Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, Guatemala, Human Rights, Latin America, Mining.
Tags: andreal germanos, Canada, canadian mining, environment, genocide, guatemala, guatemala government, guatemala military, guatemala protests, human rights, mining protests, otto perez, perez molina, rios-montt, roger hollander, tahoe resources, torture, water rights
In a crackdown on mining protests, Guatemala declared a 30-day “state of siege” on Thursday in four areas of the country, suspending people’s constitutional rights and sending in hundreds of police officers and thousands of soldiers following weeks of violence.
Military force enters the town of Jalapa. (Photo: @AndrinoB)
Reuters reports that
Guatemalan President Otto Perez [Molina] announced the move in an effort to quell protests targeting the mine belonging to Canadian miner Tahoe Resources Inc. Two people have been killed in the demonstrations.
The company’s security guards shot and wounded six demonstrators on Saturday, said Mauricio Lopez, Guatemala’s security minister.
The next day, protesters, who say the Escobal silver mine near the town of San Rafael Las Flores will contaminate local water supplies, kidnapped 23 police officers, Lopez said.
One police officer and a demonstrator were killed in a shootout on Monday when police went to free the hostages, said Lopez.
The government said on Thursday it was outlawing gatherings in the towns of Jalapa and Mataquescuinlta, and the areas of Casillas and San Rafael Las Flores.
A decree allows them temporarily to make detentions, conduct searches and question suspects outside the normal legal framework.
The Associated Press reports that the government’s decree also restricts “freedom of movement, the right to bear arms, freedom of association and demonstration.”
While protest over the mine has been escalating in the past several weks, MICLA (McGill Research Group Investigating Canadian Mining in Latin America), explains that resistance to the mine goes back years to the project’s approval, which “triggered a great deal of resentment amongst the local communities who claim they were neither informed nor consulted about the mining project.”
Protesters say the Escobal silver mine, owned by Canadian-based Tahoe and located near San Rafael las Flores, threatens their water supply.
Tahoe contests that the project “is being constructed to the highest environmental and social standards and it brings needed employment to the area and millions of dollars in annual royalties and taxes.”
“I don’t intervene because I’m poor and I have to work to support my family but the truth is that the mine does affect us when it comes to the environment,” Xalapan resident Mariano Lopez Escobar told the Associated Press. “Although, it sounds like that with an order from the president for the mine to start working there isn’t much one can do.”
“Unfortunately this government has been very much pro-business, and most of these businesses are foreign, mostly Spanish, American and Canadian,” Rob Mercatante of the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission told German news agency Deutsche Welle. “They’ve received such a warm welcome from the administration that some feel the justice system is now being used to punish community leaders for upholding their rights.”
Perez Molina has been been under fire from human rights defenders for being “directly involved in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide during the long civil war in Guatemala—as an ‘intellectual author’ and as a ‘material author.’” And last month, during the trial for U.S.-backed, School of the Americas-trained Efrain Rios Montt, a former soldier testified that “soldiers, on orders from Major ‘Tito Arias’, better known as Otto Pérez Molina … co-ordinated the burning and looting, in order to later execute people” during Guatemala’s dirty wars of the 1980s.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tags: aaron mate, amy goodman, Canada, canada government, conscientious objector, Democracy Now, Iraq war, james branum, Kimberly Rivera, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, War Resisters
Roger’s note: I have followed this case carefully and was able to meet Kimberly some years ago in Toronto. You should know that the Canadian parliament has had two votes on giving refuge to US war resisters. The first was a non-binding vote and it passed with a large majority and was ignored by the Harper Conservative government. The second vote would have been binding. It occurred under the Harper minority government, and the three opposition parties vowed to support the giving of refuge to the American resisters. This should have assured its passage. However, the unprincipled Liberal party and its then sleazy leader, Michael Ignatieff, along with other Liberals, including its current leading leadership candidate, Justin Trudeau, consciously absented themselves from the vote, which resulted in its defeat. The Harper government has also instructed its Immigration officers to treat all refugee claims by US war resisters as illegitimate. SHAME. What is left of Canada’s reputation as a peace loving nation is on its last legs under the Harper government. And the Liberals are not much better.
Private First Class Kimberly Rivera — a conscientious objector and pregnant mother of four — has just been sentenced to military prison for refusing to serve in the Iraq War. Rivera was on a two-week leave in December 2006 when she decided she would not return to Iraq for a second tour of duty. She and her family fled to Canada in February 2007, living there until their deportation back to the United States last year. On Monday, a military court sentenced her to 10 months behind bars. Her fifth child is due in December. We’re joined by Mario Rivera, Kimberly’s husband and now the primary caretaker of their four young children, and by James Branum, a lawyer who represents Kimberly and dozens of other conscientious objectors.
AARON MATÉ: We turn now to the case of Private First Class Kimberly Rivera. She is a conscientious objector and a pregnant mother of four children, who has just been sentenced to military prison. Rivera first deployed to Iraq in 2006. During a two-week leave back in the U.S., she decided to refuse a second tour of duty in Iraq. In January 2007, Rivera and her family packed up their car and crossed the border into Canada. She was later charged with desertion and faced up to five years in prison if convicted. Well, on Monday she was sentenced to 14 months. Under a pretrial agreement, she will serve 10 months of that sentence.
This is Kimberly Rivera speaking late last year about her case.
KIMBERLY RIVERA: If you want to know, my biggest fear is being separated from my children and having to—having to sit in a prison for politically being against the war in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Since their arrival to Canada in early 2007, Kimberly Rivera, her husband and two children settled in Toronto. She had two more children there and made several attempts to legally immigrate. Canada’s War Resisters Support Campaign championed the case, drawing endorsers including Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. But Canadian officials refused. In August, they ordered the Rivera family to leave the country or face deportation. A provincial lawmaker representing Rivera’s Toronto district, Cheri DiNovo, condemned the order.
MPP CHERI DINOVO: As the member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park, which is home to a number of war resisters, I know Kimberly personally. I see her in our—in our neighborhood, see her with her family. I know that she participates in the community. She’s a volunteer. She works with children. And she is a person who has shown great integrity and courage and principle. Surely, she is exactly the kind of person that we want to embrace and welcome here in Canada. Canada has a proud history of welcoming conscientious objectors from other wars in the past. Why not now? Especially given that this is a war that Canadians are proud not to have participated in.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Ontario lawmaker Cheri DiNovo speaking last August.
