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March 26, 2015

Bill C-51 means return to out-of-control state surveillance, postal workers warn

postalThe union representing 51,000 postal workers, which has a lengthy history of allegedly being spied upon by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP, warned that Conservative government’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation Bill C-51 would bring back the days of out-of-control state surveillance.

“The Canadian Union of Postal Workers knows what it is like to experience out-of-control state surveillance,” Denis Lemelin, National President of Canadian Union of Postal Workers said.

In the early days of the union, the CSIS mole Grant Bristow, was discovered to be working at a postal plant and in the 1980s, CUPW’s national office was bugged by the RCMP.

In the 1990s, the union asked for its security files under the Access to Information Act, only to be denied the bulk of the records, deemed “harmful to the defence of Canada.”

What was released revealed not only a massive surveillance operation on the daily activities of union members, but also collusion between the RCMP and Canada Post management.

The postal workers warn that Bill C-51 would give CSIS even broader powers to invade the privacy of Canadians in the name of combating terrorism

Similar concerns over the bill’s overly sweeping reach was raised by the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuff, who appeared today before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU).

“Increasing the powers of the security establishment will not necessarily make us safer,” Lemelin said. “The lack of civilian oversight and the dearth of monitoring information-sharing between government agencies in this bill is very disturbing.”

“Bill C-51 would make it all too easy to target ordinary working people or any marginalized group and label them ‘terrorists’,” Lemelin concluded. “We should accept no violations of our human rights and freedoms in the name of national security.”

Former Prime Ministers, legal scholars, academics, labour leaders and First Nations chiefs, have joined thousands of citizens across Canada protesting against the bill, which is supported by the Liberal Party but opposed by New Democrats and the Greens.

March 24, 2015

Violent Reality in Honduras Highlighted in Documentary Released on 35th Anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's Death

The most violent country on the planet isn’t halfway across the globe; it is a 2.5 hour flight from Houston. Most U.S. citizens are at best dimly aware of the bloodshed that is the defining feature of present-day Honduras. Last summer, 2014, Honduran children surfaced on the southern U.S. border by the tens of thousands, prompting a Texas congressman to decry this “invasion of our nation.” Likewise, protesters in California met the young immigrants with angry slogans like “return to sender!” But did protesters have any understanding of the situation these youth were escaping? The violence they’d be thrown back into if they were indeed “returned to sender”?

La Voz Del Pueblo is an 18-minute documentary that explores the difficult and violent Honduran reality through the perspective of journalists at the Jesuit-run radio station, Radio Progreso.

-watch the documentary

March 20, 2015

What keeps this Mexican journalist going?: Salutin

A reporter covering the horrors of the Mexican drug wars on the anger that fuels his work.

By Rick Salutin
Published in the Toronto Star

Luis Hernandez Navarro has exhaustively reported the horrific events in the small city of Iguala, Mexico, in the turbulent state of Guerrero. (Photo es.biblioteca-virtual-de-literatura-wikia.com)

Luis Hernandez Navarro was in Toronto this week to speak about the crisis in Mexico after the deaths and kidnappings of student teachers last fall. He’s an eminent journalist and opinion editor at La Jornada, Mexico’s second largest daily. It’s well to the left of leftish papers elsewhere like the Star or Guardian.

He’s exhaustively reported those events in the small city of Iguala in the turbulent state of Guerrero. The students were from one of Mexico’s fabled rural teachers’ colleges, which have been crucial to social progress since the revolution 100 years ago. They were exploring ways to travel to Mexico City to mark the anniversary of a 1968 massacre of student protesters. That included “fishing” for busses which they would “borrow,” and then return. It’s a bit loosey-goosey but so has social order been during the “drug wars” of the last decade. Probably over 120,000 killed; 23,000-30,000 missing. People tolerate informal arrangements. But six of the students were killed in encounters with police and military; 43 disappeared, or were kidnapped. It wasn’t the first or last time but for some reason it resonated nationally and sparked outrage.

It’s routinely mysterious what ignites social explosions, though you can always speculate afterward. In Tunisia in 2010, a street vendor, humiliated by police, set himself afire and the Arab Spring immediately followed. He wasn’t the first or last either. It’s one reason I drifted from my early Marxist leanings: you just can’t “analyze” history well enough to anticipate or manipulate it.

Luis says (in retrospect) that the Iguala events were “the last straw.” Mexico has been deteriorating from a “narco-state” — strong central government colluding with crime cartels — to a “mafia state” — numerous political and criminal elements battling each other chaotically. What resonated from Iguala wasn’t the brutal deaths (face of one student ripped off his skull) but the missing. You can’t stop hoping they’re still alive, though it’s hopeless. And the authorities do nothing, or less: they cover it up, generating more rage. Half of Guerrero’s municipalities have now been seized and governed by local, unofficial groups.

There’s also the resonance of the rural teachers’ colleges. They were part of the two key elements in the original revolution: free universal education and land reform. They brought literacy and hygiene to peasants and still do — though they’ve been under attack since the ’68 protest. They have a legendary status.

