Firms making billions from ‘highly hazardous’ pesticides, analysis finds

Use of harmful chemicals is higher in poorer nations, according to data analysed by Unearthed

 A farmer without a mask sprinkles pesticide on crops in India. Photograph: Sanjay Baid/EPA

The world’s biggest pesticide companies make billions of dollars a year from chemicals found by independent authorities to pose high hazards to human health or the environment, according to an analysis by campaigners.

The research also found a higher proportion of these highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) in the companies’ sales in poorer nations than in rich ones. In India, 59% of sales were of HHPs in contrast to just 11% in the UK, according to the analysis.

The data from Phillips McDougall, the leading agribusiness analysts, are from buyer surveys focused on the most popular products in the 43 nations that buy the most pesticides. It was obtained and analysed by Unearthed, a journalism group funded by Greenpeace UK, and the Swiss NGO Public Eye.

The pesticides market is dominated by five companies – Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, FMC and Corteva (formerly Dow and DuPont). These companies sold $4.8bn of products containing HHPs in 2018, making up more than 36% of all their income, according to the analysis. Bayer said the analysis was “misleading” but declined to provide its own figures. Some companies also disputed the list of HHPs used.

The Unearthed and Public Eye analysis calculated that almost a quarter of sales by the big five were of products containing pesticides linked to human health effects, including known or presumed carcinogens, while 10% came from pesticides toxic to bees. Another 4% of sales were of chemicals that are acutely toxic to humans, the analysis found. About 200,000 suicides each year are attributed to pesticide poisoning, almost all in developing countries.

In rich countries, the average proportion of sales that were HHPs was 27% compared with 45% in low and middle income countries, reaching as high as 65% in South Africa, according to the analysis.

global survey of pesticide management in 2018 by the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found “various critical shortcomings”, with countries needing to strengthen their rules and enforcement to “minimise their harmful effects on humans and the environment”.

Baskut Tuncak, UN special rapporteur on hazardous substances and human rights, said: “It is inappropriate for companies to earn such significant income from HHPs in this day and age. The continued use of these products is unsustainable and is causing a multitude of human rights violations around the world.”

A report in 2017 co-authored by Tuncak accused pesticide companies of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and lobbying of governments, which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”. It also said the idea that pesticides were essential to feed a fast-growing global population was “a myth”.

Unearthed used a list of 330 HHPs compiled by Pesticide Action Network International (PAN), based on judgments from authorities such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, European Union bodies, the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants and the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The FAO and WHO classify some but not all of these pesticides as HHPs on their list and a spokesman for BASF said the PAN list was “inflated”. Keith Tyrell, director of PAN UK, said: “Efforts to strengthen the UN’s approach are consistently blocked by the pesticide industry.”

Croplife International, the pesticide industry’s lobby group, has accepted that 15% of the chemicals its members sell are HHPs, but said many of these can be used safely in practice.

“Our members support the [voluntary] FAO International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management,” said a CropLife International spokeswoman. “We support countries to identify, and if necessary, remove HHPs from their markets.” Neither CropLife International nor the five companies responded to a request for an example of the voluntary removal of an HHP.

“Pesticides identified on the PAN list are often classified based on the acute toxicity of the active ingredient rather than the formulated product, which is not consistent with practical use,” said the CropLife International spokeswoman.

Tyrell said: “Pesticide companies refuse to publish information on the ingredients contained in their products so the UN and others, including PAN, are forced to look solely at the toxicity of the active ingredient.”

Bayer also disputes PAN’s list. For example, PAN includes Bayer’s glyphosate on its list based on the 2015 conclusion of the IARC that it is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. But Bayer says glyphosate should not be on the list, based on the conclusions of other bodies, such as the European Chemical Agency in 2017.

A spokesman for Bayer said the differing sales from nation to nation reflected the different needs of farmers: “Agriculture is very different from region to region due to different climates, pests, diseases and crops. In Brazil, for example, farmers must manage pests such as Asian Soybean Rust or insect pressure which don’t exist in Europe.”

He also disputed the financial analysis by Unearthed and Public Eye: “Bayer finalised the acquisition of Monsanto on 7 June 2018. Before, Bayer had divested parts of its businesses to competitors. Their calculations are therefore misleading.” Asked to provide alternative figures, he said: “Bayer doesn’t break down its sales figures by country, product or active ingredient. These figures are confidential.” Unearthed said its analysis follows standard practice for the financial analysis of merged companies.

A spokeswoman for BASF said: “BASF is convinced of the safety of its products when they are used correctly following the label instructions and stewardship guidelines. All products are extensively tested, evaluated and approved by public authorities in the respective countries. Additionally, all active ingredients in these products are approved in at least one OECD country.”

Tuncak said: “Systemic issues in many low- and middle-income countries prevent any reasonable assurance of proper handling and use of pesticides.”

Juman Kubba, at Greenpeace UK, said: “Keeping the world hooked on an industrial farming model based on crops drenched in toxic pesticides is in these companies’ interests. But these dangerous chemicals have no place in a healthy food system and governments must ban them worldwide.”

FMC referred the Guardian to the response from CropLife International and Syngenta and Corteva did not respond to requests for comment. SOURCE

 

Pushing for ‘Political Courage,’ Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Slate of Progressive Women Challenging Establishment

“If we’re going to build an economy…that centers working-class families, things must change. And that starts by electing new progressive leaders who exemplify political courage.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) attends a House Financial Services Committee organizational meeting in Rayburn Building on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday released her first slate of endorsements through her political action committee, Courage to Change, announcing her backing of seven progressive women running for congressional seats.