Kimberly Rivera turned herself in at the U.S.-Canadian border just days later. She’s now on her way to a military prison for 10 months. Her fifth child is due while she’s behind bars.
Well, we’re joined right now by her husband, by Mario Rivera. He will now become the primary caretaker for their four young children. We’re also joined by James Branum, the defense attorney who represented Kimberly during her court-martial yesterday, Monday, at Fort Carson. He’s also represented dozens of other conscientious objectors, is legal director for the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research. They’re speaking to us from the Tim Gill Center for Public Media in Colorado Springs, home to Rocky Mountain PBS and KRCC public radio.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Mario, you’ve just come out of the court yesterday. Can you respond to the sentencing of your wife Kimberly to 10 months in jail for refusing to return to Iraq and go to Canada instead?
MARIO RIVERA: I think it was severely harsh, and I personally feel that the judge already made up his mind before the trial had even started. It’s just too much. The kids need her.
AARON MATÉ: Mario, tell us about the reaction of your children. How have they handled this whole ordeal? And what did they say yesterday?
MARIO RIVERA: As soon as they found out yesterday, they broke down into tears. Just the thought of being away from their mother for—sorry, for 10 more months; they’ve already been gone for eight months out of her life, so it’s difficult.
AMY GOODMAN: Mario, how old are your kids, and what are their names?
MARIO RIVERA: Christian is 11, Rebecca is eight, Katie is five, and Gabriel is two.
AMY GOODMAN: James, James Branum, you’re her attorney. When she was in Iraq, she turned to a chaplain to say she could not do this, that she could not, when she looked at Iraqi children, she said, open fire?
JAMES BRANUM: Yes, she talked to the chaplain, expressed her concerns. She said that she didn’t think she should—could pull the trigger, if asked to. And this is a critical issue, because she was a gate guard at FOB Loyalty in Baghdad. Her job was a critical—critical thing, as far as security coming on and off the base. And so, she felt that she morally could not do what she was asked to do; at the same time, she realized that she would put other soldiers in danger if she didn’t pull the trigger when the time came. She talked to a chaplain about it. The chaplain largely pushed her aside, did not give her the counsel that she really needed. And so, when she came home on leave, she took other steps. And it’s unfortunate that she did not get the legal advice and information she needed to seek status as a conscientious objector.
AMY GOODMAN: So when she—
JAMES BRANUM: That said—
AMY GOODMAN: James Branum, so when she said this to the chaplain, he didn’t say, “There’s a way you can legally do this: You could apply for a CO status”? Instead he argued with her?
JAMES BRANUM: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So she didn’t know the process?
JAMES BRANUM: The chaplain was very, very resolute that Kim—that she needed to stay there, she needed to fulfill her mission, instead of giving her the spiritual counsel she needed at that moment. Instead, this chaplain told her basically, “Suck it up. Continue on.” And that was—that was not the advice she needed at that moment. She needed to know her rights. She needed to know AR 600-43 gives her the right to seek status as a conscientious objector. She didn’t know that.
AARON MATÉ: James, so 10 months in prison—how does this sentence compare to sentences to other resisters? And is there an exception here, by given the fact that she’s pregnant and is due in December? How does that factor in?
JAMES BRANUM: We don’t know. The judge doesn’t really give the rationale for why he made the decision he did. We do know there have been some resistance cases that have received greater sentences. As long as 24 months has been given. But many other resisters receive little jail time or no jail time. And people that desert, generally, over 90 percent do no jail time at all. And so, we feel that Kim was singled out.
Another thing, the prosecutor at trial said that he asked the judge to give a harsh sentence to send a message to the war resisters in Canada. And we feel that was—the Canadian government, in deporting Kim, said she would not face any serious punishment because of her political and conscientious objection to war. And in reality, that’s exactly what happened. That was the prosecution’s argument, that because she spoke out against the war, she therefore should be punished.
AMY GOODMAN: Mario, you live in Colorado, is that right, with your four children?
MARIO RIVERA: No, the four children are in Texas right now. I came up here in March, originally, because that was when the trial was supposed to have been. Unfortunately, my mom fell ill, and it was pushed back until yesterday.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how will you raise the four kids alone? How are you going to do this over the next 10 months?
MARIO RIVERA: I don’t know. It’s going to be difficult. I’m just going to have to do my best and try to keep it together and keep them together and just help them be strong.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, and Mario especially. I know this was very tough for you to come on today. Mario Rivera, Kimberly Rivera’s husband—she serves her 10-month sentence; he becomes the primary caretaker for their four young children. She will be serving that time—where? In California?
JAMES BRANUM: We believe it will be in Miramar. One other critical thing to mention is there is an ongoing campaign to have her released on clemency grounds. Information on that—
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll link to that website at democracynow.org.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, canada government, canada indigenous, canada mining, environment, First Nations, idle no more, indigenous peoples, martin lukacs, roger hollander, rule of law, sovereignty summer, Stephen Harper, tar sands
In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.
(Photo: Mark Blinch/Reuters)
It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.
Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.
This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.
In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.
How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.
He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.
“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”
This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.
Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprising may be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.
Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”
The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.
No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.
Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.
But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.
This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”
Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.
© 2013 The Guardian
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Criminal Justice, Torture, War, War on Terror.
Tags: Canada, child soldier, Criminal Justice, dennis edney, diana mehta, Guantanamo, khadr appeal, military commissions, Omar Khadr, roger hollander, terrorism, torture
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr plans to appeal his terrorism convictions and hopes to walk free if his efforts are successful.
Janet Hamlin / AP
Khadr had pleaded guilty before a military commission in October 2010 to five war crimes — among them killing a U.S. special forces soldier — committed as a 15 year old in Afghanistan. He was given a further eight years behind bars.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr plans to appeal his terrorism convictions and hopes to walk free if his efforts are successful.
Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney said Saturday that the Toronto-born 26-year-old was “looking forward” to the appeal, which is expected to be filed “very soon.”
Khadr has been held in maximum-security Millhaven Institution in Kingston, Ont. since his transfer to Canada last September from Guantanamo Bay, where he had been held for a decade.
He had pleaded guilty before a widely discredited American military commission in October 2010 to five war crimes — among them the killing of a U.S. special forces soldier — committed in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old. He was given a further eight years behind bars.
Edney said the appeal being launched aims to have all those convictions dismissed.
“We are very confident that the military tribunal convictions will be overturned because in our view there are serious questions about the validity of all these convictions,” Edney told The Canadian Press.
Although Khadr opted for a plea agreement in 2010, Edney argued his guilty plea may not have too much of a bearing on his appeal.
