by M. Cooke
MONTREAL – “We are foreign temporary workers, any day we could be expelled. That’s why we need a strong and flexible association” said Enrique Llanes, a temporary foreign worker from Spain
Enrique was speaking to a group of over 50 temporary foreign workers who had gathered in Montreal this past Saturday to launch the Temporary Foreign Workers Association (TFWA).
They had gathered not only to fight for their rights, but also for the over 300,000 temporary foreign workers currently in Canada and those who will come in future years.
Mohamed and Helena, temporary foreign workers from Tunisia and Spain, welcomed the workers at the start of the day.
“I would particularly like to thank you for your dedication despite the cold and the distance” said Mohamed.
The workers had come from throughout Quebec: the Laurentians, the Eastern Townships, Chicoutimi, Quebec City, Montreal. These workers came from a range of industries including working as farmers, butchers, machinists, welders, translators, lab technicians among others.
Helena continued the introduction saying: “The obstacles temporary foreign workers face are infinite. The system is created to keep us misinformed and isolated”.
Shortly after, one after another, the workers introduced themselves and shared their experiences of working in Quebec.
One group of farm workers talked about recently discovering that their employer had withheld an average of 2 hours of wages per day for over 6 years.
Several workers complained about being tied to a single employer. One worker explained that the company had laid him off for 3 months, and due to his work permit he could not apply to other jobs, nor could he apply for employment insurance. He was forced to work under the table to survive.
In the legal workshop held earlier in the day, groups of workers shared stories about their employer forcing them to rent his apartments or else being fired.
Workers also shared stories of being told to apply as “single” despite being married and having children back home, putting their future plans to apply as permanent residents in jeopardy.
Other workers shared stories about language barriers. They were not allowed to take French courses and they could not access translation services at hospitals nor within some unions.
But these are only a few of the stories of what is happening throughout Quebec and Canada.
The number of temporary foreign workers has been steadily increasing in the past few years. In 2011, there were over 300 000 temporary foreign workers in Canada.
There has been a shift in the Canadian immigration system says Manon Perron, a union leader with the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN).
“Last week, I was in meetings with a top immigration bureaucrat and he told me that they are looking for workers, not citizens” said Manon Perron to the group of workers.
The temporary foreign worker programs are set up to bring cheap labour in to Canada. The workers work here for low wages and no benefits and once they are no longer needed, they are sent back to their countries.
In 2011 there were more temporary foreign workers than immigrants accepted into the country.
The launch of the Temporary Foreign Workers Association is a big step in challenging a program that is set-up to, as Helena said “keep [workers] misinformed and isolated”.
The association will provide workers with access to legal aid clinics, workshops on labour rights, as well as translation services.
In addition, the association will fight to address the policies that lead to the issues faced by foreign temporary workers. The association hopes to win access to employment insurance and health care, open work permits, easier access to apply for permanent residency, as well as the right to unionize.
Despite the obstacles the workers face, there was something electric about having workers from throughout the province meet with each other and begin building an association that would break the isolation and fight for their rights.
Frustrated delegates at CUPE National Convention launch ‘Rebuilding Militant Labour’ movement from the floor
by Steve da Silva, CUPE 3903 member
In ancient Rome, politicians were known to secure the votes of Roman citizens by doling out wheat (drawn from conquered territories, it should be noted) and providing cheap entertainment. This, the Roman poet Juvenal satirically referred to as “bread and circuses”. But what happens when bread supplies run out?
Last week, Canada’s largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), held its largest-ever convention in Quebec City to mark its 50th anniversary. As the austerity policies of capitalism continue their attacks on public sector workers and the working class in general, it sometimes felt like we delegates were being made to suffer a sideshow of countless speeches, video greetings, and a video montage of CUPE through the decades, as a diversion from the fact that CUPE’s leadership actually has no strategy for defending its members in these times. That is, of course, unless you consider the state of our union as an electoral and lobbying machine that is staking it all on an NDP victory in the 2015 elections a viable and comprehensive strategy.
“A Guided Democracy”
For five days, over 2500 delegates representing some 627,000 workers in hundreds of locals across the country – which cost locals millions of dollars in transportation, registration, and accommodation fees – spent well over half their time in their seats as spectators, listening to speeches and watching videos that quite frankly did more to entrench an incumbent leadership than it did provide time for debate around the future of our union.
In fact, the elected leadership would have been completely acclaimed were it not for the courageous young worker from CUPE 4600 Lydia Dobson, who disrupted what convention floor delegates were mocking as “a coronation”. Dobson challenged CUPE National President Paul Moist from the floor, even after an older CUPE staffer told the Young Workers Caucus that it would be “political suicide” to run against Moist. Dobson did so alone, and without the support of the Young Workers Caucus. Because she ran from the floor, Dobson was denied a right to make a campaign speech. Notwithstanding being a completely unknown candidate for the Presidency of Canada’s largest union, Dobson took 21% of the votes cast.