Several of the candidates primary challengers to more centrist Democrats who have the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and other establishment Democrats.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday released her first slate of endorsements through her political action committee, Courage to Change, announcing her backing of seven progressive women running for congressional seats.

Several of the candidates primary challengers to more centrist Democrats who have the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and other establishment Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez’s list includes House candidates Teresa Fernandez of New Mexico, Samelys López of New York, and Georgette Gómez of California, who are all running for open seats. López, who has experienced homelessness in the past, called Ocasio-Cortez’s support “a great honor.”

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Complaints commission told RCMP broad exclusion zones ‘impermissible’ a year ago

RCMP has yet to respond to nearly year-old report critiquing unlawful conduct with Indigenous Peoples

Image result for Complaints commission told RCMP broad exclusion zones ‘impermissible’ a year ago

The RCMP has yet to respond to a nearly year-old report that criticizes the use of broad exclusion zones and makes multiple recommendations for the force in light of unlawful police conduct with Indigenous land defenders.

This revelation was made in a letter from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, an independent organization that deals with public complaints about the RCMP.

Chairperson Michelaine Lahaie wrote the letter in response to a complaint about the RCMP checkpoint and exclusion zone in northwestern B.C., established as part of a police operation on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory to clear a service road for pipeline company Coastal GasLink.

“It’s suspicious to me that RCMP and government would claim to have met our conditions without talking to our hereditary chiefs.”

The checkpoint and exclusion zone were criticized as overly broad, arbitrarily enforced, and infringing on individual liberties in the complaint submitted by the BC Civil Liberties Association, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

“I also consider the issues raised in your correspondence to be of significant public interest,” wrote Lahaie.

She then explained she was not undertaking a public interest investigation because of a similar investigation into RCMP conduct in New Brunswick during the 2013 enforcement of an injunction against a blockade by Elsipogtog First Nation members and supporters opposed to shale gas extraction.

That investigation resulted in a 116-page report with 12 recommendations for the police, “particularly with regard to Indigenous-led protests,” wrote Lahaie.

The CRCC sent its report to the RCMP in March 2019. The report has not been made public because the police have yet to respond.

In that report, according to Lahaie, the commission found the following:

  • the RCMP had no legal authority to require individuals to produce identification at stop checks,
  • the RCMP had no legal authority to engage in “general inquisition” of individuals at stop checks,
  • the RCMP had no legal authority to conduct routine physical searches,
  • the RCMP could justify restrictions on movement only “in specific, limited circumstances,” and
  • the RCMP can establish “buffer zones” only within “the parameters detailed by the courts” — anything “outside of these bounds is impermissible in a free and democratic society.”

Lahaie also said the commission recommended that RCMP members receive training in “Indigenous cultural matters and sensitivity to Indigenous ceremonies and sacred items.”

Impeding Wet’suwet’en on their own territory

“We have been prevented from accessing our territory,” said Molly Wickham at a press conference today. Wickham is a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en clan who holds the traditional Wet’suwet’en name Sleydo’.

“I’ve been prevented from accessing my civic residence for a period of time, criminalized as Wet’suwet’en while non-Wet’suwet’en were allowed access to our territory.”

“It is essential to the national interest that police behaviour be corrected.”

Wickham noted that although the exclusion zone has been removed, “people need to be aware the RCMP continue to target Wet’suwet’en people” and “continue to unlawfully arrest and detain people on our territory. One person yesterday was arrested and detained for getting firewood for the camp.”

“The RCMP have clearly not yet vacated or officially engaged with our hereditary chiefs and governance. It’s suspicious to me that RCMP and government would claim to have met our conditions without talking to our hereditary chiefs. It seems like a media strategy.”

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have called for the withdrawal of the RCMP and Coastal GasLink personnel from their territory as a precondition for a meeting with Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

‘Unacceptable’ that police have not responded to report

“The report is absolutely explosive. It’s shocking and shameful,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, at the press conference.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a law professor at the University of British Columbia and director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, agreed.

It is “troubling on a number of fronts,” she said. “It is essential to the national interest that police behaviour be corrected, to protect the rights of First Nations people.”

“It is unacceptable that a First Nations person who makes a complaint has to wait seven or eight years for a response. It is not meaningful, it is not timely, it is not appropriate.”

The police have “a long and very troubled history” with First Nations, said Turpel-Lafond, describing the period of residential schools when children were taken from their parents, who would be arrested if they protested.

The RCMP was established by Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, to control and remove Indigenous Peoples from their land. Macdonald was inspired by the Royal Irish Constabulary, a paramilitary police force used by Britain against the Irish. SOURCE

How the Wet’suwet’en crisis could have played out differently

Amid escalating tensions and armed RCMP responses, leaders say Canada must abide by the ‘rule of law.’ But what about Indigenous law?

RCMP Unist'ot'en camp arrests red dresses Wet'suwet'en Coastal GasLink

Freda Huson, a matriarch and chief of the Wet’suwet’en, puts charcoal on a supporter’s face at the Unist’ot’en camp in preparation for ceremony. Huson and supporters were awaiting arrest by the RCMP during the enforcement of a Coastal GasLink injunction. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

Dozens of arrests. A week-long raid on Wet’suwet’en camps. Grainy videos of armed officers. Doors blocked at the B.C. legislature. Railways stalled across the country.