And there’s this: in Mexico the revolution never dies away. In the U.S. their revolution is a faded memory, preserved mainly by laughable “re-enactors.” In Canada our relation to our past is so tenuous we must be constantly reminded to recall it. (Remember the War of 1812? Remember last year’s commemoration of it?) In Mexico, history — especially the revolution — always seems right there.

Luis says the momentum from last fall appears to have stalled. The struggle is now between memory and forgetting of that particular event, though others will surely take their place. I asked what keeps him going. He sighed and said, “Right now I am feeling great anger.” He used the word indignation, an interesting term that has recurred in social justice movements lately. I think its appeal is that it contains the term for dignity. Tunisians called their movement the dignity revolution though media tried to label it the “jasmine revolution.”

But he said youth give him hope. In Mexico City, dentistry students asked him to speak about Iguala, to describe “what wasn’t on TV.” They thanked him for telling them what they already felt but didn’t fully know. It’s surprising where you can find hope for a nobler future: dentists. Take note, Dalhousie.

Then he asked why this interested me. Without a ready answer, I said too glibly, Because nothing human is alien to me. Aha, he replied, “Carlos Marx said that too. You’re not as far from him as you think.” It’s true, there was a 19th-century version of the lightning round and Marx gave that line, in the original Latin, as his favourite saying. And glibness aside, I believe it. You don’t have to be an expert or linguist to find things that are common and even inspiring in distant settings. Besides, we’re cellmates, us and the Mexicans, in NAFTA.

March 19, 2015
Media Release

WSF tunisian organising committee calls for international solidarity

IndustriALL Global Union strongly denounces yesterday’s abhorrent terrorist attack in Tunis, which has killed at least 22 people and injured more than 40. The brutal attack at the Bardo museum in the Tunisian capital is a bitter blow to the country, which has had two peaceful democratic elections since dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted by a popular uprising in 2011.

“We will not let you steal our revolution,” was the message being shouted on the streets of Tunis in an immediate reaction to the attacks, said Tahar Berberi, leader of IndustriALL-affiliated metal and electronics workers' union FGME-UGTT.

“We offer our deepest sympathies to the families of the murdered victims and hope that the many who are injured make a quick recovery. Terrorists must never be allowed to undermine the Tunisian people’s desire for democracy and peace, for which the unions have fought so hard,” said IndustriALL general secretary, Jyrki Raina.

To show their anger, the national trade union centre, UGTT, is leading a sit-in of unionists and citizens outside the national parliament this afternoon, to express solidarity for the victims and their rejection of terrorism.

“Unions in Tunisia are united in condemnation of this cowardly attack, which will only strengthen our solidarity. We will emerge stronger than before,” said Berberi.

Unions have played a pivotal role in achieving democracy in Tunisia and toppling the dictatorship four years ago.

“All the civic and political parties have cast aside their differences and are behind the President and the Tunisian government,” said Berberi.

Twenty of the dead were foreign tourists, according to Tunisian authorities.

“In addition to the human tragedy, it will harm the country and its economy,” said Berberi. “Tourist agencies are already cancelling trips.”

On Sunday, the UGTT executive committee will discuss a call for an international conference to fight terrorism which would include global social forces and civil society, said Berberi.

In recognition of unions’ contribution to democracy, IndustriALL held its Executive Committee meeting in Tunis last December to support building a new society in which trade unions and workers are important players.

Next week IndustriALL will send a sizeable delegation to the World Social Forum taking place in Tunis next week from 25–28 March. “The social movement in Tunisia and the region counts on the global support of democratic forces to oppose violence and terrorism,” said the Forum’s coordinator Abderrahmane Hedhili.

IndustriALL will be participating in several workshops with affiliates and social partners at the event.

“Now, more than ever, the international community must show its solidarity for Tunisia,” said Raina.

March 12, 2015

Defend our Freedom: A Day of Action to Stop the Secret Police Bill C-51 #StopC51


There has been a call out to protest Bill C-51 on March 14, 2015 in cities across the country.

The proposed legislation Bill C-51 would clearly allow for the violation of Charter Rights, facilitate spying on innocent Canadians, and create a secret police force with little oversight or accountability.

This bill disproportionately targets indigenous communities, environmental activists, dissidents, and Muslims, many of whom are already subjected to questionable and overreaching powers by security officials. This bill will make it easier and ostensibly lawful for government to continue infringing upon the rights of peaceful people.

C-51 is reckless, irresponsible and ineffective.

We are calling on the government to withdraw the legislation.

We are calling on everyone to do what they can to bring attention to this governments attempt to compromise privacy for false security, while promoting a culture of fear and racism.

Please send a message to your MP, share this event, and join us on March 14!

