David Suzuki: Carbon, climate, and corruption coalesce in concrete


The recent scandal facing Canada’s government has concrete at its base. As one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction companies—employing 50,000 people through offices in more than 50 countries and operations in more than 160 countries—SNC-Lavalin uses a lot of concrete. Infrastructure projects are important to industry and governments. They provide employment, keep GDP and the economy growing, and offer “concrete” proof that progress is being made.

But, as the Guardian points out: “As well as being the primary vehicle for super-charged national building, the construction industry is also the widest channel for bribes. In many countries, the correlation is so strong, people see it as an index: the more concrete, the more corruption.”

SNC-Lavalin, which has already been sanctioned by the World Bank for bribery and corruption, faces similar charges at home. But as a major Quebec-based employer with its hand in some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, it’s seen by provincial and federal governments as too important to fail. MORE


The hidden key to the SNC-Lavalin scandal
SNC-Lavalin loses court bid for special agreement to avoid criminal prosecution

Biodiversity is more than just the forests

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Forest. Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy / Fotolia

TOO often when we talk about biodiversity, it evokes a notion of forest destruction or species extinction. To many, it is just about the environment. Little do we realise, however, that in fact biodiversity is the foundation for human health. It underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for our food and fresh water. It contributes to local livelihoods, to traditional and modern medicines, and to economic development. It aids in regulating climate, floods and disease. It provides recreational benefits, and aesthetic and spiritual enrichment, supporting mental health.

The World Health Organisation offers an insightful analysis of the link between health and biodiversity, beginning with a definition of a healthy person as someone not simply free from illness but in a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.

Knowledge of plant and animal diversity provides major benefits, including drugs. When we lose diversity, we limit our future discovery of potential treatments for our health problems. Traditional medicines are used by an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s people. And in some countries they are incorporated into the public health system extensively. Medicinal plants are the most common element of traditional medicine, collected from the wild or cultivated. MORE

Find the dumped mercury barrels

Please take a moment to send an email to the federal and provincial governments in support of the people of Grassy Narrows.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am by reading today’s Toronto Star report that the Ontario government is dragging its feet on commitments to search for mercury at the infamous Dryden mill site – mercury that may still be contaminating the waters of Grassy Narrows (Asubpeeschoseewagong) First Nation.

n the 1960s and early 1970s, the Reed Paper plant dumped 10 tonnes of mercury waste into the adjacent Wabigoon River upstream from Grassy Narrows. The property is now known to harbour significant amounts of mercury, including some that was illegally buried in steel drums decades ago.

A retired plant worker blew the whistle on this, saying he was ordered to haphazardly bury dozens of barrels of mercury waste in the 1970s. Recent soil samples from the property show unnaturally high levels of mercury, indicating that the barrels may have rusted away and released their toxic contents.

The people of Grassy Narrows deserve justice – they deserve clean land and water and for these illegally dumped contaminants to be fully removed and the area restored. Will you take a moment of your time to write to the Ontario government and demand that it fulfill the commitment to remediate this site? SOURCE

ANALYSIS: Despite protests from top Trudeau aide, Wilson-Raybould was right — SNC-Lavalin is about politics, not jobs

Image result for Michael Wernick
But it’s a mystery, still unexplained despite nearly five hours of new testimony Wednesday from Butts and Wernick, why they thought McLachlin could help turn Wilson-Raybould around.

When Jody Wilson-Raybould was standing firm in her position that she would not overrule an independent prosecutor to cut a special deal with SNC-Lavalin, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his inner circle all argued she should seek outside counsel, get a second opinion.

“Someone like Beverley McLachlin,” Gerald Butts told the House of Commons Justice Committee Wednesday. Butts, the former principal secretary to Trudeau and one of his best friends for 30 years, was a ‘rebuttal witness’ to testimony Wilson-Raybould gave last week.

On Wednesday, he told the justice committee over and over and over again that he and the others who were pressing Wilson-Raybould were motivated by one thing — the imminent loss of 9,000 jobs if SNC-Lavalin should be found guilty at a criminal trial in of what amounts to fraud and bribery.

“It was, and is, the attorney general’s decision to make,” Butts said (Wilson-Raybould was then attorney general and justice minister but resigned from cabinet last month.). “It would, however, be Canadians’ decision to live with — specifically, the 9,000-plus people who could lose their jobs, as well as the many thousands more who work on the company’s supply chain.We did what those 9,000 people would have every right to expect of their prime minister….What we needed to do in order to look people in the eye who stood to lose their jobs was to make sure we had a good reason and to build process around that, and the absolutely bare minimum was to get the best advice you can when a decision affects that many people.”