For a conflict that began in a remote place, the impacts of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the Coastal GasLink pipeline are now reverberating across the nation.

As tensions flare and politicians seize on the moment to criticize their adversaries, one has to ask: was this escalation inevitable, or could it have been avoided?

Molly Wickham, or Sleydo, from the Cas Yex House of the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en, said the escalation around Coastal GasLink “definitely” could have been avoided if the province adapted its decision-making processes to acknowledge and honour Indigenous law and legal customs.

“The province and the federal government have to come to the table and say ‘okay, this is how we are going to adapt our policies and our laws to include, or to adjust for, how you’re living your laws out on your land,” Wickham told The Narwhal on a phone call from Smithers.

“It’s not something we can come and negotiate. It’s something that they need to make space for.”

A 2018 decision released by federal court Justice Sébastien Grammond emphasized that Indigenous law does not exist in opposition to Canadian law, but is a part of it: “Indigenous legal traditions are among Canada’s legal traditions. They form part of the law of the land.”

Indigenous law and ‘the rule of law’

While Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have both responded to the crisis saying Canada must remain a country under “rule of law,” some critics say they are excluding Indigenous legal systems from the equation.

For Chief Nick XEMŦOLTW̱ Claxton of Tsawout First Nation, the persistent failure of colonial governments and project approval processes to incorporate Indigenous perspectives was also on display in the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Several First Nations argued the federal government failed to engage in good-faith consultations in the pipeline project’s review, but the Federal Court of Appeals struck down their legal challenge.

Claxton said the issue comes down to how Indigenous governance continues to be treated as secondary.

“It’s really that deeper, fundamental recognition and respect for Indigenous laws, Indigenous sovereignty, Indigenous nationhood that needs to happen. And [Wet’suwet’en] is just one example of that not happening,” he said.

Indigenous communities are often forced to fight expensive and protracted battles against major natural resource projects on their territories in the courts. In many cases, projects forge ahead while legal questions of Aboriginal rights and title are still being addressed.

Unist’ot’en Wet'suwet'en RCMP injunction arrest

A woman is arrested as police enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction at Unist’ot’en Healing Centre near Houston, B.C. on Monday, February 10, 2020. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

No ‘cookie cutter’ solution: lawyer

Lawyer Jack Woodward, well-known for drafting Section 35 which enshrines Indigenous rights in the Constitution, has represented numerous First Nations in landmark cases.

Although imperfect, Woodward said Canada’s courts have some of “the most extensive accommodation for Indigenous laws in the world.”

“It’s hard to criticize — we’re in its infancy,” he said. “But it’s as enlightened as you’re likely to get in democratically elected societies in the modern world.”

To Woodward, the Wet’suwet’en crisis could have been avoided had the new trial that the court called for after the 1997 Delgamuukw decision simply taken place to resolve unanswered questions.

In Delgamuukw, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Peoples had never surrendered their land or had their title extinguished. The decision recognized Aboriginal title, the right to actively manage the land and benefit economically from its use, but that such title must be proven in the courts. The decision also ruled Aboriginal title is a communally held right that the province does not have the power to extinguish.

But the Delgamuukw decision left some room for infringements on Indigenous title for industry — agriculture, forestry, mining, hydroelectric power and infrastructure — and general economic development if these infringements can be justified (it’s complicated).

These infringements must be justified through the courts, which has not happened for the Coastal GasLink project.

The court also did not rule on the question of self-government or where exactly the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan hold title.

“The appellants effectively argued on appeal, as they did at trial, that by virtue of their social and land tenure systems — consisting of Chief authority, Houses, feasts, crests, and totem poles — they acquired an absolute interest in the claimed territory, including ownership of and jurisdiction over the land,” ruled Chief Justice Antonio Lamer. “The problem with this approach is that it requires proof of governance and control as opposed to proof of general occupation of the affected land. Only the latter is the sine qua non of ‘Aboriginal title.’ “

Lamer said this “substantive defect” in the Chiefs’ arguments required a new trial, which the court welcomed but the Wet’suwet’en have yet to bring forward.

So while the Delgamuukw decision set precedent for recognizing title, other questions were left unanswered in terms of how provincial and federal policy might adapt.

But Woodward brings insight to the Wet’suwet’en situation from another, similar case: Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia.

That 2014 decision granted the Tsilhqot’in Nation title to 438,000 hectares of its traditional territory. It took the Tsilhqot’in a quarter century to see its legal challenge all the way through to the Supreme Court of Canada. Both the province of B.C. and the federal government fought against the claim.

While it was one of the longest and most expensive court cases in Canadian history, Woodward said since B.C. and Ottawa were ordered to pay their legal fees in the end, the case didn’t wind up costing the Tsilhqot’in.

Woodward said the provincial and federal governments face a “legal revolution” in their ongoing efforts to recognize and incorporate Indigenous governance. For him that makes conflict unsurprising, especially as communities wrestle with the uncomfortable legacy of the Indian Act and jurisdictional issues that can only be resolved internally — such as disagreement within Wet’suwet’en about who are the rightful hereditary chiefs.

Woodward said there is no “cookie cutter” solution going forward, since First Nation governance and customs vary.

He said some of the conflict in B.C. could be resolved if the province and federal government let go of their “urgency” to push forward Coastal GasLink, especially in light of decades-old questions of jurisdiction.