To find an event near you click here

March 11, 2015

Mexican Network Deplores Conclusion of Canadian Investigation into Blackfire in Chicomuselo, Chiapas

In a letter from Staff Sergeant Les Dolhun, team leader for the K Division Federal Policing South’s Financial Integry Team, based in Calgary, Alberta and dated February 18, 2015 (Reference: 2009-479985) to MiningWatch Canada, the Canadian government delivered its response to the case of Blackfire Exploration Ltd. and Blackfire Exploration Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. with regard to the bribery and corruption in 2008 of then Municipal President in Chicomuselo, Chiapas - Julio César Velázquez Calderón - from the PRD party.

“Thank you for your referral. We have completed our investigation into this matter. The assessment of the evidence does not support criminal charges and accordingly, we will be concluding our file. Please be advised that the RCMP does not comment on concluded investigations which do not result in criminal charges,” is the response. This letter concludes the investigation into a conflict that culminated with the murder of Mariano Abarca Roblero, a member of the Mexican Network of Mining Affected Peoples (REMA by its initials in Spanish). Since 2010, it was clear that the RCMP should carry out an investigation in situ, but that was never done.

Rather, since five years ago when Canadian organizations MiningWatch Canada, Common Frontiers, United Steelworkers and others submitted irrefutable evidence, including copies of cheques paid out to the then Municipal President, the Canadian government has continually demonstrating its partiality toward Canadian companies beyond its borders allowing them to operate with impunity and without respect for human rights. On the basis of the recent report about Canadian Embassy support for Excellon Resources in Durango and other companies in Mexico, it is clear that the Canadian government backs human rights violations in connection with its companies, making it complicit in violence, corruption and bribery.

The Mariano Abarca Environmental Foundation (FAMA by its initials in Spanish) and Otros Mundos, A.C., both members of REMA in Chiapas, denounce the lack of commitment on the part of the Canadian government to protect and promote human rights enshrined in international conventions in the framework of the United Nations. This decision to leave this case in impunity clears the way for Blackfire, which still has mining concessions in Chiapas, to continue with business as usual in a municipality where the installation of a military barracks has just been announced. The VII Military Region of the State in White Rock (Predio Piedra Blanca) will occupy 60 hectares where a batallion will operate and reside. Given this, we also denounce the militarization of a region plagued with mining concessions.

As peoples, organizations and social movements we will continue struggling in defense of land and territory. We will not allow more Canadian mining companies on our territories.

For a Chiapas free of mining!

Mexican Network of Mining-Affected Peoples – Chiapas (REMA Chiapas)

Online: http://www.miningwatch.ca/news/mexican-network-deplores-conclusion-canadian-investigation-blackfire-chicomuselo-chiapas

Translated from the original in Spanish: http://www.otrosmundoschiapas.org/index.php/temas-analisis/32-32-mineria/1912-la-rema-deplora-el-resultado-del-gobierno-canadiense-sobre-el-caso-blackfire-en-chicomuselo-chiapas

March 3, 2015

Action:reAction 2015 student social-forum

ChavezThe Human Rights Committee
of OSSTF District 12
invite you to the upcoming:

2015 student social-forum.

April 30th, 2015
8:30 am to 3:30 pm

Vaughan Road Academy
529 Vaughan Rd
Toronto, ON
(near St. Clair West subway station)

For more details:
follow this link

March 3, 2015

Defend the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
Stop Imperialist Aggression!

ChavezFriday March 6 2015
New Location (due to Cupe 3901 Unit 1 strike)
SteelWorker's Hall
25 Cecil St.
Toronto, ON

Organized by:
Hands Off Venezuela
Hugo Chavez People's Defense Front
Luis Riel Volivarian Circle
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network

Sponsored by:
Socialist Action, Community Party of Canada, Common Frontiers, Fight Back, Casa Maiz, Arts and Resistance, Casa Slavador Allende, Young Communist League, Toronto Forum on Cuba.

March 1, 2015

International Solidarity With The Bolivarian Revolution Week

image1We are popular movements, social and cultural centres, community media, solidarity circles, Union groupings, cooperation networks; accompanied by intellectuals, artists and by people in general who are supportive of the popular cause and identified with revolutionary processes, we are fighting for independence, sovereignty and social justice.

Faced with the attacks on Venezuela by capitalism’s power nexus, we are called on and we call on others to organize a simultaneous week of solidarity with Venezuela. Through exchanging and articulating cultural activities, this initiative aims to bring together expressions of world solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.

These activities, which will take place between 1 and 8 March, plan to create spaces where various peoples can showcase their own cultural expressions: cine-fora, places for debate, rallies, artistic activities, etc.

Organising the ideological and cultural battle

The attempt to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution is an extremely important goal for the international right. It includes systematic propaganda by the privately owned international media linked to other aspects of the capitalist offensive. The ideological arena, the battle of ideas, is a key area for the Revolution, both nationally and internationally.

Expressions of solidarity from millions of people, and in some case, from their governments, is the main international support for the Venezuela, attacked on all sides by imperialism, especially by the most conservative sectors in the US and their accomplices.

