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Wynne ruins Xmas in Grassy Narrows, logging plan approved December 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment, First Nations, Ontario.
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Roger’s note: Let’s here it for Liberal governments.

GN_FB_ProfileBIMMEDIATE RELEASE Dec. 23, 2013

Grassy Narrows – Today the Wynne government approved plans for another decade of clearcut logging in Grassy Narrows Territory against the will of this Indigenous community. The decision has ruined Christmas in a community already struggling with the long term health impacts of mercury poisoning. The Whiskey Jack Forest Management Plan 2012-2022 plans for dozens of large clearcuts on Grassy Narrows Territory, some nearly the size of pre-amalgamation Toronto.

 

“Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. “I call on you to intervene to repeal this hurtful plan and to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands.”

Download the plan here.

Speak out against the plan here.

The plan sets out a schedule to clearcut much of what little mature forest remains on Grassy Narrows Territory after decades of large scale industrial logging. Clearcut logging elevates mercury levels in fish – deepening the tragedy caused when 20,000 lbs of mercury poison were dumped into Grassy Narrows’ river by a paper mill upstream in the 1960’s.

This logging will further erode the Aboriginal and Treaty Rights of the community which depends on the forest to sustain their families and to practice their culture through fishing, hunting, trapping, medicine harvesting, ceremony and healing for all generations.

“Ontario has ignored our voices, and has added insult to injury by delivering this bitter blow during Christmas,” said Joseph Fobister. “My heart sinks because I know that clearcut logging has devastating consequences for our people. We cannot allow this.”

Premier Wynne visited Grassy Narrows in the summer of 2012 as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, saying that she wanted to rebuild Ontario’s relationship with Grassy Narrows to “get it right.” Instead Ontario has unilaterally pursued this clear-cut logging plan against the will of the community and without consent

We were not properly consulted and we do not accept any application of this plan to our traditional lands. The Chief and Council along with community Elders stand united on this issue and are determined to protect the community’s way of life; Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Grassy Narrows’ case against Ontario in May, with a decision following by six months or more. The legal action argues that Ontario does not have the right to unilaterally permit logging on Grassy Narrows land due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3.
The new logging plan takes effect in April.

Grassy Narrows is the site of the longest running native logging blockade in Canadian history – an ongoing grassroots action which recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. Grassy Narrows youth, elders, women, and land-users put their bodies on the line to stop logging trucks from passing.

CONTACT: Chief Simon Fobister (807) 407 0170
JB Fobister (807) 407 2745

High res photos and b-roll available: riverrun2010@gmail.com.

– See more at: http://freegrassy.net/2013/12/23/wynne-ruins-xmas-in-grassy-narrows-logging-plan-approved/#sthash.VW4IajJa.dpuf

Canada’s real international shame — and it’s not Ford November 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Canadian Mining, Environment.
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Roger’s note: the author ends this article by lamenting the damage done by the Harper government to “Canada’s global reputation.”  What needs to be added to this are the damages themselves done not only to our environment but to the thousands of human beings who suffer at the policies of this mean-spirited and imperious government.

 

Canada has become the target of unprecedented international condemnation as one of the world’s worst polluters.

big_trucks.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

 

The international community is unimpressed with Canada’s environmental record, which for some includes the oilsands industry in Alberta.

 

Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS

 

 

When will this horrid scandal end? Can someone please turn the channel? Shamed on the world stage and ridiculed by many, Canada has been exposed in recent days as a country with political leadership that is greedy, self-indulgent, incompetent and dismissive of our children, as well as woefully captive of special interests.

And I’m not referring to Rob Ford. His 15 seconds of fame — as “The Crack-smoking Mayor Who Knocked Down Granny,” as London’s tabloids described him — will end one day. Just keep breathing deeply.

 

I mean, in tabloid terms, another story: “The Short-Sighted Canadian Government That Robbed Our Children.” And, sadly, its legacy may never end.

 

What makes it worse is that this comes at a time when the government of Stephen Harper faces criticism for blackening Canada’s reputation in foreign policy in other areas as well.

 

Although it hasn’t received the media attention of the Ford soap opera, Canada in the past week has been the target of unprecedented international condemnation as one of the world’s worst polluters. These reports have coincided with a major UN climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland.

 

One after another, accusations have been directed at the Harper government for being an international deadbeat when it comes to climate change and the environment.

 

The Washington-based Center for Global Development ranked Canada dead last among the 27 wealthy nations it assessed in terms of environmental protection. Every other country has made progress except Canada, according to the group.

 

A report issued this week by the Europe-based Germanwatch and Climate Action Network placed Canada at the bottom of an international list of countries in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions, ahead of only Iran, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

 

By any measurement, this is not how most Canadians want their country to be seen internationally in an area so crucial to Canada as the environment. This challenges the conventional wisdom — often reflected in current political debate and media coverage — that Canadians have tired of the environment and climate change as public policy issues.

