Court to hear case on whether asylum agreement with U.S. violates charter

OTTAWA — A long-awaited legal look into whether the U.S. remains a safe country for refugees begins today at a Federal Court in Toronto.

At issue is the Safe Third Country Agreement that prohibits people from entering Canada from the U.S. —  and vice versa — at official border crossings and asking for asylum. It was signed by the two countries 17 years ago on the grounds that both are safe places and so those seeking sanctuary should apply in the first country they arrive in.

But as the U.S. has tightened its asylum rules and regulations in recent years, the deal has come under intense scrutiny over concerns that actions taken by the Trump administration no longer make the U.S. a safe harbour for those seeking asylum.

In turn, when Canada rejects people at the border, their charter rights are being violated, advocacy groups and the individual litigant in the case will argue this week as the Federal Court finally hears the challenge begun in 2017.

“Refugee claimants are being detained indefinitely, in conditions that are nothing short of cruel and unusual, simply for seeking protection,” reads one of the memos submitted to the court.

The legal challenge to the agreement was filed after a Salvadoran woman tried to enter Canada at an official border crossing to seek asylum, arguing she was being brutally targeted by gangs at home. She was told she was inadmissible because of the deal. MORE

Canada treats mining companies like the goose that laid the golden egg. What we get in return looks more like a goose egg.

View of Greek mine site

Mining enjoys massive government support in Canada. Politically, it’s treated as a preferred development option for remote communities and Indigenous peoples. Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall once said, “The best program for First Nations and Métis people in Saskatchewan is not a program at all—it’s [uranium mining company] Cameco.” The law backs this up. Mining companies still have rights to “free entry” in much of Canada, since mining is legally considered the “highest and best” use of land. Though these laws are being challenged by First Nations, today prospectors can stake claims and even drill or trench without any consideration for other land users, or in some cases, even private landowners.

There are also financial incentives to mine. The federal and provincial governments and territories spend hundreds of millions on road and power corridors to support mining projects, while supporting training for mining skills that are often not highly transferrable. Already low corporate tax rates are further reduced by accelerated capital cost allowances and deductions for exploration and development costs. “Flow-through” shares allow mining companies to pass exploration costs onto investors as tax deductions. And while they’ve been slowly getting better, Canadian jurisdictions still dramatically undercharge mining companies when it comes to setting aside money to clean up spills or for long-term environmental monitoring and rehabilitation.

All of this is justified publicly by the creation of jobs, contribution to GDP and exports—and taxes paid. Mining does create “good pay” jobs, though more of these are displaced from other sectors than the industry will admit. Mining does generate export earnings and boost GDP, though economists will argue about whether these really represent development, especially when what is being exported is raw materials with little value added. So, what of the taxes?

On paper, mining operations pay corporate tax and sales tax, among others, along with royalties (sometimes called “mining tax”) intended to compensate the state for the permanent loss of whatever resource is being extracted. Depending on the audience, mining companies will either brag or complain about the amount of tax they pay. They rarely explain how those amounts are calculated, much less compare them to what they might have had to pay if it weren’t for the lowered tax rates, tax holidays and exemptions. More egregiously, they also like to take credit for the taxes that their workers pay.

James Wilt, writing in The Narwhal in July last year, found that Canadian governments collect a smaller percentage of mineral value than almost any other jurisdiction in the world. There are a number of explanations for this, ranging from low tax rates to grace periods and tax holidays, as mentioned, to using a variable base for calculating royalties. Canada is unusual internationally, for example, in the extent to which it charges royalties based on profits rather than on the amount of mineral extracted, allowing for deductions and “profit-shifting” to diminish the amount owed.

In an extreme example, the CBC’s Rita Celli reported in May 2015 that in 2013-14, De Beers Canada paid the Ontario government $226 in royalties from its Victor Mine in Attawapiskat, the only diamond mine in the province. “The diamond royalty stirred a huge debate when the Ontario government suddenly introduced it in 2007,” wrote Celli. “Then-premier Dalton McGuinty promised it would enrich all Ontarians. He promised the money would be used to hire more nurses and keep class sizes small in schools.”