“If you plead guilty to a charge which is a nullity in war, then the plea is also a nullity,” he said.
The case is still likely to be complicated as Khadr did sign away his appeal rights in 2010. but Edney contends that obstacle, too, could be surmounted.
“If the underlying acts weren’t crimes, at least not war crimes, then Mr. Khadr’s waiver may also be unreliable,” he said.
Edney said his team would be filing an appeal first with a U.S. military commission, and then later in the U.S. civil courts if necessary, to overturn all of Khadr’s convictions.
The terms of Khadr’s transfer to Canada precluded attacking his sentence in Canadian courts.
Working in Khadr’s favour, Edney said, are two similar military commission verdicts which American appeal courts have already thrown out after ruling the crimes did not exist under international law of war at the time.
Last October an American appeal court dismissed Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan’s 2008 conviction for providing material support for terrorism.
In essence, the court ruled no such crime existed under international law of war at the time of the alleged offence and retroactive prosecutions were not authorized.
In January, the same court threw out the conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Yemeni who was charged with providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy for making propaganda videos for Al Qaeda. In that case, however, a U.S. appeals court said earlier this month that it will re-examine the decision.
Nonetheless, Edney said the rulings on those two cases could bode well for Khadr’s appeal.
“As the law now stands, based upon two earlier rulings … where the civilian appeals court overturned the same charges Omar faced, it concluded the charges were not and are not recognized international law of war charges,” he said.
Edney said he was surprised previous lawyers retained by Khadr hadn’t filed an appeal so far.
“One would expect that should have been done as a matter of course. It wasn’t,” he said. “I took it upon myself to persuade the military defence department to agree that Omar Khadr’s case was worthy of an appeal and they agreed.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Media, Science and Technology.
Tags: Canada, canada science, climate change, elizabeth renzetti, environment, freedom of information, Freedom of speech, roger hollander, science, scientists, Stephen Harper, university of victoria
Roger’s note: Canada under the leadership of J. Edgar Harper.
The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Feb. 22 2013, 8:27 PM EST
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 23 2013, 9:01 AM EST
Freedom to Read Week begins on Feb. 24, bringing with it the perfect opportunity to kick the tires of democracy and make sure the old jalopy’s still running as she should.
What’s that you say? The bumper fell off when you touched it? The engine won’t turn over? That’s not so good. Better look under the hood.
We like to think of censorship as something that happens over there, in the faraway places where men break into houses at night to smash computers, or arrive in classrooms to remove books they don’t like. Not in lovely, calm, respectful Canada. Here we don’t necessarily notice freedoms being eroded slowly, grain by grain, “like sands through the hourglass,” if you’ll allow me to quote from Days of Our Lives.
Just ask Canada’s government scientists. Oh wait, you can’t ask them, because they’ve got duct tape over their mouths (metaphorical duct tape, but hey – it’s still painful). This week the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic and Democracy Watch asked federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault to investigate claims that scientists are being prohibited from speaking freely with journalists – and through them, the public.
In a report called Muzzling Civil Servants: A Threat to Democracy, the UVic researchers present some chilling findings: Scientists are either told not to speak to journalists or to spout a chewed-over party line, rubber-stamped by their PR masters; the restrictions are particularly tight when a journalist is seeking information about research relating to climate change or the tar sands; Environment Canada scientists require approval from the Privy Council Office before speaking publicly on sensitive topics “such as climate change or protection of polar bear and caribou.”
You wouldn’t want the average citizen to learn too much about caribou, now. Who knows how crazy he could get with that kind of information? It could lead to panel discussions about Arctic hares, town halls on ptarmigans. The report states that government scientists are “frustrated,” which is hardly surprising. It’s like hiring Sandy Koufax and never letting him pitch.
The other thing that the report makes clear is how deliberate this strategy is: “The federal government has recently made concerted efforts to prevent the media – and through them, the general public – from speaking to government scientists, and this, in turn, impoverishes the public debate on issues of significant national concern.”
This is not an issue that’s going away. The Harper government’s heavy-handed control of scientists’ research has raised concerns across the world for a few years, including condemnation from such bastions of Marxism as Nature magazine.
A couple thousand scientists from across the country marched on Parliament Hill last July to protest cuts in research (many in the highly sensitive area of environment and climate change) and restrictions on their ability to speak freely about their work. They created what might be the best chant in the history of political protest: “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!”
Last week, Margaret Munro of Postmedia News reported that a University of Delaware scientist was up in arms over a new confidentiality agreement brought in by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “I’m not signing it,” Andreas Muenchow told the reporter. What does this mean for bilateral co-operation on research? Nothing good, that’s for sure.
The Vise-Grip on information is tightening and Ottawa is the muscle. Last month, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression released a report about the dire state of freedom of information requests: “Canada’s access to information system is in a deep crisis and without urgent reform could soon become dysfunctional,” the report noted. That means fewer requests being processed, at a more glacial pace, with more of the juicy bits blacked out by the government censor’s pen. This is the good stuff, people. The stuff the government doesn’t want you to know about. The stuff that’s kept in a filing cabinet in Gatineau under a sign that says, “Nothing here. Nope. Just a three-week-old tuna sandwich. And it’s radioactive.” This is the information we need to keep an eye on the government’s internal gears – and it’s being withheld.
Canada recently plummeted 10 places to No. 20 in the World Press Freedom Index, which measures how unfettered a country’s media is. Reporters Without Borders, which compiles the index, is concerned about the access-to-information issue and about the protection of journalists’ sources. The beacon we should now follow is Jamaica, whose press freedoms rank highest in the region.
It’s the perfect time to welcome Freedom to Read Week. There are events all over Canada and countless ways to celebrate our precious liberties. Bring your kids to the library. Read something you shouldn’t. Even better, write something you shouldn’t. A letter to your MP, perhaps?
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, War.
Tags: afghnaistan war, Canada, canada government, canada military, canadian forces, defence lobby, f-35 fighter, Jack Granatstein, mali civil war, redeau iinstitute, roger hollander, steven harper, steven staples, war profiteers
By Steven Staples
February 18, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – The generals have a big problem. The fighting in Afghanistan is over for Canada, and the thousands of recruits they armed, and the fleets of planes, helicopters and tanks they bought, have nowhere to go but home.
Since 9/11 the military budget has ballooned to its highest level since the Second World War, surpassing the height of the Cold War in adjusted dollars.