 

According to a new survey released last Monday, Canadians increasingly believe — six in 10 — that climate change is real and caused by human activity, which is the highest level since 2007. But they are losing faith in government to address the issue. The survey was conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the David Suzuki Foundation.

 

These results were broadly consistent with another national survey released in early November that showed that three out of four Canadians were concerned about climate change but many were critical of how the federal government handled the issue. The poll was sponsored by the Canada 2020 think tank and the University of Montreal, and was conducted by Leger Marketing.

 

The Canadian government’s handling of climate change is part of a pattern. Domestic political calculations here in Canada — rather than any high-minded sense of Canada’s international obligations — seem to drive the Harper government’s foreign policy decisions.

 

How else to explain Canada’s unquestioning support of the Israeli government? The price of that has been to relegate Canada to irrelevance in the Middle East.

 

How else to explain Canada’s abrupt decision a year ago to pull its embassy out of Iran? The price of that has been to eliminate any possibility Canada can be a factor in the current nuclear negotiations. Even Britain is now taking steps to reconcile with Iran.

 

How else to explain Harper’s decision to boycott the recent Commonwealth conference in Sri Lanka in response to pressure from Canada’s Tamil community? The price of that was to sideline Canada from the human rights debate at the conference. In contrast, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who attended the conference, was able to challenge directly the Sri Lankan government for its handling of the Tamil minority.

 

The Rob Ford scandal has been a genuine black eye for Canada. His continuing presence on the political scene is as mystifying to foreigners as it is embarrassing to Canadians. But one day, thankfully, Ford will be gone.

 

In a variety of areas including climate change, the damage being done by the Harper government to Canada’s global reputation is a stain that will stay with us for much longer.

 

Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. (tony.burman@gmail.com )

Noam Chomsky: Canada on Fast-Speed Race ‘to Destroy the Environment’ November 2, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canada petroleum, Energy, Environment.
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Noted linguist tells the Guardian ‘the most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction’

 

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Canada is on a race “to destroy the environment as fast as possible,” said noted linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky in an interview with the Guardian published Friday.

Noam Chomsky speaking in Trieste, Italy. (Photo: SISSA/cc/flickr)

Chomsky took aim at the conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which has pushed for increased exploitation of the tar sands, muzzled federal scientists, championed the Keystone XL pipeline and gutted environmental protections.

Harper’s pro-oil, anti-science policies have been the target vocal, widespread opposition, including recent sweeping mobilizations by Indigenous communities like the Elsipogtog First Nation fighting fracking exploration in New Brunswick.

“It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result,” Chomsky told the British paper, referring to Harper’s energy policies.

Yet there is resistance, he said, and “it is pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction.”

His comments echo those he wrote this spring in a piece for TomDispatch entitled “Humanity Imperiled: The Path to Disaster.” He wrote: “[A]t one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible.”

To organize around climate change, Chomsky told the Guardian that progressives should not frame it as a “prophecy of doom,” but rather “a call to action” that can be “energizing.”

As the country continues what David Suzuki called a “systematic attack on science and democracy” and “we are facing an irreversible climate catastrophe like the tar sands,” Canada’s race to disaster shows no signs of abating.

___________________

Tribe Blockades ‘Megaload’ of Tar Sands Equipment August 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Nez Perce leader: ‘We need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land.’

 

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Over 250 protesters faced down police and a ‘megaload’ of tar sands equipment Monday evening on Idaho’s Highway 12. (Photo: Steve Hanks/ Lewiston Tribune, AP)

Calling tar sands development a project of “total destruction,” members of the Nez Perce tribe placed their bodies before a ‘megaload’ of extraction equipment for the second night in a row Tuesday, temporarily halting the convoy as it makes its way along Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Roughly 50 protesters from the Nez Perce tribe, Idle No More, Wild Idaho Rising Tide and other environmental groups halted for over an hour the 255-foot long, two-lane-wide shipment—the bulk of which was a 322-ton water purification unit being pulled by a big rig.

The Spokesman-Review reports:

After gathering at a river access point a quarter mile from where the megaload truck stopped before dawn Tuesday, protesters began hiking westward along Highway 12 to a ramp where the roadway splits from Highway 95. At around 10:30 p.m., the Omega Morgan truck that had sat idle began to rumble to life, and a fleet of Nez Perce Tribal Police, County Sheriff, and Idaho State Police vehicles began moving toward a crowd of protesters blocking the roadway.

Law enforcement officers gave protesters 15 minutes to speak out unimpeded. At one point, tribal members were informed they were creating a public nuisance by officers. To which one protester responded, ‘We’re protecting our sovereignty.’

In an action the previous evening, a group over 250 activists linked arms in a human chain across the roadway, successfully holding up the parade of vehicles for three hours. According to Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the blockade was the longest lasting “since the first tar sands extraction modules rolled from Lewiston area ports on February 1, 2011.”