And that’s why they needed someone like a Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. You don’t need a Supreme Court chief justice for that. You need someone who knows Bay Street, Wall Street, trading floors, deal-makers, financiers. Tundra, even. But definitely not jurists.

In any event, Butts could not point to a single report, document, statistic, prognostication, or written record where someone said “a minimum of 9,000 jobs” was out the window if Wilson-Raybould did not do as encouraged. MORE


What would a 10-year ban on federal contract bids mean for SNC-Lavalin?

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s declarations about speaking truth to power are rooted in matriarchal traditions

After Jane Philpott (right) quit the Trudeau cabinet this week, former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould tweeted this photo, calling her the
After Jane Philpott (right) quit the Trudeau cabinet this week, former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould tweeted this photo, calling her the “MOC”—short for mother of the country.JODY WILSON-RAYBOULD

When Jane Philpott suddenly announced her resignation as a member of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet on March 4, it set off a media frenzy unlike anything seen in Ottawa since a former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, fired Paul Martin as finance minister in 2003. It was the first time in recent memory that a member of the federal cabinet resigned in solidarity with another member who had stepped down.

“It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases,” Philpott wrote in a public letter to the prime minister. “Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”

“The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country includes a history of the rule of law not being respected,” Wilson-Raybould told MPs on the committee. “Indeed, one of the main reasons for the urgent need for justice and reconciliation today is that in the history of our country we have not always upheld foundational values such as the rule of law in our relations with Indigenous peoples. And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality, and a just society this can have firsthand.”

…Wilson-Raybould living up to the example set by matriarchs in traditional Indigenous societies. In fact, Wilson-Raybould referred to herself as coming from a long line of matriarchs, saying she’s a “truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House”. MORE

‘Lessons to Be Learned’ Says Trudeau. So Let’s Name Some

The PM won’t say what SNC scandal teaches. Can we help him out?

Cartoon by Greg Perry.

Attention class! Please get into groups and share ideas. Suggest things that might have been done differently in order for the nation’s first Indigenous justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, not to have felt politically threatened and then resign from cabinet. Extra points for lessons now to be learned.

To get the exercise going, we asked folks in the Tyee office to offer their thoughts. A sampling:

Don’t hire strong women and expect them to bow to you.

“We need a solution,” as your emissaries kept instructing the attorney general, is not a command that magically materializes what you want. It requires real and challenging work to achieve.

Repeatedly telling a cabinet member who is Indigenous that “we need a solution” to help a company with a history of corruption will likely cause the member to wonder why “we need a solution” is not the mantra regarding Indigenous rights and sovereignty in Canada.

Sometimes your solution is not the solution. Sometimes the law precludes it.

A white male born to highest privilege who campaigns alongside a noted Indigenous woman candidate while promising to advance reconciliation risks being seen to treat her as a token rather than a valued member of his cabinet. People will be watching.

Inviting that accomplished Indigenous lawyer to be attorney general signals you get it. She will have broad influence handling such diverse files as marijuana legalization, assisted dying and revamping the Criminal Code. She will inform a range of legal positions and policy shifts affecting all Canadians, bringing to bear her Indigenous experience and hard-earned knowledge, signaling a true “place at the table.”

Deciding to demote that accomplished Indigenous justice minister and attorney general, who has ably handled her duties, only to put her in charge of overseeing the Indian Act signals you don’t get it. At all. “Any person [with] even a basic understanding of Indigenous relations with the Crown would know that the most offensive and indeed racist legislation on the books is the Indian Act,” reminds Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of UBC’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. “It would be akin to asking Nelson Mandela to administer apartheid.” MORE

An Illinois bill leans into the most contentious part of the Green New Deal

Illinois is weighing a 100 percent renewable energy bill that includes jobs, equity, and social justice.

Wind turbines tower over crops near Dwight, Illinois. The state is weighing a bill to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Scott Olson/Getty Images

A recurring criticism of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is that it has too much social justice baggage: Why does a statement of goals to limit climate change and decarbonize the economy devote so much ink to affordable housing, universal health care, and jobs for everyone?

“They are right that the entire energy sector must be reshaped,” the Washington Post editorial board wrote in a sharp appraisal. “But the goal is so fundamental that policymakers should focus above all else on quickly and efficiently decarbonizing. They should not muddle this aspiration with other social policy, such as creating a federal jobs guarantee, no matter how desirable that policy might be.”

Yet the reason the Green New Deal does include social programs is that, as Vox’s David Roberts put it, “It is not merely a way to reduce emissions, but also to ameliorate the other symptoms and dysfunctions of a late capitalist economy: growing inequality and concentration of power at the top.”

