asking for a recount. This is inaccurate and deliberately misleading because a simple scan of any news source would have provided you with the fact that those seven innocent people killed, were Nicloas Maduro supporters and all evidence points to the perpetrators of those crimes coming from the Henrique Capriles ranks. Not coincidently, the actions of these perpetrators also included the burning down of the the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) offices, attacks on a medical clinic run by Cuban doctors and even attacks on the home of the president of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena.
From The Bullet
The capitalist system has exploited and abused nature, pushing the planet to its limits, so much so that the system has accelerated dangerous and fundamental changes in the climate.
Today, the severity and multiplicity of weather changes – characterized by droughts, desertification, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, forest fires and the melting of glaciers and sea ice – indicate that the planet is burning. These extreme changes have direct impacts on humans through the loss of lives, livelihoods, crops and homes, all of which have led to human displacement in the form of forced migration and climate refugees on a massive and unprecedented scale.
Humanity and nature are now standing at a precipice. We can stand idle and continue the march into an abysmal future too dire to imagine, or we can take action and reclaim a future that we have all hoped for.
We will not stand idle. We will not allow the capitalist system to burn us all. We will take action and address the root causes of climate change by changing the system. The time has come to stop talking and to take action.
We must nurture, support, strengthen and increase the scale of grassroots organizing in all places, but in particular in frontline battlegrounds where the stakes are the highest.
We, the undersigned organizations respectfully request the government of Canada to condemn the violence perpetrated by the Venezuelan opposition and to recognize the results of the CNE, which proclaimed Nicolas Maduro as the president elect of Venezuela.
On Sunday April 14th Venezuelans went to the polls in a peaceful and democratic electoral process that saw more than 78% of the electorate partake. After proper audit checks had been undertaken, the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE by its Spanish acronym), Tibisay Lucena declared Nicolas Maduro president elect by 50.8% to 49% - a difference of some 265,000 votes.
Hours prior the results were announced, Henrique Capriles, attempted to discredit the electoral process by claiming on his Twitter account that the government was planning to “change the results”.
Upon the release of the official results, Capriles held a press conference in which he claimed that the victory was “illegitimate” and refused to recognize Maduro’s victory until all ballots are manually audited.
The National Electoral Council has undertaken to audit 54% of the vote, “a statistical proportion that in any part of the world is considered excessive”, and carried out fourteen audits before and during the electoral process to safeguard the functioning of the system. Tibisay Lucena reminded Capriles to use the proper judicial processes open to him to clarify any doubts he has over the result.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) electoral accompaniment mission, present throughout the electoral process, has called for respect for the CNE’s official results. On Monday, government and military leaders on state television defended the official vote count and accused Capriles of trying to ferment violence.
Irrespective of all this, Capriles is refusing to recognize the results of the CNE and called on his supporters to take to the streets in protests. Capriles supporters took to the streets burning buildings of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), attacking government health clinics and even the house of electoral council President, Tibisay Lucena. Their actions have caused dozens to be injured and 7 killed.
We condemn the opposition-initiated violence against innocent supporters of President Nicolas Maduro as an attempt to destabilize Venezuela. In line with UNASUR, we call on the opposition to respect the will of the people and to recognize the results of the CNE.
We call on the Government of Canada to condemn the violence perpetrated by the opposition and to recognize the results of the CNE, which proclaimed Nicolas Maduro as the president elect.
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
Council of Canadians
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee
Latin American Trade Unionists Coalition - National
Ontario Federation of Labour
The Latin American and Caribbean solidarity network
For more information:
Common Frontiers – Program Director
Tuesday April 30, 2013
130 King Street West
TMX Broadcast Centre, located at The Exchange Tower
(corner of King and York)
Canadian mining companies are harming the rights and workers of communities in Latin American. In Mexico, workers at Excellon Resources’ La Platosa mine in Durango are fighting for union recognition. The community of La Sierrita is fighting to assert its rights to a fair share of the economic benefits of resources, and to minimize negative impacts of mining. Together they are organizing to build a future for themselves and their community.
Excellon’s annual meeting will be held in Toronto on April 30. Two members of La Sierrita are coming to Toronto to speak directly with Excellon shareholders.
Please come and lend your voice and support workers and community members in their campaign for fairness from Excellon. Please join the solidarity rally outside the annual meeting.
For more information: Doug Olthuis at the USW (416) 544-5957 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Endorsed by: USW (United Steelworkers), Common Frontiers, Mining Injustice, Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network, Mining Watch Canada, ProDESC, Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Law Union of Ontario, CEP (Communication, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada).
Fuente: Carlos Salazar Fernández
San José, 16 abr (elpais.cr) - Siete organizaciones canadienses pidieron a la transnacional Infinito Gold poner fin a su campaña, de una década, de estar hostigando al pueblo y al Gobierno de Costa Rica sobre el caso del proyecto minero en Crucitas de San Carlos.
En una dura carta, enviada al presidente ejecutivo de la transnacional minera, John Morgan, le exigen retirar la demanda contra Costa Rica, ante un tribunal internacional de arbitraje, donde pretende cobrar a este país centroamericano más de mil millones de dólares.
Las organizaciones resaltaron que Infinito Gold ha tratado de presentarse como la víctima de un sistema judicial caprichoso.
Sin embargo, las Organizaciones No Gubernamentales sostienen que en realidad, la compañía con sede en Calgary ha intentado revocar dos sentencias del Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo y de la Sala Primera en el 2010 y 2011, que anularon los ilegales permisos para permitir el proyecto minero.
Además, en lugar de hacer maletas y salir del país, Infinito Gold ha ido incrementando su campaña intimidatoria e intentó censurar un curso de la Universidad de Costa Rica, que estudiaba el proyecto minero.
Igualmente, denunció que Infinito Gold llevó a los estrados judiciales a dos profesores universitarios, Jorge Lobo y Nicolás Boeglin, por el supuesto delito de difamación, pero perdió los dos juicios. Igualmente, acusó al abogado Edgardo Araya y a los legisladores Claudio Monge y Manrique Oviedo.
Añadió que esas demandas por difamación se dieron porque ellos habían hablado públicamente sobre el posible impacto negativo que esta actividad minera podría tener en un entorno frágil.
