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February in Review

Refugee health, RCMP abuse, liquid uranium and the zombie apocalypse

by Media Co-op Contributors

Thousands of people participated in Women's Memorial March actions across the country on February 14. Photo by dm gillis
Thousands of people participated in Women's Memorial March actions across the country on February 14. Photo by dm gillis
Anti-nuclear activists and Idle No More protesters held a day of action against the GE Hitachi uranium processing plant in Toronto. Photo by Kevin Konnyu
Anti-nuclear activists and Idle No More protesters held a day of action against the GE Hitachi uranium processing plant in Toronto. Photo by Kevin Konnyu

The movement for sanctuary cities experienced a historic win in Toronto, where City Council strengthened its commitment to providing services to all residents regardless of immigration status, without fear of detention or deportation. Hamilton city Councillor Brian McHattie said he will pursue a similar policy in Hamilton.

A few dozen people occupied the Citizenship and Immigration buildings in Vancouver to honour Kurdish-Iranian refugee Hossein Blujani and demand a public investigation into the cause of his death.

Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers launched a federal court case against the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in an attempt to prove that last year's changes to refugee health care under the Interim Federal Health Program are unconstitutional.

Longtime Toronto resident Israel Sánchez was deported to Panama. He fled the country in 1988 due to state repression and became active in the city's queer and HIV communities. Sanchez was unaware of an outstanding deportation order until border agents showed up on his doorstep earlier this year.

LGBT groups expressed concern over the creation of a federal Office of Religious Freedom to promote religious freedom as part of Canadian foreign policy. Others noted that Harper's inaugural remarks focused on persecution in Muslim-majority countries.

The Supreme Court ruled that Canada's hate speech laws are a constitutionally valid limit on freedom of expression.

A new professional national basketball team announced that its name would be the Ottawa Tomahawks. Hours later, after swift public reactions denouncing the choice as racist, the name was dropped.

From forums out west to rallies out east, Idle No More events and actions continued across the country. In Saskatoon, demonstrators disrupted a meeting between First Nations chiefs and federal officials about education to protest a lack of consultation. More than 50 youth walked from Jackhead First Nation and other Manitoba First Nations to Winnipeg to protest Bill C-45. Cree youth continued the Journey of Nishiyuu from Whapmagoostui in northern Quebec to Ottawa.

The 22nd Annual Women's Memorial March took place in Vancouver and in cities across the country to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and demand justice. The RCMP questioned the numbers cited by Indigenous and women's organizations, alleging the force is not aware of 500 of the cases.

Human Rights Watch released a report about RCMP policing in northern BC, detailing cases of rape, assault, harassment and other abuse by officers against First Nations women and girls. In Edmonton, an 18-year-old First Nations girl revealed that when police responded to a call concerning her rape, she was arrested instead. A rape kit was not performed for three days and she was not able to shower for five days.

An investigation got underway in BC after Burnaby RCMP shot and killed Ryan Jacobs, the son of Squamish Nation hereditary chief and elected band councillor Gibby Jacob.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Grand Valley Institution women's prison in Kitchener to show support for the imprisoned women and to demand justice for the deaths of Ashley Smith and Kinew James.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty disrupted a City Council meeting in Toronto and promised an occupation in March unless the city opens up more shelter beds and space.

Bill C-400, a private member's bill calling for a national housing strategy to deal with the housing and homelessness crises in Canada, was defeated by Conservatives despite widespread support from housing activists across the country. A campaign for social housing was launched in BC. Downtown Eastside residents and allies continued daily picket actions outside the new upscale PiDGiN restaurant, protesting gentrification in the neighbourhood despite Vancouver police harassment of organizers.

The impacts of a new Halifax Regional Police crime-mapping website on safety, prejudice and victim-blaming were called into question.

New York resident Joel Bitar was arrested on 26 charges related to the 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. He faces extradition to Canada.

A massive demonstration against an official education summit in Montreal was quickly declared illegal; police broke up the demonstration after, they said, they were pelted with snowballs and ice; they responded with flash-bangs, baton strikes, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Inside the summit, the Quebec government announced tuition fees will be increased yearly at approximately three per cent, ending the tuition fee freeze that was the principle subject of last year's months-long student strike.

Earlier in the month, more than 30 people were arrested at Montreal demonstrations against the Quebec government's Plan Nord.

In early February, Attawapiskat community members blockaded an access road to the nearby DeBeers diamond mine. A few days after the first action ended, a second blockade was established. The mining company turned to the courts to seek an injunction.

Vancouver-based mining company Pacific Booker Minerals announced that it will sue the BC government for its denial of a permit for the company's Morrison Lake gold and copper project.

Victims of rape and murder at a Guatemalan mine are now able to sue HudBay Minerals in Canadian courts after the Canadian mining company abruptly abandoned its legal argument that the lawsuit should not be heard in Canada.

The Quebec government announced it is considering a broad consultation on uranium mining in the province. Anti-nuclear protesters and Idle No More activists held a day of action against the General Electric Hitachi uranium processing plant in Toronto, blocking a CP line. Plans by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission were revealed that would see liquid bomb-grade uranium transported by armed convoy from Chalk River Laboratories nuclear research facility in Ontario to South Carolina for reprocessing. Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, First Nations leaders, Elders and grassroots activists spoke out against nuclear waste storage at a series of sessions hosted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Journalists obtained documents revealing collaboration between the Assembly of First Nations and the RCMP in response to the 2007 day of action protests.

In Guatemala, former dictator and retired general Efraín Ríos Montt and his intelligence chief, José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, are on trial for genocide in the Ixil region in the 1980s.

A court in Haiti ordered former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to appear in a human rights case. The United Nations, accused of causing a cholera outbreak that killed more than 7,000 people and made hundreds of thousands sick, rejected compensation to the victims.

A C-17 Canadian air force transport plane will continue to provide logistical support to French troops in Mali, due to the approval of a one-month extension. A public opinion poll indicated that most Canadians would oppose the deployment of combat troops to the country.

The deployment of zombie troops wasn't a popular decision either. The Quebec government cancelled its plans to use a hypothetical zombie attack to test emergency preparedness at a civil security symposium in favour of a flood scenario. But not to worry. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird assured the House of Commons that "Canada would never be a safe haven for zombies."

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