This is why we must coordinate this force so that it can have a greater impact. Every advance made in unity and brotherhood among peoples is an achievement that works in favour of the profound social changes that we need all over the planet. Defending the Bolivarian Revolution means contributing to those advances, therefore, we call on all to coordinate our efforts, adding our voice in all five continents.

For more information or to join the campaign send an e-mail to LosPueblosConVenezuela@gmail.com

-Manifiesto (castellano) pdf
-Manifiesto (frances) pdf

Common Frontiers is one of hundreds of organizations around the world (and possibly the only Canadian organization, so far) to sign on to this week of solidarity. To see the complete list, click on the link below:
-List of signatories (PDF)

February 27, 2015

The 2015 Michael Baptista Lecture

Education and Mobilization in Contested Mexico Situating Ayotzinapa

Presented by: The Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC)

posterOn September 26, 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Teachers' College were attacked by police and gunmen in the town of Iguala. Three were killed, dozens injured and 43 student-teachers were taken away, never to be seen again. This atrocity is part of a landscape of violence and impunity carried out through alliances among elements of the Mexican state and organized crime. In response, a national movement of resistance has emerged. This panel of experts on contemporary Mexico explores the context surrounding these events including the rise of drug violence, long standing popular movements among teachers and students, meaningful democracy, and the links between powerful interests in licit and illicit industries.

Note Change of Location:
Nancy's Auditorium,
YWCA Toronto,
87 Elm St
Date and Time: March 18th, 2015 from 5:00 - 8:00
Facebook page

Ayotzinapa Media Release - PDF


Reception to follow - Food and refreshments will be served.

Sponsored by CERLAC, York University, Common Frontiers, and Amnesty International

February 13, 2015

Condemning coup attempt in Venezuela by anti-government forces

demoCommon Frontiers condemns the attempted coup plot orchestrated by anti-government forces to coincide with the commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the violent opposition-led demonstrations that saw more than 43 people killed.

As anti-government demonstrations once again clash with police on the streets, hurling Molotov cocktails injuring five security officials and three demonstrators, behind the scenes the architects of the failed coup were meticulously planning. Details released by government sources indicate that a small group of civilians and air force officials were recruited to carry out the plan, which included bombing the Presidential Palace, the offices of teleSUR, assassinating President Maduro, and installing a “transitional government”. The leader of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello revealed the government has confiscated grenades, military and Sebin (intelligence) uniforms, and a video with masked military officials speaking out against the government and detailing the plan.

The Bolivarian project has undertaken 18 internationally recognized democratic elections over the past fifteen years winning all but one. In 2013, pro-government candidates obtained 54% of the national vote in nation-wide municipal elections winning in over three-fourths of the municipalities. These victories are testament to the overwhelming support for the Bolivarian project in Venezuela.  The failure of the opposition in the electoral arena has motivated them to undertake extreme measures to challenge the government. Under a campaign called “the exit” they have publicly called for regime change and aligned with the business elites engaging in economic destabilization through hording of products as part of a psychological war to create fear and chaos.  

Common Frontiers stands in Solidarity with the people of Venezuela and rejects attempts at undermining Venezuela's sovereignty. We oppose any efforts both locally or internationally that seek to rupture the Constitutional order in Venezuela.

We call on the Canadian government and Parliament to:

Common Frontiers

January 31, 2015

Canadian MPs support for prisoners' rights misses the mark on at least one "political prisoner"

We were delighted to read that your party participated in an event advocating the promotion and protection of human rights on the eve of the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death. We were however, dismayed to see included in the list of political prisoners, Mr. Leopoldo López referred to as a “distinguished” Venezuelan by Conservative MP Scott Reid. López is indeed distinguished but not for being a democrat or respectful of his country’s constitution but rather for his long history of violence and corruption while seeking to destabilize and overthrow the democratically elected governments of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. His own allies, staff at the US embassy in Caracas described him as “arrogant, vengeful, and thirsty for power” according to documents released by Wikileaks.

LopezHe is the de facto leader of the extreme right wing opposition leading demonstrations organized as part of a strategy launched by him and other hard-line opposition members, called “the exit” in English. The strategy led to 43 deaths and hundreds wounded, including security officers, civilian bystanders and members from both sides.

López has made no secret of his intention to ultimately remove President Maduro from office and was arrested after leading a large opposition demonstration in central Caracas on the 12th of February 2014, which led to three deaths and the destruction of the Attorney General’s office. The state maintains that the march’s main aim was to destabilize the country by provoking a coup d'etat. Even fellow opposition members called his “push for street demonstrations as irresponsible”.

Like in Canada, the judicial system in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is autonomous and President Maduro cannot interfere in judicial proceedings; any attempt to do so would be a flagrant violation of judicial sovereignty and autonomy. The government has indicated that proceedings against López are being conducted within the framework of the law and have nothing to do with the president. An independent judge found enough evidence to have López stand trial for serious charges that include public incitement (to violence), criminal association, and property and fire damage. The prosecution presented more than 108 witnesses to support their case. López supporters claim that the delay in his trial is tantamount to political repression. However, Venezuelan constitutional lawyer, Jesus Silva points out that it’s the defense’s own tactic to repeatedly delay proceedings to avoid going to trial and use it “as an international political platform”.