“The gas has been underground for tens of millions of years,” he said. “It could wait a year or two, and the government could offer assistance that has risen from decades of neglect.”

RCMP Unist'ot'en camp arrests red dresses Wet'suwet'en Coastal GasLink

Supporters stand along a sign built across the Morice River bridge near the Unist’ot’en camp near the route of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, Feb. 8. Photo: Amber Bracken / The Narwhal

The B.C. government’s approval of LNG subsidies

MLA Adam SȾHENEP Olsen, the first W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) citizen to be elected to the B.C. legislative chamber, and the interim leader of the Green Party, also agrees the Wet’suwet’en conflict was avoidable.

“It is important that people understand that what we see across Canada and on the steps of our legislature was neither inevitable nor unavoidable,” he said to his colleagues in the house on Feb. 12.

Olsen said votes in the spring of 2019 to support the Income Tax Amendment Act, which provides tax breaks to LNG Canada, the project the Coastal GasLink pipeline is needed to feed, fuelled the Wet’suwet’en controversy.

“Every member of this chamber, with the exception of the B.C. Greens and our independent colleague [Andrew Weaver], voted to ignite the tragic situation that we face.”

Olsen, the only party leader to visit Wet’suwet’en territory this year, chastised his colleagues at the legislature after parliament opened Feb. 11 with a speech from the throne, written by the premier’s office but delivered by Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin.

The speech referenced steps towards “meaningful reconciliation” with Indigenous Peoples in B.C., including the passage of Bill 41 to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Austin delivered these words as hundreds of members of the public gathered outside the legislature, supporting a group of Indigenous youth occupying the building’s steps for the previous days in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The crowd blocked every entrance to the legislature, forcing the cancellation of a red carpet ceremony and gun salute traditionally conducted at the opening of a new session.

In a response speech the following day, Olsen accused the Liberals and NDP of choosing to “barrel ahead, knowing full well that there were existing long-standing and unresolved matters relating to rights and title in the area.”

“Honestly, what did you all expect?” he asked. “Did you really think that after decades of fighting for recognition, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs would just step aside and let you do whatever you want in their territory?”

“Every vote to prematurely proceed with this project backed the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs into a corner.”

“I will not let them rewrite history to pretend that they are anything but responsible for the painful situation we are seeing playing right now in our landscape, leveraging Indigenous people against each other,” Olsen said.

Indigenous-led environmental assessments could ease tensions

Divides over natural resource projects could also be avoided by bringing Indigenous communities more thoughtfully into the environmental assessment process, where project impacts and environmental concerns can be discussed in the early stages of a project’s life, rather than post-approval or during construction.

Yet recent research found that environmental assessment policies in Canada have failed to adapt in the wake of important legal decisions like Delgamuukw and Tsilhqot’in.

A new study published by Laruen Eckert, Raincoast Conservation Fellow and PhD student at University of Victoria, Chief Claxton and co-authors found Indigenous knowledge has largely been left out of decision-making processes, even after the controversial Impact Assessment Act was passed by the Liberal government in 2019.

The authors analyzed the bill and related literature to see how it engages with Indigenous knowledge. Eckert said the law does mandate the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge but offered “few progressive changes” in how to execute that shift.

The paper concludes “top-down colonial environmental assessment processes” are “inherently at odds with equitable knowledge sharing.”

Eckert said while procedural changes, such as better funding and training opportunities for Indigenous participation in the assessment process, are within reach, the fundamental obstacles of shifting government to treat Indigenous knowledge as equal remains a daunting task.

“The deep-seated stuff is going to take a ton of political will and profound systemic change,” Eckert said.

The research also recommends more Indigenous-led environmental assessments.

Indeed, Tsawout First Nation carried out its own environmental assessment of Trans Mountain that included both data-driven and traditional knowledge. The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation also commissioned its own assessments on topics overlooked in the Trans Mountain like danger to southern resident killer whales, and the Federal Court of Appeals largely dismissed these studies.

“If we accepted those submissions, as a practical matter there would be no end to consultation, the project would never be approved, and the applicants would have a de facto veto right over it,” ruled the court.

But as Claxton addressed the National Energy Board voicing Tsawout First Nation’s opposition to Trans Mountain, he framed things a different way.

“The fact that we, as Saanich, have to testify our concerns to the National Energy Board in a process that was imposed on us about our lands and waters that were literally stolen from us, just to ultimately allow the continued expansion of the colonial capitalistic empire … it seems to me like the colonial mission is still driving forward relentlessly,” he said at a hearing in Victoria in November 2018.

Claxton says changing assessment policies will give space for Indigenous worldviews and respect for non-humans relations like salmon and southern resident killer whales.

“First Nations leading their own environmental assessment processes is a tangible way the state can engage with Indigenous legal systems,” he said.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada told The Narwhal the new act includes considerations for Indigenous-led assessments and they are working with First Nations to create a policy framework to ensure consistency across project reviews.

For Wickham, the Wet’suwet’en are doing their part by living out their law on the land. For now, she says the province and the federal government lack the political will to acknowledge, formally and into law, that Indigenous title is not extinguished.

“It’s not going to be easy. It fundamentally challenges the whole system that Canada is based on,” she said. “But there are ways to do it. It’s time the governments put in the time and the efforts to make it work. They have to start somewhere, and this is the most appropriate place to start right now.”