The blockade broke after a police car drove straight through the group of people, Earth First! Newswire reports. “Police used the usual tactics to break up the blockade, threatening people with mace, pushing activists, separating parents from children, and so on,” they add.

Nineteen individuals, including all members of the Nez Perce executive committee, were arrested Monday evening and released on bail Tuesday.

One of those arrested, Tribal Council member and Vice-Chair of the Nez Perce Nation (Nimiipuu Nation), Brooklyn Baptiste, told indigenous independent media site Last Real Indians that the action was taken because of tribal opposition to the economic and long-term environmental impact of the shipments—namely the development of tar sands oil which he described as “total destruction.”

“As leaders, elected or not, we need to be able to meet our ancestors in the spirit world and hold our heads up strong and answer them when they ask if we did all we could do to protect the people and the land. This is about our inherent sovereignty. We are sovereign because of this land, this water, the animals. What is sovereignty without them? We’re all waking up.”

According to Reuters, the load is one of two planned shipments by Oregon hauling company Omega Morgan.

 

The ‘megaload’ parked during the day. (Photo via @KXLBlockade/ Twitter)

A video of Monday’s blockade shows protesters chanting and banging drums in a face-off with police and the ‘megaload.’

Lac Mégantic: Don’t Blame the Engineer July 29, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Canadian Mining, Energy, Environment.
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Roger’s note: If a welfare mom get caught shoplifting to feed her children or a Black youth is apprehended with a few ounces of marijuana, depending upon the jurisdiction, they could face years in prison.  If elected politicians backed by avaricious capital enact legislation creating risks to thousands that result in massive deaths, they face no consequences.  This is a metaphor for our capitalist economic system where profit trumps human life.  This is not free enterprise.  it is profit, greed and oppression backed by the so-called law.

How easy it would be to lay the blame for the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic on the engineer who ran the train. But the real responsibility lies with the governments on both sides of the border who have deregulated their transport sectors, gutted freshwater protections and promoted the

(Photo: Ryan Remiorz/AP)spectacular growth and transport of new and unsustainable fossil fuels.

Starting back in the 1970s, the US government deregulated rail transport, allowing deep staff reductions, the removal of brakemen from trains and lower safety standards for shipping hazardous materials. Canadian governments followed suit and allowed the railways to self-regulate safety standards and continue to ship oil in the older, accident-prone tanker cars of the kind that crashed into Lac-Mégantic.

Just last year, Transport Canada gave Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railways the green light to run each train with just one engineer, which explains how one man came to be in charge of 72 cars and five locomotives carrying combustible energy through inhabited communities.

The Harper government, meanwhile, has gutted environmental regulation and freshwater protection in order to speed up the development of the Alberta tar sands.

Its victims include the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the whole environmental assessment process. Ninety-nine percent of all lakes and rivers in Canada, including Lac-Mégantic, are no longer protected from pipelines carrying bitumen or fracked oils near, around or under them.

The Quebec government estimates that at least 5.6 million litres of crude oil has escaped into the environment.

Both the American and Canadian governments have chosen to subsidize and promote the production of fracked oil and gas as well as heavy oil from tar sands operations over conservation and alternative, renewable sources of energy. The tankers that slammed into Lac-Mégantic were carrying shale oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, a deposit being mercilessly mined, as are many other sites across North America, in spite of their direct threat to local water supplies and human health.

The energy industry has plans to increase production in the Alberta tar sands five-fold, and is now shipping raw, unrefined bitumen, diluted with heavy chemicals, across the continent, by pipeline, railcar tankers and on ships on the Great Lakes. Shipments of oil by rail have increased by 28,000 percent since 2009 and barges and ships carry almost 4 million tons of oil and petroleum products (about 4 billion litres) to or from U.S. Great Lakes ports every year and more between Canadian ports.

Some are using this tragic rail accident as an argument in favour of the controversial oil pipelines. But pipelines also pose a serious threat to human health and the environment when they carry hazardous materials. The International Energy Agency says that pipelines spill far more oil than rail.

On average, in Alberta alone there are an average of two spills every day — over 770 spills every year. The danger of increased shipments of tar sands oil across the Great Lakes cannot be exaggerated.

The combination of a dramatic increase in North American fossil fuel production combined with deregulation of modes of oil and gas transportation and the removal of almost all protections for Canada’s freshwater heritage is a recipe for further accidents, spills and tragedies. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them.

All across the country, we are in mourning for the victims of this accident. The very least we can do for the families and friends of lost loved ones in Lac-Mégantic is right the wrongs that led to that terrible night.

‘Nobody Understands’ Spills at Alberta Oil Sands Operation July 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations.
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Published on Sunday, July 21, 2013 by the Toronto Star

Oil spills at an oil sands operation in Cold Lake, Alberta have been going on for weeks with no end in sight, according to a government scientist.

  by  Emma Pullman and Martin Lukacs

Photos provided by a government scientist show the site of an oil spill in Cold Lake, Alta. The company that runs the operation says it is effectively managing the cleanup.