López is no stranger to the criminal system in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and his distinguished criminal record dates back to when he was Mayor of Chacao. In 2008, he was accused of corruption stemming from his majorship when it was uncovered he had diverted public funds from the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A to his political party, Primera Justicia. He was barred from seeking public office for 6 years by the national comptroller-general. López challenged these charges in 2011 but lost when the Supreme Court upheld the ban.

López has been engaged in destabilizing activities against the Bolivarian government for many years. There is well documented evidence that he has received extensive funding from US agencies, such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) whose end goal is regime change.

Lopez is infamous for orchestrating and leading violent protests that lead to the coup d'etat against former president Hugo Chavez in 2002. He played a key role in the illegal arrest of Chavez's interior minister, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín and signed the now infamous “Carmona Decree” which dissolved the Venezuelan constitution and appointed Pedro Carmona as interim president. After the failed coup, López and his co-conspirators were charged but were fortunate that former president Chavez issued a general amnesty to all those involved in the coup.

Most recently, Leopoldo made headlines again but this time in Singapore where the Singapore Research Department opened an investigation against several people for fraud, including himself and his father, for money laundering.

If any Venezuelans deserve to be honoured, they are the victims of violence caused during the protests that were led by extreme right wing leaders like López. The relatives of victims of the opposition violence have announced that they have formed an action committee to seek justice and raise awareness about the right-wing violence.

We applaud efforts to draw attention to political repression around the world but not when it serves the interests of the right-wing agenda in Canada and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Raul Burbano
Common Frontiers – Program Director

January 30, 2015

Carbon Copy: The Economic War in Venezuela

After losing the elections of April 14, 2013, and having failed in their efforts to cast doubt on the electoral results, the Venezuelan right-wing, with the advice of U.S. agents, changed its tactic: they recycled a plan of action formerly used against Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 and launched an economic sabotage aimed at bringing down the Venezuelan government on the eve of the municipal elections of December 8. As a response, the Bolivarian government is working through its institutions to form an alliance with workers and other sectors of the organized population. The aim of this alliance is to combat hoarding and speculation, which are the principal elements of the economic struggle that is now taking place in Venezuela

Carbon Copy: The Economic War in Venezuela (video) from Red ALBATV on Vimeo.

January 28, 2015

Contesting Big Mining from Canada to Mozambique

By Judith Marshall

During a visit to Mozambique in September 2014, I witnessed a protest against Brazilian mining giant, Vale. Villagers from Bagamoyo, adjacent to Vale’s coal mine, were fighting construction of a chain met- al fence through their community. Vale claimed it was fencing off “unoccupied land” leased from the Mozambican government. If a “trespasser” had an accident, Vale would be liable!

Chatting with community members as they made their protest signs, it became abundantly clear that this “unoccupied” land was, in fact, the village “commons”. While their houses were within the village, they and generations before them had lived off land on the village outskirts and even used part of the land as a cemetery. The Mozambican government had included this land in the leasehold with Vale for its mining operations without informing the Bagamoyo community members. Their farms and their mango trees were on this land. They raised their goats and cattle there. This land was a source of firewood and charcoal for cooking, thatch for roofing and sticks for drying racks for cassava roots, and clay for building blocks. Vale had already bulldozed some of their kilns built next to the clay deposits.

What has given big mining companies the power to grab land already under traditional communal usage all around the globe? Why do governments of every stripe – dictatorial, liberal, socialist – baptise these extractive sector companies as ‘development partners’ and abdicate any stewardship role over their country’s natural resources and the rights and well-being of their own citizens?

-download the complete article (pdf 358KB)

January 27, 2015

28 Orgs in Canada & USA demanded an investigation in Honduras

Abog. Óscar Fernando Chinchilla
Fiscal General de la República
Tel. (504) 22215665
Correo electrónico: fiscalgeneral@hushmail.com

Dear Abog. Oscar Chinchilla,

On January 5 of this year, Juan Francisco Martínez, a member of the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz (MILPAH), was found murdered in his community of Tapuyman in Santa Elena, La Paz, Honduras.  According to the Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC), his body was found with burn marks and his hands were bound with laces from military boots. Based on this evidence, Juan Francisco is believed to have been assassinated. Since August, Juan Francisco’s family has also received repeated threats of violence. 

The below-signed organizations and individuals share the worry of Honduran organizations that Juan Francisco’s murder was a direct result of his efforts in defense of collective Indigenous land.  In particular, the organization to which he belonged, the Independent Lenca Indigenous Movement of La Paz (MILPAH), has been very active in challenging a high-profile hydroelectric energy project that has made the organization and its supporters targets of similar assassinations, and left many the victims of death threats, kidnapping, and vandalism. The Los Encinos S.A. dam is part of an energy project funded by Gladys Aurora López, a National Party Deputy and Vice President of the Honduran Congress. Permission to build the project was granted without the free, prior and informed consent of the affected community. This is a blatant violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Honduras has endorsed, as well as the International Labour Organization Convention 169 and other international jurisprudence. 