Dobson told BASICS, “I stand by my actions. I believe in direct action and think that it is imperative that our young workers NOT become intimidated and subjected to power structures and politics that do not represent our best interests. The commotion that this caused today is a blatant demonstration of our the complacency of our members to directed voting, imbalanced power structures and a guided democracy. It should not be shocking that there was a vote at an election.”
Sham democracy aside, many of the threats facing workers were enumerated throughout the convention, but with particular attention given to Bill C-377 and the looming threat of “right to work” legislation. While these two coming attacks on unions will deal a huge blow to the working-class, it is noteworthy that the effect of these two pieces of legislation would be felt first and hardest at the top of the union movement. Bill C-377, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Conservative MP and backbencher Blaine Calkins from Alberta, would impose financial reporting requirements that are far above what exists for any other entity in Canada, and is widely recognized as discriminatory towards and clearly aimed at destroying unions. Bill C-377 would strangle unions in the redtape of their reporting requirements, starving them of their resources; not to mention making it very difficult to certify new unions. It becomes clear how threatening this legislation would be to union bureaucrats who would see their resources wasted on paperwork, an attack that would eventually trickle down to rank-and-file unionists and workers in the form of weak, cash-strapped, defenceless organizations, and eventually defunct organizations.
Fights to be fought
If C-377 is the jab, “right to work” legislation would be the blow from the other side. The so-called right to work legislation, which PC opposition leader in Ontario Tim Hudak is promising, would starve unions of their dues from the other end by whittling down their membership, giving union members to opt-out of paying dues, even though they would be covered by a Collective Agreement.
However, with or without these deathblows to unions (at least as they exist in their current form), the attacks on workers are taking place everyday and are not limited to these threats on the horizon. Impossible to enumerate briefly, these consist of “austerity” cuts that lead to lost jobs, privatizations that break unions and cost taxpayers more in the long run by subsidizing corporate profits, two-tiered bargaining that sell-out young and future workers, the deterioration of workplace safety and conditions of work, and the shift from “defined pensions benefits” that guarantee hard numbers for people’s retirements to “defined contributions” plans that tell you what you must put in pension funds, but not what you’ll get out of them.
Then there are the conditions that affect workers outside the workplace and beyond their working years: record-levels of household, consumer, and student debt; cuts to social and community services; the environmental destruction of capitalism; the $34 billion loss of federal healthcare transfers to provinces if the Health Accord is not renewed in 2014; the genocidal-colonial violence faced by Indigenous peoples in their communities on reserves or in cities. CUPE members are experiencing all these attacks, and more.
Lobbying, Electoralism, and the Complete Absence of Working-Class Strategy
From the convention floor, the anxiety of delegates could be read from the numerous resolutions debated and passed speaking to and taking stances against the deteriorating conditions of workers. But there was no real space to discuss the strategic requirements to actually arm workers for the fight to successfully fight on many fronts. Opening up such a discussion would have subjected to scrutiny the complete failure of electoralism and social democracy to serve the interests of even the “middle-class” workers in the labour movement, leaving aside the broader working poor and hyper-exploited workers.
What is CUPE’s actual plan to fight on all these fronts? Lobbying and elections, basically. One the one hand, there is the public relations campaign called “Together Fairness Works,” which the Canadian Labour Congress has rolled out in the form of a national television advertising campaign from October 7 through November 17. The Fairness project is also directing the energy and resources of staffers and union activists to engage the rank-and-file members around the benefits of being in a union and the contributions of union to society (they mean, capitalist society!). “We need to reintroduce ourselves to our members by having one-on-one conversations about the value of the labour movement and their union,” guest speaker CLC President Ken Georgetti told the Convention. A perusal of the “Fairness” literature seems to reveal, however, that the architects of this campaign didn’t get the memo that corporations and banks are actually posting record profits through austerity and neoliberal policies. As long as “the economy” remains synonymous with capitalism, we lose to the political Right on the ideological terrain because a capitalist economy grows to the extent that it exploits labour.
On the other hand, there is the NDP and the 2015 elections. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair graced the membership with his presence and a speech - essentially promising nothing more than the status quo, holding back or reversing a select few of Harper’s attacks – but could not find the time to take a single question from Canada’s largest union.