Oil spills at a major oil sands operation in Alberta have been ongoing for at least six weeks and have cast doubts on the safety of underground extraction methods, according to documents obtained by the Star and a government scientist who has been on site.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been unable to stop an underground oil blowout that has killed numerous animals and contaminated a lake, forest, and muskeg at its operations in Cold Lake, Alta.

The documents indicate that, since cleanup started in May, some 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water have been removed, including more than 4,500 barrels of bitumen.

The scientist said Canadian Natural Resources is not disclosing the scope of spills in four separate sites, which have been off bounds to media and the public because the operations are on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, where there is active weapons testing by the Canadian military.

The company says it is effectively managing and cleaning up the spills.

“The areas have been secured and the emulsion is being managed with clean up, recovery and reclamation activities well underway. The presence of emulsion on the surface does not pose a health or human safety risk. The sites are located in a remote area which has restricted access to the public. The emulsion is being effectively cleaned up with manageable environmental impact,” the company said in a statement.

The documents and photos show dozens of animals, including beavers and loons, have died, and that 30,600 kg of oily vegetation has been cleared from the latest of the four spill zones.

The company’s operations use an “in situ” or underground extraction technology called “cyclic steam stimulation,” which involves injecting thousands of gallons of superhot, high-pressure steam into deep underground reservoirs. This heats and liquefies the hard bitumen and creates cracks through which the bitumen flows and is then pumped to the surface.

The scientist, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job, said the operation was in chaos.

“Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this,” said the scientist. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.”

In response to emailed questions from the Star, Canadian Natural Resources said it was co-operating with the regulator.

“We are investigating the likely cause of the occurrence, which we believe to be mechanical,” the company said.

“Canadian Natural has existing groundwater monitoring in place and we are undertaking aquatic and sediment sampling to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts. As part of our wildlife mitigation program, wildlife deterrents have been deployed in the area to protect wildlife.

“We are saddened that unfortunately some animal fatalities occurred between the time of the incident and the deployment of our animal deterrent systems. All of the fatalities have been reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator.”

The company added that it has “taken appropriate steps to ensure no additional impact to wildlife or the environment and that the incident site is reclaimed.”

Canadian Natural Resources did not respond to the charge that they aren’t disclosing the scope of the spills.

Oil companies have said in situ methods are more environmentally friendly than the open-pit mining often associated with the Alberta oil sands, but in situ is more carbon and water-intensive.

“In the course of injecting steam they’ve created fractures from the reservoir to the surface that they didn’t expect,” said the scientist, who is speaking out over concern that neither the company nor Alberta’s regulatory bodies would properly address the situation.

On Thursday, the Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed there were four spills in the last few months, and ordered Canadian Natural Resources to restrict its steam injections and enhance monitoring at the operations in Cold Lake.

Regulator official Bob Curran said the latest spill is spread across 40 hectares.

Canadian Natural Resources disputed that figure Friday. “We have the mapped area impacted to be significantly less than 40 hectares with the area being reduced daily through effective cleanup efforts,” the company said.

Critics say such spills raise questions about the safety and viability of in situ extraction, which by 2020 is expected to account for as much as 40 per cent of Canada’s oil sands production, because many of Alberta’s deposits cannot be mined.

“This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline.

“You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months.

The company said the process is sound and has a good track record over 30 years in Alberta. It said that nevertheless it is reviewing its wellbores “to enhance wellbore integrity and modify steaming strategies to prevent the remote possibility of these events in the future.”

The Cold Lake operations are on the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation, which is pursuing a constitutional challenge that argues the cumulative impacts of oil sands industrial development are infringing their treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap.

As well, the First Nation says there are graves alongside the lake in the area affected by the spills, and that band members have been unable to access that area.

© 2013 Toronto Star

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Emma Pullman

Emma Pullman is a Vancouver-based researcher, writer and campaigner. She is a campaigner with Leadnow.ca and campaigns consultant with SumOfUs.org.

Martin Lukacs

Martin Lukacs is a writer and activist, and an editor with the Canadian grassroots newspaper the Dominion

Canada’s environmental activists seen as ‘threat to national security’ February 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Environment.
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Police and security agencies describe green groups’ protests and petitions as ‘forms of attack’, documents reveal

 

Roger’s note: Canada’s own J. Edgar Harper

Environmental activists opposed to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project protest

Canadian government agencies have been accused of conflating extremism with peaceful protests, such as the ongoing campaign against Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Monitoring of environmental activists in Canada by the country’s police and security agencies has become the “new normal”, according to a researcher who has analysed security documents released under freedom of information laws.

Security and police agencies have been increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan of the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) view activist activities such as blocking access to roads or buildings as “forms of attack” and depict those involved as national security threats, according to the documents.

Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said. In 2011 a Montreal, Quebec man who wrote letters opposing shale gas fracking was charged under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Documents released in January show the RCMP has been monitoring Quebec residents who oppose fracking.

“Any Canadians going to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington DC on Sunday had better take precautions,” Monaghan said.

In a Canadian Senate committee on national security and defence meeting Monday Feb 11 Richard Fadden, the director of CSIS said they are more worried about domestic terrorism, acknowledging that the vast majority of its spying is done within Canada. Fadden said they are “following a number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism”.

Canada is at very low risk from foreign terrorists but like the US it has built a large security apparatus following 9/11. The resources and costs are wildly out of proportion to the risk said Monaghan.

“It’s the new normal now for Canada’s security agencies to watch the activities of environmental organisations,” he said.

Surveillance and infiltration of environmental protest movement has been routine in the UK for some time. In 2011 a Guardian investigation revealed that a Met police officer had been living undercover for seven years infiltrating dozens of protest groups.

Canadian security forces seem to have a “fixation” with Greenpeace, continually describing them as “potentially violent” in threat assessment documents, said Monaghan.

“We’re aware of this” said Greenpeace Canada’s executive director Bruce Cox, who met the head of the RCMP last year. “We’re an outspoken voice for non-violenceand this was made clear to the RCMP,” Cox said.

He said there was real anger among Canadians about the degradation of the natural environment by oil, gas and other extractive industries and governments working for those industries and not in the public interest. Security forces should see Greenpeace as a “plus”, a non-violent outlet for this anger, he argued. “It is governments and fossil fuel industry who are the extremists, threatening the prosperity of future generations.”

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Canada’s Energy Juggernaut Hits a Native Roadblock January 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment, First Nations, Idle No More.
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Published on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 by The Star

by Linda McQuaig

Those who believe we can freely trash the environment in our quest to make ourselves richer suffer from a serious delusion — a delusion that doesn’t appear to afflict aboriginal people.

A Vancouver protester highlights the environment on Jan. 11. (Photograph: Ben Nelms / Reuters)

Aboriginals tend to live in harmony with Mother Earth. Their approach has long baffled and irritated Canada’s white establishment, which regards it as a needless impediment to unbridled economic growth.

Nowhere is this irritation more palpable than inside Stephen Harper’s government, with its fierce determination to turn Canada into an “energy superpower,” regardless of the environmental consequences.

So it’s hardly surprising that the Harper government has ended up in a confrontation with Canada’s First Nations.

Certainly the prime minister has shown a ruthlessness in pursuing his goal of energy superpowerdom.

He has gutted long-standing Canadian laws protecting the environment, ramming changes through Parliament last December as part of his controversial omnibus bill. He has thumbed his nose at global efforts to tackle climate change, revoking Canada’s commitment to Kyoto.

And he’s launched a series of witch-hunt audits of environmental groups that dared to challenge the rampant development of Alberta’s oilsands — one of the world’s biggest sources of climate-changing emissions — as well as plans for pipelines through environmentally sensitive areas.

But, while there’s been some resistance from provincial governments, opposition parties, and environmentalists, Ottawa’s energy juggernaut has continued to surge ahead.

At least until now. With the First Nations, Harper may have met his Waterloo.

Among other things, Harper’s attack on Canada’s environmental laws included rewriting parts of the Indian Act, thereby removing safeguards for native land and waters that are protected in the Constitution.

Of course, even with the Constitution on the side of aboriginals, it’s hard to imagine a group consisting of some of the poorest people on the continent taking on the federal government, backed up by corporate Canada, and winning.

After all, the First Nations are divided, and the government has deftly exploited these divisions. Furthermore, many influential media commentators side with the government, helping it portray aboriginals as impractical dreamers unable to understand the dictates of the global economy.

And restless natives have been a permanent political backdrop in Canada, unable to even ensure clean drinking water for themselves, let alone shape the government’s agenda.

But what’s new and potentially game-changing is Idle No More, the youth-based native initiative that, suddenly and unpredictably, has grown into a feisty grassroots movement — one that has shown the potential to attract activists from Occupy Wall Street, the Quebec student movement and even middle-class Canadians starting to wonder if barbecuing weather in mid-January suggests we’re playing too fast and loose with the environment.

Idle No More grew directly out of the resistance to Harper’s energy juggernaut. Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaq and spokesperson for Idle No More, notes that changes in the omnibus bill make it easier to overcome native resistance to energy projects. For instance, the changes would enable a handful of natives, without support from the band majority, to surrender reserve land to Enbridge, enabling it to build a pipeline.

The Harper government will undoubtedly mobilize resources and cunning against Idle No More.

Whatever happens, it’s hard not to be inspired by this gutsy, earthy band that has asserted itself in the tradition pioneered by native-influenced governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, both of which have passed laws giving Mother Earth legal protections.