SOURCE

 

Why Indigenous Authority is Important to You

Photo: Unist’ot’en Camp/Facebook

What if one country, with massive economic control and a police force, invaded a land, installed its own government, and then arrested the representatives of the true government when they protested the plans of the country that colonized them. Imagine the Canadian outrage.

Why, then, is there no outrage when Canada does this to Indigenous Peoples?

In fact, the outrage is directed against those who try to pursue self-determination for their nation and people. Could it be that well-cultivated and widespread prejudice interferes with the moral capacity of the general population?

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, pictured here in 2018. Photo: Unist’ot’en Camp/Facebook

It must be said: Indigenous authority over their lands is important—important to all Canadians, important to you. Today, it is estimated that over a quarter of the world’s usable land, including the Amazon, is under Indigenous authority, governance and stewardship.  Though often ignored or unrecognized by colonial governments, this oversight has kept the land safe and productive for centuries. If the planet is to be saved from catastrophe, the authority of the People of the Land, the Indigenous Peoples, must be recognized and affirmed by the nations of this world.

In the Arctic, Indigenous authority is hindered in many ways, even when the territorial governments are largely run by Indigenous Peoples themselves. The full authority of traditional forms of oversight and stewardship have been minimized by the way outside governments, extractive industries and broader economic authorities and interests still determine the overall workings related to the land’s integrity and well-being.

If the collapse of our ecosystems is to be avoided, the strength of Indigenous authority must be returned. The moral framework is now the survival framework for our planet. There is no healthy future for our planet without the full recognition of Indigenous rights.

I will repeat it.

There is no healthy future for our planet without the full recognition of Indigenous rights.

Government asking for an extra $2.1 billion for Indigenous programs

Proposed initiatives range from forgiving land claims loans to preserving Indigenous languages

A stop sign in English, French and Inuktut syllabics is seen in Iqaluit, Nunavut on April 25, 2015. The federal government is proposing new spending to, among other things, preserve Indigenous languages. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is asking Parliament to spend an additional $2.1 billion on Indigenous programs and initiatives, above and beyond what MPs already have approved.

While $2 billion of the proposed spending for Indigenous services would be new money, supplementary estimates tabled in Parliament show that more than $53 million in net transfers from various departments would go to a wide range of Indigenous programs and projects.

Among other things, the government is proposing an additional $52.9 million for the RCMP for First Nations Community Policing Services and $1.2 million for Library and Archives Canada to help it preserve Indigenous culture and language recordings.

Overall, roughly 53 per cent of $3.8 billion in new money the government is asking MPs to approve would go to initiatives involving Indigenous communities.

The tabling of the supplementary estimates comes as tensions are running high over Indigenous-led rail blockades that have crippled Canada’s freight network.

Mohawk protesters near Belleville have vowed to maintain their blockade until the RCMP leaves territory in northern British Columbia where Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have been fighting the construction of a natural gas pipeline.

A protester stands between Mohawk Warrior Society flags at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont., Feb. 16. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

 

The spending Parliament is being asked to authorize is in keeping with the Liberal government’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous communities and promises it made in its last budget.

“It is a continuation of what we’ve been doing since Day 1,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau told reporters when he tabled his 2019 budget last March. “It is driven by the fact that we know, in this country, we need to get this right. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we are going to stay on it.”

One of the bigger items in the supplementary estimates would forgive $919 million in debt that Indigenous groups across Canada accumulated while they participated in comprehensive land claims negotiations.

The government announced in its budget last year that it would repay or forgive $1.4 billion in loans the government gave Indigenous communities — many of them in British Columbia — to allow them to participate in land claims negotiations.

The supplementary estimates provide for an additional $588.3 million to be spent on children and family services, while another $232 million would fund health, social and education services for First Nations children in keeping with the Jordan’s Principle policy.

The policy is named after Jordan River Anderson, a First Nations boy from Manitoba who died following a dispute between the federal and provincial governments over which level of government should pay for his care.

The Department of Indigenous Services is to receive $150 million for emergency management service providers on reserves across Canada, while $18.1 million has been earmarked to strengthen environmental protections and address the concerns raised by Indigenous groups about the Trans Mountain Expansion project.

First Nations women drum while leading thousands of people during a protest march against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in Vancouver, B.C., Nov. 19, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

 

Conservative Treasury Board Critic Tim Uppal said his party will work to make sure the money being spent makes a difference.

“Canada’s Conservatives have long advocated for the federal Liberal government to take more steps to ensure Indigenous peoples across the country are able to more fully participate in Canada’s economy,” he wrote in a statement. “We will continue to use our strengthened opposition to ensure that any new funding for Indigenous programs, projects and initiatives is used to make real and measurable improvements.”

NDP MP Gord Johns (Courtenay-Alberni) welcomed the proposed new spending, saying the money to forgive land claims negotiation loans will be particularly helpful.

“It’s going to take an enormous amount of pressure off of the Indigenous communities that had been carrying an enormous amount of debt with the government of Canada,” he said. “It’s going to relieve a lot of pressure so they can invest in important things in their communities, especially their youth.”

But Johns said the government has to do more.

“There is systemic racism in their policies and chronic underfunding and this needs to be addressed,” he said.

Johns dismissed the suggestion that a call for billions of dollars in new spending on Indigenous programs and initiatives in the midst of the blockade crisis could itself trigger a controversy.

“I think the only thing that’s controversial is that they’re still fighting Indigenous children in court. They haven’t addressed the outstanding issues that are there,” he said.