Las ONGs recordaron que en el 2012, el Gobierno de Costa Rica consultó al de Canadá sobre supuesta donación de 200.000 dólares a la Fundación Arias para la Paz, del entonces presidente y premio Nobel de la Paz, Oscar Arias, después de que el mandatario había decretado tal proyecto minero como de Interés Público y Conveniencia Nacional.
Agregaron que el Departamento de Justicia de Canadá ya respondió la solicitud de Costa Rica, pero se ha negado a revelar la información proporcionada.
La nota de las organizaciones canadienses expresó también la sorpresa de que el director de la Fundación Arias fuese nombrado como embajador en Argentina.
"El comportamiento de la empresa, y el apoyo público que ha disfrutado de la Embajada de Canadá, ha dañado seriamente la reputación de Canadá en Costa Rica, un país que es un destino favorito para los canadienses eco-turistas", dijo Jamie Kneen, de la organización Alerta Minera Canadá.
Las organizaciones, en la carta enviada a Infinito Gold, piden a la empresa abandonar todas las acciones legales en contra de Costa Rica y sus ciudadanos, y salir del país.
Finalmente, hace un llamado al gobierno canadiense para divulgar inmediatamente lo que sabe sobre del pago cuestionable a la Fundación Arias en el 2008.
La carta fue firmada por: Alerta Minera Canadá; Fronteras Comunes; Sierra Club de Canadá; Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL); Consejo de Canadienses; El Proyecto de Agua Azul; Polaris Institut y Alianza de la Función Pública de Canadá.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pretends to be a 21st Century Trade Deal. It purports to “open new markets and create new business opportunities” for all participating countries. But 30 years of neoliberal free trade is enough to show us these corporate rights pacts only benefit the elite and increase inequality. The TPP can only create new barriers to an alternative economic future where living well and protecting the earth are more important than corporate profits. It will undermine the ability of communities to collectively decide what is in their best interests.
On May 11, just prior to a new TPP negotiating round in Peru, we call on the 99% who are harmed by corporate globalization to oppose the TPP in their community. There are many reasons for people to come together on this date:
- The TPP undermines access to fundamental medicines by extending monopoly protections for Big Pharma.
- The TPP empowers corporations to sue governments for environmental and health measures they do not like
- The TPP restricts Internet innovation and increases the surveillance of online interactions
- The TPP undermines Indigenous rights and human rights
- The TPP creates a race to the bottom on working conditions, environmental standards and all kinds of public regulations
- The TPP prioritizes large-scale corporate agriculture (GMOs, antibiotics, etc) over sustainable local farming
We can and must stand together against this latest corporate assault on democracy. On May 11, we can start to bring the anti-corporate globalization movement back to the streets. Hold community assemblies to discuss the problems with the TPP and the free trade model. Stage creative actions or stunts that draw attention to the TPP negotiations in Peru. Trans-national community resistance put a freeze on the WTO. It stopped the Free Trade Area of the Americas. It can stop the TPP.
For more info: stopthetpp.webs.com
Dear friends and allies
The small country of El Salvador and its citizens are caught up in a David vs. Goliath struggle to defend their rights to water, health and sustainable development. Since the early 2000 as many as 10 transnational mining corporations are seeking to extract gold and other precious minerals buried under its northern mountains which provide the main source of clean water, fresh air and local agricultural production for the country. The National Roundtable on Metallic Mining in El Salvador is a diverse coalition of organized communities, NGOs, think tanks, and faith organizations opposing mining has been successful in halting mining operations and in building local and international alliances to support the right of Salvadorans to protect their natural resources. La Mesa an inspiring force in the global resistance against the devastating impacts of resource extractive industries. However their struggle is far from over, as the fight to defend sovereignty and the right to self determination reaches a critical moment, more support and solidarity is required to achieve a successful outcome.
WHO IS THIS EVENT FOR?
Environmental activists, union leaders, members of human rights and faith groups, policy makers, donors, academics, journalists and those who are interested in building bridges of solidarity with the people of El Salvador and supporting their struggle to put an end to metallic mining.
* Costs - participants are expected to incur include their flight to El Salvador and local accommodations.
* Most food and local transportation to field trips will be provided.
* Organizers will be happy to book a hotel on your behalf and/or provide a list of reasonably priced hotels
REGISTRATION DEADLINE APRIL 30-2013
The textile and apparel sector of El Salvador, the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America, may lose around 22,000 jobs in three years, if the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement comes into force, according to experts.
The envisaged agreement, for which 16 rounds of negotiations have already been completed, would enable Vietnamese textiles to enter the US market at zero-tariff. This may hurt Salvadoran textile and garment exports to the US, and result in a loss of about 22,000 direct jobs and another 15,000 indirect jobs in the Salvadoran textile value chain, El Mundo reported quoting representatives of prominent textile and industrial associations.
Across the Central American region, job losses could reach 200,000 if the TPP comes into effect, according to representatives of Salvadoran Association of Industrialists (ASI) and the Chamber of Textile Industry, Clothing and Free Zones of El Salvador (Camtex).
The TPP would allow Vietnam to import textiles from China and then re-export the same to the US, which would mean aggressively competing with China, which has the most subsidized industry in the world, Cass Johnson, president of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) said.
The 17th round of TPP negotiations will take place in Lima, Peru from May 15-24, 2013.
The date of the next TPP negotiation round has been updated from the original post.
On January 18, 2013, the Hupacasath First Nation of British Columbia took
the first steps toward challenging the Harper government's new corporate
rights pact with China - the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion
Agreement (FIPA). That's the day the Hupacasath filed an application in
court to stop the ratification of the FIPA until the government has
fulfilled its obligation to consult with First Nations about the impacts the
treaty will have on their rights and their lands.
No trade or investment deal in recent memory has attracted so much
opposition in Canada - and for good reason. No investment treaty since NAFTA
poses a greater threat to the environment, public health, First Nations and
basic notions of democracy. If the FIPA is ratified, China-based
corporations will be able to directly challenge local, provincial and
federal policies that interfere with their "right" to make a profit from
energy, mining or other controversial projects. Canadian firms will have the
same "right" in China, which will have a direct impact on human rights and
environmental protections in that country also.
The Hupacasath First Nation is doing all of us a great service by
challenging the FIPA with China. Their legal battle will put Canada's FIPAs
on trial and shine an important light on how trade and investment pacts
undermine democracy in Canada and around the world. You and I need to help
the Hupacasath however we can.
