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Allende Vive: Latin America’s Left and the Reunion of Socialism and Democracy September 11, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Art, Literature and Culture, Canada, Chile, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: There are three items in this post.  Following Derrik O’Keefe’s article you will find the full transcript of the DemocracyNow! program featuring the widow of the Chilean folk singer and activist who was murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship.  After that I have posted David Heap’s article that tells the story of the Canadian response to the Pinochet coup and the Canadian movement to receive refugees from the Pinochet’s Chile.  And, of course, all this to remind us of Chile’s notorious 9/11.

Last night, Barack Obama spoke in defence of his threats to launch U.S. air strikes against Syria. In justifying his push for an attack illegal under international law, the constitutional lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner appealed explicitly to American exceptionalism. Obama also prefaced his case for bombing Syria with a stunningly ahistorical assertion of American benevolence:

 

“My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.”

Imagine how this nonsense sounds to Chileans, who are today marking the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup in Chile against the democratically elected government led by Salvador Allende. More than 3,000 were killed in Chile; tens of thousands were jailed, tortured and exiled.

Chile bore the heavy burden of all those who have shown leadership in fighting for a better world. For over seven decades — was Obama’s metaphorical anchor of global security the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? — any people combining too much democracy and some measure of national development or socialism that threatens U.S. interests has been met with blood and suffering imposed by that enforcer of global capitalism, the U.S. Empire.

I’ve learned a lot about Chile’s tragedy through my wife and her family. She was born in a refugee camp in Buenos Aires, and came to Canada as a baby after activists in this country agitated and successfully pressured the Liberal government of the day to admit Chileans fleeing the coup (for more on this history, read David Heap’s piece.) Both of her parents were social activists and part of the resistance. So I have some knowledge of the almost unimaginable human toll of the coup.

However, on this anniversary, I don’t want to just repeat a denunciation of the U.S. and the neoliberal economists and their generals who plunged Chile into darkness. I’d rather think about the light that has emerged over the past decades from Latin America, against all odds.

Henry Kissinger et al carried out the coup in Chile because they couldn’t countenance the union of socialism and democracy. An elected Marxist president just could not be tolerated. Allende was a strict constitutionalist and democrat. The coup was a bloody reminder that the ruling classes will never fight fair. They killed thousands in a vengeful attempt to forever separate socialism and democracy. But you cannot kill an idea. Forty years later, they have failed. Socialism and democracy have been reunited. That’s why we can say today: Allende vive. Allende lives.

Allende lives in the governments of countries like Bolivia and Venezuela; Allende lives in the vibrant social movements all across Latin America; Allende lives in ALBA, a regional integration and mutual benefit alliance the likes of which could barely have been fathomed in the 1970s; Allende lives in the steadfast refusal of Latin America to accept U.S. isolation and demonization of Cuba. In fact, it’s the U.S. and Canada who are isolated in Latin America these days, notwithstanding recent coup d’etats in a couple of ALBA’s weaker links, Paraguay and Honduras. And Allende lives in the massive student movement in Chile, which has challenged Pinochet’s legacy of privatization and nudged the whole political spectrum in that country to the left.

Latin America today is the only part of the world where the political left has made concrete gains and broken the stranglehold of neoliberalism. It’s the only part of the world where the left can consistently run in elections as the left — and win.

Today’s resurgent left in Latin America poses a real challenge to timid mainstream social democracy in North America and Europe, not to mention to the small constellation of sects clinging to the certainties of 1917 and other similarly dogmatic or scholastic leftists.

On this 40th anniversary of the coup in Chile, progressives would do well to recommit to learning about and defending the myriad left movements and elected governments of Latin America.

So don’t remember Allende just as a martyr. His descendents have learned from his terrible fate, as Greg Grandin outlined in his London Review of Books article, ‘Don’t do what Allende did.’ The headline refers to reported instructions from Fidel Castro to Hugo Chavez during the hours after the (thankfully failed) coup against Venezuela’s elected leader in 2002.

Emir Sader, the Brazilian left scholar and activist, has summed up the new generation’s political project in his essential book, The New Mole, which looks at the trajectories of today’s Latin American left. Sader explains that, having learned from the Allende government’s failure to “prepare to confront the right’s offensive with strategies for an alternative power,

…processes like those in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador — at the same time as they try to implement an anti-neoliberal economic model — seek to combine this with a refounding of the state and the public sphere… it is still a process of reforms, but one that leads towards a substantial transformation of the relations of power that underpin the neoliberal state.”

It’s an enormous and worthy undertaking. We should learn from Latin America and we should join them. That’s the best way to honour the legacy of the Chileans who fell forty years ago to the enforcers of global capitalism.

Derrick O'Keefe

rabble.ca Editor Derrick O’Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya’s political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca’s editor from 2007 to 2009. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe.

 

 

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today we look at another September 11th. It was 40 years ago this week, September 11, 1973, that General Augusto Pinochet ousted Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, in a U.S.-backed military coup. The coup began a 17-year repressive dictatorship during which more than 3,000 Chileans were killed. Pinochet’s rise to power was backed by then-President Richard Nixon and his secretary of state and national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.

In 1970, the CIA’s deputy director of plans wrote in a secret memo, quote, “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup. … It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [that’s the U.S. government] and American hand be well hidden,” unquote. That same year, President Nixon ordered the CIA to, quote, “make the economy scream” in Chile to, quote, “prevent Allende from coming to power or [to] unseat him.”

After the 1973 coup, General Pinochet remained a close U.S. ally. He was defeated in 1988 referendum and left office in 1990. In 1998, Pinochet was arrested in London on torture and genocide charges on a warrant issued by a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón. British authorities later released Pinochet after doctors ruled him physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

Last week, Chile’s judges issued a long-awaited apology to the relatives of loved ones who went missing or were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. This is Judge Daniel Urrutia.

JUDGE DANIEL URRUTIA: [translated] We consider it appropriate and necessary. We understand, for some citizens, obviously, it’s too late, but nothing will ever be too late to react to what may happen in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: The relatives of some victims have rejected the belated apology and called for further investigations into deaths and disappearances during the dictatorship. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said the country’s courts had failed to uphold the constitution and basic rights.

PRESIDENT SEBASTIÁN PIÑERA: [translated] The judiciary did not rise up to their obligations or challenges, and could have done much more, because, by constitutional mandate, it’s their duty to protect the rights of the people, to protect their lives—for example, reconsidering the appeals, which they had previously massively rejected as unconstitutional.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, on Sunday thousands of Chileans took to the streets of Santiago to mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup and remember the thousands who disappeared during the brutal regime that followed. This is the president of the Families of Executed Politicians group, Alicia Lira.