Canadians have reason to be ashamed of our treatment of aboriginals — from residential schools to the continuing failure to provide basic necessities like water, housing and education to people whose ancestors were here long before ours arrived.

Ironically, their insistence on their constitutional rights, as Palmater notes, may be the last best hope of Canadians to reverse our own culture’s reckless disregard for the dictates of Mother Earth, who ultimately is more demanding and unforgiving even than the global economy. Rising GDP levels won’t mean much if we’re swamped by rising sea levels.

The very least we can do is to get behind this ragtag group that has, in a few short weeks, shown more wisdom than our “advanced” society has mustered in decades.

Linda McQuaig’s column appears monthly. lmcquaig@sympatico.ca

© 2013 The Star
Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is a columnist for the Toronto Star. She first came to national prominence in 1989 for uncovering the Patti Starr Affair, where a community leader was found to have used charitable funds for the purpose of making illegal donations to lobby the government. McQuaig was awarded the National Newspaper Award for her work on this story. The National Post has called her “Canada’s Michael Moore”. Linda is the author (with Neil Brooks) of Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, published by Beacon Press.

Idle No More: Indigenous Uprising Sweeps North America January 10, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Environment, First Nations.
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Roger’s note: the Conservatives of Stephen Harper (a friend refers to them as the suposi-Tories) formed a majority government with barely 40% of the popular vote and now act with mean-spirited Social Darwinistic impunity (with attacks on social programs, aboriginal rights and environmental protection, etc.).  They call themselves Conservatives but in reality the old Progressive Conservative Party has been hijacked by the quasi-fascistic Reform Party (Canada’s Tea Party).  They cannot be stopped through parliamentary means, the struggle is in the streets.
Published on Thursday, January 10, 2013 by YES! Magazine

Idle No More has organized the largest mass mobilizations of indigenous people in recent history. What sparked it off and what’s coming next?

  by  Kristin Moe
idlenomorevancouver1-bycaelieframpton-555

It took weeks of protests, flash mobs, letters, rallies, and thousands of righteous tweets, but Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally caved. He agreed to a meeting with the woman who had been petitioning him for twenty-four days, subsisting on fish broth, camped in a tepee in the frozen midwinter, the hunger striker and Chief of the Attawapiskat Theresa Spence.

The mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our relationship to the land.

No, this is not normal parliamentary process. The hunger strike was a final, desperate attempt to get the attention of a government whose relationship with indigenous people has been ambivalent at best and genocidal at worst, and force it to address their rising concerns. The meeting, set for this Friday, January 11, is unlikely to result in any major changes to Canada’s aboriginal policy. Yet the mobilization around Chief Spence’s hunger strike has already grown to encompass broader ideas of colonialism and our collective relationship to the land. The movement has coalesced under one name, one resolution: Idle No More.

Closed-door negotiations spark a movement

The Idle No More movement arose as a response to what organizers call the most recent assault on indigenous rights in Canada: Bill C-45, which passed on December 14. Bill C-45 makes changes to the Indian Act, removes environmental protections, and further erodes the treaties with native peoples through which Canada was created.

Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation.

On December 4, when representatives of First Nations came to the House of Commons to share their concerns about the proposed bill, they were blocked from entering . A week later, after being repeatedly denied a meeting with Harper, Chief Spence began her hunger strike. Since then, the movement has grown to encompass a hundred years’ worth of grievances against the Canadian government, which is required by Section 35 of the Constitution Act to consult with native people before enacting laws that affect them. Indigenous leaders accuse the Harper administration of “ramming through” legislation without debate or consultation.

Even worse is the bill’s “weakening of environmental assessment and the removal of lakes and rivers from protection,” says Eriel Deranger, Communication Coordinator of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is directly downstream from toxic tar sands mining. She knows firsthand the importance of protecting waterways from industrial pollutants. “Indigenous people’s rights,” she says, “are intrinsically linked to the environment.” She adds that the removal of such protections paves the way for resource extraction, bringing Canada closer to its self-stated goal of becoming a global energy superpower. This isn’t just a native thing, Deranger says; this is something that affects everyone.

And so begins the largest indigenous mass mobilization in recent history. Native people and their allies from all over North America have gathered to peacefully voice their support for indigenous rights: they’ve organized rallies, teach-ins, and highway and train blockades, as well as “flash mob” round dances at shopping malls.

With Twitter and Facebook as the major organizing tools, #idlenomore has emerged as the dominant meme in the indigenous rights movement. In addition to events across Canada, a U.S. media blitz tour has inspired solidarity actions all over North America, as well as in Europe, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Mainstream media and the Harper government are taking notice.

Anger at environmental destruction in Canada boils over

But why now? The answer, says Deranger, is that people are ready. Idle No More arose at a moment of growing awareness of environmental justice issues, frustration with lack of governmental consultation, and widespread opposition to resource extraction on indigenous land—like the tar sands in Deranger’s home province of Alberta and the diamond mines in Chief Spence’s Ontario. It comes after years of grassroots organizing around indigenous rights—which are, in the end, basic human rights.