The low figure was due to De Beers having been allowed to write down its capital investment against the royalties. Tom Ormsby, De Beers’ vice-president of external and corporate affairs, told Celli the company started to pay millions in 2014. Its reports under Canada’s Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA), in force since 2015, show it paid US$15.8 million in royalties in 2016 (on earnings of US$79 million) and US$11.3 million in 2017 (on earnings of US$205 million). The mine closed in early 2019. In other words, the mine probably generated almost nothing for the province for the entire first half of its production, and probably less than $100 million over its 11-year life.

Any assessment of the millions in taxes and royalties from mining operations has to include the overall value of the resource, as they remove many times more millions of dollars’ worth of metals. Any honest calculation also has to include not only the overall flow of money to governments, but also the subsidies, costs and liabilities, including social disruption and damage to local economies and the environment.

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Internationally, the Canadian government takes the promotion of Canadian mining companies very seriously indeed. This is demonstrated by the fact that while Canadian and international civil society has been pushing for almost two decades for restrictions on the international activities of Canadian companies, the federal government has refused to recognize that illegal activity and human rights and environmental abuses are even happening, much less restrict them—or enforce the sole piece of legislation we do have, the anti-bribery Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

At the same time, Canada provides massive support for transnational mining investment, both politically and economically. It helps explain why so many mining companies are domiciled in Canada, even if they have no Canadian operations, or even no Canadian directors, and regardless of who actually owns the majority of their shares.

Our embassies contribute “economic diplomacy,” which includes pressuring foreign governments to support favourable legislation and policies and helping build relationships between mining executives and foreign officials, such as mining ministers and state presidents. Canadian diplomats also provide support directly to companies, going so far as to help them comply with regulations and apply for permits. Even our development aid is skewed toward rewarding countries and regions that are willing to host Canadian mining projects, and assisting governments in administering mining laws so as to smooth the way for Canadian investment.

Economic support is both direct (investment from the Canada Pension Plan and Canadian Investment Fund for Africa, for example, or loans and political risk insurance from Export Development Canada) and indirect. Canada has built a massive network of tax treaties, bilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements that all serve to facilitate and protect Canadian investment, as well as allowing profits to be shifted through subsidiary companies to avoid taxation. It’s all perfectly legally, if you do it right.

The result is a ballooning offshore pool of wealth sitting in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions in the Caribbean, Channel Islands, and even some U.S. states—wealth that is not taxed to benefit the countries it was extracted from, or even the country that worked so hard to facilitate it (in this case, Canada). Governments that try to protect their own people and ecosystems from mining destruction face the threat of multimillion-dollar lawsuits through arbitration provisions in those investment agreements.

To pick just one example, Eldorado Gold has been struggling for years to overcome committed local opposition to its planned Skouries open-pit gold mine in Halkidiki, northern Greece. Local people opposed to the massive project have raised objections over the destruction of a forest that is of immense cultural and historic significance—it is where local partisans gathered to strategize and mobilize against the fascists, and now serves as a focus for tourism, beekeeping, etc.—and the contamination of freshwater supplies (the ore is loaded with arsenic, among other things).

Chart showing Eldorado Gold profits from sites

They have also questioned the promised benefits for the Greek state—with good reason. A study led by the Dutch organisation SOMO (the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations) found the company has structured its investment with tax avoidance in mind. Subsidiaries in the Netherlands will allow Eldorado to shift profits from Greece to the Netherlands and Barbados, minimizing exposure to taxes and leaving Greeks with little to show for the mine’s ecological, social and economic disruption. SOMO calculated this arrangement had cost Greece 1.7 million euros in lost tax in 2013-14 alone (nearly $2.5 million based on the exchange rate at the time).

A look at Eldorado Gold’s payments to governments, as disclosed under ESTMA, shows that as of 2018, the company made significant payments in Turkey, where most of its gold production is, but nowhere else. Not even Canada, where it is supposedly headquartered, but also where it now operates the Lamaque Mine outside of Val-d’Or, Quebec.

What we don’t know is how much the company should have paid in the absence of what the accountants call “aggressive tax planning,” or what the rest of us call tax dodging. Nor does this accounting show how much has been set aside as security bond for closure, cleanup, and possible spills and accidents.

