UNDRIP Bill C-262 finally reaches the Senate committee and Conservative skepticism

NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s UNDRIP bill is inching toward passage. Sen. Murray Sinclair says equating free, prior and informed consent with a veto misses the point (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

If Bill C-262 is to pass before the House rises next month, some Conservative Senators will have to be convinced it won’t create new problems for Canada.

On Tuesday Cree MP Romeo Saganash’s private members’ bill had its first day before the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples.

If passed, it would require Canada to align its laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which articulates the global minimum human rights standards for Indigenous Peoples.

But the proposed legislation, introduced in the House of Commons by Saganash in 2016, could meet its demise on the order paper if its proponents, and witnesses who will address the committee in the coming days, don’t convince Conservative senators the bill won’t have unintended legal and economic consequences for Canada.

“We all acknowledge that Canadians, I believe, overwhelmingly support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Conservative Senator and committee Deputy Chair Scott Tannas told APTN News Tuesday.  But if [the bill] involves more court cases and economic disruption, they’re not in support of it,” he continued, adding Canadians have “never been asked that question.

“We don’t know if they’re in support of it — but I suspect they’re not. So we need to get clarity around this, and that’s our job here in the Senate.”

UNDRIP(From the left, NDP MP Romeo Saganash, Wilton Littlechild, and Senator Murray Sinclair at the Senate hearings Tuesday. Photo: Justin Brake/APTN)

The committee heard from several witnesses Tuesday, including Saganash himself, and Senator Murray Sinclair, who is the bill’s senate sponsor and, a former judge and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“A lot is being made of the possibility that the U.N. Declaration itself is going to become the law of Canada by virtue of this bill, and that is not the case,” Sinclair said in his opening remarks to the committee Tuesday.

“People need to stop suggesting that, because the only extent to which this bill will have an impact anywhere in that direction is that it will call upon Canada to look at its legislation and to make its legislation consistent with the principles that are set out in the Declaration.” MORE

The secretive role of SNC-Lavalin in the Site C dam

Site C dam costs likely over $10 billion, completion date in doubt. Photo by Bob Fedderly.

The embattled company is reaping millions in public money from no-bid contracts for British Columbia’s third hydro dam on the Peace River — a project that is already billions of dollars over budget

SNC-Lavalin has received approximately $120 million in direct award Site C dam contracts, obscuring the embattled engineering firm’s role in building the largest publicly funded infrastructure project in B.C.’s history.

For one contract, SNC-Lavalin provided BC Hydro with a “shadow estimate” — number-crunching to confirm BC Hydro’s figure — for its forecasted $8.335 billion price tag for the dam, The Narwhal found after reviewing Site C documents.

The estimate proved to be wildly wrong, missing the mark by $2 billion.

But that hasn’t stopped SNC-Lavalin — which has been banned from World Bank infrastructure contracts for 10 years following allegations of bribery schemes in Bangladesh — from reaping years of no-bid work on the Site C dam for engineering design services.

Direct award contracts allow BC Hydro and other public bodies to decide which companies or consultants get contracts, instead of going through a more transparent and competitive tender process.

On Wednesday, a Quebec judge ruled that SNC-Lavalin must stand trial on charges of fraud and corruption for allegedly paying $47.7 million in bribes to public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011. The RCMP has also charged SNC-Lavalin, its construction division and a subsidiary with one charge each of fraud and corruption for allegedly swindling almost $130 million from various Libyan organizations.

SNC-Lavalin also grossly underestimated cost of Muskrat Falls dam

SNC-Lavalin also played a major role in the cost estimate for the hugely over-budget Muskrat Falls dam on the lower Churchill River in Labrador, now the subject of a two-year inquiry to determine why the project proceeded. MORE


Nine things B.C. can learn from the Muskrat Falls dam inquiry

Young Women, Disobey

Giselle Portenier’s documentary In The Name Of Your Daughter documents the women and men working to end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in rural Tanzania. While adults are helping, it is often girls, some as young as six years of age, who are refusing to submit. The film is screening at the Vancity Theatre on Sunday, June 2 as part of the Women Deliver Conference (June 3 to 6) in Vancouver.