“There are Indigenous people that are living in squalor conditions, in poverty. They haven’t even got a plan for Indigenous housing … [for] people that are living in urban, rural and northern communities.”

Some of the other spending items the government is asking Parliament to approve:

    • $487.3 million for the Department of National Defence for military equipment, physical infrastructure and information management and technology systems under its Strong, Secure, Engaged program.
    • $128.5 million for the Department of National Defence for its land task force in Latvia, an air task force for patrol and training and naval vessels to work with NATO partners.
    • $180.4 million to write off student loans that the government hasn’t been able to collect — something it does periodically.
    • $1.6 million to implement the new system of record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis convictions.
    • $5.3 million to reduce plastics pollution.

SOURCE

‘A demonstration of unity’: Ontario teachers holding protest at legislature in province-wide strike

Job action by 4 major unions shuts down public and Catholic schools

Catholic teachers represented by OECTA participated in a one-day strike on Jan. 21. The province’s public and Catholic teachers are on strike Friday. (Maria Rodriguez Espina/CBC)

The unions representing Ontario’s public and Catholic school teachers kicked off a day of protest they said is aimed at sending a message to Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Today’s mass protest at the legislature coincides with a province-wide strike that will leave about two million students out of class.

“Here’s my challenge, Doug Ford, Stephen Lecce: come out of this building today and talk to the 30,000 people,” said Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF).

Bischof said today’s action demonstrates unity and should force the government back to the bargaining table.

“I think today it will accomplish a demonstration of unity,” Bischof said Friday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“When you have a government that claims there is a division between the rank-and-file leadership and the union membership when no such division exists — when you have a government that claims that there is a division between parents and educators when overwhelmingly parents support not just our positions but our actions — then I think a demonstration of unity is absolutely vital to show that the government’s messaging is false … and it puts additional pressure on them to get back to the table.”

The job action by the four major teachers unions in Ontario shuts down schools across the province on Friday, leaving about two million students out of class. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

 

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the French public teachers’ union are actively bargaining with the province and both met with provincial negotiators on Thursday. But the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) last met with the province on Jan. 31, and Bischof’s union has not been at the table with the province since mid-December.

“The only place to take the wage issue off the table is in fact at the table. And given that the government has not signalled to the mediator that they’re prepared to bargain productively there, we haven’t been at the table for over two months,” Bischof told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“When we get to the table we’ll have the opportunity to do the kind of creative problem solving that’s meant to occur in negotiations but we need a willing partner.”

‘It’s difficult on the kids,’ parent says

Neha Hans, while dropping off her son at a day camp in Mississauga, said she hopes the unions and the government come to a resolution soon.

“It’s been … bad because we just have to find day camps every single time to get to, and it’s difficult on the kids,” she told CBC News.

“One day it’s school, the other day it’s not. Getting them settled back in school is very, very difficult.”

Parent Neha Hans says she hopes the unions and the government reach an agreement soon. (CBC)

 

This is the first time since 1997 that teachers and education workers from Ontario’s main education unions will all be out of their classrooms on the same day, the unions say.

Lecce called Friday’s job action “deeply concerning,” particularly when considering the impact on parents and children.

“I think the mission of the government, given the parents of this province have been very clear that they don’t want their children’s education to be compromised and they don’t want their lives to be upended, is that all parties have an obligation to stay at the table and get a deal,” Lecce told Metro Morning.

Lecce said he wants union leaders to heed the concerns of parents who want their children in school.

“We want to get a deal. Obviously this cannot go on forever and I think the people of this province have been clear that this is having real impacts on their lives. We do not lose sight of that,” he said.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he wants union leaders to heed the concerns of parents who want their children in school. (CBC)

 

Members of the four unions in Peel Region also plan to hold a mass picket, with teachers set to form a 30-kilometre line from Caledon down to the lakeshore in Mississauga.

Lecce has been signalling flexibility on class sizes — one of the most contentious issues in ongoing negotiations, particularly for secondary teachers. He has said he would rather make further moves on class sizes than on compensation for teachers.

CBC Toronto will bring you special live coverage of the teachers’ strike action at Queen’s Park starting at 12 p.m. ET. You can stream the special on the CBC News app, cbc.ca/toronto and on CBC Gem.

(CBC)

 

Premier Doug Ford’s government announced last spring it would increase average high school class sizes from 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate.

Lecce has since offered to instead increase average high school class sizes to 25 and require two online learning courses, but the unions have been pressing for no class size increases and for no mandatory e-learning courses.

All the teachers’ unions are asking for around two per cent in annual salary increases, while the government won’t budge beyond offering one per cent. It passed legislation last year capping wage hikes for all public sector workers at one per cent for three years.

The teachers’ unions and several others are fighting the law in court, arguing it infringes on collective bargaining rights. SOURCE

RELATED:

Ford government’s claim of spending ‘$1.2B more’ on education doesn’t add up

Every school in Ontario’s system closed Friday as all teachers’ unions strike

Teachers from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on strike outside Hopewell Avenue Public School. The Doug Ford government’s claim it is spending $1.2 billion more on education doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.(Francis Ferland/CBC)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s oft-repeated statement that his government is spending $1.2 billion more on education this year than last year doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

The spending claim is in the spotlight as a province-wide strike by four teachers’ unions puts some two million Ontario students out of class on Friday.