The pillar of the convention was the “Strategic Directions 2013-2015: Proud of our Past, Ready for the Future” document, where one would expect to find an elaborated strategy. While identifying many aspects of the crisis faced by the working-class and CUPE’s membership, the document falls short on questions of how we will actually defend ourselves against the panoply of attacks coming from all directions. Insofar as there is any strategy in the document, it was limited to electoralism and tied to the success of the NDP. To the shock of many delegates, a first draft of the document actually read that “We know that the ultimate power over bargaining and strikes lies in the hands of the government of the day” – a statement that was slightly modified only by a revolt from the floor during discussion around the document. Despite opposition to that statement, the amended document retained a phrase from the first draft that basically amounted to the same capitulationist position: “As long as we do not have worker-friendly governments, anything we negotiate at the bargaining table can be taken away from us through legislation.”
“Why is labour the only partner still playing by the rules?”
So, when yesterday’s labour laws are legislated out of the law, what is to be done? Well, nothing but wait for the next elections, and vote. Maybe a bit of lobbying in between. In essence, the CUPE leadership’s stance seems to be passively accepting giving up the historic birthright of the working-class – its right to withdraw its labour as its ultimate source of leverage over capital – and just wait for the next elections. Such are the honest truths presented by a union leadership that is frankly unwilling to stick their necks out and lead us in the struggles that are necessary to defend our livelihoods, let alone fight the greater fights of radically transforming Canadian society to end colonialism, imperialist wars abroad, massive wealth inequalities, and Canada’s leading role in ecological destruction and climate change.
And why would they? Unjust labour legislation, like back-to-work legislation, is making illegal any strike that would actually make a difference and tip the balance of power back into the hands of labour. To break these laws would hurt labour leaders the most: their assets would be seized, they would be jailed, they would face fines that would within weeks of illegal action run into the hundreds of thousands or millions. Do we have the faith in leaders that get paid six figure salaries to lead these fights? According to our Convention’s financial statement, Paul Moist took home a $159,015 salary in 2012 alone, which doesn’t include benefits, and his office used over $370,000 in travel costs. Is it any wonder that the Russian revolutionary Lenin once referred to the likes of Moist as a labour aristocrat?
Frustrations Spark ‘Rebuilding Militant Labour’
It was the growing frustration of delegates with the lack of debate around a viable strategy that sparked midway through the convention a caucus of more radical CUPE members that began calling ourselves “Rebuild Militant Labour” - a caucus formed initially just to coordinate interventions at the mic.
By Day 3, however, with the problems with our union coming into sharper focus, and a growing number of people joining the conversation, Rebuilding Militant Labour (RML) put out an interim basis of unity, holding an impromptu meeting outside convention hours at the end of Day 4 that attracted almost one hundred people, representing much of the country, most of CUPE’s sectors, and the whole demographic spectrum of the union.
Kelly O’Sullivan, President of CUPE 4308, held up an image of a triangle encompassing labour, government, and capital, illustrating the postwar “social compromise” from the 1940s onwards. O’Sullivan asked the leadership why “labour is the only partner still playing by the rules” when capital and government have long ago abandoned the welfarist social contract.
“‘If not now, when?’ may sound cliché,” CUPE 4308 President Kelly O’Sullivan told BASICS, who represents personal support workers in Toronto. “We got the sense that the ‘now’ really is now. ‘RML happened at this national convention because now is the time. You could hear the frustration from the delegates on the convention floor and in casual conversation that we have had enough playing by the rules and that more militant action is needed. RML was a response to our own anger over lack of strategy in our union to not only protect ourselves from the attack on workers and community but also a narrow and limited focus on election of an NDP government in 2015 as the only coordinated response.”
Established on a strictly anti-capitalist basis of unity, according to its founding points of unity RML has taken on the mandate of developing a militant strategy beyond electoralism, entrenching amongst rank-and-file membership and “grassroots power”, and “a program of education for workers in our unions to understand how capitalism is the problem.”
At its founding meeting, RML organized an Interim Coordinating Committee under the mandate of coordinating the implementation of the points of unity in our locals and communities; developing an anti-capitalist educational program; coordinating our organization going into conventions in two years time, and preparing for a separate national convention of Rebuilding Militant Labour in late 2014.
The labour movement in its current form – strictly committed to the institutional arrangement of postwar social order – can no longer defend the working-class; and frankly, they never really represented the whole working-class to begin with. The bread line is closed. A growing proportion of workers can see through the empty promises of social democratic labour leaders and politicians. The circus no longer amuses. Nowhere in the world is social democracy stemming the tide of capitalism’s attacks.
It is time we return to the days when militant labour actually fought for another world, a world that would be free of class division and exploitation. The first stage on that road has always been called ‘socialism’, however you define it and whatever means you think we need to actually get there. If RML lives up to its name and mandate, we may just have one of the central means by which to resume that struggle where Canadian labour left it in the 1940s.
by Steve da Silva
After decades of under-funding to First Nations schools – with high dropout rates and an epidemic of youth suicide that can’t be disassociated with the situation in schools – last Tuesday, October 22, the Federal government tabled their First Nations Education Act that will give it more direct control over about 515 reserve schools under its control.