How much longer will Canadians be willing to keep picking up the military’s enormous tab with no war to fight or troops in harm’s way to support?
This might explain why celebrated war historian Jack Granatstein, a well-known supporter of the war in Afghanistan and military interests, used the pages of the Ottawa Citizen recently to berate what he described as “the pacifist left” for not supporting the Harper government’s military role in the war-torn West African country of Mali, the military’s newest mission.
Mr. Granatstein argued that “the Canadian Forces’ role has been a minor one.” The Harper government deployed one of our newest and largest transport planes to aid the French military fighting minority ethnic rebels and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Mali. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made clear that there will be no members of the CF in combat in Mali,” he added, and “Islamist terrorism is a threat to democracies everywhere.”
But it comes down to this: who can the public trust?
The fact is the public knows there is a group of people in Canada who benefit from war. It’s ugly, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Prime Minister Chrétien once referred to them as the “defence lobby”: the CEOs and their hired lobbyists, the associations of hawkish academics and retired military officers, even some members of the media. They all benefit when Canada goes to war, through either money, career advancement, or both.
In my 20 years as a defence analyst, I have come to know them well.
Many generals retire from the military to take up well-paid lobbying positions with large, mostly foreign, corporations seeking multi-billion-dollar contracts. Recently one such retired air force general was quoted by the Canadian Press, commenting on the need to replace Canada’s fighter planes. Sounds reasonable, but the reporter neglected to identify him as a registered lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-35 stealth fighter which was in line for the sole-sourced replacement contract.
It gets worse. Many reporters, including the one mentioned above, accept an annual journalism award and cash prize from the Conference of Defence Associations, a group of retired military officers whose funding has come from the Department of National Defence. Mr. Granatstein himself has received a similar award from the CDA. In an unusual twist, their half-million-dollar funding deal with National Defence was contingent on their spokespeople being quoted in the media a specified number of times.
Canadians are right to be wary. Conflicts have been used to justify military projects in the past. The Libya conflict was used by the government to justify their disastrous deal for the underperforming F-35 stealth fighter. The air force tried to use the Libya conflict to fast-track their plan to buy attack drones, the same kind the U.S. is using to carry out assassination missions and kill innocent civilians by the houseful.
Would another conflict like Mali, or the next crisis, provide the political momentum to the defence lobby to advance the military’s floundering weapons projects, and avoid the budget cuts that other departments are experiencing?
Sadly, Mali has many of the hallmarks of Afghanistan: a post–Cold War civil war where tribal and regional grievances are infused by Islamic extremists with their own agenda, both battling a corrupt and illegitimate Western-backed government whose own forces are marginally less abusive than those they are fighting.
Canada could either be engaged in helping the suffering people of Mali, or lured into another fiasco claiming soldiers’ lives, by those with a vested interest in another war. The stakes could not be higher.
Mr. Granatstein noted that both the NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Bob Rae of the Liberals were supporting the government’s actions. “How fortunate that the Opposition parties had better sense in this instance than the Rideau Institute and Ceasefire.ca,” he wrote, naming two organizations I am intimately involved with.
If opposition parties are indeed supporting the Conservatives, then it seems to me that the “pacifist left” is needed now more than ever to inform the public about the choices this government is making, to end wasteful military spending, and to keep the defence lobby from luring Canada into another reckless war.
Steven Staples is the President of the Rideau Institute and co-founder of Ceasefire.ca, a network of 20,000 people who want Canada to be a peace leader.
This article was originally posted atRabble.ca
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Environment.
Tags: anti-terrorism, brian cox, Canada, canada environment, csis, environment, environmental protest, greenpeace, jeffrey monaghan, keystone, national security, oil pipeline, rcmp, roger hollander, stephen leahy
Police and security agencies describe green groups’ protests and petitions as ‘forms of attack’, documents reveal
Roger’s note: Canada’s own J. Edgar Harper
Canadian government agencies have been accused of conflating extremism with peaceful protests, such as the ongoing campaign against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country’s police and security agencies has become the “new normal”, according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.
Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as “forms of attack” and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents.
Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said. In 2011 a Montreal, Quebec man who wrote letters opposing shale gas fracking was charged under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Documents released in January show the RCMP has been monitoring Quebec residents who oppose fracking.
“Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday had better take precautions,” Monaghan said.
In a Canadian Senate committee on national security and defence meeting Monday Feb 11 Richard Fadden, the director of CSIS said they are more worried about domestic terrorism, acknowledging that the vast majority of its spying is done within Canada. Fadden said they are “following a number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism”.
Canada is at very low risk from foreign terrorists but like the US it has built a large security apparatus following 9/11. The resources and costs are wildly out of proportion to the risk said Monaghan.
“It’s the new normal now for Canada’s security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organisations,” he said.
Surveillance and infiltration of environmental protest movement has been routine in the UK for some time. In 2011 a Guardian investigation revealed that a Met police officer had been living undercover for seven years infiltrating dozens of protest groups.
Canadian security forces seem to have a “fixation” with Greenpeace, continually describing them as “potentially violent” in threat assessment documents, said Monaghan.
“We’re aware of this” said Greenpeace Canada’s executive director Bruce Cox, who met the head of the RCMP last year. “We’re an outspoken voice for non-violenceand this was made clear to the RCMP,” Cox said.
He said there was real anger among Canadians about the degradation of the natural environment by oil, gas and other extractive industries and governments working for those industries and not in the public interest. Security forces should see Greenpeace as a “plus”, a non-violent outlet for this anger, he argued. “It is governments and fossil fuel industry who are the extremists, threatening the prosperity of future generations.”
Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: Canada, canada indigenous, First Nations, gerald taiaiake alfred, idle no more, indigenous, indigenous nationhood, roger hollander, theresa spence
Published on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by Taiaiake
Our collective action in Idle No More has shown that there is support among Canadians for a movement that embodies principled opposition to the destruction of the land and the extension of social justice to Indigenous peoples. When we as Indigenous people have a political agenda that’s consistent with our Original Teachings – to have a respectful relationship with the land and the natural environment and to have a respectful relationship among all of the nations that share this land – we have seen that this is a powerful draw for many people in our own nations and
in the broader society.
But it is clear too that the movement has plateaued. Much of the passion, urgency and attention Idle No More generated is dissipating in the wake of Chief Theresa Spence’s fast and the “13 Point Declaration” supported by Chief Spence, the Assembly of First Nations and the two Canadian opposition parties – which to many people in the movement represents a cooptation of the movement’s demands by the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations in support of their ongoing negotiations and long-running bureaucratic processes.