“We’ve increased education by $1.2 billion,” Ford said in question period on Wednesday. “I know math is not the NDP’s strength, or the Liberals’, but it’s $1.2 billion, more than any government in the history of Ontario.”

Ford’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce has made the same claim numerous times since the government issued its November fiscal update, which added $186 million to the education ministry’s budget.

  • “This year, we’re on track to spend $1.2 billion more than we did last year,” Lecce said on Dec. 3.
  • “Under this premier’s leadership, we are investing more than $1.2 billion more this year than we did last year,” he said on Nov. 25.
  • “This year we intend to spend $1.2 billion more than we spent last year in the defence and the improvement of public education,” Lecce said on Nov. 7.

WATCH: CBC Toronto’s Queen’s Park reporter Mike Crawley crunches the numbers

Queen’s Park reporter Mike Crawley explains why the Ford government’s claim they are spending $1.2 billion more on education this year than last year doesn’t add up. 1:58

 

Here are the basics of the government’s math:

    • $29.97 billion: the Ministry of Education’s base budget for 2019-20, stated in the government’s latest fiscal document, the fall economic statement.
    • $28.75 billion: the Ministry of Education’s actual base spending for 2018-19, found in the government’s expense sheet for the year, the public accounts.

That’s a $1.2 billion difference on the face of it. But when you dig a little deeper into the spending, and compare apples to apples, it becomes apparent that the Ford government is not telling the whole truth. The bulk of that $1.2 billion extra is not destined for schools and classrooms.

A key reason for the discrepancy is that the Education Ministry’s overall budget also includes child-care programs. Nearly half of the $1.2 billion difference is accounted for by increased spending on child care, particularly $390 million budgeted for a new child-care tax credit.

CBC Toronto will bring you special live coverage of the teachers’ strike action at Queen’s Park starting at 12 p.m. ET. You can stream the special on the CBC News app, cbc.ca/toronto and on CBC Gem.

(CBC)

 

Two thirds of the additional $186 million announced for the ministry’s budget in November is allocated “to help municipal partners provide child-care programs.”

To find out just what the government is actually spending on the school system, you have to look beyond the Education Ministry’s bottom line into the detailed budget documents. This means setting aside the $2.2 billion in child-care spending, as well as far smaller amounts on ministry administration and TVO.

Ford has said his government has increased education funding ‘more than any government in the history of Ontario.’ (Michael Wilson/CBC)

 

The real amount spent on schools is found in those documents, called the expenditure estimates, under one line labelled, “Elementary and secondary education program: Policy and program delivery.”

    • The amount budgeted in 2018-19 for this program was $25.029 billion.
    • The amount budgeted for 2019-20 (including $64 million added last fall): $25.163 billion.
    • The difference: about $133 million, far less than the $1.2 billion claimed by the Progressive  Conservatives.

Another way of comparing school spending is to look at the province’s annual “grants for student needs,” which is the funding the ministry provides to school boards. The amount in 2019-20 is $24.66 billion, while the amount the previous year was $24.53 billion, an increase of about $130 million, or 0.5 per cent.

When you factor in enrolment growth, the amount spent per student this year is actually down from the previous year. The per-pupil grant is $12,246, down from $12,300 in the 2018-19 school year.

Boards across the province have cancelled classes on Friday, as teachers take part in an Ontario-wide one-day strike. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

 

Asked repeatedly on Thursday how much of the $1.2 billion extra is actually being spent in schools, Lecce did not give a direct answer.

“We want to see more money being spent in schools,” Lecce responded. “When 80 cents of the dollar in the public education system goes to compensation, it makes the case that we want to see more investment in the priorities of working people, which I would argue is mental health, STEM education and math.”

Asked a second time about how much extra spending is going to schools, Lecce said the government is “on track” to spend $1.2 billion more and added “more particulars will be found in the public accounts on that.”

“It’s a shell game,” said NDP education critic Marit Stiles.

“For the minister to try to present this as if he’s somehow increasing funding by $1.2 billion, I think he is intentionally misleading Ontarians.”

SOURCE

 

Crop-dusting drones — making work safer and easier for farmers

A Cambodian man, concerned about how many hazardous pesticides farmers use on their crops in his country, has created something to help: a crop-dusting drone.

Agricultural drone flying over a field in Cambodia (Heng Sopheak)

Heng Sopheak is not a farmer himself. The 38-year-old used to work as an IT expert in a textiles factory in Phnom Penh.

But now, he’s found a new lease on life — one that gives him more of a sense of purpose. In the past, Sopheak often came into contact with farmers working in their fields. “I know how hard it is to farm,” Sopheak told DW. “It’s already difficult to plant, but to take care of the crops is even harder.”

When he realized they had difficulties spraying pesticides on large fields, he had an idea: Why not build an unmanned agricultural crop-dusting drone that would help prevent the exposure of farmers to the chemicals and also make the work much easier for them?

Inventor Heng Sopheak prepares his drone next to a field in Cambodia. (Heng Sopheak)Heng Sopheak preparing his drone for flight

Reducing direct exposure to chemicals

“I’ve seen some people hesitate to take up the job of spraying pesticides because they feared they might be poisoned,” Sopheak told DW. “With the Sprayer Drone, farming is made easier, faster and more efficient. It won’t damage the crop and harm the health of the farmers,” he said. Sopheak is promoting his invention on Facebook.