Under the draft legislation, band councils would be allowed to operate schools directly – as many already do – or purchase services from regional or provincial school boards or the private sector. First Nations could also form education authorities that would oversee one or more schools in a region.
However, under the new legislation it would be the federal government that would set and enforce standards for schools on reserves (with the exception of Onkwehon:we nations that have established self-government agreements that cover education). The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development will retain the power to take over a school or if an inspector finds problems.
What the draft legislation is not clear about are the funding levels that fall far below funding provided to provincial schools. Funding short-falls have been a principal factor in keeping the standards in First Nations schools far below provincially-funded schools.
A piece of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Federal Conservative government claims their aim to be “improving graduation rates for First Nations students,” but First Nations (Indian Act) leaders are already decrying it as a renewal of the colonial legacy, by giving the Feds more control with no guarantee of the desperately needed funding increases.
In an October 25 press release, Chief Patrick Madahbee of the Union of Ontario Indians said that “The proposed First Nations Education Act (FNEA) is about control and false accountability,” says Madahbee. ”It is a colonial document and makes no attempt to close the gap on inequality in education.”
“Firstly, it gives our citizens, parents and students no say in their own education… This is the same mentality as the government-run residential school disaster that had a history littered with genocide and acts of inhumanity.
“Secondly, it ignores curriculum needs that experts agree are essential to the academic success of First Nations learners – curriculum that talks about our culture and beliefs, and an accurate account of our historical contributions.
“And thirdly, this government starts their so-called educational reform with a threat to First Nations that if they don’t meet Canadian standards they will be put under third-party management, despite the fact that First Nation schools are largely underfunded and are unlikely to meet standards set by other, better funded schools, for example, the school in Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay First Nation) receives $4781 less per student than nearby provincially-funded Upsala School in the Keewatin Patricia District School Board.”
Final legislation is anticipated before the year’s end after “consultation” with First Nations (Indian Act) authorities.
by Steve da Silva
With the consciousness of people in Canada taken up a notch on the issue of “fracking” by the Mi’kmaq-led resistance in New Brunswick, it’s only a matter of time before people’s sights and struggles shift to the next major shale-gas frontier: Ontario. The US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013 that there were 573 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in Canada.
“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is the process by which oil is withdrawn from harder to access sources by blasting water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock formations.
High gas prices have opened the way for the oil industry to push fossil fuel exploitation into the realm of more difficult to reach fossils fuels, what are known as “the unconventionals”: tar sands, shale-gas, and deep-water oil wells.
Most people in Ontario are unaware that a Canadian oil firm out of Alberta has for years been acquiring land rights across southwestern Ontario, in order to explore and drill the extensive shale-gas deposits in the province. Although up-to-date information on its operations are scarce, by 2011 Mooncor Oil and Gas Corp. already owned some 20,000 acres of land in Chatham-Kent and Lambton County, in southwestern Ontario.
In Ontario, geologists have broken down shale-gas deposits into three major zones: the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale; the Collingwood-Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale; and the northernmost limit of the Marcellus Shale that extends up from Pennsylvania and New York State.
While Ontario shale-gas exploration is reported to have not yet used the fracking method, the even greater danger of tapping shale-gas is the planetary danger posed by carbon emissions through new fossil fuel exploitation. Although natural gas emits half the greenhouse gas that coal gives off, most of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be exploited without initiating irreversible levels of climate change.
by Steve da Silva – Co-produced with Two Row Times
The verdict couldn’t be clearer: we are destroying and degrading the Ocean at a pace not even anticipated by the experts just two years ago.
This is the forecast of the Global State of the Oceans Report, by a body of the world’s leading marine scientists along with international marine governance officials. The report takes a holistic, “earth systems” approach to studying the state of the oceans, as opposed to artificially isolating problems into specific locales or species.
The ocean makes up one of the primary systems in Earth’s overall ecological system, and the report acknowledges that its role as an overall regulator is being compromised by human activity.
The report warns, “the window of opportunity to take action is narrow. There is little time left in which we can still act to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to marine ecosystems as we see them today.”
Many may think that the most immediate threats to the ocean are coming from industrial pollutants and overfishing – which are indeed major problems. The 80-90 million tons of fish caught every year is rapidly depleting fish stocks and the larger food webs they are a part of. Meanwhile, pollutants from profit-driven industrial activities and agricultural run-off are depleting the oxygen levels in in the ocean and creating large “dead zones”.
Yet, the greatest threat of all to the Ocean’s role in the earth system is climate change. As carbon emissions rise, so too is the extent to which they are absorbed by the ocean, which is leading to ocean acidification with disastrous consequences for marine life.