Your donation of $10, $100 or $1000 would go a long way to supporting this
crucial legal challenge. The Hupacasath asked the Council of Canadians for
our help to raise public donations to pay for legal costs, and are proud to
do so. And we are putting our money where our mouth is. The Council of
Canadians is matching dollar for dollar all donations made to raise at least
$10,000 before the court challenge moves ahead.
100% of your donation will go directly to the legal costs.
The Council of Canadians has opposed the FIPA with China since it was
announced two years ago, and has worked closely with the Hupacasath. Our
members and volunteer activists have flooded the government with emails and
phone calls opposing the FIPA and have put letters into newspapers across
the country. The Harper government, in typical fashion, wants to ignore the
opposition to his corporate rights pact with China. It wants to ratify the
FIPA as soon as he can.
The Hupacasath's legal challenge is our last and best chance to stop this
terrible deal from being signed, but they need your help.
Please donate to this critical legal battle. We must stand together to stop
31 years of the extreme Canada-China investment pact, and Harper's
anti-democratic trade and investment agenda.
By Santiago Ortega Arango
Special to CBC News
Tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of Bucaramanga, the country's sixth-largest city, last month to defend their water supply from a Canadian-owned gold-mining project.
The chief target of their protest was Vancouver-based Eco Oro Minerals Corp.
The company is exploring for gold and silver in a high-altitude, environmentally sensitive area that is the main source of water for Bucaramanga's one million inhabitants.
This was the fourth anti-gold-mining demonstration in the area since 2010, and one of the biggest.
But Eco Oro shouldn't feel singled out. It is only one in a string of Canadian mining and exploration companies that have drawn the ire of local communities around the world.
On March 12, for example, more than 10,000 Greeks protested in Thessaloniki against several gold mining projects owned by Vancouver-based Eldorado Gold.
Chiapas, México, March 20, 2013 - The Government of the State of Chiapas has criminally prosecuted in recent months several former mayors for embezzlement, criminal association, among other crimes, that have resulted in a financial crisis for the Government of Chiapas. However, former Governor Juan Sabines Guerrero and several former municipal deputies also bear responsibility for this crisis for approving in an irresponsible manner the increasing levels of debt.
Corruption, however, is also evident in the dealings between mining companies and municipal authorities. In this context, REMA (the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining) Chiapas made public in January of 2010 the corrupt activities of the former mayor of the municipality of Chicomuselo Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón in connection with Canadian mining company Blackfire. To that end REMA released copies of the cheques that the company gave to the then mayor of Chicomuselo.
Between March, 2008 and April of 2009, Blackfire made payments to Municipal Mayor Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón totaling 204,022.69 Mexican pesos, as well as paying for airplane tickets for him and his family. The General Manager of Blackfire, Artemio Ávila Cervera, filed a complaint to the Chiapas Congress in July, 2009, accusing the Mayor of having received unofficial payments from Blackfire to ‘reward’ him for exercising control over local inhabitants so that they wouldn’t ‘take up arms’ against the mining project.
In March of 2010, several Canadian organizations requested that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigate Blackfire for violating Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. On June 30, 2010, REMA and Otros Mundos AC formally asked the General Auditor of the State Congress of Chiapas to investigate the circumstances surrounding these funds, a request that was never responded to.
In September 2010, Blackfire declared before the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre claiming that the company had neither been bribed nor extorted by the Mayor, and that the funds given to Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón were meant as a contribution towards the town’s costs of hosting a local fair. But, “unfortunately”, these “charitable donations” had not been used for the “intended purpose”. Blackfire officials also explained that cheques made out to the personal accounts of public officials are meant for public purposes . On July 20, 2011 the RCMP raided the offices of Blackfire in Calgary, looking for evidence of potential corrupt practices , whereas in Chiapas, neither the state nor federal (Mexican) governments were pursuing the case.
Given the evidence at hand, that includes material proof as well as the confession by the Canadian mining company Blackfire of having illegally handed over funds, REMA Chiapas demands a thorough and far-reaching investigation into the acts of corruption perpetrated by former Mayor Julio Cesar Velásquez Calderón, and those incurred by any state and federal officials who may have been involved to encourage and cover up the actions of the mayor and the Canadian mining company.
STOP THE EXTRACTIVE MINING MODEL!
TRANSNATIONAL MINING COMPANIES OUT OF CHIAPAS!
Ottawa, March 21, 2013 - Reacting to today’s announcement included in federal budget 2013 to amalgamate the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and CIDA, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC)* asks that CIDA’s core mandate and long experience in poverty alleviation be preserved.
CCIC has for long proposed for CIDA to be promoted to a senior ministry with its own legislation. Therefore the commitment made today by the government to enshrine in legislation the role and responsibilities of the Minister that oversees the Canadian aid budget is a welcome announcement.
However, CCIC expects that this legislation will build upon and be complementary to existing legislation that defines a clear mandate for Canada’s development assistance (ODA Accountability Act), requiring that Canadian international aid contributes to poverty reduction, takes into account the perspectives of the poor, and is consistent with international human rights standards.
The important change announced today raises the question of how trade, foreign policy and international development objectives will co-exist under the same roof and which ones will have precedence, if any. Given the recent tendency at CIDA to associate Oversea Development Assistance (ODA) to Canadian commercial interests, there is reason for concern.
“There has been historical tension between the mandate of CIDA, which has long term goals for poverty reduction in the poorest countries, and other mandates of the Government of Canada– such as DFAIT’s legitimate mandate to promote Canada’s immediate national economic and political interests,” says Julia Sanchez, President-CEO. “Even with a separate Agency, this tension has been present; so it will be important to watch closely how this will be addressed, now that the poverty alleviation mandate will be housed within the same ministry as other mandates. Our hope is that CIDA’s mandate will not be watered down any further”, she added.
In the shorter-term, CCIC and its member organizations are concerned about the impact that this amalgamation process will have on the Agency’s already stretched capacity to deliver on its commitments and announced programs in an effective manner. For example, general funding for civil society organizations (CSOs) and specific funding for the volunteer sending CSOs, has been put on hold for the past two years, and new projects approved for specific purposes have been significantly delayed.