From forced female mutilation to climate dangers, radical change is needed now. The girls get it

Global Climate Strike in London on March 15 this year. Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr, public domain.

Girls are taught to obey.

It starts early with the admonition to be nice, be sweet, do not upset, insult or talk back. Above all be law-abiding and do as you’re told.

From the right to control your own body to the necessity of saving the planet, direct action makes a difference, but it also requires considerable courage. Nothing makes this more explicit than a tiny little girl standing up to family, community and centuries of tradition and saying no.But real change comes when girls don’t do as they’re told.

When Swedish environmental teen activist Greta Thunberg addressed the World Summit in Vienna this week, she stated the brutal truth about our climate emergency in clear and precise language.

The school strikes for climate change that Thunberg precipitated are only one of the many civil disobedience campaigns that young women are leading around the world.

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Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg is known for initiating the movement of school strikes for climate last year, when she was 15.Photo by European Parliament via FlickrCC BY 2.0. 

Women Deliver Conference (June 3 to 6) in Vancouver is the largest conference in the world that focuses on gender equality and the health, rights and well being of girls and women. Held every three years in different cities around the globe, the 2019 Conference will host 6,000 delegates, panelists and invited speakers, all addressing issues that directly impact women. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Tarana Burke and Melinda Gates are among the most high-profile speakers, but the list of attendees is remarkable. Everyone from the UN’s Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights to the president of Ethiopia will be in attendance. MORE 


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal: The Canadian Connection

How Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis are helping AOC reboot US politics.

Echoes of the ‘Leap Manifesto’: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses the Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University in Washington, May 13, 2019. Photo by Cliff Owen, AP Photo.

Avi Lewis put the final touches on his script draft, hit send, and waited to find out if he’d be making history with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Lewis is the filmmaker and former CBC host who has collaborated on documentaries with his spouse Naomi Klein, famously the author of global bestsellers No LogoThe Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — or AOC as her many supporters call her — broke all the rules when she knocked off a powerful, 10-term Democratic member of Congress by running as a “democratic socialist” to win her Bronx and Queens seat.

At age 29, AOC was the big story on election night in November 2018 and still is, thanks to her deft use of social media and her bold policy proposals, notably the Green New Deal, her resolution to transition the American economy off fossil fuels by 2030 and guarantee a green job to anybody who wants one. When Klein proposed she be central to a short film about what could result, Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest.

‘Our plan for a world and a future worth fighting for.’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks May 13, 2019, at the wind-up town hall event of the Green New Deal tour organized by the Sunrise Movement. Other speakers included presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Naomi Klein. Photo via Shutterstock

…several of the Canadian thinkers responsible for the Leap Manifesto, a 2015 plan to completely shift Canada away from fossil fuels by 2050, are now playing pivotal roles in shaping and promoting the U.S. Green New Deal. First and foremost: Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis.

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B.C. passes law to increase sales of zero emission vehicles

Driving an electric vehicle is six times less expensive that driving a gas-powered vehicle, according to BC Hydro. A third of British Columbians expect their next car to be electric—even more are interested.

Legislation calls for 10 per cent of new cars sold in 2025 to be zero emission

According to a new B.C. law, all new light-duty car and truck sales in the province must be zero emission by 2040. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Zero emission vehicles are quickly gaining traction in B.C. — sales went from four per cent of new cars last year to six per cent in the first quarter of 2019 — but the provincial government is aiming for much more than that.

The Zero-Emission Vehicles Act (ZEVA), passed on Wednesday, sets a target of 10 per cent of all new light-duty cars and trucks sold in B.C. to be zero emission by 2025. By 2040, they’ll all need to be emission free.

Zero emission vehicles include battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

For Clean Energy Canada policy director Dan Woynillowicz, the new law is a welcome tool to make sure consumers can actually find the cars they’re looking for.

“This is going to go a long way toward addressing a problem we’ve had in British Columbia, which is we have more British Columbians interested in buying electric cars than we have electric cars on dealership lots,” said Woynillowicz. MORE


New law makes it easier for British Columbians to buy electric cars

Todd Smith, Let the tourists know that we are not as stupid as they think we are

Holding the provincial government accountable, Jen Ackerman suggests a solid plan to do some good for the planet and our future in Prince Edward County. Have you written your letter?