Yet, while the writing on the wall spells out Earth-system collapse if drastic changes are not made to our economy’s relationship to the Earth, the report falls short of putting forward the radical solutions needed, pointing instead in the direction of policy actions within the same economic system. It comes as little surprise, given the reports main audience are “policy makers,” which is to say mostly people invested in the status quo.
The report concludes that “Without decisive and effective action, no region or country will be immune from the socioeconomic upheaval and environmental catastrophe that will take place – possibly within the span of the current generation and certainly by the end of the century. It is likely to be a disaster that challenges human civilisation.”
by Saraswati Ali, writer and lawyer in Toronto
The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar by Amrit Wilson
Pluto Press, 2013. 192pp. Paperback. African Studies. CDN$ 32.56 at Amazon.ca
The Threat of Liberation returns to the tumultuous years of the Cold War, when, in a striking parallel with today, imperialist powers were seeking to institute ‘regime change’ and install pliant governments… The book also draws on US cables released by Wikileaks showing Zanzibar’s role in the ‘War on Terror’ in Eastern Africa today. – Pluto Press, Publisher
The Threat of Liberation reflects on the history of a party which confronted imperialism and built unity across ethnic divisions, and considers the contemporary relevance of such strategies.
In her first book on the topic, US Foreign Policy and Revolution (1989), Amrit Wilson, feminist activist and writer based in London, UK, discussed how this union of regions was orchestrated by the U.S., who was desperately attempting to prevent Zanzibar from becoming the Cuba of Africa, spreading dissent and revolution through the continent.
In her new book, The Threat of Liberation, Amrit Wilson tells us what the U.S. was so scared of – the Umma party, its characteristic leader A.M. Babu, and the leadership’s dedication to fostering multiracial unity, socialism in Africa, and independent relations with China and the Third World.
Wilsons delves into the historical details of 1950s and 1960s Zanzibar through records and interviews with the few leading activists who have not been murdered or died. A.M. Babu has also left extensive writings which form the guiding spirit of the book. It is an important tale of an attempted revolution, in the midst of the Cold War. It conveys how the presence of an organized and principled Umma party, and especially a youth wing, helped convert a revolution led initially by “lumpen” elements into a focused revolutionary government.
However, the process was only allowed a few months before it was hijacked by Julius Nyerere under orders from the U.S. Nyerere was a pro-West leader. He led a one-party state which governed Tanganyika and then Tanzania from 1961 to 1985.
Zanzibar became relegated to dominion status within the union, and a viciously oppressive and racist (anti-Arab and anti- Asian) clique was permitted to govern Zanzibar. All the Umma activists were either murdered, tortured and jailed for years. Hundreds of women suffered forced cross-racial marriage and rape by the ruling party in the early years.
As and when opportunity presented itself, and when he was not imprisoned, Babu continued to cultivate links with radicals, including Malcolm X. They spoke together at rallies in Harlem, and Babu influenced Malcolm X into adopting an anti-imperialist perspective.
In the second half of the book, Wilson uses Wikileaks released material to bring the story to the present and to look at how and why Zanzibar continues to present itself to the paranoid U.S. as a threat – this time because of its masses of unemployed Muslim youth sitting on…. an abundance of natural gas and oil. Talk in foreign intervention circles is ongoing regarding “allowing” Zanzibar to secede – this time as a disciplined workground for SEZs coupled with oil extraction monopolies.
In this section, Wilson takes us through the contours of the horrific current processes of recolonization of Africa with the descent of multinational extraction companies and donors like vultures on the land, in search of gas, oil, valuable metals, and minerals. It is a very important story to hear because it tells of the contrasting methods of the Western powers (including Norway usually touted for its wonderful social democratic state) compared to China, who is also gaining access to the oilfields, but through setting up long-lasting infrastructure projects which could potentially bring benefits to African development.
One of the most important aspects of revolutionary struggle that Wilson discusses at some length is the nature of the underlying vision – what did Babu and other radicals in the PanAfrican movement want. This is best seen as what Babu attempted on one occasion – he went to Indonesia in 1964, then a major importer of Zanzibar’s cloves. A tri-lateral trade cum industrial agreement was made, where Zanzibar would provide Indonesia with cloves, Indonesia would provide East Germany with raw materials of equal values, and Germany would provide Zanzibar with industrial tools and machinery. By the time he returned to Zanzibar, however, Nyerere had taken over, with no vision of development for Zanzibar. Later, however, Babu did manage to get the Chinese to offer Tanzania the historical Tanzania-Zambia railway. This permitted Zambia to be able to export its copper from a port outside of racist South Africa. Hence Zambia could partially de-linking from the imperial-controlled routes and take an autonomous stance on apartheid. The World Bank and the U.S. government had refused to finance this railroad.