ALICIA LIRA: [translated] Forty years since the civil military coup, the issue of human rights, the violations during the dictatorship are still current. This denial of justice, there are more than 1,300 processes open for 40 years, for 40 years continuing the search for those who were arrested, who disappeared, who were executed without the remains handed back. Why don’t they say the truth? Why don’t they break their pact of silence?

AMY GOODMAN: Just last week, the wife and two daughters of the legendary Chilean folk singer Víctor Jara filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer they say killed Jara almost exactly 40 years ago. Víctor Jara was shot to death in the midst of the 1973 U.S.-backed coup. First his hands were smashed so he could no longer play the guitar, it is believed. Jara’s accused killer, Pedro Barrientos, has lived in the United States for roughly two decades and is now a U.S. citizen. Jara’s family is suing him under federal laws that allow U.S. courts to hear about human rights abuses committed abroad. Last year, Chilean prosecutors charged Barrientos and another officer with Jara’s murder, naming six others as accomplices.

Well, today we’ll spend the hour with the loved ones of those who were killed under Pinochet, and the attorneys who have helped them seek justice. First we’re joined by Joan Jara. She is the widow of Chilean singer Víctor Jara. She is the author of An Unfinished Song: The Life of Victor Jara, first published in 1984.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now!

JOAN JARA: Thank you. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us and in studio here in New York, as victims and those who have worked for justice in Chile gather for this 40th anniversary of the September 11th coup.

JOAN JARA: Indeed.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the lawsuit you have just filed.

JOAN JARA: Well, this lawsuit, which is for the central justice and accountability, is a civil lawsuit, but the—our aim is not to receive pecuniary, because this doesn’t help at all. It’s to reinforce the extradition petition, which was approved by the Chilean Supreme Court and is now in United States territory. It’s somehow to support that and to appeal to public opinion here in the United States. We know we have—there are many people here. In repeated visits here, I have met so many friends who have condemned the coup on the 11th of September, 1973. And I appeal to all the people who listen to Víctor’s songs, who realize—and for all the victims of Pinochet, for their support and appeal to their—your own government to remit a reply positively to this extradition request.

AMY GOODMAN: After break, we’ll also be joined by your lawyer to talk more about the lawsuit. But describe what happened on September 11, 1973. Where were you? Where was Víctor?

JOAN JARA: Yeah, well, we were both at home with our two daughters. There was somehow a coup in the air. We had been fearing that there might be a military coup. And on that morning, together, Víctor and I listened to Allende’s last speech and heard all the radios, the—who supported Salvador Allende, falling off the air as, one by one, being replaced by military marches.

Víctor was due to go to the technical university, his place of work, where Allende was due to speak to announce a plebiscite at 11:00, and Víctor was to sing there, as he did. And he went out that morning. It was the last time I saw him. I stayed at home, heard of the bombing of the Moneda Palace, heard and saw the helicopter’s machine gun firing over Allende’s residence. And then began the long wait for Víctor to come back home.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long did you wait?

JOAN JARA: I waited a week, not knowing really what had happened to him. I got a message from him from somebody who had been in the stadium with him, wasn’t sure what was really happening to him. But my fears were confirmed on the 11th of September—well, I’m sorry, on the 18th of September, Chile National Day, when a young man came to my house, said, “Please, I need to talk to you. I’m a friend. I’ve been working in the city morgue. I’m afraid to tell you that Víctor’s body has been recognized,” because it was a well-known—his was a well-known face. And he said, “You must come with me and claim his body; otherwise, they will put him in a common grave, and he will disappear.”

So then I accompanied this young man to the city morgue. We entered by a side entrance. I saw the hundreds of bodies, literally hundreds of bodies, that were high piled up in what was actually the parking place, I think, of the morgue. And I had to look for Víctor’s body among a long line in the offices of the city morgue, recognized him. I saw what had happened to him. I saw the bullet wounds. I saw the state of his body.

And I consider myself one of the lucky ones, in the sense that I had to face at that moment that—what had happened to Víctor, and I could give my testimony with all the force of what I felt in that moment, and not that horror, which is much worse, of never knowing what happened to your loved one, as what happened to so many families, so many women, who have spent these 40 years looking for their loved ones who were made to disappear.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he was so well known, there have been many stories about his death. Some said because he was this famous folk singer, guitarist, his hands were cut off.

JOAN JARA: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Others said they were smashed. How did you see—what did you see when you saw his body?

JOAN JARA: No, I—this is not true. There was this invention of myths that I people, I suppose, thought would help. The truth was bad enough. There was no need to invent more horrors. Víctor’s hands were not cut off. When I saw his body, his hands were hanging at a strange angle. I mean, his whole body was bruised and battered with bullet wounds, but I didn’t touch his hands. It looked as though his wrists were broken.

AMY GOODMAN: How long had Víctor played guitar? How long had he been singing?

JOAN JARA: Oh, how long had he been singing? Since he was small. Since he was—he didn’t really learn to play the guitar until he was adolescent, but his mother was a folk singer, and he learned from her, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did you meet?

JOAN JARA: We met because in the University of Chile we—Víctor was a student in the theater school, and I was a dancer in the national ballet, but I also gave classes in the theater school. That’s how I met him. He was an excellent student. He was at least the best of his course. But we actually got together after, later, when I was recovering from when I was sort of ill, and he heard I was ill. He came to see me with a little bunch of flowers that I think he took out of the park, because he was penniless.

AMY GOODMAN: And you have two daughters together?

JOAN JARA: No, not together. My first daughter is actually the daughter of my first husband, whom I had separated from, but she was very, very small when Víctor came to see us that day. She was only a year old, slightly less than a year old. And she always felt that Víctor was her father, and Víctor always felt that he—she was her daughter. She—he—sorry, I’m not used to speaking English. So, they were very, very close.

AMY GOODMAN: And the hundreds of bodies you saw in this morgue. How many of them were identified?

JOAN JARA: Can’t tell you that. This particular young man who worked in the identification, civil—civil registry—I don’t know what you call it—he was overwhelmed with what he had to do. I can’t—I can’t tell you. I can’t—I can’t tell.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to claim his body and bury him?