-read the entire letter
-Leer la historia original en español

January 26, 2015

Canadian MP asks his government for the report on the alleged donation to Fundación Arias


Canadian MP, Peter Julian, asks his government for the report on the alleged donation to Fundación Arias.

New Democratic Party member criticizes his government for not being open and for not releasing information of public interest.

After two requests for information, the Costa Rican Attorney General asked for the case against the ex-president of Arias to be dismissed.

by Manuel Sancho,
published by CRHoy.com in Costa Rica

-read the English translation on Julian's website
-Leer la historia original en español

January 11, 2015

Qué está pasando en Venezuela?

-To enable captions, click on CC in the menubar. -more help

January 10, 2015

Michael Harris shares his findings about the Harper Government at Unifor Ontario Regional Council
video- November 2014

January 5, 2015

Why Is CRA Reinterpreting Rules to Shut Down Charities It Doesn't Agree With?

by Gareth Kirkby
From The Huffington Post

It's what charities have feared. The results are trickling in from the Harper government's program of stepped-up Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audits of charities that tend to have different policy ideas than those of this government -- and it ain't pretty.

Sadly, the early results are in sync with the findings of my recent thesis, which triggered a national conversation about political interference by the Harper government in the workings of the taxman and causing an advocacy chill in charity communications. And that in turn impacts on Canada's public discussions and thus on the vigour of democracy itself.

The first of the latest two charities to make the news include Alternatives, a small Montreal-based development and human rights organization, which has been around since 1994 doing work through partners in developing nations.

Toronto-based Environmental Defence a three decades-old and highly regarded Ontario environmental charity, is the other group to be given bad news, though it has received a reprieve from being closed down so that it can appeal a death sentence. While the main focus of media attention has been on whether charities will lose tax receipting privileges because of CRA's changing interpretations of acceptable activities, the problems faced by these two organizations is of a different, though very disturbing, nature.

CRA is telling them that they will lose their charitable status because their very activities have been reclassified as "non-charitable," that previous finding them in good stead were wrong, and that they should not have been given charitable status in the first place.

Alternatives is expecting to close shop, and it's understandable. Executive Director Michel Lambert told CBC News reporter Dean Beebie, that he expects CRA to offer them a contract in order to continue their work but that he expects the terms will not be ethically acceptable. That's because Alternatives has an approach to its work with Third World partners that respects the ability of the partner to run the programs funded by Alternatives.

Alternatives' approach to partnerships may seem obvious to readers, who cannot imagine that Montreal staff of a Canadian charity would know the details of what is best for Third World partners and their clients. Are charities expected to duplicate former Colonialist power structures by micromanaging the work of Third World locals in order to satisfy the Canadian taxman?

Well, actually, yes. Media reported last summer on the experience of CoDev, a very small Vancouver development charity that works to empower Latin American communities. But CRA upbraided them for not having sufficient control over their partners. Shocking but true. But also, I suspect, also unworkable and so, ultimately, likely to lead to CoDev losing its charitable status in a future audit unless CRA comes to its senses.

-read the entire blog post

December 16, 2014

The Situation of Human Rights and Democracy in Honduras Since the Elections of November 2013

Written testimony of Alexander Main to the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons of Canada; December 9, 2014.
Center for Economic Policy and Research

Thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you the current situation of human rights and democracy in Honduras. In my work as an analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, I focus primarily on political, economic and social developments in Latin America and the Caribbean. For the past five years I have been closely monitoring developments in Honduras and have had frequent interaction with human rights defenders, academics, journalists and officials located in that country.

On June 28, 2009, a coup d’Etat led to the forced removal of democratically elected President José Manuel Zelaya. The coup was followed by widespread repression, media closures and censorship and a prolonged political crisis. Elections held under the coup government of Roberto Micheletti in late 2009 were boycotted by opposition groups and were recognized by only a small number of the region’s governments, among them the U.S. and Canada.

Honduras has long been plagued by poverty, high levels of crime, and weak and corrupt institutions. The 2009 coup dramatically escalated these problems and has sparked significant regression in other areas. Following the coup, the Honduran government’s democratic legitimacy was severely compromised; targeted killings, violent attacks and threats against members of at-risk sectors of society escalated; impunity reached record levels; and law enforcement became increasingly militarized.

In November of 2013, new elections were held. Opposition parties participated, the European Union and Organization of American States sent electoral monitors, and human rights groups expressed hope that the elections would allow the country to begin turning the page on the coup and its bitter aftermath. This hope was dampened by political violence and reports of irregularities and fraud.

My presentation today will focus on the 12 months that have transpired since these elections. I'll offer my assessment of whether or not the country’s negative trends in the areas of human rights and democracy have begun to reverse course under the government of the contested winner of the 2013 elections, Juan Orlando Hernández. I’ll focus on addressing the issues that the Subcommittee has expressed particular interest in, and will also touch on additional aspects that I believe can help provide a better understanding of the overall situation.