It makes sense that Turkey, as the primary host of Eldorado Gold’s operations, should benefit most. It’s an open question whether the country benefits enough to compensate for the loss of its gold-bearing ore, not to mention the various forms of damage occasioned by mining or the liabilities it leaves behind. And it’s more than likely that the company has minimized its exposure to Turkish taxes.

But at the same time, there is clearly no direct return for Canada from all of the support we provide. If share value increases or the company pays dividends we can benefit as shareholders—through our pensions, RRSPs or the Canada Pension Plan. But clearly the loot is mostly being scooped up by others: well-paid company executives, the banks that finance all of this, and the legal, accounting and investment houses.

At the end of the day, the notion that mining is good for Canada is pretty dubious. The reality within Canada is much more complex than our governments and most of the media are willing to admit. In other parts of the world, the reality is that Canadian mining primarily benefits the mining companies, their local backers, and their financiers. Its contributions to “host” countries are variable and on balance generally negative. Despite all the effort from public officials, Canada hardly benefits at all. It’s past time we started to dismantle the legal, regulatory, financial and political support that feeds and sustains this false narrative. SOURCE

Toronto court to hear case on whether asylum agreement with U.S. violates charter

Concerns with the Safe Third Country Agreement come as the U.S. tightens its asylum rules and regulations


A girl originally from Congo and her family who had been living in Portland, Maine, approach an unofficial border crossing with Canada, heading down Roxham Road in Champlain, N.Y., on Aug. 7, 2017. A long-awaited legal look into whether the U.S. remains a safe country for refugees begins Monday in Federal Court in Toronto. (Charles Krupa/The Associated Press)

A long-awaited legal look into whether the U.S. remains a safe country for refugees begins today at a Federal Court in Toronto.

At issue is the Safe Third Country Agreement, which prohibits people from entering Canada from the U.S. — and vice versa — at official border crossings and asking for asylum. It was signed by the two countries 17 years ago on the grounds both are safe places, so those seeking sanctuary should apply in the first country where they arrive.

But as the U.S. has tightened its asylum rules and regulations in recent years, the deal has come under scrutiny over concerns that actions taken by the Trump administration no longer make the U.S. a safe harbour for asylum seekers.

In turn, when Canada rejects people at the border, their charter rights are being violated, advocacy groups and the individual litigant in the case will argue this week as the Federal Court finally hears the challenge begun in 2017.

“Refugee claimants are being detained indefinitely, in conditions that are nothing short of cruel and unusual, simply for seeking protection,” reads one of the memos submitted to the court.

The legal challenge to the agreement was filed after a Salvadoran woman tried to enter Canada at an official border crossing to seek asylum, arguing she was being brutally targeted by gangs at home. She was told she was inadmissible because of the deal.

Her attempt to enter Canada came as then newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump was unveiling a series of changes to the immigration system, including an attempt to ban immigrants from Muslim countries and lifting stays on deportations to Central American nations.

The measures set off shock waves not just in the U.S., but also in Canada, even among those who don’t work in the immigration field, said Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, one of the groups challenging the agreement in court.

“Many Canadians . . . instinctively felt it didn’t make sense for Canada to be hitching its wagon to the United States in this way and be sending people back to the U.S. when they could see there was such a lack of attention to the basic rights.”

Ottawa wants case dismissed

While political pressure began building for changes to the deal, the CCR and others also decided to test it in court and worked to find an asylum seeker who had been turned away.

Since the case was launched, restrictions on asylum have tightened even further, including a decision in 2018 by the U.S. attorney general to deny asylum claims based on domestic violence. One of the arguments in the case is that decision effectively leads to discrimination towards refugee applicants on the basis of their gender, which would violate the charter.

But the federal government argues that position, and others taken by the applicants, relate to developments in the U.S. refugee system that don’t apply in the case at hand. The U.S. system still functions, they argue, and the government wants the case dismissed.

“Claimants are returned to a highly developed asylum system that grants protection to large numbers of persons every year, and is subject to both administrative and judicial checks and balances,” lawyers for the Immigration and Public Safety ministries wrote in their submission to the Federal Court.