The question in the minds of many people in the movement who are committed to more serious and transformational goals is how do we revive the momentum driving us towards fundamental change that we had at the start of the movement? I think that the only way to keep this movement going is for us to see our actions in Idle No More as part of a larger and long-standing commitment to the restoration of Indigenous nationhood.
We need to focus our activism on the root of the problem facing our people collectively: our collective dispossession and misrepresentation as Indigenous peoples. Now is the time to put ourselves back on our lands spiritually and physically and to shift our support away from the Indian Act system and to start energizing the restoration of our own governments. Our people and our languages and our ceremonies should be saturating our homelands and territories. Our leaders should answer to us not to the Minister of Indian Affairs or his minions. Our governments should be circles in which we all sit as equals and participate fully and where all of our voices are heard, not systems of hierarchy and exclusion legitimized and enforced by Canadian laws. Restoring our nationhood in this way is the fundamental struggle. Our focus should be on restoring our presence on the land and regenerating our true nationhood. These go hand in hand and one cannot be achieved without the other.
Idle No More has been a good and necessary thing. Like thousands of others over the last couple of months, I am proud to have been a whole-hearted participant in educating the wider public, making the connection between our Native rights and the democratic rights of all citizens, and arguing for the protection of the environment under the Idle No More banner. But the limits to Idle No More are clear, and many people are beginning to realize that the kind of movement we have been conducting under the banner of Idle No More is not sufficient in itself to decolonize this country or even to make meaningful change in the lives of people.
Those of us in the movement need to ask ourselves this hard question: what have we accomplished through Idle No More? There’s been politicization of some Native people. There’s been some media attention. There have been rallies and demonstrations. Great art and music has been produced. These are all good. But in terms of meaningful change in the lives of people and the struggle for justice, things are no different now than when this whole thing started. The federal government has not responded or felt the need to address in any way the challenge we’ve presented so far. We are in danger of becoming institutionalized and predictable as a movement, or worse, becoming kind of a giant Facebook rant that like all Facebook rants is a closed circle easily ignored which has no real relation to things actually happening in people’s lives. What this means if we are committed to making change and achieving justice for our people is that we need to alter our strategies and tactics to present more of a serious challenge on the ground to force the federal government to engagement our movement and to respond to us in a serious way.
I believe that what our movement needs is a mobilization of people on the basis of Indigenous Nationhood, led by traditional chiefs and clan mothers, medicine people, elders and youth, to start acting on our inherent rights on the land and to demand respect for our traditional governments. In practical terms, we need to go beyond demonstrations and rallies in malls and legislatures and on public streets and start to reoccupy Indigenous sacred, ceremonial and cultural use sites to re-establish our presence on our land and in doing so to educate Canadians about our continuing connections to those places and how important they are to our continuing existence as Indigenous peoples.
If we do this we can, once again, make the Assembly of First Nations, the mainstream media, the opposition parties hear the true voice of Indigenous people in this country and if we are strong and tenacious in demonstrating our commitment to these goals, we can force the federal government to take us seriously.
Now is the time to transgress, reoccupy, rise… as Original Peoples.
© 2012 Gerald Taiaiake Alfred
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
Tags: archana rampure, Canada, Canada Conservatives, canada government, common causes, environment, First Nations, Free Trade, idle no more, neo-liberal, political protest, roger hollander, Stephen Harper
Roger’s note: there is an old Canadian political saying that goes like this: the NDP are Liberals in a hurry. The truth is that Conservatives are Liberals in a hurry (as Republicans are Democrats in a hurry). In a hurry to what? In a hurry to protect and expand the rule of capital over living human beings. It is not just the Harper agenda but rather the agenda of Capital that we are talking about. Replacing Harper’s Conservatives with either Liberals or watered down NDP will not stop but only slow down the agenda. The Idle no More Movement and the passionate radicalism of large elements within the First Nations peoples are important and hopeful signs. Such movement should not be diluted by believing that electoral politics is a solution to the destruction of our human rights and of the very planet we inhabit.
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Rabble.ca
by Archana Rampure
Stephen Harper has an agenda and it is all about turning Canada into a resource-extraction economy. He would like to make sure that nothing and no one stands in the way of exploiting the oil and the gas, the minerals and the water.
When Aboriginal people stand up for their rights and demand that they be consulted before natural resources are ripped out of the earth, the racist rhetoric begins to fly. When environmentalists suggest that this is a short-sighted, unsustainable and one-time-only plan, they are called radicals and terrorists. NGOs that network with the Global South peoples whose resources we exploit find themselves replaced by mining companies.
The list goes on: trade unions are demonized as big labour and compared to big corporations as though there is any real comparison between the power and influence wielded by corporations and that of the union movement. Aboriginal communities are abandoned by a Federal government which accuses their leaders of financial mismanagement.
These are the smoke-screens being put up to obscure a neo-liberal agenda that will brook no opposition. What I remember from my first anti-free trade protest more than a decade ago still rings true: deregulation, privatization and globalization is still the name of the game.
To me, much of this comes down to the sharp new focus on bilateral trade agreements that this Federal government has made its trademark. Free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements seem to be the Harper Conservatives answer to every problem we are facing. Their relentless drive to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU is emblematic of their mistaken policies: at a time when Canada`s industrial heartland is struggling with the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs, we are deep in the final stages of negotiating an agreement that might open up other sectors of our economy to transnational competition.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a“next generation”free trade agreement that Canada and the EU have been negotiating since 2009. Make no mistake about this — it might not be called a free trade agreement but it will be Canada’s most expansive free trade initiative since NAFTA. It will impact the ability of our elected governments to regulate and it will have a huge impact on how municipal and provincial governments use procurement for local economic development or for environmental sustainability. As far as we can tell from the leaked documents that have been made public so far, the provisions that it will include on investor-state dispute resolution will once again allow foreign corporations to bypass our legal system and appeal to secretive tribunals. The EU’s demands around intellectual property translate into billions of extra dollars for brand-name pharmaceuticals.
And the Canada-EU CETA is only one among the stack of free trade deals that the Harper government has tied itself to: there are now on-going negotiations on free trade between Canada and India, Japan, Korea, Morocco, the Ukraine, the Dominican Republic and a number of other countries. There are also multi-lateral trade agreement negotiations that we are participating in such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Investment promotion and protection agreements are another key feature of this government’s foreign policy initiatives: in 2011 and 2012 alone, FIPAs have been negotiated between Canada and the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia, the Slovak Republic, Benin, Kuwait, Senegal, Tanzania, China – the now infamous one! – and Mali.