Visit almost any reserve in Canada, and you’re likely to see third world social indicators in a first world country: high incarceration rates, inadequate housing and sanitation, reduced life expectancy—due in part to abnormally frequent suicides—lack of employment and education opportunities, and substance abuse. This, after more than a century of colonization by a government that refuses to acknowledge its identity as a colonial power. Meanwhile, native youth are the fastest-growing segment of Canada’s population, according to . Is it any surprise that they’re taking on repressive legislation and using social media to organize?

For Canadians—and potentially all North Americans—this is a moment of reckoning. Just as Chief Spence’s hunger strike forced the issue with Harper, Idle No More forces us all to confront the ugliness of our collective colonial history, and to recognize that colonization continues today.

It holds up a mirror to our society, questioning the historical narrative we’re all taught to believe. It asks: On what values was our country founded? And, because identity is created out of that narrative: Who are we, really? And who do we want to be?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

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Kristin Moe

Kristin Moe is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and activist who is enrolled this fall at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine.

Oh Canada: The Harper Government’s Broad Assault on Environment July 4, 2012

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Published on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 by Yale Environment 360

 

by Ed Struzik

Alberta’s tar sands. (Photograph by Peter Essick | National Geographic)

Outsiders have long viewed Canada as a pristine wilderness destination replete with moose, mountains, and Mounties who always got their man. Recognizing the tourism value of that somewhat dull but wholesome image, successive Canadian governments — both Liberal and Conservative — were content to promote the stereotype in brochures, magazine advertisements, and TV commercials.

The lie of that was evident in the rampant clear-cutting of forests in British Columbia, the gargantuan oil sands developments in Alberta, the toxic mining practices in the Arctic, and the factory fishing that literally wiped out the Canadian cod industry by the 1990s. But this wholesome image endured because progress was made on several environmental fronts, such as creation of many new national parks, and because Canada remains sparsely populated with large swaths of unspoiled boreal forest and tundra.

But Canada’s pristine image — and more importantly its environment — is not likely to recover from what critics across the political spectrum say is an unprecedented assault by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on environmental regulation, oversight, and scientific research. Harper, who came to power in 2006 unapologetic for once describing the Kyoto climate accords as “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations,” has steadily been weakening environmental enforcement, monitoring, and research, while at the same time boosting controversial tar sands development, backing major pipeline construction, and increasing energy industry subsidies.

Critics say that assault reached a crescendo in recent weeks with the passage in Parliament of an omnibus budget bill known as C-38, which guts or significantly weakens rules relating to fisheries protection, environmental assessment, endangered species, and national parks. Under this bill, the criteria that currently trigger environmental assessments, for example, have been eliminated, leaving such reviews more to the discretion of the Minister of the Environment and other political appointees. The Fisheries Act will no longer be focused on habitat protection; instead, it will restrict itself largely to the commercial aspects of resource harvesting. Ocean dumping rules will also be changed to allow the Minister of the Environment to make decisions on permitting. And Parks Canada will no longer have to conduct environmental audits or review management plans every ten years. In addition, budgets cuts will eliminate the jobs of hundreds of scientists working for various government departments that focus on the environment and wildlife.

The bill also formally ends Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and removes funding for the bipartisan National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment, which for a quarter-century has offered policy solutions on how to grow Canada’s environment in a sustainable way.

One would expect intense criticism of Harper’s policies from environmentalists. But in recent months, hundreds of scientists, at least one university president, and several former Cabinet ministers and politicians — including three from the Conservative Party — have weighed in with scathing attacks on the Harper government.

“We have had lengthy and varied political experience and collectively have served in cabinet in Progressive Conservative and Liberal governments alike,” former fisheries ministers Tom Siddon, David Anderson, John Fraser, and Herb Dhaliwal said in an open letter to Harper on June 1. “We believe we have a fair understanding of the views of Canadians. Moreover, we believe there is genuine public concern over the perceived threat this legislation poses to the health of Canada’s environment and in particular to the well being of its fisheries resources. We are especially alarmed about any possible diminution of the statutory protection of fish habitat, which we feel could result if the provisions of Bill C-38 are brought into force.”

The discontent, however, goes much deeper than that. In addition to Bill C-38, the Harper government has ended funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, which had doled out more than $100 million in research funding over the past decade. It has withdrawn support for the Experimental Lakes Program in northwestern Ontario, which has used 58 lakes to conduct groundbreaking studies on phosphate, mercury, and bacterial contamination, as well as research on how climate change affects freshwater systems. And it has killed funding for a program that helps keep more than a dozen Arctic science research stations operational.