The ideal scenario would see the new department preserving CIDA’s experience, expertise and the many fruitful partnerships established between Canadian international development organizations and organizations in developing countries to pursue efforts in favour of poverty reduction, equity and human rights. Before this important transition takes place, CCIC would welcome a broad and transparent consultation process with all key stakeholders in the international development sector - Canadian civil society organizations (CSOs) working on international development, CIDA staff, CSOs and governments in developing countries, and multilateral organizations.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Julia Sanchez, President-CEO: 613-241-7007, ext.323 email@example.com
Chantal Havard, Communications and Government Relations Officer, ext. 311, firstname.lastname@example.org
*The Canadian Council for International Co-operation is a coalition of the key Canadian civil society organizations working globally to achieve sustainable human development.
Award-winning Canadian director Bruce McDonald is sending a message to Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak about that party's plans for the province's unions.
By Stuart Trew
A 16th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade and investment negotiations wrapped up this week in Singapore. Canada and Mexico were there for a second time, and now Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants a seat at the table. If the United States eventually accepts Japan's participation, under the similarly less-than-equal terms that Canada and Mexico agreed to, it could prolong the TPP negotiations beyond the anticipated October deadline, according to some sources. This could increase the likelihood that Canada will see a TPP negotiating round at some point, possibly in July.
"The TPP is turning the Pacific Ocean into an inland sea and a huge economic zone," said Abe this week, as he announced possible GDP growth of 0.66 per cent from a successful negotiation, but also a predicted $31-billion hit to Japan's farm, fishery and forestry sectors "This is the last chance. If we miss this opportunity, it would immediately mean that we would be left out of setting global regulations."
Earlier this week, an estimated 4,000 Japanese farmers staged a protest against the country's entry to the TPP, calling it "a drastic agreement that will change the way the nation deals with food," according to Common Dreams. Farmers are worried about cheaper imports undermining their livelihood, food standards and way of life.
The opposition influenced the ruling Liberal Party's resolution of support for the TPP this week, which paved the way for Abe's formal request to join the talks. That resolution "called for the maintenance of tariffs on key farm products, especially rice, wheat, beef, dairy products and sugar," reports Japan Times. "It also reflected worries that the TPP could hurt the domestic health insurance system, as the trade pact would allow for medical treatment overseas."
Even more worrying for some Japanese parliamentarians is what the country might have to accept as non-negotiable when Japan finally enters the TPP talks, as late as September -- a month before they hope to conclude a deal.
By James Munson
Blackfire Exploration Ltd. hasn’t mined here for three years, after allegations of corruption, murder and environmental destruction forced the controversial project to close.
In turn the privately owned Calgary firm has become a symbol for the industry’s worst excesses. It may be the dirtiest name among Canadian miners.
Blackfire’s misadventure in Mexico spawned a protest movement that reach all the way to Ottawa, and helped propel a an ultimately doomed piece of legislation that sought to give the Canadian government leverage over irresponsible mining companies working abroad — the last time such a bill came before the House of Commons.
Paradoxically, the inhabitants in nearby villages remember fondly the paycheques they once received.
They made over four times as much money working as machine operators than they do growing coffee beans, said one young man in a black leather jacket from Grecia, one of two villages bordering the mine.
But when Blackfire first came here to mine baryte – a whitish rock used in oil and gas drilling that is almost chalky to the touch – the village abducted an engineer for three days after the firm refused to pay them in exchange for using their lands.
The village’s minuscule roads, which often lie only inches from a cliff, were damaged by the rush of industrial activity in this remote corner of southern Mexico.
Kevin Gallagher: Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens national sovereignty, extends corporate rights, and targets China
Video from The Real News Network
By Manuel Perez-Rocha and Javier Rojo
Only a few years ago, analysts were warning that Mexico was at risk of becoming a “failed state.” These days, the Mexican government appears to be doing a much better PR job.
Despite the devastating and ongoing drug war, the story now goes that Mexico is poised to become a “middle-class” society. As establishment apostle Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, Mexico is now one of “the more dominant economic powers in the 21st century.”
But this spin is based on superficial assumptions. The small signs of economic recovery in Mexico are grounded largely on the return of maquiladora factories from China, where wages have been increasing as Mexican wages have stagnated. Under-cutting China on labor costs is hardly something to celebrate. This trend is nothing but the return of the same “free-trade” model that has failed the Mexican people for 20 years.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was ratified in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, was touted as the cure for Mexico’s economic “backwardness.” Promoters argued that the trilateral trade agreement would dig Mexico out of its economic rut and modernize it along the lines of its mighty neighbor, the United States.
Yves Engler: Harper's "condolence" message on death of Hugo Chavez shows Harper has pushed Canadian policy so far right it even jeopardizes business interest in Latin America
Video from The Real News Network
By Rick Arnold
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
It is with a profound sense of indignation that I read about your letter sent in the wake of the death of Venezuela´s President, Hugo Chavez.
Canadians would expect their Prime Minister to take the high road in responding to another nation´s grief following the death of their leader. Instead the letter you sent took the low road in not sending condolences to the Chavez family and for calling into question the deceased leader´s dedication to democratic principles following more than a decade of clean elections, unrivalled in the Americas.
Any sitting Canadian prime minister who met an early end could only dream of such massive outpouring of grief that has seen millions of Venezuelans line up for 35 kilometers to get a brief view of Chavez´s body lying in state.
As a Canadian who was born in Venezuela and has returned on various occasions, I have heard from some of Venezuela´s poor about the difference that significant investment in social programs under Chavez has meant in greatly reducing the gap between rich and poor.
The Chavez legacy has not only included a massive redistribution of wealth at home, but also has been key to catalyzing change in much of the rest of Latin America. Regional groupings such as ALBA, UNASUR, and the Bank of the South (to name just three) were all inspired by Chavez´s dedication to pursuing greater integration among countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a recently published article in the New York Times, the ex-president of Brazil, Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva, stated: ¨If a public figure dies without leaving behind ideas, their legacy and spirit will vanish also.
But this is not the case with Chavez, a strong dynamic and unforgetable figure whose ideas will be discussed for decades....everywhere people are concerned with social justice, the struggle against poverty and a more just distribution of power in the world¨.
Canada´s attitude towards Venezuela needs to change. I would urge our government to send a strong message of support to Venezuela´s interim president, Nicolas Maduro, with a promise to build positive relations in the future.
Rick Arnold is the former Coordinator of Common Frontiers Canada
By Raul Burbano, Kristen Beifus and Manuel Pérez-Rocha
A 16th round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is underway in Singapore this week. Canada and Mexico join the nine other TPP countries for the second time since the U.S. government invited its NAFTA partners to join late last year.