“Many of the concerns raised by the applicants have been limited by American courts or are still undergoing legal challenges, have no application to [Safe Third Country Agreement] returnees, and/or do not preclude access to protection.”

The applicants hope the court either suspends the deal or forces it to be amended in such a way that allows those seeking asylum to ask for it. MORE

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They’re Not Just Mad at AOC — They’re Scared of Her

Nancy Pelosi’s war of words with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t about clashing personalities. It’s about Democratic elites trying to undercut AOC’s bold, left agenda.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill, February 27, 2019 in Washington DC. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

ust over one year ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sent shockwaves through the mainstream political establishment by ousting ten-term incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in New York. Running as an open democratic socialist on a platform of redistributive economics, universal health care, bold climate action, and abolishing ICE, she lit a spark under a moribund Democratic Party, becoming an immediate media sensation and capturing the imagination of progressives and young people across the country.In the face of the incredible response to Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory, House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threw cold water on all the excitement. “They made a choice in one district,” she said. “So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that.”

Flash forward to today, and Pelosi’s dismissal of Ocasio-Cortez and her role in the party is again making headlines. This time, the controversy stems from comments Pelosi made to the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd about AOC and her “squad” of fellow freshmen reps Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI): “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Those comments elicited a response from Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti in which they defended the reputation of the four new progressives, calling Pelosi’s characterization “outright disrespectful.”

The ensuing back-and-forth has seen longtime incumbent Democrats pile on criticisms of the squad, with some members accusing Ocasio-Cortez of using “the race card” for suggesting that leadership was “singling out” the newly elected women of color. Even the operatives behind the official House Democrats Twitter account got in on the action, sending out a tweet disparaging Chakrabarti for daring to criticize moderate Democrats over their votes.

Mainstream outlets have characterized the conflict as driven by generational tensions, or (on Pelosi’s side) simply a desire to protect Democratic incumbents from criticism. But the feud in fact speaks to something much deeper: Ocasio-Cortez and her allies are pushing for bold, transformational policies that would upend the current economic and political system. That campaign is coming into open conflict with a Democratic establishment that would prefer to just keep things as they are.

Breaking Ranks With the Establishment

Consider the political backdrop to the current war of words. Pelosi’s “four votes” comment was in reference to a border funding package that Ocasio-Cortez and the squad all voted against, arguing it would provide financing for immigration enforcement more than it would address the humanitarian needs of migrants. The final version of the bill passed by Pelosi included even less aid for migrants than the previous House version, with the few measly concessions secured by the Speaker including a promise from Vice President Mike Pence “that members would be notified within 24 hours of the death of a child in U.S. custody.”

Contrast that dystopian compromise with the stated policy goals of Ocasio-Cortez when it comes to immigration: Repealing laws that criminalize entering the United States without proper documentation, massively increasing US aid to Central America, abolishing ICE — the brutal arm of the US deportation regime that she says “systematically and repeatedly violates human rights” — and even dissolving the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that has been sacrosanct to both the Republican and Democratic parties since its creation after September 11.

This approach to immigration flies in the face of decades of mainstream Democratic Party messaging around the issue, which has consistently centered militarizing the border, criminalizing those who would dare cross it, and deporting immigrants in order to claim the mantle of “toughness.” But the Democratic approach to immigration isn’t just about rhetorical positioning. It also stems from the fact that many Democrats rely on funding from the very same private prison industry that undergirds the horrendous system of migrant detention camps in the United States. MORE

Canada’s checkered history of arms sales to human rights violators

Image result for the conversation: Canada’s checkered history of arms sales to human rights violators
The controversial $12-billion sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia has embroiled Justin Trudeau’s government in controversy. The vehicle in question is shown here at a news conference at a General Dynamics facility in London, Ont., in 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Spowart

The Canadian government has been taking flak lately for its arms sales.

Helicopters destined for the Philippines could be used for internal security in President Rodrigo Duterte’s harsh crackdowns, critics charge.

The $12-billion sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia has also embroiled Justin Trudeau’s government in controversy.