Image result for hedgerows edward county
For 200 years, Prince Edward County has been an agricultural community protected from industrial and urban development. Photo: Court Noxon

Mr. Smith,

Last week the County declared a climate emergency, like many other cities and Counties throughout Ontario. What do you suppose would be a good start to proving that we, the residents of the County, actually care about climate change and the fate of the planet? Will you and Mr, Ford simply brush it off and turn a blind eye to the fact that we are strongly pushing to have changes made?

We are telling you loud and clear that we do not want to see any more slashes and devastating decisions that favour only rich developers and not the environment.

Do you have a solid plan to do some good for the planet and our future, or are you going to continue with the wrecking ball theme that you have so clearly been using ?

Some suggestions for you to act on in order to work with the County residents that strongly spoke up for the Climate Emergency Declaration are,

First, let the White Pines Wind Farm start creating clean green energy, since they are standing idle and doing no good for anyone.

Let the tourists know that we in the County are not as stupid as they think we are. Many dozens of tourists have come into my shop, in total disbelief that a government could do such a wasteful , backwards move , as to cancel this project. When I tell them the whole story, they get quite angry at you and Mr. Ford for doing more harm to our already suffering planet.

These visible symbols of hope, standing so gracefully,for all to see,need to be working, as part of our action to try to reverse the effects of climate change.

That is why the County has declared an emergency, because there is one, and it is getting more obvious each and every day.

While our beneficial wind project is being completed (which will only take a few weeks ) and the turbines are getting ready to spin, we need to focus on plastic use, and pushing people to stop the careless and unnecessary use of one time use plastics.

Image result for plastic shopping bagsGrocery stores need to do away with plastic bags, plastic packaging and plastic products such as straws, so consumers get in the habit of using reusable bags and containers.

Another idea is to put the rebate back in place for electric car buyers, so that more people will stop using gas guzzling vehicles and go clean.

Image result for trees prince edward county

Another thought is to start replacing each tree taken down by the County along roadsides, with two new ones. Better yet, stop killing all the trees, when they are mainly sugar maples with no health issues. Get someone from Trees for Life because they know trees and are best to asses the health/safety of these trees.

As well as that the clearing of hedge rows must be stopped. Farmers always left them for a reason, now money and greed once again rule and killing the habitat and occupants of the hedgerows has become another reckless and nearsited decision.

Another suggestion to show the County recognizes that we are in a climate emergency,is to stop clear cutting for housing developments, build on non agricultural and non forested/ water habitat areas.

Stop putting money ahead of the health and the well being of all who are living here,

The suggestions are many, but it takes action to put the ideas into motion.So , Mr. Smith and all other politicians, what is YOUR plan to help with this emergency ?

Jen Ackerman Milford

Green Wave Sweeps European Parliament

A “green wave” swept the European Parliament on May 26, 2019 as Green parties across Europe had their strongest-ever EU parliamentary election performance. Bas Eickhout (left, the Netherlands) and Ska Keller (right, Germany) are two of these recently-elected Green European parliament members. (Photo: © Sien Verstraeten / European Greens)

The European Parliament ushered in a new wave of Green party members for its 2019 election. Jon Henley, Europe correspondent for the Guardian, talks about what’s on the Green party agenda and how deconsolidated power in the European Parliament will encourage parties to compromise.


BASCOMB: From PRI and the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios at the University of Massachusetts Boston, this is Living on Earth. I’m Bobby Bascomb, in for Steve Curwood.

Every 5 years, citizens of the European Union elect new representatives for the EU Parliament. And in the elections that wrapped up on May 26, voters gave a clear signal that the environment was high on their list of priorities. Green party members gained roughly 20 seats on top of the 51 they had previously, many at the expense of some center-left seats. For more, Jon Henley, a Europe correspondent for the Guardian, joins me now from Paris. Welcome to Living on Earth, Jon!

HENLEY: Thank you.

BASCOMB: So, Jon, just how big and where were the Green party’s wins this go-around in the EU Parliament elections?