At a time when Canada is supporting a resource war in Mali, and when we “partnering” with multinational mining corporations as part of our international “development” work, it hardly surprising that this government is so enthusiastically supporting Canadian “investment” and “investors” in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe.
This foreign policy — where the ultimate goal is to extract resources — is a mirror reflection of Harper’s economic roadmap for Canada. What the Global North exported to the Global South has now come home to us all: if we do not form Common Cause to stop this government, our home on native land will continue to experience the consequences of a single-minded drive for resource extraction combined with an attack on universal public services. It is more than time for us to come together, to act now, for ourselves and for those with whom we have Common Cause — aboriginal peoples, immigrants and migrants, environmentalists, trade unionists, students, seniors, the poor and the marginalized, activists — anyone who still believes that there is an alternative to the neo-liberal model of life. We cannot wait till 2015. We have to act together now.
Today, I will be standing up against Harper and his neo-liberal vision for us all as part of a joint day of action called by Idle No More and Common Causes. I hope it will be the first of many actions that Common Causes is part of, that it sparks the kind of committed, continuous action that will help us build a better Canada, and a better world.
© 2013 Archana Rampure
Archana Rampure works as a researcher for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Genocide.
Tags: c38, c45, Canada, canada mining, canada petroleum, canadian government, Damelahamid, First Nations, genocide, history, idle no more, indigenous, merv ritchie, roger hollander, sacred circle
By Merv Ritchie (about the author) Permalink
OpEdNews Op Eds 1/22/2013 at 18:41:38
The Cree, the Sioux, the Apache, and the Iroquois have nothing to do with the descendants of Demalahamid, Temlaham. Nor does; the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), the AFN (Assembly of First Nations), the Idle No More Movement, or Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence. None represent the Tsimshian, the Gitxsan, the Haisla, or the Tahltan. It would be difficult to find anyone in Ottawa, Indian or otherwise, speaking for any of the Nations of Northwest BC, the Sacred Circle.
Indians living elsewhere in Canada, or anywhere else in BC outside of the Northwest, have virtually nothing in common with Damelahamid outside of being original, evolving inhabitants on the land.
The Northwest Coast was, and is, an identity all to itself. The first explorers and traders, followed by the missionaries, all described these people as having a unique but similar ‘Tsimshian’ language. This unifying tongue is still spoken and taught today.
The general population, except for those living directly in Northwest BC, reference the totem culture only with the Haida Indian and Haida Gwaii; the islands most still call the Queen Charlottes. Almost none know of the peoples residing on the land west of the Omineca Mountain range through to the Pacific Ocean; the people of Damelahamid.
Original Map from the BC Knowledge Network with an addition to reference the region discussed by BC Knowledge Network
Most do not even know where the Nisgaa territory is, yet there has been a signed modern-day treaty for twelve years.
The area is so remote if you were to ask residents of B.C. about a lava bed from a volcano anywhere nearby, 99 percent would laugh and excuse this as a ridiculous notion. This stands true even for some living within 100 miles of the Nisgaa Lava Memorial fields.
As this location is a full eight-hour drive east-northeast of Prince George, remote is almost an understatement. The highway into the territory is named the Highway of Tears after the numerous accounts of missing and murdered women from the Nations of Damelahamid along this often-deserted stretch of road. To add to the tragedy for these people it was primarily the women of the Sacred Circle who were taken off the streets of Vancouver by Willie Pickton to be murdered on his Pig Farm, Piggies’ Palace.
The following attempts to address why these people still suffer in silence. Why they are not represented at the Chiefs’ Table or featured in the Idle No More movement, even though the atrocity is so well documented. It is difficult to unite in common purpose as the wounds are still raw, the emotions still at the surface; less than a generation has passed since some lived without roads or electricity. Yes, even in BC, Canada, not 30 years ago some tribes had no direct link or contact routes. It was only 150 years ago when this region was even entered to explore.
These were not nomadic people. Huge 1000-sq-ft homes built of cedar along with settlements of dozens of these structures formed municipalities belonging to each Nation. Seasonal travel for harvesting and extensive trading was engaged in with neighbouring tribes. North and east trading with the Carrier and Dene tribes, and to the south by huge 50-foot canoes with others. Grease trails were recorded as protected trade routes throughout all of these Nations territories. They knew their land and they owned their land. Totems and Feast halls marked their territories. Nation-to-Nation territorial treaties were commonplace. Trespass could mean death, especially if you harmed any life form within the recognized territorial boundaries. Yet other areas were recognized as neutral lands and water where all Nations could meet and share without territorial conflicts.
Totem Poles at the Core of the Sacred Circle, Damelahamid by Terrace Daily News
Maybe this is why the Tsimshian, Haisla, Gitxsan, Wetsuweten, Tlingit, Haida, Tahltan, and Nisgaa are ignored; as long as no one knows this special place exists their territories can still be quietly stolen.
It is specifically about these peoples’ lands the Canadian Government passed its recent legislation, Bills C38 and C45. They did this to justify their continued assault, which began with the deliberate genocide of these peoples by germ warfare. The Canadian government wishes to conduct a final solution on these people for the Mining and Petroleum industries.
While the Cree, Sioux, Apache, Iroquois, with the AFN, the UBCIC, and others achieve media prominence, the Sacred Circle genocide and social dysfunction continues.
All of the following material was compiled by researching online. The following are three links to much of the source material:
From HistoryLink.org the Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
From the University of Victoria – Writings on vaccination vs inoculation regarding Small Pox in the area. – click here
Words directly attributed to Dr. Helmcken – http://bcheritage.ca/salish/trad/jshelm.htm
This is a collection of evidence, extracts, to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that the first settlers at Victoria, specifically the ‘white’ government of the day, targeted the Indians of the Sacred Circle for extermination.
At the present rate of mortality, not many months can elapse “ere the Northern Indians of this coast will exist only in story.” The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, p. 3.
The Hon. John S. Helmcken, photographed by William J. Topley, circa 1854. by Wikipedia
After most of the northern tribes were forced from Victoria, the (Victoria) Daily Press published an editorial titled “The Indian Mortality.” It said in part:
“… What will they say in England? when it is known that an Indian population was fostered and encouraged round Victoria, until the small-pox was imported from San Francisco.
