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Tune in to the Green New Deal's stop in Vancouver tonight at 7PM PT

Sat, 2019-06-22 03:50
rabble staff

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

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

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

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

NDP links environment with economic justice to head off Green challenge

Sat, 2019-06-22 03:38
June 21, 2019NDP links environment with economic justice to head off Green challengeThe NDP has released its full set of election campaign commitments early, in the hope that those policy proposals will become a key part of the national conversation leading up to the October vote.

NDP links environment with economic justice to head off Green challenge

Sat, 2019-06-22 03:31
Karl Nerenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True threat to liberal democracies is not the spectre of socialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

A Pride list: incomplete and heartbreaking

Fri, 2019-06-21 23:15
Roy Mitchell
  • I've been called "righteous," "a troublemaker."

  • I've been told to "slow down."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Elizabeth Littlejohn

Public education has economic payoff, says report

Fri, 2019-06-21 03:21
Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: michael_swan/Flickr

public educationeducation fundingJim StanfordJune 21, 2019Denying globalization's downside won't stop right-wing populismTrue believers may think that merely educating citizens about how trade deals really are good for everyone will save the day for globalization. But there's a much deeper problem.Let's sustain the activist momentum to support Ontario's public education systemThe Activist Toolkit followed up with organizers in the crowd and put together this blog to report on the tools activists have developed in their organizing efforts.Ontario education cuts mean fewer teachers, fewer courses and fewer programsThe government's announcement that it will raise average class sizes in secondary schools is a variation on an old trick: distract people with one hand while you pick their pocket with the other.

Instead of squabbling over scarce jobs and incomes, we should jointly strive for a fair economic system

Fri, 2019-06-21 02:55
June 20, 2019Instead of squabbling over scarce jobs and incomes, we should jointly strive for a fair economic systemThere is no shortage of money in Canada. Our per-capita GDP has more than doubled over the past 50 years. But its dispersal has been ruthlessly skewed to favour the most opulent among us.

Will you stand against the right?

Fri, 2019-06-21 01:33
Antonia Zerbisias

Dear rabble readers:

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

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

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

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

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

But we've been here before.

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

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

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

Will you answer the call?

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

In solidarity,

Antonia Zerbisias

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

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

And:

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

Instead of squabbling over scarce jobs and incomes, we should jointly strive for a fair economic system

Thu, 2019-06-20 23:27
Ed Finn

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

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

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

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

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

Maldistribution of income

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

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

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

Corporate oppression unchallenged

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of mice and men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Alec Perkins/Wikimedia Commons

Federal unions speak out against P3; new pilot for care workers offers respite; and Manitoba nurses protest health-care changes

Thu, 2019-06-20 22:28
Zaid Noorsumar

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

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

Trudeau government announces new pilots for care workers

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

New security rules making it tougher to find seasonal farm workers

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

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

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

Health-care changes creating toxic work environment, say nurses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Aid Saskatchewan and CUPE at impasse

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

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

Photo: PSAC/Facebook

 

U.S. Congress marks Juneteenth with historic hearings on reparations and poverty

Thu, 2019-06-20 21:43
Anti-RacismUS Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: The COM Library/Flickr

SlaveryreparationspovertyAmy GoodmanDenis MoynihanJune 20, 2019Harvard lawsuit evokes the ugly legacy of slaveryThe ownership of daguerreotypes that feature enslaved men and women, and controlled by Harvard University, is a legal question that strikes at the heart of slavery.Racism can't be scrubbed awayThe legacy of slavery in the United States lives on in countless, often deadly, ways. Racism, like the shoe polish Virginia's Governor Northam used on his face, can't simply be scrubbed away.Canadians need a reality check about who exactly experiences hate crimesContrary to what groups like B'nai Brith Canada would have us believe, the main targets of violence in Canada are not Jews, but people of colour.

TMX gets the nod from Justin Trudeau's cabinet -- masterstroke or master blunder?

Thu, 2019-06-20 01:19
June 19, 2019TMX gets the nod from Justin Trudeau's cabinet -- masterstroke or master blunder? The PM's comments in 2016 about why he approved the TMX suggest Liberal talk's as cheap as gasoline in Edmonton after Premier Jason Kenney tore up the NDP's carbon levy.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper threatens to sue former classmates over allegations

Wed, 2019-06-19 21:17
David J. Climenhaga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Andrew Scheer/Flickr

TMX gets the nod from Justin Trudeau's cabinet -- masterstroke or master blunder?

Wed, 2019-06-19 13:23
David J. Climenhaga

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

It's too soon to tell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two things are guaranteed, though:

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

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

Photo: Adam Scotti/PMO

Canada has a long history of ignoring reports like that of the MMIWG inquiry

Tue, 2019-06-18 22:37
June 18, 2019Canada has a long history of ignoring reports like that of the MMIWG inquiryThe hullabaloo over the inquiry's use of the word genocide has obscured its broader message, and that is more than a pity. It is a tragedy.

Bogus concerns about pharmacare's affordability contrived by conservatives to block or delay it

Tue, 2019-06-18 22:29
Ed Finn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Mpelletier1/Wikimedia Commons

Canada has a long history of ignoring reports like that of the MMIWG inquiry

Tue, 2019-06-18 22:28
Karl Nerenberg

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

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

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

Those families had ample reason for their mistrust.

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

But the report's scope goes far beyond policing.

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

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

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

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

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

Many previous studies made similar recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

NDP unveils 2019 electoral program with 'New Deal for People'

Tue, 2019-06-18 21:23
NDPPolitics in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Jagmeet Singh/Facebook

2019 federal electionDuncan CameronJune 18, 2019The NDP and the Waffle: 50 years later survival takes on a new meaning Fifty years ago, the NDP rejected a resolution calling for an independent socialist Canada. What happened in 1969 and what does it mean for the NDP today?The NDP can be renewed by the Waffle, NPI and Leap manifestosIf the NDP are truly going to renew their party, they must integrate the lessons learned for the three manifestos: the Waffle, the NPI and the Leap.Which party has a plan to address the greatest threat to the planet?We need to know what the politicians plan to do about climate change.

Five actions to take on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Tue, 2019-06-18 20:32
Maya Bhullar

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

1. Stop exposure to toxic waste.

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

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

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

2. Stand with women.

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

3. Stand with land and water defenders.

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

4. Stand for clean drinking water.

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

5. Don't be fickle.

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

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

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

It's time for a frank talk about the T-word: Just who's advocating treason anyway?

Tue, 2019-06-18 12:54
David J. Climenhaga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readers will get the picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Alberta Fights Back/Facebook

Behind Vancouver's massive and mysterious Women Deliver conference

Tue, 2019-06-18 10:20
Penney Kome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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