JOAN JARA: I was—I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to claim his body, but we had to take it immediately to the cemetery and inter it in a niche high up in the back wall of the cemetery. There could be no funeral. And after that, I had to go home and tell my daughters what had happened.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with Joan Jara, the widow of Víctor Jara. And we’re going to continue with her, as well as her lawyer. She’s just brought suit against the man she believes was responsible for his murder, among others. We’re also going to be joined by Joyce Horman, another widow of the coup. Her husband, Charles Horman, American freelance journalist, was also disappeared and killed during the coup. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. It’s been 40 years since the September 11, 1973, coup that overthrew the first democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende, who died in the palace that day as the Pinochet forces rose to power. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Vivir en Paz,” by Víctor Jara, the Chilean singer, songwriter, tortured and executed during the Chilean coup of Salvador Allende, September 11, 1973. This week marks the 40th anniversary the U.S.-backed coup. You can also go to our website at democracynow.org to see highlights from our coverage over the years. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Our guest is Joan Jara, the widow of the legendary Chilean singer Víctor Jara. Last week she filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. court against the former military officer they say killed Jara almost exactly 40 years ago. Víctor Jara was shot to death in the midst of the 1973 U.S.-backed coup within the next week. Joan Jara is author of An Unfinished Song: The Life of Victor Jara.

Also with us is Almudena Bernabeu, attorney who helped file the lawsuit last week against Víctor Jara killers. She’s with the Center for Justice and Accountability, where she directs the Transitional Justice Program.

Tonight there will be a major event where people from around the world will gather who have been involved with seeking justice since the coup took place. Pinochet rose to power on September 11th, and over the next 17 years more than 3,000 Chileans were killed.

Almudena, describe this lawsuit, the grounds, the legal grounds on which you bring this 40 years after Víctor Jara was killed.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: Absolutely. This is under—these lawsuits are happening in the United States, and there’s an important number of them. They are civil by nature, because it’s what the—it’s a tort, which is a legal word, but, I mean, it’s—what they really look for is a reward on damages. But really, the nature of the evidence and the relevance of the documents and everything that goes into the case really doesn’t distinguish, in my mind, between criminal and civil. It’s under two federal statutes in the United States called the Alien Tort Statute from 1789—ironically, first Congress—and the Torture Victims Protection Act, which is later on in 1992. And what they provide for is the right to victims, whether they’re aliens under the ATS or also U.S. citizens under the TVPA, or what we call the TVPA, to bring suit for human rights violations. The second statute provides for torture, extrajudicial killing, specifically. And the Alien Tort Statute allows you to bring in a more open or wide number of claims, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and slavery, many claims over the years. Colleagues and friends have brought suit under these laws.

In, I guess, the jurisdictional basis, not to be overtechnical, but one of the more solid ones has been the physical presence of the defendant in the United States, which is what I will say the Center for Justice and Accountability specialize. Other colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights and other institutions have more experience with corporate cases and so forth. And in this particular instance, Pedro Pablo Barrientos, the guy who has been investigated and identified by Chilean prosecutors and judges as the author, through testimony, of Víctor Jara’s assassination, was living—has been living for number of years, for almost 20 years, in Florida, of all places. So—

AMY GOODMAN: How did you find this out?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: We—actually, came to the attention Chile television first, and they did a big program about both the investigation in Chile and the likelihood of this person—it was an interesting step—likelihood of this person being the Barrientos that was named in the pleadings in Chile. And after the program, the judge ordered a couple of extra, you know, steps from a criminal investigation standpoint, and they were able to identify him. And I was contacted by the prosecutors in Chile, with whom we have a relationship from prior work, to see if we could actually corroborate one more step to see if he was the person. And he is the same officer that left Chile, we believe between 1989 and 1990, and relocated in Deltona.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe the U.S. knew?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: That he was in the United—

AMY GOODMAN: Who he was?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: I’m not sure he was high enough, to be frank, from all the information that we have right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he was granted U.S. citizenship.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: He was granted U.S. citizenship. And what I don’t—I don’t necessarily know that at the time that he was probably requesting to file his naturalization application, that the U.S. will know of his involvement. And I think that these guys specialize in lying in those applications, in my experience. So there’s no way necessarily for the U.S. to know, although I do believe that, overall, the U.S. looked somewhere else when all these people were coming from Latin America in the aftermath of their conflicts, no question, particularly military men.

AMY GOODMAN: This Alien Tort Claims Act, which we have covered many times in the past, you yourself have used in other cases. Very briefly, if you could talk about the archbishop of El Salvador, Óscar Romero?

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: This really was an important case, on a personal and professional level. It was filed in 2003. And also with a little bit of this twisting of fate, the—a guy who was crucial to the assassination had been identified by the truth commission, by U.S. important declassified documents and other sources, as the driver, as the sort of right-hand man of Roberto D’Aubuisson, who conceived the assassination and sort of the whole plot. And he was the guy who drove the shooter to the church, and he was living in Modesto, California, running an auto shop. And after we were able to establish that truthfully and corroborate it, we filed suit, which was a very important suit, I will say. It was the only time in the history of the crime for the conditions of El Salvador when any justice has been provided for this emblematic killing, and it was the first case—

AMY GOODMAN: He was killed March 24th, 1980.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: 1980.

AMY GOODMAN: The archbishop of El Salvador, as—

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: While celebrating mass, absolutely. And he was kind of marks—in the history and the imaginary of Salvadorans, marks the beginning of their 10-year civil war. It really was a declaration of war in the old-fashioned sense. It was—and against all civilians and against the pueblo that he defended so much. It was one—a provocative statement, killing the archbishop, who had been in his homilies and publicly condemning the actions of the army against the people of El Salvador.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan Jara, how did you figure out that—who was responsible for the killing of Víctor, your husband?

JOAN JARA: I didn’t figure it out, because the—the Chilean army would not give the information of who—of the officers who were responsible for the Chile stadium where Víctor was killed. But gradually, within the proceedings of the case, officers were named, especially by the conscript, under whose—become orders, they were, yeah. And it’s these people who were these soldiers of lesser ranks who have identified the officers who were responsible for the crimes.

ALMUDENA BERNABEU: That’s a very important point. Sorry, just to—there’s been no desire or willingness on behalf of the armed forces in Chile to collaborate with the families and the victims struggling for 40 years. They have to rely, the investigators, in now testimony from these low-level soldiers, who don’t have that kind of pact of silence, and they’re providing information that is crucial for their work.

AMY GOODMAN: Joan?

JOAN JARA: Well, they say that they have had to have a pact of silence during many decades because they have been threatened by the armed forces, they should not speak. And there have been many who have been very scared to give their testimony until now.