Wilson also offers us a debate between the African socialism model of Nyerere and the socialism in Africa model of Babu. The former, with its romantic rhetoric of pre-colonial class-less Africa, had no concept of how to raise the necessary capital for the welfare it wanted to deliver. The model became implemented as an authoritarian system of top-down rule leading to the impoverishment of the peasantry on the other as they were compelled to live in collectives under terms of austerity with no infrastructure, market, or subsidy. A.M. Babu and the Umma party, long dissolved, could not put into practice or refine their own vision, but Wilson at the end of her book imagines what it might look like in the contemporary context: where the extraction of oil and gas in Zanzibar is controlled by and used to benefit the people; such that illiteracy and poor health can be relegated to the past; and housing , education and employment a birthright to all. She does not tell us if anyone is discussing these ideas with the ‘radical Muslim’ youth in Zanzibar, but perhaps that is one reason why she wrote this important book.
by Kitchener-Waterloo BASICS
In an attempt to reverse the flow of highly-corrosive tar sands bitumen through the Haldimand Tract (Six Nations land), the Calgary-based oil company Enbridge is using the ageing Line 9 pipeline. The company is moving forward without the consent from the indigenous peoples whose way of life is directly threatened by the pipeline which has been built on the land where they live.
The danger with pumping is that bitumen is an unprocessed tar sands oil that is mixed with a highly-corrosive natural-gas liquid, and needs to be pumped at a higher temperature and pressure due to its viscosity. As a result, this puts a heavy strain on the aging 38-year-old pipeline. Pumping this oil also comes with a lot of waste that is pumped back into the Athabasca River system, which has an extremely negative effect on the surrounding environment.
Over the years, Enbridge has been dangerously careless when pumping tar sands oil through their pipelines. Between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge has reportedly been responsible for at least 800 spills (approximately 7 million gallons of heavy crude oil). One of the most devastating examples is the 2010 Line 6B spill in the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. The effects of that spill were massive, and three years and almost one billion dollars later, the spill is still not completely cleaned up. Both Line 9 and 6B were built to transport conventional crude oil, not bitumen.
KW is showing resistance through a coalition of broad-based community organizations who oppose the proposal of the reversal of tar sands oil. Malcolm of Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance said, “there was an occupation of the Enbridge Westover pumping station on Beverly Swamp, resulting in delaying the reversal through the area. This inspired people to take action in their own communities. This dirty tar sands oil not only puts people at risk, but also wildlife in the environment as well”.
“Here in Kitchener we have put forward a declaration and used it as a tool to get support from the community. By having info nights, lobbying, and organizing around this declaration, we hope to pressure the council to oppose this attack on our communities,” says Joe Campbell, community organizer.
KW organizers believe that we as a community need to work in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of this land to stop the reversal of the tar sands oil through this land before it’s too late and we have our own Kalamazoo on our hands. For more information, you can visit http://noline9wr.ca/.
by Steve da Silva
Many of us have the impression that immigration policy in Canada is driven by so-called “Canadian values” like humanitarianism. This may have been part your or your parents Citizenship test, or maybe you learned this in school.
However, since the 1870s, Canadian immigration policy has primarily been about attracting workers to feed its expanding capitalist economy. In the century leading up to that, immigration policy was primarily focused on colonizing Indigenous lands with British settlers.
By 1942, just as most of Canada’s 23,000 Japanese were about to be branded as “enemy aliens,” dispossessed of their property, and removed to concentration camps, the government began thinking seriously about the crisis of legitimacy they would face after the war, especially in the eyes of non-Anglophone peoples. They did not want a repeat of WWI, which sparked the takeover of Winnipeg by workers in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
In the same year, the Department of National War Services established an Advisory Committee on Cooperation in Citizenship that was charged with studying the views of immigrants for the purpose better cultivating their allegiance and loyalty.
Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, a large section of the immigrant population and a growing section of the lower middle class were orienting towards the Communist Party and their vision for an egalitarian society; and communists played a leading role in building unions for industrial workers. So cultivating the allegiance of certain sections of labour in postwar Canada would be just as important as cultivating the allegiance of immigrants in general.
In February of 1944, the federal government passed an executive order recognizing trade unions; by March 1945, 133 new unions had been certified; and a fierce 99-day strike at Ford over the summer of 1945 led to the compulsory check-off of union dues from members’ pay cheques (the ‘Rand’ Formula, which is being threatened today). But these moves were not a concession to the communists: rather, bringing labour relations within the law went hand-in-hand with the subsequent policy of isolating and fiercely attacking communism during the Cold War period that followed.