-read the transcript of his testimony
-download a PDF

December 11, 2014

Petition calls on Canada to remove Mexico from the refugee list of safe countries

petitionThe Canadian government considers Mexico, its North American Free Trade Agreement partner, a safe country for refugees.

Since the 2012 Refugee Exclusion Act, Mexico and forty other countries have been placed on the "Designated Countries of Origin" list. Refugee claimants from these countries face a different legal system: they have fewer rights and the timelines for their claims are shorter. This enables Canada to fast-tracks deportations to these countries.

Common Frontiers has joined many other organizations and individuals in sponsoring a petition calling on the Canadian government to remove Mexisco from the refugee list of safe countries.

-go to the petition site for complete details
-read a full backgrounder and statement: in English  en Español

December 10, 2014

Anti-mining activist killed and Ecuadorean partners harassed on eve of Lima meetings

by Rachel Warden
Originally posted to www.kairoscanada.org on Dec 4

I have been in Quito, Ecuador meeting with KAIROS partners Acción Ecológica and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) before heading to Lima, Peru for the Peoples’ summit and the 20th UN Conference on climate change, known as COP20.

<students>Today, I visited the offices of Acción Ecológica. I was anticipating a celebratory mood as the team prepares for the gatherings in Lima, but instead I found a strong, collective feeling of concern and grief over two disturbing and tragic events.

Ecuador Youth Caravan SoldiersThe caravan with members of the movement defending Ecuador’s Yasuni national park against the destructive oil extraction (Yasunidos) was heading to Lima from Quito (about a 4 day journey) in a very visible, colourfully painted bus when it was detained several times by police in Ecuador. The Yasunidos is a movement of mainly young people, students and artists who are committed to protecting the Yasuni and keeping the oil in the ground. They are on their way to Lima to present the Yasuni’s case at a Tribunal on the Rights of Nature on Friday Dec 5.

Being young and savvy in social media, the group disseminated information about their harassment and detention. Esperanza Morales, part of the Acción Ecológica team, explained that the caravan had been detained several times, that the Yasunidos had been harassed, and that their documents and cell phones were confiscated. At about 4am, when the bus was detained for a 5th time and they were forced off course and into a small town, the delegation, still determined to get to Lima, decided to complete the journey on local buses and left two representatives with their beloved bus. Esperanza said the government is trying to prevent the caravan from getting to Lima. “These youth, students and artists are the new political prisoners here,” she added. She shared photos of the students being detained, kneeling with their hands on the bus, and of members of the police and military occupying the bus. Acción Ecológica asked me to share this information widely to protect the caravan. The Yasunidos were shaken and delayed, but thankfully no one was hurt. However, these events demonstrate the lengths to which the government is willing to go to prevent those voices from being heard in Lima, as well as the sheer determination of the students.

Ecuador Soldiers
The Acción Ecológica team was also reeling from news received that morning of the killing of Shuar leader, Jose Isidro Tebdetza. Jose Isidro was president of a community in the Cordillera del Condor, in southeast Ecuador, that is impacted by the Mirador Copper mine. The mine was owned by a Canadian company, Corriente Resources, until 2010 when it was bought by a Chinese-owned enterprise. Jose Isidro was a visible and outspoken critic of the mine, which generated a lot of tension and conflict in the community. Gloria Chicaiza, coordinator of Acción Ecológica’s mining work, shared the horrific details of Jose Isidro’s death. He had disappeared last Friday on his way to a community meeting. That morning, family members identified his body from photos. His hands were tied and there were signs of torture. Acción Ecológica was working on a bulletin and urgent action and I will circulate this information when it becomes available.

What was meant to be a celebratory launch for Acción Ecológica’s delegation to the Peoples’ Summit and COP20 in Lima had become an emergency meeting as they struggled to respond to these terrible events, which are further evidence of the repression and threats facing the ecological justice movement and Indigenous leaders in Ecuador.

Tomorrow I leave for Lima. I will be joining a delegation of 30 women from Ecuador and 11 from the rest of Latin America who will focus on the gendered impacts of resource extraction and climate change. KAIROS has supported this work through our partnership with Acción Ecológica, and I feel privileged to be able to accompany the delegation. On Friday, I will be participating in the Tribunal on the Rights of Nature in which the case of the Yasuni will be presented. I hope the Yasunidos will arrive safe and sound and on time to share their testimonies.

-Follow this story in Climate Justice on KairosCanada.org

December 9, 2014

Justice for Aboriginal Peoples -- It's time

December 8, 2014

Leftist Parties Win Important National Elections in 2014

By Asad Ismi

The Latin American Revolution continued to score major victories in 2014 with the re-election of leftist parties in Brazil, Bolivia and El Salvador. This is the left’s fourth consecutive term in Brazil, its third in Bolivia, and its first re-election in El Salvador (see “Social movements and the FMLN’s second term,” October 2014). Altogether leftist parties now govern in 10 Latin American countries, with these latest victories showing a deepening of the revolution, and a growing political maturity and confidence on the left.