The Right to Live in Peace: Forty years on, the coup in Chile still has lessons for us today

 

| September 9, 2013

Mural for Victor Jara. (Photo: aullidodelaika.blogspot.com)

Aerial bombings, tanks in the streets, widespread terrorizing of civilians by soldiers and secret police: this was the horror unleashed on September 11, 1973 by the military coup d’état in Chile. Led by Augusto Pinochet and other generals with U.S. backing, the coup overthrew President Salvador Allende’s democratically elected Popular Unity government, and brought in a brutal military dictatorship that lasted for 17 years.

Canada’s official attitude towards the coup might be politely called ‘ambivalent.’ Some Canadian banks and mining interests openly supported the military take-over as a good investment opportunity. Our ambassador to Chile’s rather sympathetic attitude toward the generals led to a rapid recognition of the military junta.

When embassy officials Mark Dolgin and David Adam allowed a handful of asylum-seekers to take refuge at our Santiago embassy, Foreign Affairs tried to shut the door on any more. The ambassador’s classified cables, which called asylum-seekers ‘riff-raff’ and the military killings ‘abhorrent but understandable,’ were leaked by Bob Thomson, a federal CIDA employee in Ottawa.

Those leaks cost Thomson his job but helped build a public clamour in favour of offering refuge to those who needed it. At the time, Canada’s lack of a formal refugee policy left these life-and-death decisions to ministerial discretion. Questions were raised in Parliament, church groups and unions called for more asylum, the media picked up the story, and solidarity activists occupied federal offices in four cities across the country: this growing groundswell in the fall of 1973 eventually led to ‘Special Movement Chile’ opening the doors for thousands of Chilean refugees fleeing Pinochet’s terror to find safety in Canada.

That historic example of citizen action underscores the importance conscientious dissent. Whether high-profile whistleblowers like Manning and Snowden or rank-and-file war resisters who refuse to participate in war crimes, conscientious dissenters deserve honour and protection, rather than vilification and prosecution. Though their individual circumstances may be less dramatic, the same lesson applies to many conscientious scientists and researchers whose work is threatened or suppressed by the Harper government’s ideological preference for evidence-free policy-making.

Many victims of military repression never reach asylum of course, but those who remember the tortured, murdered and ‘disappeared’ can take some comfort in the knowledge that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The renowned Chilean folk-singer Victor Jara was among those tortured and killed in the early days of the coup, and this year several military officers deemed responsible for his death are finally coming to trial. Some of the accused trained at the infamous School of the Americas (aka School of Assassins: they put Pinochet’s ceremonial sword on display) at Fort Benning Georgia, where human rights vigils continue to call for closure every year.

Whatever the outcome of these belated trials, let’s recall that General Pinochet was fond of lecturing about the health benefits of ‘just forgetting.’  So historical memory really matters: remembering can be an act of resistance in itself. Not only those officially sanctioned memorials, which prescribe just which atrocities ‘We must never forget,’ but also (especially!) independent grassroots initiatives that document and remind us of crimes our governments would prefer us to forget. Such is the case of Zochrot (‘remembering’ in Hebrew), which aims to ‘commemorate, witness, acknowledge, and repair’ the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in the face of widespread (and increasingly state-enforced) nakba denial in Israel and around the world.

Jara’s poetic legacy lives on in song, of course. Better known for her satirical songs on CBC, topical folksinger Nancy White recorded a (now hard-to-find but recently recovered) medley of his songs called Victor Jara Presente, where she sings in part: ‘His struggle is the struggle of all who would live free. We mustn’t let a Victor Jara die again.’

But we do keep letting it happen, alas. Canada’s governments have either participated in or tacitly supported coups against elected governments in Haiti and Honduras (just to name two recent examples). And with the Conservatives’ increasing political interference in our asylum adjudication system, it is far from clear whether those 1970s Chilean refugees would even be allowed into Canada today under current rules. Refugees who do make it into Canada now also face a much harder time settling here, with mean-spirited federal cuts to health and other services — another area where we see active resistance from conscientious professionals.

Let’s also remember the real motivation for many coups. Henry Kissinger infamously explained why the U.S. set about to destabilize and then overthrow Allende’s democratically elected government: “The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” Democracy doesn’t count for much when voters ‘irresponsibly’ elect a government Washington doesn’t like.

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial is even clearer about who they support and why: about a more recent military coup, they wrote on July 4 that Egyptians would be “lucky” if their new ruling generals turn out like Chile’s Pinochet, who “hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.” Apart from the slur on midwifery, Pinochet’s rule was a ‘transition to democracy’ like bacon is a transition to vegetarianism. His regime savagely opposed the return to democracy in Chile, relinquishing power only when forced to by national and international pressure, and after decreeing immunity for himself and his henchmen — all the while continuing to receive support from hypocritical U.S. politicians who now lecture us about the immorality of talking with dictators.

But don’t let the WSJ’s chilling historical revisionism mask the cynicism of their underlying message: international finance approves of dictators who bring in ‘free-market reformers.’ The 1973 coup gave free reign to the Chicago-school free market fundamentalists to create havoc in the Chilean social fabric, and similar failed policies are now being pushed down our throats under the guise of ‘austerity.’ Those who revere the ‘invisible hand of the market’ ultimately also rely on its all-too-visible fist.

The poignant title of one of Jara’s most famous songs and albums (El derecho de vivir en paz, 1971) is still relevant today as it sums up the deepest wishes of so many people. A film about his life and an exhibit* of rare historic materials from the Chilean resistance against the coup both bear the name of the same song, inviting us to remember and reflect on those ideals for today and tomorrow: ‘The right to live in peace.’

 

David Heap works with the Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association (LACASA) and People for Peace in London, Ontario, and is on the international Steering Committee of Gaza’s Ark.

A shorter version of this article appeared in UWO’s Western News on September 5.

Photo: aullidodelaika.blogspot.com

*’The Right to Live in Peace’ is an exhibit of historic materials from Toronto’s Colectivo Alas documenting Chilean resistance against the military dictatorship, running at Beit Zatoun in Toronto until September 11, and then opens at Medium Gallery in London on Friday September 13, where it will stay until September 20.

 

 

 

The Last Genocide In North America – Why Are They Ignoring Our Indians? January 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations, Genocide.
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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

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5171

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?
From Wikipedia:

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.

Conclusion

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.

http://www.TerraceDaily.ca

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…)

No real refuge in Canada for some refugees June 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Human Rights, Immigration.
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PHILIP BERGER, BERNIE FARBER AND CLAYTON RUBY

The Globe and Mail Friday, Jun. 15 2012, 2:00 AM EDT

As Canadian Jews, we grew up hearing stories about how our families came to this country as refugees. We also heard about the relatives who never arrived because of the Canadian government’s closed-door policy for Jews. Historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper’s book None is Too Many told of this sad and ultimately deadly policy.