In 1947, the Canadian Citizenship Act was passed, and in 1950, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent made clear that the goal of the Act was “to make Canadian citizens of those who come here as immigrants and to make Canadian citizens of as many as possible of the descendants of the original inhabitants of this country.” In other words, the objective was assimilation, for immigrants as well as for Indigenous peoples.
Once the flow of cheap European labour began drying up in the 1960s – the last waves of which were the Greeks and Portuguese – the Canadian state began looking towards other pools of immigrants, and to varying degrees grudgingly ‘tolerating’ non-white peoples migrating and gaining citizenship.
Canadian immigration policy responded to these labour needs by introducing the “points system” by 1967, which formally lifted the racial criteria (which identified “preferred races”) for immigration and set out ‘objective criteria’ for the recruitment of prospective immigrants, such as education background, language skills, occupation or professional experiences, as well as family ties to Canada. These policy shifts in immigration became institutionalized with the Immigration Act of 1976.
Meanwhile, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (DCI) oversaw Indian Affairs from 1949 to 1966, at a time of the height of the Indian Residential Schools. A 1961 report from DCI explicitly stated that the government intended using off-reserve educational opportunities – such as the Residential Schools – as a means of depopulating reserves and effecting the assimilation of Indigenous peoples.
By the mid-1960s, however, the Federal government became frustrated with the pace of assimilation of natives, and the Trudeau government decided to proceed with its infamous ‘White Paper’ of 1969, which called for a complete dismantling of the Indian Act and the direct assimilation of natives as ‘Canadians’ – which would have made them into the most dispossessed and poorest strata of the working class, and completely eliminated their self-determination.
The policy of native assimilation, the demand for cheap labour, and the need to tame Quebec nationalism, therefore, were driving forces behind the policy that we have come to know in the benign terms of multiculturalism.
But in his own day, Trudeau was clear that his policy of multiculturalism sought to “promote creative encounters and interchange among all Canadian cultural groups in the interest of national unity”. What national unity? Whose nation?
Many would point to Canada’s refugee policies (at least until very recently) as an example of Canada’s humanitarianism. However, as Pablo Vivanco analyzed in BASICS recently, it wasn’t until solidarity activists forced the Canadian government to accept Chilean refugees fleeing the Western-backed dictatorship that Canada’s refugee policy was partially opened up to refugees who weren’t anti-communist. Until the Chilean refugee crisis, Canada’s Cold War refugee system only granted asylum to people leaving ‘socialist’ countries, like Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam. Recruiting anti-communist refugees had a lot to do with national unity as well: the unity of Canada as a capitalist country.
With the banning of religious symbols in the public service in Quebec’s new Charter clearly directed at Muslims, many are wondering what happened to ‘tolerance’ in this country. But the emergence of the policy of ‘multiculturalism’ in Canada was never the product of some progressive enlightenment of Canada’s political system, its nationals, or its elites. It was developed in the postwar era as a strategy for the assimilation of immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and containing Quebecois nationalism. It was a policy for assimilating and managing an increasingly diverse population in the interests of capitalism and colonialism.
Many of us want to live in a diverse society where all peoples from all nations are genuinely respected and can fully participate in society for the benefit of all. But that was never Canada. Not yesterday, not today. That’s a society we have yet to build.
 See p.444 of Bohaker, H. & Iacovetta, F. (2009). Making Aboriginal people ‘Immigrants Too’: A comparison of citizenship programs for newcomers and Indigenous peoples in postwar Canada, 1940s-1960s. Canadian Historical Review 90(3), 427-461.
by Steve da Silva – Co-produced with Two Row Times
After months of arrests and mounting resistance against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick on Mi’kmaq territory, the anti-fracking movement upped the ante this past week with a fresh blockade and a proclamation of a massive land reclamation, which has forced conservative New Brunswick Premier David Alward to a negotiation table with representatives of the anti-fracking movement.
A day after the September 30 blockade was established on Route 134 that blocked the entrance to an equipment storage site of SWN Resources Canada, Chief Aaron Sock, speaking for Chief and Council of the Elsipogtog First Nation, announced a sweeping Mi’kmaq land reclamation effective immediately.
“Harper and the Conservative government have lifted restrictions to environmental protections of our lands and water” and “the provincial government is turning over all lands… to a corporation for their own benefit… we have lost confidence in governments for the safekeeping of our lands.”
Sock added that “our notice of eviction has been completely ignored by the Provincial government and Southwest Energy, and… we have been compelled to act to save our water, land and animals from ruin.”
“Let it be known to all the we as the chief and council of Elsipogtog are reclaiming all unoccupied reserve lands… We have been instructed by our people that they are ready, willing, and able to go out and stake their own claims on all unoccupied lands for their own use and benefit.”