The TPP is a super-sized trade deal-expanding on so called "next generation" trade and investment deals that NAFTA countries have pursued in the wake of the stalemate at the World Trade Organization. This pluri-lateral agreement poses serious new threats to North American communities -- threats that a tri-national movement of trade justice activists is preparing to fight in the lead-up to a possible July TPP negotiating round in Canada.
Since NAFTA was signed almost 20 years ago, all three North American countries have seen good jobs vanish, worsening income inequality, public services weakened through underfunding or offloaded to the private sector, increased food insecurity (in particular in Mexico), and ecosystems on the point of breaking. NAFTA promised a flourishing North American economy that would benefit all. In Jan. 2014, NAFTA has been in place for 20 years and the promised trickle down benefits have not been realized by communities.
Three nations, no winners
In the past 10 years, Canada has lost 500,000 manufacturing jobs. A new United Way Toronto report found that in and around Toronto, Canada's largest city, 20 per cent of people are now employed in precarious, unstable or part-time jobs. This type of employment has increased by 50 per cent in the past 20 years since NAFTA was signed. In this same period, not a single notable social program has been introduced or expanded. Free trade has permanently eroded our sense of what people can do together for the common good.
By Janvieve Williams Comrie
"Racism is very characteristic of imperialism and capitalism. Hate against me has a lot to do with racism. Because of my big mouth and curly hair. And I'm so proud to have this mouth and this hair, because it is African." - Hugo Chavez, September 21, 2005
The death of democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954-2013) has evoked serious thoughts and reflections on the meaning of his life and the process he led from peoples and communities throughout the Americas and the world. Despite much criticism by many right wing governments and people in the West, Hugo Chavez led a process in Venezuela that symbolised the new assertiveness and self-consciousness of nations in Latin America that saw a future for themselves, liberated from the heavy-handed, oppressive and economically draining policies of their powerful neighbour from the North.
But along with the symbolism connected to the new politics of authentic decolonisation that many of the centre-left states embraced, Chavez was committed to a process of providing real, substantive support to states in the region who were willing to pursue a course that could result in a real shift in power in the region. What that signified for many of us in the Afro-descendant communities in the Americas, was that the rise of Chavez and the Bolivarian process that the people of Venezuela had embarked on would raise the spectrums of a new kind of politic in the region. We hoped that with the new commitment to social inclusion and the ending of all forms of oppression that the issue of race and racial discrimination would become an acceptable and indeed an essential element of the transformation process in the Americas.
OTTAWA – Venezuela has sent a formal protest to the Canadian government for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “insensitive” remarks on the death of President Hugo Chavez.
Harper issued a statement that offered “condolences to the people of Venezuela,” but not the family of the flamboyant 58-year-old leftist leader, who died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
A statement from a senior Venezuelan government official says a “card of protest” was sent to Ottawa after Harper expressed what he called insensitivity at a time when their country is grieving.
A wordy note from the vice-minister for North America, Claudia Salerno, said Caracas was protesting “in a blunt and categorical way, the statements issued the 5 of March 2013 by the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, as they constitute insensitive and impertinent sentiments at a time when the Venezuelan people are grieving and crying over the irreparable physical loss of the Commander President Hugo Chavez Frias.”
Harper said in his short statement on Tuesday that he hopes the death of Chavez brings a more promising future for the Venezuelan people.
“At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” Harper said in a statement Tuesday evening.
Harper also said that he looked forward “to working with (Chavez’s) successor and other leaders in the region to build a hemisphere that is more prosperous, secure and democratic.”
AFL-CIO New Resolution on TPP
The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) currently being negotiated has the potential to set a new standard for trade policy in the 21st century—but what has been made public about the negotiations to date is grounds for deep concern that it will not fulfill its promise. American working families need a game change—a high-road strategy that focuses on creating high-wage jobs, encouraging collective bargaining, implementing a strategic manufacturing policy and reinvesting in our infrastructure and our people.
Promoting economic growth with equity in the United States and worldwide requires an approach that couples expansion and enforcement of labor rights globally with necessary reforms in trade and economic policy. These reforms must break from current policies to address income inequality through demand-led growth, as part of a Global New Deal that raises incomes and standards of living for all.
The U.S. trade model, which began with NAFTA and continued with the Korea and Colombia agreements, undermines those goals by encouraging employers to pit one group of workers against another—both within and between countries. Under this model, our trade deficit has increased dramatically—from $75 billion in 1993, the year before NAFTA went into effect ,to $540 billion today (in nominal terms). The NAFTA-based model promotes a race to the bottom in workers’ rights, wages, pensions and working conditions; resource conservation; food safety; and consumer protections. It actively undercuts the public policies that helped bring about the rise of the middle class in the first place. Changing the policies that have promoted the race to the bottom is as important as our work to promote freedom of association and collective bargaining for workers everywhere.
-Read the entire position statement on the AFL-CIO website
Tuesday March 5th @ 6:30-8:30 pm
YWCA - 733 Beatty Street
Vancouver - Coast Salish Territories
Free Event - Accessible Space - Child Friendly
In early March the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations will continue in Singapore with the Canadian Government at the table. In December of this past year the Canadian Government announced that they would be joining the negotiations with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. The government, however, provided very little information to the public and negotiations will continue behind closed doors.
Like all trade agreements the Trans Pacific Partnership is a corporate rights pact where by national governments establish new rules in support of multi-national corporations while undermining the will and self-determination of communities. The TPP is one of the largest proposed trade agreements, resembling the Free Trade Area of the Americas which was derailed by people’s movements.
The TPP is one of many trade initiatives championed by Stephen Harper and his predecessors in order to promote market friendly policies that favor the rights of Canadian mining and other corporations as opposed to the rights of people. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU, the many Foreign Investment Protection Agreements (FIPAs) and the TPP are all part of this trade agenda.
On March 5th we will be joined by Kristen Beifus from the Washington Fair Trade Coalition who will be providing us with a breakdown of what the TPP is and some of the organizing that has been happening south of the border.
We will also be hosting a discussion about how we can mobilize opposition to this agreement in our communities as we look forward to negotiation rounds arriving in Canada this summer. We are looking forward to recapturing and building upon the spirit, diversity and momentum of the anti-globalization movements from around the world. Please join us.
This event is hosted by the Council of Canadians.