The elimination or severe reduction of funds for research into climate change and the Arctic has especially serious implications, given that the Canadian Arctic is warming faster than almost any other region on earth. Scientists say that Harper’s sharp cutbacks will mean a drastic shortage of funds to monitor huge environmental changes in the Arctic, including melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, a rapidly changing tundra environment, and widespread impacts on fauna and flora.

“The kindest thing I can say is that these people don’t know enough about science to know the value of what they are cutting and doing,” says David Schindler, co-founder of the Experimental Lakes Project and one of the world’s best-known freshwater scientists. “But I think it goes deeper than that. This government is not going to let anything get in the way of resource development.”

Many think that statement goes to the heart of the matter now that international controversy over the Alberta tar sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline — which would carry that oil across the U.S. to Texas refineries — have put the Canadian government on the defensive. How else, they say, do you account for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver writing an open letter last January claiming that “environmental and other radical groups” use “funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest” — an apparent allusion to international opposition to the Alberta tar sands and related pipeline projects. What else, they add, could be behind the government’s decision this spring to give the Canada Revenue Agency an extra $8 million to crack down on environmental charities?

Justifying the tax crackdown, Harper said recently, “If it’s the case that we’re spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money and we’ll look to eliminate it.”

Tides Canada is one of the charities at the center of this particular controversy. When the Harper government recently accused it of funneling foreign money to advocacy groups that oppose the Keystone pipeline and the Gateway pipeline (which would carry tar sands oil to ports in British Columbia), the head of the organization took the unprecedented step of releasing a detailed account of its grant recipients and international donors.

As it turns out, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation — established by Intel co-founded Gordon Moore — is among its biggest U.S. donors. It gave Tides an $8 million grant to support marine planning and science in British Columbia and nearly $10 million for salmon conservation initiatives. Tides Canada also got $2.4 million from several American foundations that wanted the money to support a land-use agreement between aboriginal groups and the province of British Columbia.

Ross McMillan, president and CEO of Tides Canada, denies that his charity is involved in political activity. The decision to go public, he says, was designed to “send a clear message to our critics that we have nothing to hide in our work.”

Harper hasn’t helped his cause by muzzling government scientists who have been conducting research on everything from permafrost to polar bears. Timely access to these scientists has been the subject of several newspaper articles and editorials. Hoping to resolve the long-standing problem, the Canadian Science Writers Association sent a letter to the Prime Minister in February calling on him to “tear down the wall that separates scientists, journalists, and the public.”

In the letter they noted how government scientists such as David Tarasick and Kristina Miller were prohibited from speaking to journalists even though their separate studies on the ozone layer and declining salmon populations were published in the journals Nature and Science.

The letter made little impression on the government. When 2,500 scientists, aboriginal leaders, and decision makers attended the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal in April, Canadian scientists were reminded not to talk to the media even though the government of Canada was the primary sponsor of the conference.

In June, former Conservative Member of Parliament Bob Mills took the extraordinary step of holding a press conference with the Green Party criticizing the government for killing the National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment, established in 1988 by former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

“I’ve always said that if you’re smart, you surround yourself with really smart people,” said Mills. “And if you’re dumb, you surround yourself with a bunch of cheerleaders. We don’t need cheerleaders. What we need are smart people. And in the Round Table, a collection from all walks of life, all different political stripes, it didn’t matter — but they were pretty smart people.”

Insurance industry executive Angus Ross added, “I think that perhaps the Prime Minister has forgotten that the name of the round table is not the National Round Table on the Environment or the Economy. It’s the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.”

Environment Minister Peter Kent, a former journalist, claims that the Round Table had outlived its usefulness.

“When it was created a quarter of a century ago, there were very few sources of policy advice on the relationship between the environment and the economy,” he told the House of Commons recently. “That is not the case today. This $5 million can be better spent elsewhere to protect the environment and the economy.”

Melissa Gorrie, a staff lawyer for the environmental law group Ecojustice, marvels at the persistence with which the Harper government is pressing ahead with its assault on the environment. She knows because she and her colleagues have successfully gone to the Federal Court of Canada several times to get the government to use emergency measures under the Species at Risk Act to protect declining caribou and sage grouse populations.

With each victory, the government has found a way not to act on the court order. Much of the stalling comes from procedural wrangling and disagreements about what constitutes an “imminent threat.” In the case of caribou, when all else failed the government came up with a draft recovery plan that satisfies none of the complainants nor any of the scientists who have been studying caribou for the past quarter-century.

“My colleagues and I have been talking about this quite a lot lately,” said Gorrie. “It’s either a vendetta and a total assault on the anything environmental or a total disinterest in the issue. Whatever it is, I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like this in Canada.”

© 2012 Yale Environment 360

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Ed Struzik

Canadian author and photographer Ed Struzik has been writing on the Arctic for three decades. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, he has written about a potential uranium mining boom in Nunavut and about a controversial plan to kill wolves in Alberta.