In response, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged to review both deals, suggesting Canada is toughening up arms sales restrictions based on human rights grounds.

But how did Canada get into the international arms trade, anyway?

A look at the history of how Canada started selling weapons overseas following the Second World War reveals that, contrary to Freeland’s implication, Canada actually used to be much more restrictive on arms sales than it is today.

Canada has not made human rights any more central to its arms export policy than it was in the 1940s — in fact, it’s reduced oversight and the consideration of human rights issues when it comes to selling arms. MORE

Romeo Saganash: Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

Image result for romeo saganash
NDP MP Romeo Saganash stands during question period in the House of Commons on Sept. 25, 2018.

Final Statement on C262 Not Becoming Law

In 2011, I set myself the task of advancing Indigenous rights, as defined by knowledge keepers and elders, into Canadian politics. I introduced a bill, now known as C-262, in two separate parliaments, under different Prime Ministers, and worked with the hundreds of people elected to represent Canadians. Over the past two parliamentary mandates I have been given, I have worked diligently to promote human rights and Indigenous values not just in bill C- 262 but in every piece of legislation that passed my desk.

After travelling to speak about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with people in community centres, auditoriums, on picnic tables in baseball parks and in art galleries, people from coast to coast to coast have become champions of justice. Millions of people have had a conversation about Indigenous rights, what they mean, and how they will bring us forward into a beautiful new future.

I am devastated and regret that my bill, that so many people have worked so hard to promote and educate on, will not become law.  Nonetheless, I have been inspired and reassured by the broad representation from civil society in the support for this bill: churches, labour unions, human rights organizations, environmental organizations, Indigenous leadership and grassroots that have made it possible to get to the recognition and respect that we see today.

I do know that we have made tremendous advances in human rights by getting this far in the legislative process. It is rare for non-governmental bills to pass through the House of Commons and to get as far in the Senate as it did. This is an indication of how important bill C-262 is, of how much has changed, and of the general willingness of everyone to move towards a new future together. We cannot go back to how things were before. New understandings of human rights and what they mean and who they include means that society is can only get better because of the work that we have done.

The struggle for human rights is a long one; it takes us away from our families and loved ones; we work too many hours, we sacrifice our health and spirit. Yet our ancestors took a path before me, one that is for dignity, justice and a good life.  Others have not only followed the path but imagined new possibilities. I am grateful for the sacrifices they also have made in the belief that Indigenous law, rights, and ways of being will be one day be restored to these territories. I am honoured to follow in their work, and I dedicate any accomplishments I have made to my family.

I want to thank the countless people who have worked so hard with their whole body, heart, mind and spirit because they believe in the values listed in the Declaration. I remain strongly convinced of the potential for the UN Declaration to be the framework for reconciliation; as a set of standards created by Indigenous peoples for Indigenous peoples, and as a reminder to nation-states like Canada, that we are still here, and we not only deserve but we demand the rights that have been denied us for so long.

There are and always have been obvious flaws in a governing system that is designed to maintain a status quo and deny rights to people who power rejects. The process of bringing C262 along the legislative path has highlighted this for me and I believe there are many parts in this struggle and many people lead; its not enough to create legislation that holds the colonial governments accountable to International human rights standards and to Indigenous ways of being; it will take structural and institutional change in order to see justice on stolen lands. Let us rise with more energy. Let us stand with a greater determination. On behalf of the millions who are building resistance and beauty in our communities: our spirit is not broken.

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The justice system still fails to protect Indigenous women and girls

“Even though the SCC made some important findings in this case, their caution that the justice system has a lot more work to do applies equally to them. We need more than the “important step forward” they commended themselves for — we need a wholescale change. ” — Pam Palmater


“Her life mattered. She was valued. She was important. She was loved.”  R. v. Barton [2019] S.C.J. No. 33.

Cindy Gladue was an Indigenous woman originally from Alberta, where she grew up with her four siblings and extended family. She was also the mother to three daughters and her family described her as both a loving mother and caring auntie. She had close friends and always dreamed about being the first in her family to go to university. Cindy Gladue loved and was loved. She did not deserve her violent death in 2011 nor the indignity done to her body after.