For more information please contact: email@example.com
Video from The Real News Network
By Sid Ryan
President, Ontario Federation of Labour
The way that Conservative Members of Parliament like Pierre Poilievre go on about unions dues, you'd think they are familiar with the struggle of the average working person. However, unlike the millions of workers in Canada who are striving to make ends meet, Poilievre is only 33 years old and already has a full pension that he clearly doesn't think other workers deserve.
So why are well-to-do Conservative politicians so vigorously trying to prevent vulnerable workers from advocating for a better life? The answer is simple: because they see worker-led unions as the strongest opposition to their plans to convert Canada into a low-wage economy.
Poilievre's federal campaign is in lock-step with Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's White Paper on "Flexible Labour Markets" that last year pledged his party's commitment to eliminating the mandatory collection of union dues.
By Rick Arnold
Sent to Embassy Magazine
The Conservative government’s proposed reform of Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act doesn’t go nearly far enough to ensure that Canada’s record will rise above “pathetic” (RE: “Finally, getting serious on bribery,” Feb. 6)
I agree with your editorial’s positive assessment that proposed legislation making it easier to prosecute Canadian firms and individuals for bribery in other countries coupled with longer jail terms for those found guilty, is a move in the right direction.
However, Canadian legislators will need to dig deeper to reflect on the reasons for there being only three CFPOA convictions in 13 years.
Through my involvement in the laying of a CFPOA complaint with the RCMP in March 2010 that relied heavily on the suspect company’s own documentation of illegal payments made to a foreign official, I have become aware of just how justice can be thwarted.
Three years later and this case languishes thanks both to the company’s legal maneuvers and to understaffing at the RCMP Anti-Corruption Units.
It took the RCMP officers 16 months after the complaint was lodged before they raided the corporate headquarters of the company in question.
The CFPOA law before the Senate needs to include a set of ground rules that ensure that those under investigation will face a day of reckoning, sooner rather than later. And while considering the Conservative’s new amendments to the CFPOA, legislators may wish to ensure that a bribery conviction for a corporation does not preclude up to 14 years in jail for the senior executives involved.
Parliamentarians should also be thinking about our eyes and ears overseas as figuring into a more robust CFPOA. Canada’s foreign missions often come across evidence (through local press reports or other sources) of improper payments made to local public officials.
Any new CFPOA legislation should require Canadian embassies and consulates to report in a timely fashion on cases where it is alleged that bribes have been offered or paid to public officials, be it by Canadian individuals or corporations.
Finally, any effort to toughen the CFPOA is virtually meaningless if the federal government doesn’t commit to a dramatic increase in funding for the RCMP Anti- Corruption Units.
Join the global campaign for union rights in Mexico and send a message via LabourStart now to PKC, a Finnish auto-parts supplier, calling for the reinstatement of sacked workers and a free and fair election.
PKC sacked more than 100 union supporters including the entire union committee in December 2012 for campaigning for the election of an independent trade union, the National Union of Mine and Metalworkers (known as “Los Mineros”), at their plants in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
Ten of the sacked union leaders refused to take severance pay and, along with another leader who was sacked in April 2012, are fighting for reinstatement and the right to be represented by a democratically elected union at the plant.
You can support these workers by sending a message to PKC in Finland at LabourStart here.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, issued a stirring call for international worker solidarity, speaking at a United Auto Workers conference here last week. He addressed a crowd of 1,500 UAW delegates at the union's annual Community Action Program conference.
"We cannot accept that a company like Nissan comes to America and says they will not accept workers organizing. We cannot allow that to happen," Lula said.
Workers at Nissan's Canton, Miss., plant are battling the company for their right to have a union. It has spurred a broad new civil rights coalition: the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan.
By Rick Westhead
The Toronto Star
A leading Canadian charity says it is considering abandoning a controversial development project funded by the federal government and a Canadian mining company because of pressure from its donors.
Plan Canada, one of three NGOs involved in a Canadian International Development Agency project that pairs NGOs and the government with mining companies, says the mining sector’s poor image threatens to tarnish its own reputation. Some Plan donors have complained the mining companies have enough money to fund their own social programs and that Plan shouldn’t be partnering with them.
“Would we try it again? Probably not,” Rosemary McCarney, Plan’s president, said in an interview with the Toronto Star. “It’s upsetting to donors. People are mad. The reality is that working with any mining company is going to be a problem. There are going to be (employee) strikes and spills. Is it worth the headache? Probably not.”
By Ethan Cox
You know an event will be special when a planning meeting, almost two years in advance, bursts the seams of its venue. Such was the case this weekend in Ottawa, as activists from across Canada converged to prepare for the People's Social Forum, Canada's version of the World Social Forum.
This weekend's gathering, a planning meeting originally expected to attract around fifty participants, had to be moved to a larger venue at the University of Ottawa at the last minute, as over three times that number descended on the nation's capital.
The social forum, which was originally entitled the Canada-Quebec-Indigenous Social Forum before being changed to the People's Social Forum over the course of the weekend, is based on a triadic approach which gives equal importance to the role of Canadian, Quebecois and Indigenous Nations.
This approach may have accounted for the composition of participants this weekend. Almost a quarter hailed from Indigenous communities, while roughly the same number had made the short trek from Quebec. Those are tremendous levels of participation for national projects, which in the past have struggled to achieve meaningful buy-in from Quebec or First Nations.
Roger Rashi of Montreal NGO Alternatives, who along with Raul Burbano of Common Frontiers has been spearheading the social forum project, was thrilled with the progress made over the weekend.
"The weekend was an unqualified success. We had three times more people than originally expected, and the tremendous new development was that thirty front line Indigenous activists, including two of the founders of Idle No More, (see video below) took a very active part in the process. In the eyes of many, this was the first time they had seen so many Indigenous activists fully engaged in a process which involves non-Idigenous movements."
-read the full report at rabble.ca
Santiago Chile -
The following organizations that partook in the Peoples’ Summit of Latin American, Caribbean States and Europe send our solidarity to the Idle No More movement in Canada that forms part of a larger movement that has been resisting colonialism for centuries.
In the past few months Indigenous people across Canada have risen up to reclaim their sovereignty and protect Mother Earth and the water from corporate exploitation. In many cases this is facilitated via free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties that seek to protect investor rights at the expense of communities and the environment. This expression of indignation can been see across all Latin America where diverse original peoples are leading the struggle to protect the earth and their sovereignty, like the Mapuchi People.