 

In the early 1900s, Jews fled persecution in European countries where anti-Semitism was rampant. They were not alone; the Roma and Sinti people were caught in the same web of hate.

When Hitler’s forces overran Europe, it was the Jewish and Roma communities that were singled out for annihilation. And with the rest of the world engaged in either compliance or apathy, the Nazi plan almost succeeded.

Bearing the scars of the Holocaust, most Jews fled Europe to countries like Canada, which finally opened its doors with a new immigration policy.

However, the Roma mostly stayed behind, and there has been an enormous escalation of discrimination and bigotry against them, especially in Hungary. And with resurgence of neo-Nazism in parts of Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, Roma face violent attacks. Many have tried to flee to Canada, where doors have once again become hard to pry open.

Most recently, with the passage of refugee and immigration Bill C-31, alongside suggested cuts to refugees’ health care, the federal government is creating what it calls “designated countries,” or DCOs, that it considers “safe.”

Refugees from DCOs will now have only a short time to prepare for their hearings, and will effectively lose their right of appeal. Additionally, refugees will have no access to primary or emergency health care, even in the case of pregnancy or heart attack.

While refugee claimants from DCOs are singled out for particularly alarming treatment under the new federal rules, the changes will harm all those claiming refugee status. Claimants will lose access to life-saving drugs, such as insulin, and to preventive care. Physicians across the country warn that these changes will result in severe illness and death.

While DCOs have yet to be named, Hungary will assuredly be on the list. If these policy changes come into effect, Roma refugee claimants will lose access to health care on June 30. We are also likely to see many more deportations of Roma back to Hungary.

Judaism teaches the concept of “ tikkun olam,” an exhortation to repair the world. If passed, Bill C-31 would be antithetical to these values. It is our hope that as Canadians hear more about the dangers of this legislation, they too will not stand by as refugees lose basic health care and persecuted groups or individuals are sent back to face violence in their home countries.

Today, we go on record as Jews and descendants of immigrants to say that we oppose cuts to refugee health care and the designation of so-called “safe” countries. Denying other human beings health care and a haven based on their country of origin is simply wrong. As Jews and human rights activists, we know well that countries deemed safe for the majority can be deadly for some minorities.

Pressure must continue. It’s never too late to ask for changes or amendments to the regulations. Ironically, we also understand that, were our families to arrive today under the federal government’s new rules, they would be denied health care, and, ultimately, citizenship. Returning to the retrograde policies that inspired “None is Too Many” must be rejected.

Canadian Progressive Leader Jack Layton’s Final Letter August 22, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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Roger’s note:

To Olivia, Mike and Sarah I offer my deepest condolences on your and our incalculable loss.  I had
the privilege of knowing, befriending and working side by side with Jack for several decades.  He was one of the most
kind hearted, generous, and dedicated individuals I have ever known.  He leaves behind a legacy of which we can all
be proud.  He was not only a great Canadian, but a great Human Being.   It is hard to believe he is no longer with us. 
He will be greatly missed, but thousands who were inspired by his spirit and courage will continue the struggle for social justice that was so dear to
his heart.

I first knew of Jackback in the 1980s when I heard him giving lectures on the radio (CJRT, Ryerson, if I remember correctly) on municipal government.

 

Jack was, among other things, a polished auctioneer, and both before and during his life in
government, was the major attraction at the 519 Church Street Community
Centre’s annual fundraising auction. We had this shtick, I would enter the back
of the auditorium, raise my hand and say, “Hi, Jack,” and he would
respond with “Sold!,” and I was stuck with whatever was on the block
at that moment.

 

We served together on both City and Metro Council, and it was Jack’s Health Department report on the
deadly emissions from the Commissioner Street Incinerator that was crucial in
my first campaign in Toronto’s Ward 7. Jack seconded my motion on Council that
effected the closure of that enormous polluter within six months of my being elected.

 

I have known over the years many individuals like Jack, who went from community activism to electoral
politics and government. The vast majority, I am sorry to say, get seduced by
the power and prestige, enjoy the privileges and ego polishing of being a
member of the Club (which includes all three political parties), and gradually
lose their community roots and commitments. This was not so for Jack. I was far
to the left of Jack Layton and didn’t always agree with his compromises, but I
can honestly say that he never lost sight of the community to which he owed his
support, and for that he always had my trust and respect as he did of the communities that elected him with huge majorities.

 

Jack Layton, the man,was one of the most decent, generous, dedicated, transparent, and hard working
individuals that I have had the privilege to know in my lifetime.  He will be sadly missed
both as a leader and a human being.

 

In thinking of our loss of Jack, I am reminded of the last words of that great humanitarian and
activist, Joe Hill: “don’t mourn, organize.” I am mourning the loss
of Jack as a friend, but I thing that Jack’s deepest desire for us now would be
to continue with the work ahead of us to bring social justice to Canada.

Published on Monday, August 22, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

“Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

TORONTO — The leader of Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, died Monday of cancer at his Toronto home, his family said. He was 61.

“We deeply regret to inform you that the Honorable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 a.m. today,” a statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and his children, Sarah and Michael said.

It was known he had undergone treatment for prostate cancer last year, but on July 25, a pale, drawn and thin-voiced Layton announced the cancer had metastasized and he was temporarily stepping away from the party’s leadership while he underwent treatment.

Layton was born in Montreal on July 18, 1950, to a political family whose history dates back to Canada’s founding in 1867.

TORONTO — Text of a letter from Jack Layton to Canadians:

August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one — a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Canadian Government Accused of ‘Unprecedented’ Tar Sands Lobbying August 5, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Friday, August 5, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Friends of the Earth Europe claims ministers have attempted to undermine European fuel legislation that would affect exports

  by Terry Macalister

The Canadian government has been accused of an “unprecedented” lobbying effort involving 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands.

Mining trucks carry loads of oil-laden sand in Canada. “The overriding message,” say campaigners against the tar sands, “is that… the dirtiest fuel on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”(Photograph: Jeff Mcintosh/AP)

The allegation comes from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), which claims Ottawa ministers have attempted to mislead European decision-makers by underplaying the carbon-heavy nature of their crude in assessing new petrol standards.

Canada is worried that proposed European legislation would penalise imports of oil derived from its tar sands and so restrict access to the European market for Canadian oil. This might in turn embolden US legislators to do similar. To prevent this, FoEE says that Ottawa has been conducting an intensive lobbying campaign aimed at preventing the British government and the European commission from watering down the legislation.