HENLEY: Well, they were, they were big. And they were unexpected. I guess the big standout performance was in Germany, where the Green Party actually finished second, behind the ruling sort of center-right conservatives of the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and they beat her coalition partners, who are the big Social Democrat, kind of center-left Party in Germany. And they came in on around about 18%. I mean, they basically doubled their score in Germany over the previous European Parliament elections. So, they finished second in Germany, they also finished second in Finland. And really surprisingly, something that nobody saw coming at all, they finished third in France, where they’re led by a, kind of a former leading Greenpeace official in France called Yannick Jadot. And they stole a lot of votes, particularly from the sort of Democrat center-left party in France.

BASCOMB: What do you think propelled so many people to vote for the Green Party this time?

The Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg, France is the seat of the European Parliament and its 751 members. (Photo: Oprea Marius on Unsplash)

HENLEY: Well, there’s several reasons. The main one, I guess, pretty obviously, is that the climate crisis has really shot up everybody’s agenda in Europe over the last few months. We’ve had the kind of Friday for Future protests, which have got masses of young people — school students and, and college students — out on the streets, you know, in towns and cities around Europe. We’ve had the two big kind of UN Climate reports, really saying that, effectively, time is running out.

So, people have become a lot more conscious of the whole climate debate in Europe, and they turn logically enough to the party that has had a very strong stance on the environment for many years now, which is the Greens. That’s one factor.

A second factor, particularly in kind of northwestern Europe — countries like Sweden, and Germany, and Denmark, and the Netherlands — increasingly, the national Green parties in those countries are either in the national government, like they are, for example, in Sweden, they’re part of the governing coalition that runs the country, or they’re in kind of regional governments and local government. That’s particularly the case in Germany, they co-run 11 out of the 16 German states. And they’ve proved themselves to be very responsible, and very effective in government. And as one sort of political scientist said to me the other day, you know, when you compare the Greens, who’ve been in government, local and national government, to the kind of wackier fringes that you see, you know, coming up on the kind of nationalist, populist end of the spectrum, then, you know, if you’re a reasonably progressive voter, then the Greens really start to look like the adults in the room.

And I guess the final reason is that they’re really benefiting from a trend that we’ve seen across Europe over the last two or three, four years, which is a complete kind of fragmentation of the political landscape. Basically, the two big parties that have run most European countries since the end of the Second World War, kind of the center-right, Christian Democrat, kind of conservative parties, and the center-left Socialist, Social Democrat parties — are really kind of shrinking quite quite rapidly and quite fast. And they’re being supplanted by, or they’re losing lots of votes to, a whole range of smaller parties, both on the, on the right, on the far right, so the kind of nationalist populist fringe, but also on the left. And the Greens are very much part of that progressive move. MORE

Kids Face Rising Health Risks from Climate Change, Doctors Warn as Juliana Case Returns to Court

“The lawsuit is based on the public trust doctrine, a legal concept that the government holds resources such as land, water or fisheries in trust for its citizens. Climate litigators contend that the government is a trustee of the atmosphere, too, and the young plaintiffs argue that the government abrogated its duty to limit fossil fuel use and cut greenhouse gases, despite knowledge for decades that combustion of fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and changes the climate.” 

A federal appeals court hears arguments today as the government tries again to get the children’s climate lawsuit dismissed.

Young plaintiffs in the children's climate lawsuit are already feeling the effects of climate change. Credit: Robin Loznak
Young plaintiffs in the children’s climate lawsuit are already feeling the effects of climate change. Public health experts, including major health organizations and former U.S. surgeons general, warn the health risks will only get worse. Credit: Robin Loznak

The 21 children and young adults suing the federal government over climate change argue that they and their generation are already suffering the consequences of climate change, from worsening allergies and asthma to the health risks and stress that come with hurricanes, wildfires and sea level rise threatening their homes.

As their case heads back to court this week, some of the heaviest hitters in the public health arena—including 15 major health organization and two former U.S. surgeons general—are publicly backing them up.

Today’s children will feel the health impacts of climate change into adulthood if the federal government doesn’t transition away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, public health experts wrote in a letter published May 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), echoing a larger court brief signed onto by major health organizations.

“More frequent and longer heat waves, increasing intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts and wildfires, worsening infectious-disease exposures, food and water insecurity, and air pollution from fossil-fuel burning all threaten to destabilize our public health and health care infrastructure,” the authors wrote.