We ask the governments of Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe to respect the right of indigenous communities as enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We send our fraternal greetings to all those that struggle for a new dawn and support the Idle No More World Day of Action - January 28, 2013
Red Colombiana Frente la Gran Minería Transnacional (RECALME) – Colombia
Red Latinoamericana sobre Deuda, Desarrollo y Derechos (LATINDADD)
La Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica- El Salvador
Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) – México
Asamblea de los pueblos de Huehuetenango por la Defensa del territorio (ADH-CPO) - Huehuetenango - Guatemala
Otros Mundos- Chiapas, México
Frente amplia opositor newgold-Minera San Xavier ‘’FAO’’ – México
Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería (REMA) – México
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el modelo extractivo Minera (M4) – Central América
Fronteras Comunes – Canada
Observatorio por el Cierre de la Escuela de las Américas - Chile
Comisión Ética Contra la Tortura - Chile
Comité Oscar Romero - Chile
Solidaridad Suecia América Latina (SAL)- Ecuador
Santiago de Chile -
Organizaciones participantes en la Cumbre de los Pueblos de América Latina, el Caribe y Europa expresamos nuestra solidaridad con el movimiento Idle No More/Basta de Pasividad de Canadá quienes forman parte de un movimiento indígena más amplio que viene resistiendo el colonialismo desde hace siglos.
En los últimos meses, Indígenas a lo largo Canadá se han levantado para reclamar su soberanía y para proteger a la Madre Tierra y el agua de la explotación de las corporaciones. En muchos casos esto se ve facilitado por los tratados de libre comercio y tratados bilaterales de inversión que buscan proteger los derechos de los inversionistas a expensas de los derechos de las comunidades y el medio ambiente.
Esta expresión de indignación se ve en todo el continente, en donde diversos pueblos originarios están protagonizando la lucha para proteger su soberanía y a la madre tierra, ejemplarmente el Pueblo Mapuche en Chile.
Urgimos a los gobiernos de Canada, América Latina, el Caribe y Europa a que respeten los derechos de las comunidades Indígenas consagrados en la Declaración de los Pueblos Indígenas de las Naciones Unidas.
Queremos brindar un abrazo fraternal a todos y todas que luchan por un nuevo amanecer y apoyamos el Día de Acción Mundial Basta de Pasividad.
Red Colombiana Frente la Gran Minería Transnacional (RECALME) – Colombia
Red Latinoamericana sobre Deuda, Desarrollo y Derechos (LATINDADD)
La Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica- El Salvador
Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) – México
Asamblea de los pueblos de Huehuetenango por la Defensa del territorio (ADH-CPO) - Huehuetenango - Guatemala
Otros Mundos- Chiapas, México
Frente amplia opositor newgold-Minera San Xavier ‘’FAO’’ – México
Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería (REMA) – México
Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el modelo extractivo Minera (M4) – Central América
Fronteras Comunes – Canada
Observatorio por el Cierre de la Escuela de las Américas - Chile
Comisión Ética Contra la Tortura - Chile
Comité Oscar Romero - Chile
Solidaridad Suecia América Latina (SAL)- Ecuador
By Tria Donaldson
Our country is at a crossroads. Inspiring social movements are meeting a wall of Conservative spin. The incredible power of the Idle No More movement is being belittled in the mainstream media. Conservative forces are attempting to divide Indigenous voices, and paint the grassroots as out of touch and politically naive.
Environmental charities and labour organizations are under attack. Bill C-377 saddles trade unions with accounting measures stricter than any other type of organization has to comply with, and violates privacy rights of employees and contractors. In last year's budget, the Harper Conservatives created an eight million dollar fund to audit charities accused of too much political action, mostly targeting groups fighting tar sands expansion. These policies are meant to create a chill effect on political activity by targeting powerful civil society voices that are speaking out against the Conservative agenda.
There will be organizations/individuals from across Canada including a strong representation from Indigenous groups, indie media, youth, labour and community groups. See proposed agenda. The assembly will set-up the structure and hold initial discussions on the themes, axe, process, date and place of the Peoples Social Forum. The Assembly is free and open to all interested parties.
L'Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) along with a diverse collective of organizations from across Canada have begun the process of developing a proposal for a pan-Canadian coalition that would bring together Indigenous, Quebec and Canadian social movements. This proposal will be discussed at the forum and can be found here.
Idle No More founders and organizers in Solidarity with Common Causes - a new initiative bringing together social justice, environmental, and labour will be present at the forum to share information on the world day of action on January 28th 2013.
Coverage and interest are continuing to build towards the weekend's general assembly, as this article from The Link explains.
Carta a nuestros y nuestras hermanos, hermanas
A nuestros, nuestras hermanos y hermanas indígenas
Nosotros, pueblos originarios de Canadá solicitamos el apoyo y la solidaridad de todos los movimientos de resistencia, de las organizaciones de bases, en cuanto la acción de una de nuestra hermana, Theresa Spence. Ella inició una huelga de hambre el pasado 11 de diciembre con fines de propiciar un encuentro con Stephen Harper, primer ministro, la reina Isabel II, monarca parlamentaria de Canadá y ella, representante y líder de la nación Cree de Attawapiskat.
En Octubre del 2011 (tercera vez, en tres años), Theresa Spence declaró el estado de emergencia en su comunidad del norte de la provincia de Ontario. Ella develó al mundo entero las condiciones precarias en la cual su pueblo vivía, revelando así la realidad oculta; la pobreza extrema en uno de los países más ricos del mundo. Una tormenta mediática estalló en Canadá y la situación de la comunidad aislada cautivó al país durante meses.
Sin embargo, un año más tarde, la gente de la comunidad de Attawapiskat sigue siendo sin agua potable; las viviendas (300 chabolas, 5 carpas y 17 chozas para una comunidad de 1.930 personas) se encuentran a pocos metros de suelos contaminados por la minería (Victor Diamond Mine) y sigue viviendo en condiciones infrahumanas; la dureza del clima de la zona en invierno pone en peligro las vidas de los jóvenes y ancianos.