And given that decarbonizing the economy would mean jettisoning fossil fuel jobs, the resolution asserts that the transition needs to happen in a just way, mindful of the needs of “vulnerable, frontline, and deindustrialized communities.” MORE

Dutch to close Amsterdam coal-fired power plant four years early -RTL

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Is the sun setting on coal-fired power stations in the Netherlands? ( iStock )

AMSTERDAM, March 7 (Reuters) – The Dutch government will close one of the five coal-fired power plants in the Netherlands next year, four years earlier than originally planned, to help reach its climate goals, Dutch broadcaster RTL reported on Thursday.

The decision follows a 2018 court order instructing the government to ensure greenhouse gas emissions are reduced from 1990 levels by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020.

Researchers in January said the government was likely to miss that goal as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the Netherlands are expected to be only 21 percent lower next year than in 1990.

Current plans call for the two oldest coal-fired plants in the country to be shut in 2024 and for the other three to stop running by 2030. MORE


Dutch parliament votes to close down coal-fired power stations

‘Emergency’ is the right word for climate change, Kingston prof says

Emergency is an appropriate word to describe climate change, says Queen’s University biology professor John Smol. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard) ELLIOT FERGUSON / ELLIOT FERGUSON/WHIG-STANDARD

Prof. John Smol, the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and president-elect of the Academy of Science with the Royal Society of Canada, said Kingston city council’s climate emergency declaration on Tuesday night was an important step to getting real local action.

“It uses the word emergency and that is a good word to use when you are talking about climate change and what we are doing to the planet because it is an emergency. I believe it is the most important issue that has faced humanity ever,” Smol said.

“It is an emergency and it is about time we started using these words.”

City council unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency “for the purposes of naming, framing and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems and our community from climate change.”City council unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency “for the purposes of naming, framing and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems and our community from climate change.”

Passing the declaration, especially with an unanimous vote, puts Kingston in position to be a leader in climate change policy and demonstrates that the city is taking the problem seriously, Smol said. MORE



CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 5: On the day of a government order to vacate the area, hundreds of United States military veterans vow to defend the Standing Rock protest camp and march through a winter blizzard to the scene of recent clashes with state police and the national guard just outside of the Lakota Sioux reservation of Standing Rock, North Dakota, December 5, 2016. Over two hundred tribes, joined by environmental activists and hundreds of United States military veterans, camp and demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which plans to be built under the Missouri River adjacent to the reservation. The gathering has been the largest meeting of Native Americans since the Little Bighorn camp in 1876. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Native American tribes, environmental activists, and military veterans at a protest encampment near Standing Rock, N.D., on Dec. 5, 2016. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Our History Is the Future,” by Nick Estes, traces Indigenous resistance from the Lakota people’s attempt to deny Lewis and Clark passage down the Missouri River in 1804, to the Red Power movement’s demands for treaty enforcement in the 1960s, to today’s Indigenous-led fights against fossil fuel projects. Writing about the massacre at Wounded Knee, where 300 Indigenous men, women, and children were murdered by U.S. soldiers in 1890, Estes highlights the revolutionary premise of the nonviolent Ghost Dance movement the victims followed. With a long tradition of daring attempts at decolonization, Estes argues, Indigenous people represent a powerful challenge to the profit-driven forces that threaten continued life on the planet.

NICK ESTES: I look at the Ghost Dance prophecy, which was an anticolonial uprising among particularly Lakota and Dakota people on the northern Plains in the late 19th century, but also a widespread spiritual movement that went up the west coast of Canada and down to parts of what is today Mexico. If they were completely harmless, then the United States wouldn’t have deployed its army against starving, horseless people at Wounded Knee. The reason it represented such a threat was not because Lakota and Dakota Ghost Dancers were going around and murdering white settlers — it was because it was a vision of the future.

9781786636720-61081aab1105a4a6bda6757f704016e5-1-NODAPL-1551723994When you subjugate a people, you not only take their land and their language, their identity, and their sense of self — you also take away any notion of a future. The reason I chose this name is because in this particular era of neoliberal capitalism, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. The argument I’m making is that within our own traditions of Indigenous resistance, we have always been a future-oriented people, whether it was taking up arms against the United States government, whether it was taking ceremonies underground into clandestine spaces, whether it was learning the enemy’s language. This pushes back against the dominant narrative that Indigenous people are a dying, diminishing race desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their culture or their land base. If that were the case, then I don’t think we would have an uprising such as Standing Rock or, today, Line 3 or Bayou Bridge, or the immense amount of mobilization around murdered and missing Indigenous women. MORE