The October 1 announcement, which came on their Treaty Day, was read at the blockade site to an exuberant crowd of hundreds who gathered from across Kent County and beyond.
The New Brunswick government has been allowing SWN Resources to explore some 2.5 million acres of lands for the purpose of shale gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. Fracking involves drilling deep wells that fracture shale rock beds and requires the pumping of millions of gallons of pressurized fresh water and toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins, into a well to force the gas out. However, the provincial government’s case for hydraulic fracturing took a huge blow this past September when Louis LaPierre, the researcher at the New Brunswick Energy Institute who wrote the report encouraging the government to proceed with gas exploitation, was discovered to have lied for decades about having a PhD in Ecology.
On Wednesday, October 2, a new Brunswick court issued an injunction against the blockade at the request of SWN, which is enforceable until October 12, 2013. But the papers have yet to be served by the RCMP, and Miles Howe of the Halifax Media Co-op has reported that the RCMP would not enforce an injunction until dialogue with the Premiere had ceased.
On Sunday, October 5 Premier Alward and three members of his cabinet met with and the Elsipogtog chief and 15 representatives of the protesters for three hours in a Moncton hotel, with negotiations continuing in Fredericton as of Monday. The delegation reportedly excluded the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, who Alward would not meet with, and who have reportedly been the main and most visible force at the blockade. The Warriors are independent of the Chief and Council.
Two Row Times asked Elsipogtog counsellor Robert Levi whether the negotiations that had opened up related to the blockade or the larger land reclamation, and Levi told us that “I think the [reclamation] is a larger issue that will take on a life of its own. But since we have an injunction hanging over our heads, this is what needs to be resolved right now, since we want a peaceful resolution to the blockade and for no one to get hurt.”
On October 7, the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society took their own initiative and hand-delivered a letter (via a Houston-based environmentalist group) to SWN Resources reading, “all projects, leases, and permits issued to SWN Resources by the Government [of New Brunswick] come to a halt until all Mi’kmaq-L’nu, and Wabanaki communities, as sovereign individuals are Meaningfully Consulted, and that we are able to come to an informed decision as individuals.”
All the while, the Acadian presence in the anti-fracking movement and at the most recent blockade has also been quite strong, which many see as a welcome development between the two communities. Fourteen years ago, the crisis of Burnt Church unfolded 100 km to the north, where non-native fishers destroyed thousands of Mi’kmaq lobster traps to protest native fishing rights, which was followed by violent confrontations. However, Acadians and Mi’kmaq have also had strong of unity against a common oppressor in the region’s history. After the mass expulsion of the French-speaking Acadian people by the British in 1755, the remaining Acadians and the Mi’kmaq made a treaty that saw the two peoples unite in a guerilla war against the British that led to the 1757 defeat of a British detachment in 1757 in the Battle of Bloody Creek.
by N. Zahra
It is estimated that approximately 1 in 3 North Americans is lactose intolerant and 1 in 100 North Americans suffer from celiac disease, or severe gluten intolerance. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Gluten intolerance refers to the inability to tolerate gluten-containing foods such as wheat, rye and barley. In the last few years, there seems to be an increasing trend toward people developing food intolerance in North America.
Personal experiences collected on websites such as motherearthnews.com, suggests that people are noticing a big difference in their digestive health when they consume dairy and wheat in North America versus when they consume it elsewhere, such as in Europe. So far, there is no conclusive research that suggests that food intolerance is a uniquely North American phenomenon, but in examining data from European countries, one can see that although food intolerance is increasingly on the radar, they are not common enough to merit serious attention by those looking to cash in on peoples’ illnesses or perceived illnesses, such as speciality food companies or pharmaceutical companies.
According to a paper produced by the Institute of Food Research, although there is an increasing public perception of food intolerance, researchers cannot find a large enough cohort of subjects to study in any one European country because diagnosis levels are so low. Somewhere between 3-5% of Europeans are diagnosed with some form of food intolerance, while in North America, it is estimated that up to 11.5 % of the total population suffers from food intolerance, according to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2010, with many cases still going undiagnosed. Conversely, according to a study done by The Gluten-Free Agency, a consulting firm dedicated to helping advertisers market their gluten-free products, the market for gluten-free products is exploding here with consumers in the 50-64 and 25-34 age ranges in North America, being the largest consumers of gluten-free products world-wide.
If we put the andecdotal evidence together with these startling consumer trends, a picture starts to emerge of an ill-health phenomenon that is making big bucks for specialty food companies. Another dimension to this trend is the difference between those who have been made aware of their food intolerance issues and who can afford to treat them, and those that suffer in silence, thinking that it is normal to be bloated and gassy after every meal.
It is important to raise awareness that bloating and gas after every meal indicates ill digestive health and that the way that food is produced in North America might be largely to blame for this problem.