“The Canadian government must disclose the genuine GHG [greenhouse gas] footprint of tar sands and stop making false promises. It should take serious measures to address the negative nature of tar sands,” recommends FoEE in a new report entitled Canada’s dirty lobby diary – undermining the EU fuel quality directive.

The lobbying effort, which includes dozens of meetings between Canadian and British government “representatives” and oil executives, was triggered by the release of a consultation document in July 2009 by the European commission, which attempted to definitively assess the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of different oils.

The document attributed a “default” carbon value for traditional fuels of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per mega joule of energy for traditional oil and 107gCO2/MJ for fuel derived from tar sands.

The Canadians have managed to delay the EU’s original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position.

Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It is unprecedented that a government of one of the most developed countries can devise and implement a strategy that involves undermining independent science and deliberate misleading of its international partners.”

“The Canadians are asking for further research and further delays. This tactic is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health,” said the FoEE report.

Relatively little fuel from the Alberta tar sands currently ends up in Britain or on the continent, but the Canadians have made clear their real concern is that European legislation will encourage the US to take a tougher line.

A pan-European oil sands advocacy plan was established by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade last year. The main aims were to protect and advance Canadian interests in Europe and to ensure “non-discriminatory market access for oil sands-derived products”, according to documents seen by FoEE.

The Canadians are also said to have set up a special lobbying team in London and identified Shell and BP – two big tar sands investors – as “like-minded allies” in the struggle to have tar sands accepted.

Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, made clear last week at the company’s half yearly financial results that tar sands was one of the key areas of the business that was delivering production growth – both now and more in future. BP has also made no secret of its determination to pursue its interests in Alberta.

But FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly product by making references to initiatives – such as carbon capture and storage – to reduce the CO2 emissions. During the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Canadian government spoke out about the safer operations in Alberta while the country’s democratic credentials have been compared with less savoury regimes where oil is extracted, argues FoEE.

“The overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”

The Canadian government was contacted by the Guardian but did not comment.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

Canada Can’t Muzzle Me March 21, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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To ban me from the country for my views on Afghanistan is absurd, hypocritical, and in vain

by George Galloway

The Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney gazetted in the Sun yesterday morning that I was to be excluded from his country because of my views on Afghanistan. That’s the way the rightwing, last-ditch dead-enders of Bushism in Ottawa conduct their business.

Kenney is quite a card. A quick trawl establishes he’s a gay-baiter, gung-ho armchair warrior, with an odd habit of exceeding his immigration brief. Three years ago he attacked the pro-western Lebanese prime minister, Fuad Siniora, for being ungrateful to Canada for its support of Israeli bombardment of his country. Most curiously of all, in 2006 he addressed a rally of the so-called People’s Mujahideen of Iran, a Waco-style cult, banned in the European Union as a terrorist organization. On one level being banned by such a man is like being told to sit up straight by the hunchback of Notre Dame or being lectured on due diligence by Conrad Black. On another, for a Scotsman to be excluded from Canada is like being turned away from the family home.

But what are my views on Afghanistan which the Canadian government does not want its people to hear? I’ve never been to Afghanistan, nor have I ever met a Taliban, but my first impression into the parliamentary vellum on the subject was more than two decades ago. At the time the fathers of the Taliban were “freedom fighters”, paraded at US Republican and British Tory conferences. Who knows, maybe even the Canadian right extolled these god-fearing opponents of communism. I did not, however.

On the eve of their storming of Kabul I told Margaret Thatcher that she “had opened the gates to the barbarians” and that “a long, dark night would now descend upon the people of Afghanistan”. With the same conviction, I say to the Canadian and other NATO governments today that your policy is equally a profound mistake. From time to time and with increased regularity it is a crime. Like the bombardment of wedding parties and even funerals or the presiding over a record opium crop, which under our noses finds its way coursing through the veins of young people from Nova Scotia to Newcastle upon Tyne. But it is worse than a crime, as Tallyrand said, it’s a blunder.

The Afghans have never succumbed to foreign occupation, heaven knows the British empire tried, tried and failed again. Not even Alexander the Great succeeded, and whoever else he is, minister Kenney is no Alexander the Great. Young Canadian soldiers are dying in significant numbers on Afghanistan’s plains. Their families are entitled to know how many of us believe this adventure to be similarly doomed and that genuine support for troops – British, Canadian and other – means bringing them home and changing course.

To ban a five-times elected British MP from addressing public events or keeping appointments with television and radio programs is a serious matter. Kenney’s “spokesman” told the Sun, “Galloway’s not coming in … end of story.” Alas for him, it’s not. Canada remains a free country governed by law and my friends are even now seeking a judicial review. And there are other ways I can address those Canadians who wish to hear me.

More than half a century ago Paul Robeson, one of the greatest men who ever lived, was forbidden to enter Canada not by Ottawa but by Washington, which had taken away his passport. But he was still able to transfix a vast crowd of Vancouver’s mill hands and miners with a 17-minute telephone concert, culminating in a rendition of the Ballad of Joe Hill. Technology has moved on since then. And so from coast to coast, minister Kenney notwithstanding, I will be heard – one way or another.

Canadian politicians meet with U.S. deserter March 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, Peace, War.
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4:52 PM | March 15, 2009

Lanowlong Two members of Canada’s Parliament met Sunday with a U.S. Army deserter being held at the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.

Olivia Chow and Borys Wrzesnewskyj were among those who opposed the Canadian government’s decision to deport Robin Long so that he could stand court martial for desertion. Long, now 25, fled to British Columbia in 2005 when his Fort Carson, Colo.-based unit was ordered to deploy to Iraq.

“It’s very sad to see a young man who wants only peace but has lost his freedom because he spoke out against the war in Canada,” Chow said after an hourlong visit with Long.

Canadian authorities rejected Long’s bid for political asylum as an anti-Iraq war protester. In August, he was sentenced by a military judge to 15 months behind bars and sent to Miramar.

Chow and Wrzesnewskyj came to San Diego to show continuing solidarity for Long and to restate their opposition to the Canadian government’s bid to deport other U.S. military deserters.

“We have a culture of peace in Canada, of finding peaceful resolutions to conflict,” Wrzesnewskyj said. Deporting deserters “undermines that principle.”

Long is set to be released in July, but as a convicted felon, he will not be able to return to Canada where his girlfriend and their 3-year-old son still live. Brig rules prohibit Long from talking to reporters but recent visitors report he is holding up well in confinement.

“He’s a sweetheart,” said Dawn O’Brien, leader of the San Diego chapter of Military Families Speak Out. “He’s doing very well and he was very pleased for the visit.”

Chow is scheduled to speak Monday night at a rally of anti-war activists, 7 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center, 4065 Vermont Street, San Diego.