The drone can apply the liquid more economically than traditional methods do. “By using the drone, we can save 20% of the pesticide. It uses only 16 liters (4.2 gallons) for one hectare. And it only needs seven minutes to spray a hectare.”

Sopheak says that this is because the drone works with much more precision than a human. The robot is simply less prone to mistakes.

“Sometimes, humans can be careless in doing their work. Drones cannot make the same errors. They work according to the map we draw and the height we set. When the drone runs out of liquid, it will automatically mark the last point and fly back. After the refill, it will start again exactly at the last stop,” Sopheak said.

And his drone is able not only to apply pesticides but also fertilizers. Here, again, the drone uses less overall, which saves the farmers money and also helps protect the environment.

A drone mounted on a motorcycle. (Heng Sopheak)Sopheak mostly travels by car, but if the roads are uneven and narrow he uses this motorcycle

Building the cropduster drone

Sopheak has not started producing his drone commercially. But when he has all the necessary mechanical parts, it will take him a week to build one, he told DW. Most of the parts that he needs are not available locally.

However, there is a lot more involved in building the drone than just putting the pieces together. The software needs to be installed and maps of the fields have to be made and programmed in. “The technical process of making the drone is complicated both in terms of hardware and software,” he said. A drone can cost somewhere between €5,000 and €20,000 ($5558 to $22,234).

Hire a drone

Most farmers don’t need to have their own drone, though. Instead, people are able to contact him to obtain his drone-spraying services.

That’s why Sopheak and his team travel around Cambodia’s provinces to work for farmers. They charge between 40,000 to 100,000 riel (€9 to €22 or $10 to $19) per hectare depending on the type of crops and the geography.

“Even if it can be used on almost all types of fields, the steeper the land, the riskier it is,” he said.

The drones are equipped with a First-Person View (FPV) camera, which allows the pilot on the ground to control the drone from the flying perspective. And it has a terrain-following radar, meaning it can handle mountainous areas. But drones “are not always the most effective way to spray plants growing high on the hillside,” he admits.

Heng Sopheak and a colleague with an agricultural drone. (Heng Sopheak)Sopheak and his colleagues help farmers all over Cambodia.

A large variety of crops 

Sopheak and his team travel to many provinces in Cambodia. They put their drone into action in pepper and mango plantations, over rice paddies and with many other different kinds of crops.

Most of the time, Sopheak interacts with his customers via video streaming on Facebook Live. He answers questions and explains the significance of drone farming, as well as showing video clips of how the drones spray crops in the field.

Sopheak thinks that agriculture will become easier only when more new technologies come into play, such as artificial intelligence. Many farmers in Cambodia certainly seem to be in favor of the idea that high-tech makes agriculture less labor-intensive.

“Farmers are getting more interested and more curious about technologies related to agricultural farming. They hope to produce bigger harvests and to compete with products from neighboring countries. Drones are like a revolution in agriculture because they will help provide tremendous benefits to farmers,” Sopheak said. SOURCE

Climate change could make more of Canada farmable — but is that a good thing?

Comparing disposable to reusable menstrual products

As the world’s temperatures continue to rise, Canada will add a huge share of the land that becomes suitable for growing major crops, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, predicts about 4.2 million square kilometres of Canada that are currently too cold for farming crops like wheat will be warm enough by 2080 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb.

“It may become our bread basket for the future,” said co-author Krishna Bahadur KC, an adjunct professor of geography at the University of Guelph. Currently, only a million square kilometres in Canada are warm enough for growing crops like wheat, corn and potatoes, he said.

The research suggests that even much of the Northwest Territories and Yukon could get warm enough to grow wheat and potatoes, while corn and soy could be grown farther north than they are now.

By combining models that predict the future climate with those that show what temperatures are suitable for growing 12 major crops, the researchers showed that about 15.1 million square kilometres of new land around the world — more than 30 per cent of the land currently being farmed — could become warm enough for farming corn, sugar, oil palm, cassava, peanuts, cotton, millet, sorghum, rice, potato, wheat and soy.

But the study also says farming all of it could have serious environmental impacts:

Huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions would be released from the soil — about 177 gigatonnes, or 119 times the current annual emissions of the U.S.

It would destroy important biodiversity hotspots and many of the animals and plants that live there.
It would degrade the drinking water quality for millions of people.

“We need to proceed to expand agriculture very cautiously,” KC said, and “also [be] very mindful about possible environmental consequences.”

Experts have long predicted that a warmer climate would make new areas of the world suitable for growing crops. But Lee Hannah and Patrick Roehrdanz of the U.S.-based environmental organization Conservation International wondered what the impact would be on biodiversity and water quality.

And so they approached KC and his colleagues at the University of Guelph, who thought they could use models to answer that question. In the process, they realized the release of carbon from agriculture would be an issue.

In fact, it would be a major consequence of pushing agriculture into Northern Canada, where boreal forests and peatlands store huge amounts of carbon, the study says. Cutting down the trees and disturbing the peat would release a lot of that stored carbon, as would tilling the soil to grow crops, KC said.

“The magnitude of the potential release indicates that policies directed at constraining development of these areas are vitally important,” the study says.

Johanna Wandel, a geography professor at the University of Waterloo who edited a book called Farming in a Changing Climate, doesn’t think the expansion of agriculture into new areas is necessarily the solution to a growing population and increased demand for food in the near future.

She predicts the emphasis will instead be on better technology and productivity on the land we already farm and reducing waste to make harvests go further.SOURCE