“They, when the disease raged amongst them, when the unfortunate wretches were dying by scores, deserted by their own people, and left to perish in the midst of a Christian community that had fattened off them for four years – then the humanizing influence of our civilized Government comes in – not to remedy the evil that it had brought about – not to become the Good Samaritan, and endeavor to ameliorate the effects of the disease by medical exertion, but to drive these people away to death, and to disseminate the fell disease along the coast.
“To send with them the destruction perhaps of the whole Indian race in the British Possessions on the Pacific …. There is a dehumanizing fatuity about this treatment of the natives that is truly horrible … How easy it would have been to have sent away the tribes when the disease was first noticed in the town, and if any of the Indians had taken the infection, to have had a place where they could have been attended to, some little distance from Victoria, until they recovered as they in all probability would have done with medical aid.
“By this means the progress of the disease would at once been arrested, and the population saved from the horrible sights, and perhaps dangerous effects, of heaps of dead bodies putrifying [sic] in the summer’s sun, in the vicinity of town … The authorities have commenced the work of extermination – let them keep it up …. Never was there a more execrable Indian policy than ours.” (Daily Press, June 17, 1862 in Boyd, p. 182-183, endnote 7).
Full Knowledge of the Consequences
In June 1862, The Daily British Colonist, noting the devastation of the Indians up to that time, stated the obvious inevitable consequences of these escorted canoes. Referring to a group of Haida who recently departed Victoria, the newspaper wrote:
“How have the mighty fallen! Four short years ago, numbering their braves by thousands, they were the scourge and terror of the coast; today, broken-spirited and effeminate, with scarce a corporal’s guard of warriors remaining alive, they are proceeding northward, bearing with them the seeds of a loathsome disease that will take root and bring both a plentiful crop of ruin and destruction to the friends who have remained at home. At the present rate of mortality, not many months can elapse ‘ere the Northern Indians of this coast will exist only in story.’” (The Daily British Colonist, June 21, 1862, p. 3; Boyd, p. 173, 229).
The Smallpox Vaccine
The smallpox vaccine was discovered in England in 1798 and first used in the Puget Sound area in 1837. On March 18, 1862, when The Daily British Colonist published confirmation of smallpox in Victoria, the paper made the following statement:
“[W]e advise our citizens … to proceed at once to a physician and undergo vaccination … from the loathsome disease …” (The Daily British Colonist, March 18, 1862, p. 3).
Between March 18 and April 1, 1862, The Daily British Colonist reiterated to the citizens of Victoria at least five times the importance of getting vaccinated. The paper estimated that by April 1, one-half of the “resident Victorians” were vaccinated. In 1862, Victoria, the largest town north of the Columbia River, had a white population of from 2,500 to 5,000. The nearby Indian population was about the same size. There were probably at least 2,000 Northern Indians [all whose origins were from the coastal communities between northern Vancouver Island and Alaska] camping on the outskirts of Victoria, plus at least 1,600 local Indians who lived nearby.
Initially no demands were made to vaccinate these local groups. By March 27, 1862, Dr. John Helmcken (1824-1920), Hudson’s Bay Company physician, had vaccinated about 30 local resident Songhees Indians, who constituted less than 1 percent of the nearby natives.
The Songhees Were Saved
On April 1, 1862, 18 days after the Brother Jonathan departed, the first reports were published of an Indian, who lived in town, with smallpox. The Victoria authorities and residents did not react. As the virus spread it would be more than two weeks before the local newspapers reported local Indians receiving additional vaccines. On April 16, Dr. Helmcken vaccinated another 30 Indians. By April 25, The Daily British Colonist reported that since the outbreak Dr. Helmcken had vaccinated “over 500 natives” (April 26, 1862, p. 3).
Apparently, the doctor distributed most of his vaccine to the Songhees, a local tribe that resided near Victoria. Soon after smallpox symptoms emerged at the Northern Indian encampment, the Songhees departed their Vancouver Island village(s) en masse to a nearby island in Haro Strait. Because of the vaccinations and the tribe’s self-imposed quarantine, the Songhees survived the epidemic with few deaths (Boyd, 176, 177, 183).
Was There a Shortage of Vaccine?
It is unknown how large a supply of the smallpox vaccine was kept at Victoria. Boyd states that the vaccine was “available, though in short supply” (Boyd, p. 172). Possibly there was a shortage of vaccine when the smallpox epidemic started.
According to Boyd, Anglican missionary Alexander Garrett stated in his Reminiscences that there was not enough vaccine “within seven hundred miles to go around” (Boyd p 178-9).
Still, during the entire run of the epidemic The Daily British Colonist did not mention a vaccine shortage at any time. On the contrary, during the last half of March, after the first smallpox case was discovered, the paper mentioned numerous times the availability of the vaccine. In mid-June, about when the Indian epidemic along the coast reached its height, The Daily British Colonist (June 14, 1862) asked why “our philanthropists” and “missionaries” had not started “vaccinating the poor wretches” in mid-April?
If there was a vaccine shortage, it was just temporary. Apparently, by May 1, 1862, at the latest, there was plenty of vaccine to go around. During the first half of May 1862, Father Leon Fouquet, a Catholic Missionary, reportedly vaccinated 3,400 Indians along the lower Fraser River. At the same time, other missions along both sides of the Strait of Georgia and in Puget Sound received supplies to vaccinate nearby tribes people. The ravages of the epidemic bypassed these vaccinated groups (The Daily British Colonist, March 18, 26, 27, 28, 1862, April 1, 1862, June 14, 1862; Boyd, p. 183-184).
The Epidemic Could Have Been Stopped
In the spring of 1862, the government body that administered authority over Victoria was the House of Assembly of the Colony of Vancouver Island (in 1866 Vancouver Island merged with the mainland colony of British Columbia). The town of Victoria had not incorporated, so had no town council and no mayor. At least two members of the House of Assembly, along with the Governor of the Colony, undoubtedly were aware of the obvious consequences of not immunizing the Indians, and not placing them under quarantine.
In 1862, Dr. William Tolmie (1812-1886) and Dr. John Helmcken were both legislators in the Vancouver Island Assembly, Helmcken serving as Speaker, one of the highest elected positions in the Colony. The Hudson’s Bay Co. hired William Tolmie in 1833 and John Helmcken in 1850 as physicians.
In 1837, reports reached Fort Vancouver of smallpox in northern British Columbia. Before the disease reached Puget Sound, Hudson’s Bay Co. dispatched Tolmie to vaccinate the Indians near Fort Nisqually. By mid-July 1837, he had inoculated all the women and children and probably most of the men. In 1853 Tolmie again helped vaccinate “large numbers” of Indians near Fort Nisqually during a smallpox epidemic centered along Washington Territory’s Pacific coast (Boyd, 170). John Helmcken also served as HBC physician for a number of years, and then continued in private practice until he retired in 1910. They were both well aware of the issues surrounding smallpox.