Long, who is from Boise, was the first American deserter to be deported after seeking sanctuary during the Iraq war.

His supporters, including San Diego anti-war activists, feel he was singled out by Canadian authorities because of his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war.

[An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Wrzesnewskyj as Wrzesnewsky.]

Tony Perry

Photo: Robin Long, in custody at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Credit: Military Families Speak Out

Of Blood and Gold: How Canadian Mining Companies Loot the Congo February 26, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Canada, Environment.
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Written by John Lasker    www.towardfreedom.com
Thursday, 26 February 2009

Image
Mining in the DRC

In the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo where some analysts say a decade-long “resource war” has taken the lives of millions, a Canadian mining company has caught a fever over gold. Once again, the presence of a foreign mining company in the DRC offers a stunning example of disparity between the “have-mores” of the West and the local Congolese, who seemingly have nothing but violence and struggle. In January of this year the Banro mining company of Canada called on investors to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to help them mine one of Africa’s “last great” gold deposits. The deposits are located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) province of South Kivu, a region that actually has been spared from the brunt of the long-lasting resource war.

Banro predicts it could mine some 2.6 million ounces of gold over 15 years out of their South Kivu mines. After expenses and paying taxes Banro believes such a haul can generate a net-profit of nearly $600 million US dollars over the 15 years, averaging $40 million per year, if gold stays around $850 per ounce.

Just a few weeks before Banro’s call for mining capital, the United Nations Development Programme released updated statistics for its Human Development Index (HDI). The index tabulates statistics that are critical to revealing a nation’s well-being. The HDI measures life expectancy, standard of living, literacy rate and the number of school-aged children being educated. Out of 179 countries measured the DRC ranks 177th; a ranking for a country with a population of over 65 million.

Life expectancy in the DRC is 46 years. Only 33 percent of the school-aged children are enrolled in some type of school. While the GDP hovers around $300 US dollars, per person, per year. On the other hand in Canada the life expectancy is 80 years. A good education is guaranteed as 99 percent of all school-aged children are in school. And for most adults their yearly average earnings could be around $37,000.

But even with all the disparity Banro will figure out a way to avoid paying their fair-share of taxes to the Congolese, says Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada, a mining industry watch-dog group. “Banro will find ways to get around showing full-profit,” said Kneen. “They will find seventeen different ways to avoid paying the Congolese tax man.”

Kneen has good reason to chastise Banro. Earlier this decade, the UN charged Banro with pillaging minerals from eastern DRC.

What’s more, Banro “wholly-owns” the South Kivu gold mines, says Kneen. “The government owns the resources but the project is owned by Banro. They have to pay taxes and royalties but they can do whatever with the profits.” Banro won 100 percent ownership after suing the DRC government for essentially losing control of the mines during the decade-long war.

According to CorpWatch.org, 60 percent of all the world’s mining companies come from this progressive and multi-cultural nation – mining companies that generate $50 billion a year for Canada. But the irony is, says Kneen, many work outside Canada. In the 1990s they went global, he says, escaping newly enacted and tougher environmental regulations. Environmentally speaking, taking your operation overseas saves your own country from dealing with the mess: 20 tons of waste rock, for instance, comes from the creation of one gold wedding ring.

Canadian mining companies have now spread themselves across the globe, making mining-agreements or concessions with many underdeveloped nations. These days, says Kneen, “the Toronto Stock Exchange is the number one (generator) for mining capital in the world.”

On its web site Banro prides itself “by increasing and developing its significant gold assets in a socially and environmentally responsible manner”. One of its foundations working in South Kivu recently built two high-schools, completed a potable water delivery system serving 18,000 people, built 100 km of roads and shipped in health supplies. On the flip side, China promised to build roads, highways, universities, schools and health centers as part of a $9 billion deal to access Congo minerals.

“Banro will have enough money coming in to do some regional development in South Kivo, which is pretty remote,” says Kneen.

Perhaps hearing the calls for more infrastructure, on February 25th Banro promised another $1 million for Congo projects, adding that they’ll pay more taxes on potential profits.

Nevertheless, in an effort to reassure investors over the region’s off-again, on-again wars – caused mostly by the plundering of Congo minerals by rebels, mining multi-nationals and DRC’s neighboring countries, such as Rwanda and Uganda – Banro has publicly said South Kivu’s lack of infrastructure is actually a good thing.

“There’s very little transportation infrastructure between where the fighting is and where (Banro’s mines are)” said Martin Jones, Banro’s vice-president of corporate development in a February issue of The Northern Miner, a trade-association magazine. The fighting, he claimed, is 200 kilometers or more away and “is unlikely to spread (and) the issues that are being fought over…have limited impact on people in the rest of the Congo.” Keep in mind this is a conflict where the UN says 45,000 women were raped in 2005, and in some cases as reported by the Independent, deliberately wounded in sexual organs by firearms.

The Banro deal in the DRC is the future of Canadian mining in central Africa. To offer some context, here is some past history of several Canadian mining companies in central Africa:

In October of 2004, Anvil Mining, the leading copper producer in the DRC, had to shut down production at their Dikulushi Mine when a so-called “rebellion” took place in a nearby village – a rebellion of “ten to twelve” villagers that had nothing to do with mining, said Kneen. Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC), of the DRC government, proceeded to seize the town, says Kneen, then went door-to-door “raping and pillaging”. Between 70 to 100 civilians were killed including women and children. Kneen said the Congo forces had Anvil’s “full cooperation”. Anvil claimed the Congo forces basically put a gun to their chest. Anvil nevertheless offered up trucks and logistics, says Kneen, trucks that transported troops and dead civilians. In the aftermath, the Canadian government essentially looked the other way. “They refused to investigate because there’s no legal mechanism in place,” says Kneen.

Anvil is supposed to adhere to OECD guidelines for multi-national corporations, a voluntary set of moral standards for working in another country established by the think-tank the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, based in France. But the Canadian government – like many Western governments – do not enforce OECD guidelines.

Canada’s Barrick Gold is the world’s largest producer of gold. In a 2005 Human Rights Watch report entitled The Curse of Gold, Barrick Gold and other mining companies are accused of making mining agreements in 2002 with two eastern DRC militias that had control of the mines. Both militias were also in the midst of murdering hundreds of civilians. In return for the gold mines, the militias were given housing and trucks, among other appeasements. Incredibly, as highlighted by independent journalist and Congo-expert Keith Harmon Snow, Barrick’s current and past advisors and directors include former US president George H.W. Bush, former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney, Vernon Jordan, a close friend to Bill Clinton, and one-time Tennessee senator Howard Baker. Snow says Barrick and one its partners, Anglo-Ashanti, even sent in lawyers to help represent leaders of the militias after some were apprehended by the DRC government.