Ahora, no solamente denunciamos la inacción del gobierno de Canadá sino que también luchamos porque el pasado 4 de diciembre, se sancionó en cámara legislativa la ley C-45. Esta legislación, muy controvertida, viene modificar, entre varias cosas, leyes ambientales (se reduce la protección de los lagos, ríos, etc., violando así los derechos de nuestra Madre Tierra), el Acta sobre los Indios (Indian Act) y la gestión del territorio. Con las modificaciones previstas, se reducirá el poder de las comunidades, transgrediendo así nuestra soberanía además de facilitar la venta de tierras a las empresas, a las minerías, etc.; acciones para las cuales los consejos comunales no necesitarán más consultar a sus bases mediante un referéndum. De ahí también la lucha de la Jefa Teresa; ¡ya basta!
Considerando que Canadá fue uno de los últimos Estados en ratificar la Declaración de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas, creemos que todavía falta mucho por hacer en nuestro país para que por fin se respete nuestra soberanía.
Considerando la Declaración de Cochabamba de 2010 como piedra angular para los derechos de la Pachamama, creemos que el apoyo de las naciones latinoamericanas, sería clave en cuanto el avance de las luchas de las hermanas naciones del hemisferio norte, el desarrollo de las redes de solidaridad y la mejora general de las condiciones de nuestros y nuestras hermanos, hermanas.
Considerando que la ley C-45 violenta nuestro compromiso, nuestra voluntad en proteger la Pachamama, queremos que sumen nuestras voces y que juntos, nos unamos en la lucha.
Considerando nuestra batalla legítima, queremos que se oigan nuestras voces y que se respeten nuestros derechos y los de nuestra Madre Tierra
Considerando la declaración de Evo Morales, Presidente del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, del pasado 21 de diciembre en la Isla del Sol como fuente de inspiración; llamando al nacimiento de una nueva era; era de prosperidad, de paz e justicia social. Recordamos, escuchando a su declaración, aquella profecía resonada en Quito en 1990; la del encuentro del Cóndor y del Águila.
“Los del Centro harán que el Águila del Norte y el Cóndor del Sur se unan. Nos encontraremos con nuestros familiares ya que todos somos Uno,”
Aquella profecía atravesando las generaciones, nos parece hoy más acertada y necesaria que nunca. Sin embargo creemos que se tiene que cumplir para que converjan las energías espirituales, convirtiendo así la lucha en éxito duradero para las generaciones venideras.
Por estas razones, con fines de sellar primero a esta alianza estratégica y necesaria al cumplimiento de la profecía; el Águila del Norte y el Cóndor del Sur y segundo para sumar las voces de la resistencia frente a un sistema que no nos permite existir, vivir, pedimos a todas las organizaciones de las bases que sumen nuestras voces a las suyas.
Volvemos a ser Uno; más fuerte y unido.
Apoyamos la acción de nuestra hermana; ella, fiel representante de nuestra gente, se hizo portavoz y está dispuesta a seguir su huelga de hambre hasta las últimas consecuencias para que seamos escuchados y que cesen las constantes violaciones de nuestros derechos.
Desde el inicio de la huelga de hambre de Theresa Spence, surgió en Canadá el movimiento Idle No More (traducido por “No más inercia”) y diversas muestras de solidaridad tomaron lugar en varios lugares de Canadá, Estados Unidos y Europa.
Por todos estos motivos, hacemos un llamado a las hermanas naciones latinoamericanas para que nos respalden y que se oigan nuestras voces. Tenemos que poner fin a la arrogancia de los que nos gobiernan y que descuidan a la Pachamama.
Desde tierras canadienses, queremos hacerle llegar un abrazo revolucionario y con esto nos despedimos cordialmente,
Idle No More
El texto en español fue traducido del francés por Gabrielle Piché y Marlène Bordeleau.
By Mike Palecek,
On behalf of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign
It is amusing to see the opposition complaining about violations of the Venezuelan constitution, considering that this is the same constitution that they publicly ripped to pieces during their briefly-lived coup in 2002. The Globe and Mail is eager to jump in on the action declaring "The Jan. 10 ceremony is not just a technicality, but a political obligation spelled out in the constitution." Such a statement makes it clear that nobody at the Globe and Mail has actually read the constitution which actually clearly states what is to be done in exactly this situation. Article 231 of the constitution reads, "If for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice."
The Globe and Mail continues to insinuate that Hugo Chavez is a dictator, despite the simple fact that he has won election after election that international observers declare "free and fair". They ignore the fact that he brought in a constitution which is arguably the most democratic in the world and even includes the ability to recall the President between elections. They never mention the fact that former US President Jimmy Carter recently said, "of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."
In reality the reason for the opposition to Chavez from big business and the world's media has nothing to do with his democratic ideals. Hugo Chavez's crime is that he has taken the enormous wealth of his country and invested it into his people, rather than allowing foreign corporations to continue plundering the country. Since Chavez's first election, extreme poverty has been reduced from 40% of the population down to 7.3%. Illiteracy has been wiped-out. Free healthcare and education have been established. The infant mortality rate has been cut in half. The number of doctors has gone from 18 for every 10,000 citizens to 58 for every 10,000 citizens. Every social indicator has seen a dramatic improvement during Chavez's time in office.
This is why the majority of Venezuelans vote for Chavez again and again. I can only hope that such a "dictator" is elected in Canada one day.
By Ken Georgetti & Maude Barlow
Published on Rabble.ca
Imagine a country where the national government introduces and passes legislation that detrimentally affects all of its First Nations communities but it doesn't bother to consult with them. Then a chief of an impoverished northern First Nation community goes on a hunger strike to get a meeting between the First Nations leadership and the government several months after this legislation was passed. Does this have implications for all Canadians? You bet it does. This will not be the last time that individuals or groups will take such extreme measures in response to the federal government's public policy process or lack thereof.
All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude to Chief Theresa Spence's and Elder Raymond Robinson's hunger strikes. These individuals are calling attention to an intolerable situation among First Nations communities. They are also highlighting concerns common to many Canadians about dangers posed by unilateral government actions to the natural environment and the state of our democracy.
The hunger strike has galvanized widespread protests by youthful and energetic supporters of the Idle No More movement. These are all predictable responses to a government that routinely bullies anyone who does not agree with it, refuses to consult, and prefers ideology over evidence when developing and implementing public policy.
Of major concern to First Nations and many other Canadians are two omnibus budget bills (C-38 and C-45) that were imposed upon the country during the past year. These bills each comprised hundreds of pages and contained legislative changes that went far beyond what was contained in the budget.
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