Governor James Douglas Proposes Action
Shortly after the smallpox outbreak, James Douglas, the Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, submitted a proposal to the House of Assembly regarding smallpox. James Douglas had arrived on the coast in 1826 and was familiar with two previous Indian epidemics on the coast (1836-37 smallpox and 1847-48 measles). In his March 27, 1862, proposal to the Assembly he noted that because “several cases” of smallpox had occurred it “is desirable that instant measures should be adopted to prevent the spread of the infection …” and “strongly recommended” that the House immediately appropriate funds to build a hospital in a isolated location for all cases of smallpox (Journal of the Colonial Legislatures … vol. 2, p. 350).
Dr. Helmcken and Others Oppose Action
Four days later, the nine-member House of Assembly, including Speaker Helmcken and Tolmie, met and considered the Governor’s proposal recommending a smallpox hospital and “compelling” all patients to be sent there. According to a newspaper account, Speaker Dr. Helmcken stated he was against a fully staffed hospital and against forcing all cases of smallpox to go there. The doctor expressed concern about the cost of establishing and operating the hospital and that it would interfere with the liberty of the patients. Helmcken went even further and chastised the Governor for being an alarmist about the disease.
The majority of the other members agreed with Mr. Helmcken. The members did vote to construct a “suitable building” near the present hospital for white smallpox patients, but did not require them to go. The Assembly also rejected the establishment of a quarantine for the same reasons – cost and restricting liberty. Apparently only one member, Mr. Burnaby, spoke out in favor of a fully staffed Smallpox Hospital and the quarantine. The newspaper account did not mention any discussion about what to do to prevent smallpox from infecting the Indians (The Daily British Colonist, March 28, 1862, April 1, 1862).
This inaction of the Assembly and other government officials sealed the fate of nearly every group of Northwest Coast Indians from Sitka to northern Vancouver Island and south into the Puget Sound area. Robert Boyd estimates that from April 1862 to about the end of year, more than 14,000 Indians died of smallpox and untold hundreds of survivors were disfigured for life. Boyd states unequivocally: “This [Indian] epidemic might have been avoided, and the Whites knew it” (Boyd p 172).
The paper remarked on the consequences of the authorities’ intentional refusal to act to vaccinate and quarantine the Indians:
“Were it likely that the disease would only spread among the Indians, there might be those among us like our authorities who would rest undisturbed, content that the small-pox is a fit successor to the moral ulcer that has festered at our doors. … [But] chances are that the pestilence will spread among our white population [because] … [t]he Indians have free access to the town day and night. They line our streets, fill the pit in our theatre, are found at nearly every open door … in the town; and are even employed as servants in our dwellings, and in the culinary departments of our restaurants and hotels” (The Daily British Colonist, April 28, 1862, p. 2).
In the doctor’s own words:
“Hyder [Haida] women and men came in flocks, to go away ruined forever, Indians from the North West coast met with the same fate, from which they have never and never will recover. In process of time Chinese women came and they in some measure took the business of the local Indians, Haidas, Chimpsehans [Tsimshians] and so forth and to end the matter the small pox and local demands drove them home in their own canoes, and hundred perished on their way to their own country. I may say here they nearly every Indian attacked with small pox died, whether he was taken care of in the Indian small pox hospital or not, and it was also said whether he had been vaccinated or not.
“I do not believe the last assertion because the Songish [Songhees] Indians kept comparatively free from the disease and many of them at various times had been successfully vaccinated by me, arm to arm.”
Has the prevailing attitude changed much today?
Allowing and continuing to name anything in Victoria, the Capital of BC, after this man (ie Helmcken Road General Hospital, Helmcken Memorial in Clearwater) is akin to naming things in Germany after Dr. Joseph Mengele.
Did he know better, or was it intentional?
He was hired aboard the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Prince Rupert as a ship’s surgeon on its 1847 voyage to York Factory, Rupert’s Land. After completing his certification at Guy’s Hospital, he travelled to India and China. He had intended to join the Navy, but was persuaded instead to join the HBC in 1849 as a physician and clerk on to be stationed on Vancouver Island. On the long voyage, smallpox broke out aboard ship, but Helmcken handled the situation ably, and only a single life was lost.
Hmmmm, one can only wonder. Consider this – His success in preventing the spread of smallpox among the whites on the ship was a dozen years prior to his failure to take measures to stop the spread of the disease among the Sacred Circle natives. Only one conclusion can be had – His and the government he was the ‘speaker’ for, considered the highest post, - had but one intention, the death and destruction of the Northern tribes.
Still today these people from the Nations of the Sacred Circle are relegated to the shadows, their tragedies ignored. While Indians across Canada stand up and demand recognition for the harm done over the course of the last 300 to 400 years, the harm in the Sacred Circle is so fresh it remains difficult for the surviving elders to speak of it. Those who had their children abducted, their villages burned, their daughters raped and murdered, are still alive living with the pain right now.
It remains an ongoing tragedy that the efforts of the Idle No More movement east of the Ominica Mountain Range does not come close to addressing. The genocide continues today. These are not; Cree, Sioux, Apache, or Iroquois. They are the people of Demalahamid, Temlaham. They are the; Nisgaa, Tahltan, Gitxsan, Wetsuweten, Haisla, Haida, Tlingit and the Tsimshian. The once most respected and admired traders in the Pacific Northwest. A unique totem culture based strictly on a Matriarchal, Matrilineal hierarchy with government structures based on feasting and decency. Something the British and Canadian governments abhorred and continue to destroy today.
The only reference to address the source of the women in the recently released government report on the missing and murdered women from the Vancouver Downtown Eastside, was encouraging a transit bus system along the highway of tears. These women were the potential authority, the matriarchs. A bus? The government offers these women who had their children ripped from their arms, their communities burned, their ancestors graves disturbed, are offered a bus?
The systemic tragedy continues as the government leaders continue to claim there is no money, even for the bus. It seems alright, still today, to not only rape pillage and plunder the land and resources, but also the people.
Mid 50 year old male. Generally a blue collar worker. Heavy duty mechanic by trade, later, Diesel electrician, then alternative energy systems importer, seller, designer and installer. Then a home construction general contractor and now a web (more…)