In 2001 the UN released their “Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”. Out of the 29 mining multi-nationals the report accuses of stealing resources out of the DRC, eight are from Canada. They are American Mineral Fields, First Quantum, Hrambee Mining, International Panorama Resources, Kinross Gold, Melkior Resources, Tenke and Banro.

Analysts suggest the resource wars in the DRC are partially fueled by the fact that Western multi-nationals – with the help of host governments – are able to invade an underdeveloped nation, and take its wealth right out from under the feet of the general population. And in this case, the DRC could certainly use all the profits to benefit its own development. With that in mind, any Western mining project in the DRC should be looked upon with caution and skepticism.

***

John Lasker is a freelance journalist from central Ohio. Photo by Julien Harneis

Canada Orders US War Resister (and New Mother) Deported January 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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kimberly2

16 January 2009, www.truthout.org

The Canadian government has ordered the deportation of Kimberly Rivera, the first US woman Iraq war veteran resister to go to Canada, and four other US war resisters. Rivera, her husband and three children, including a newborn daughter, must depart Canada by January 27 or be deported. Rivera now lives in Toronto with her husband Mario, son Christian (six years), daughter Rebecca (four years), and newborn Canadian daughter Katie (six weeks).

    Rivera served in the US Army in Iraq in 2006, but refused a second tour in Iraq in 2007 and instead took her family to Canada. Her first tour in Iraq convinced Rivera that the war was immoral and that she could not participate in it.

    Rivera’s Pre-Removal Risk assessment application and request to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds were denied by the conservative Stephen Harper government, although the Canadian government refused to join the Bush coalition of the willing and join in on the war in Iraq. The Canadian military’s participation in the war in Afghanistan has been controversial as Canadian casualties rise.

    The War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada believes the Canadian Immigration Minister’s decision to deport Rivera and four other US war resisters is based on the need to have the deportations completed before the Canadian Parliament returns in late January. The Parliament adopted a resolution in June 2008 that recommended to the Harper government that “conscientious objectors” to wars that are not authorized by the United Nations be allowed to apply for permanent residence status in Canada.

    Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said that the refugee claims of war resisters are “bogus” and that he “has no sympathy for them.” Kenney has made it clear that his government intends to go against the will of Parliament and the will of Canadians.

    If Rivera and the other US war resisters are deported to the United States or return voluntarily, they will face a military court-martial. Robin Long, the only other US soldier to be deported from Canada, was court-martialed in 2008 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and received a 15-month prison sentence and a dishonorable discharge, the longest sentence given to a war resister during the Iraq war.

    Other US war resisters in Canada face deportation even earlier than Rivera. Chris Teske has a deportation date of January 20, Patrick Hart, his wife Jill and their son on January 29 and Dean Walcott on January 30.

    Several other war resisters in Canada are appealing negative decisions in Canadian Federal Court. The court has stayed the removal orders of war resisters Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman and Matt Lowell. The Hart family faces deportation January 29 and will ask the court for a similar stay.

    Corey Glass has since been granted a new application to stay on Humanitarian & Compassionate grounds. Jeremy Hinzman’s appeal date for his negative decision has been set for February 10 and Matt Lowell is waiting to hear whether his appeal will be heard.

    There are several Canadian groups actively opposing the government’s actions. For further information on those efforts, contact the War Resisters Support Campaign.

by: Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Canada has role to play in Mideast January 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Harper should follow Robert Stanfield’s example and try to be a “fair interlocutor”.

Dateline: Monday, January 12, 2009, Toronto Star 

Speaking on CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition on the weekend, an Israeli commentator described the situation Israel faces as “agonizing”.

This seems apt, given the horrific recent developments in Gaza. But Yossi Klein Halevi wasn’t referring to the results of Israel’s military assault – including Red Cross reports of Palestinian children found starving next to the corpses of their mothers. Rather, he was referring to the harsh criticism Israel is receiving from around the world.

  When commentators despair over Israel’s agonizing choice – accept the falling rockets or face condemnation – they leave out another option: end the occupation.

For Halevi, the issue boils down to terrorism. With Hamas rockets falling on Israel, what alternative does Israel have but to strike back?

This depiction of the situation is accepted by the Canadian government under Stephen Harper.

And there is a certain logic to it – if we restrict our focus to the falling rockets.

But restricting our focus like this obscures the central fact of this decades-old conflict – millions of Palestinians, in Gaza and the West Bank, have lived under Israeli military occupation for more than 40 years. (The removal of a few Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005 resulted in tighter, not looser, Israeli military control over the territory.)

When commentators like Halevi despair over Israel’s agonizing choice – accept the falling rockets or face condemnation – they leave out another option: end the occupation.

Israeli spokespeople say they’d like to do this, but insist they can’t negotiate with terrorists.

However, the evidence suggests another factor may be the real obstacle: Israel doesn’t want to give up the land it’s been occupying. Certainly, Israel has moved in the opposite direction, allowing Jewish settlers to take over large swaths of Palestinian land.

There are now more than 250,000 heavily-armed Jewish settlers living in the West Bank where a future Palestinian state is slated to be. They have made it clear they intend to stay.

Indeed, for the past 40 years, there have been two sets of developments going on simultaneously in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – one under the glare of public attention and one largely off camera.

In the spotlight, there have been peace negotiations, interrupted by bouts of violence. Meanwhile, well out of sight, is the inexorable takeover of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements, effectively removing the possibility of a peace deal.

The failure of moderate Palestinian factions like Fatah to make any progress on the land front – or even to halt the settlements – led to the election of the more militant group Hamas in 2006.

Since the Israelis show no willingness to stop the land takeover, countries like Canada have a vital role to play.

Former Canadian Conservative leader Robert Stanfield understood this. In 1979, he was appointed to advise Joe Clark’s government after it announced a controversial plan to move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem – a move that signalled Canada’s acceptance of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.

After travelling to the region, Stanfield concluded that Canada shouldn’t move the embassy because this would compromise Canada’s role as a “fair minded interlocutor”.

Crucially, Stanfield also asserted that the Palestinian issue lay at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that Canada should support a Palestinian homeland.

It is this broader perspective that is so lacking in the approach of the Canadian government today, allowing Israel to restrict the focus to the falling rockets.

One wonders if the prospect of giving up control over Palestinian land – foregoing the dream of expanding Israel to its biblical size – is what Israel’s elite really finds “agonizing”.

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