She is now one of the many thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada — a growing crisis that represents grave human rights violations. The trial of the man who admittedly committed this act of violence against Cindy is an example of how defective Canada’s justice system is when it comes to Indigenous women victims and how negligent Canada has been in ensuring the basic human rights of Indigenous women and girls are met.

In this column, there will be no details about Cindy’s appearance, what she wore the night she was killed, where she was killed, whether she knew her killer, her level of education, her health status, or what she did for a living — because none of the facts is relevant to her death. Cindy is not to blame for her death. Cindy did not kill herself. Cindy did not engage in a dangerous knife fight or try to kill someone.

Regardless of which version of the story is accepted by the next trial judge — that she was killed by a male trucker who violently cut an 11-cm gash in her vagina, or that she died from a tear from his violent, but unarmed interaction with her — she still died as a result. According to the SCC quoting from evidence at trial, the trucker then tried to hide evidence, change the crime scene and lie about his involvement. His name doesn’t deserve to be said aloud, nor does he get to hide behind any of the racist or sexist excuses he used at trial to defend himself. None of the evidence referred to at trial or the SCC indicates that he should be believed. Cindy’s life story does not get to be narrated by the man who admits to committing this violence against her.

Sexualized violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada has been allowed to continue in plain sight by government officials, police officers, lawyers and judges who have treated Indigenous women and girls as though they are less worthy of life. In fact, were it not for the lengthy and persistent advocacy of Indigenous women and their allies, Canadians would still be unaware of the crisis. MORE

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These Canadian students are striking to demand action on climate change. Every single week

“I just couldn’t live with myself knowing these facts and not doing my everything to stop it”
— Aliénor Rougeot, student striker

Alienor Rougeot (centre) and other young activists reveal what action they would like to see leaders take regarding climate change and saving the planet.

What if you felt your future was literally going up in flames, but the politicians and business leaders in charge weren’t doing enough to fight it?

That’s the sentiment driving thousands of young people across Canada to rally outside government buildings and corporate centres every week to demand action on climate change, an issue they don’t have the option to ignore.

It’s called #FridaysForFuture, a global movement started by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. She sat in front of parliament every school day for three weeks in August 2018 because she felt Sweden needed to do more to tackle climate change. Canada became the third country to hold a rally in solidarity on Nov. 2, 2018.

Within months, students were holding events every week, including several large-scale rallies like the International Climate Strike on May 24, when thousands of youth across the country took to the streets alongside others in 133 countries.

“When we started we were less than 100, but since March 15 we are always above 400,” says Aliénor Rougeot, the 20-year-old University of Toronto student co-ordinating Toronto’s strikes.

As conservative governments and political parties across Canada fight carbon pricing and politicians are accused of dropping the ball on climate change, we asked Rougeot and other young activists what’s at stake, and what action they would like to see leaders take.

"While I was always told to listen to science and experts when it came to everything else, it seems that for climate change our whole world still lives in a haze of denial," says University of Toronto student Alienor Rougeot.
Aliénor Rougeot, 20, Toronto

Striking is a disruption of the “normal”, the “usual way of life.” And that’s exactly what we need to make people understand, because if we keep living our lives as usual and acting like everything is normal, we will not have much time left on this Earth.

I am striking because our governments, but also the private sector and many individuals, are not taking the climate crisis seriously. I was born under the threat of climate change and while I was always told to listen to science and experts when it came to everything else, it seems that for climate change our whole world still lives in a haze of denial.

I am also striking because I care very deeply about human rights and justice, and climate change is fundamental a symbol of injustice. It was created by a few and will affect disproportionately those who have not contributed to it. It is going to affect marginalized communities, Indigenous people, lower-income families, and people from poorer countries. Climate change is going to lead to more wars, more water shortages, more floods and fires, and that is going to lead to more refugees and death than we are already seeing right now. I just couldn’t live with myself knowing these facts and not doing my everything to stop it.  MORE

Protecting water in a post-capitalist economy

This posting is part 3 of a series on the role of water justice movements in a post-capitalist economy. (Read blogs one and two.) Emma Lui writes, “We can learn from communities in JacksonvilleNew York, South America, and globally that have begun the inspiring work of transitioning to the next economy.”