On October 26, President Dilma Rousseff of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), which has been in power for the past 12 years, narrowly defeated pro-business rival Aécio Neves by 3.5 million votes. Rousseff describes herself as an economist, a mother, grandmother and wife who has overcome lymphatic cancer. She is also a former member of the Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard, a Cuban Revolution–inspired urban guerrilla organization that fought the brutal 20-year U.S.-backed military dictatorship that seized power in 1964. She was imprisoned and tortured by the dictatorship.

The close margin of Rousseff’s victory is not particularly unusual, since many U.S. presidents have won with similar numbers. This was, when all is considered, a vote for continuity. However, the tight race does signify important changes in the composition of the PT’s base. Where previous elections were won with support from the middle class in the south of the country, this time Rousseff can thank the poor who live mainly in the north of Brazil.

According to Manuel Larrabure, a PhD candidate in political science at York University who is writing his thesis on alternatives to neoliberalism in Brazil and Venezuela, the Brazilian middle class is split: one faction still supports the PT while another has gone over to the neoliberal opposition represented by Neves.

“The pro-PT middle class could be called the ‘progressive’ middle class,” Larrabure explains. “Although there is some disappointment with the PT in this section of the middle class, most of it voted PT. However, some of this section has drifted to [other parties on] the left.

“The anti-PT middle class opposes the PT’s social programs and could be called the ‘centrist’ middle class. Some of this middle class voted PT in the past hoping for growth and employment. However, a significant part of this middle class switched to Neves in this election in part because of the slowing economy and in part because of the fear and demonization campaigns launched by the corporate media against the PT.”

-read the entire article

Asad Ismi is an international affairs correspondent for The Monitor and the author of the anthology The Latin American Revolution, which can be ordered from the CCPA by writing ccpa@policyalternatives.ca. For his publications visit www.asadismi.ws.

December 6, 2014

AFL-CIO letter to Equitable Origin’s recent certification of the Pacific Rubiales and Quifa production sites of Pacific Rubiales

The American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial organizations (AFL-CIO) has sent a letter to the president of Equitable Origin expressing "serious concerns" regarding Equitable Origin’s recent certification of the Pacific Rubiales and Quifa production sites of  Pacific Rubiales and the process that led to it.

"Our organization represents 12.5 million workers in the United States, including many thousands in the petroleum and gas sectors. We also coordinate actions with institutional investors that make serious efforts to encourage socially responsible investment. For reasons detailed below, we strongly believe that certifying these Pacific Rubiales sites was an egregious mistake that will damage the credibility of Equitable Origin's incipient efforts to certify oil and gas produ ers as socially and environmentally responsible."

-Read the entire letter  Attachments (en Español)

December 4, 2014

Partners in Crime: The Mexican state, North American Capitalism, and the 43 Missing Students

When: Friday, December 12th, 7pm
Where: Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham St. (Bathurst & Bloor)

missing boysThe signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement came with the promise of prosperity and jobs for all and the extension of human rights. These are, it needs hardly saying, promises unkept.

On September 26th 2014, over 100 students from a rural teacher’s college were passing through the nearby town of Iguala in Guerrero en route to a demonstration in Mexico City. Three were killed along with three bystanders and 43 are still missing. The families of the students continue to demand that their children be returned alive.

The search for the students has unearthed a number of mass graves and has lead to an eruption of p...rotests across the country. The parents of the missing students have traveled throughout the country meeting with communities that have also experienced killings and disappearances. The family insists it was not simply a local occurrence but something that happens in many places, and that the responsibility lies with the state.

The incident has highlighted this ongoing problem in the country – exceedingly high rate of disappearances and murders related both to the drug war and the state’s attempt to suppress opposition to neo-liberal reforms, reforms which have been intensified under the current Peña Nieto regime.

Despite the human rights violations and repression by the state, the U.S. continues to praise the Mexican President and fund the drug war. Canada is also complicit in backing the state and pushing for business-friendly policies.

At the end of 2013, reforms were passed to open Mexico's petroleum sector to foreign investment and to make it easier for mining companies, many of which are Canadian, to displace local populations for mining projects.

Please join us as our panel explores these and other issues underlying the recent tragedy.


Anna Zalik, Associate Professor at York University, writes extensively on the oil sector and capitalist development in Mexico, Nigeria, and Canada.

Richard Roman, co-author of Continental Crucible: Big Business, Workers, and Unions in the Transformation of North America.

Judith Adler Hellman, Professor of Political Science at York University and author of The World of Mexican Migrants (2008), Mexican Lives (1999) and Mexico in Crisis (1988).

Ricardo Bocanegra Meza, Student at York University, organizer of Mexico solidarity actions in Toronto

For more information see the Facebook event

Sponsored by: Centre for Social Justice and Common Frontiers

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