"Capitalism Isn't Working" Photo: Jonny White/Flickr
Emma Lui is an activist, a writer and a contributor to the book, Corporatizing Canada: Making Business out of Public Service.Photo: Jonny White/Flickr

If we think about where power is manufactured and deployed, it is helpful to think about actual sites of struggles.

Some examples include:

  • Creation of legislation: House of Commons, Standing Committees or Senate Committees, public consultations.
  • Government departments: National Energy Board, Ontario’s Ministry of Environment
  • Courts and legal challenges
  • The physical location of projects: Nestle’s bottled water plants, along a pipeline route
  • Government or corporate spaces: shareholders meetings, LNG event at Canada 2020
  • Educational institutions: classrooms (Big Oil influencing what students learn at school), museums, university campuses
  • “Public debate” in traditional media, social media

Examples of communities contesting power include Climate Strike rallies on Parliament Hill, legal challenges against the Trans Mountain pipeline, the Tiny House Warriors with their mission to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc Territory, as well as creative actions at the Canada 2020 LNG event and at Catherine McKenna’s recent town hall.

It is also helpful to think about other areas where neoliberalism and capitalism, broadly, are strengthened, reinforced, and advanced:

  • Collective consciousness and how a society understands and talks about an issue, e.g. the federal government frames pipelines as a matter of national security rather than a threat to clean water.
  • Within ourselves (our goals, the work we do, the beliefs we have), within our relationships and families (the roles we play, what work is paid and unpaid) and within our communities (how we relate to one another).
  • Consumer and business relationships: where we shop, what is considered a good for sale, what we buy and if we buy.

It is important to think about and contest power structures at these sites and areas in order to advance water justice, climate justice, social justice, Indigenous rights, and human rights more generally.

At the same time, we need to be working to create the next economic system.

Writer and activist Rev. angel Kyodo williams points out, “…why has our imagination been stolen by capitalism in such a way that we can’t even imagine a different possibility for different economies and different ways of trading and being in relationship to one another?”

Activist and PBI-Canada’s Executive Director Brent Patterson notes that anti-capitalism is entering the mainstream — see recent comments by George Monbiot on BBCNaomi Klein on Twitter and Phil McDuff’s article “Ending climate change requires the end of capitalism” in the Guardian.

This creates opportunities to imagine and explore ideas — some that have long been discussed and debated as well as new ones — for the next economic system. MORE

Tsilhqot’in leaders get standing ovation at United Nations forum in New York City

First Nations have to go to the UN to try to implement their 2014 Supreme Court of Canada title victory, attain jurisdiction, and secure basic human rights. The Trudeau government continues to try to define and implement reconciliation in a purely colonial framework. 

The opportunity allowed the chiefs to advocate for the Tsilhqot’in people on the international stage


Chief Joe Alphonse speaks at the United Nations’ Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York City Wednesday, May 1. Photo submitted

Representatives from the Tsilhqot’in Nation took centre stage Wednesday in a rare opportunity to speak before the United Nations — and they knocked it out of the park.

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Tsilhqot’in@tsilhqotin

The Tsilhqot’in Nation was proud to take the floor at the @UN Permanent Forum on Issues, honouring their ancestors and the sharing their spirit and culture with Indigenous Nations from around the world.

“I was taken back by the responses from all the delegates that were in attendance as I (the Tsilhqot’in) got the loudest applause and a standing ovation,” TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said Thursday, thrilled by the response of the crowd.

“Our case gives hope beyond what we could have ever imagined on a world stage.”

Alphonse presented to the Permanent Forum and to hundreds of visiting Indigenous Nations, countries and UN Delegates, speaking about how the Tsilhqot’in War Chiefs of 1864 continue to guide and give strength to the Tsilhqot’in as they seek to implement their 2014 Supreme Court of Canada title victory, and to secure recognition of title and jurisdiction to their Territory.

Alphonse said the chiefs attended the UN to advocate for the Tsilhqot’in people on the international stage, forge alliances and hold the governments accountable for fully implementing their title, jurisdiction and human rights. MORE