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January in Review

Idle No More, special forces in Mali, salmon anemia and a trail of Cheetos

by Media Co-op Contributors

A global day of action for Idle No More was held on January 28, including in Toronto (pictured). PHOTO: popeye logic
A global day of action for Idle No More was held on January 28, including in Toronto (pictured). PHOTO: popeye logic

Idle No More, the surging First Peoples and allies movement for respect of treaty rights, Indigenous sovereignty and against changes brought in through the Conservative Government's two omnibus bills, continued through January. On January 11, over 100 rallies, round dances, and demonstrations were held worldwide to coincide with a controversial meeting between Assembly of First Nations representatives and Canadian politicians. The meeting was widely panned for being more politics as usual, with the Conservatives refusing to revisit legislation but promising renewed involvement from the Prime Minister. On January 16, blockades and demonstrations were held in dozens of locations, including on the 401, in an economic day of action. On January 23, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and Elder Raymond Robinson both ended their month-long hunger strikes, with Spence being immediately admitted to hospital for a short stay. “It does not end because the hunger strike ends. The fight continues. We have mobilized a nation,” said a Spence spokesperson. A global day of action on January 28 again brought thousands into the streets. While some pundits said Idle No More was slowing down, organizers responded that it is here to stay. For our complete Idle No More coverage, visit: http://mediacoop.ca/idlenomore.

Marlene Giersdorf of Lower Montague, Prince Edward Island, appears to be the first victim of federal cutbacks to employment insurance benefits. The 30-year-old single mother was refused benefits because, without owning her own automobile, she is unable to travel the newly mandatory hour-long distance to Charlottetown in order to seek employment.

A new report from the Canadian Labour Congress notes that in 2011 corporations had paid their share of all taxes by January 30. This comes two days earlier than "Corporate Tax Freedom Day" in 2010. Corporations also managed to hoard $72 billion more in 2011 than the previous year, bringing cash reserves up to a whopping $575 billion of "dead money."

A new report from Statistics Canada notes that Canada's top one per cent of earners now earn a median salary ten times that of the rest of us. Calgary is the city with the greatest increase of one per cent earners, doubling its most wealthy populace from 1989 to 2010. Cowtown now boasts 11 per cent of Canada's most wealthy.

Kathleen Wynne made history in Ontario, becoming the province's first female and first openly gay Premier. Wynne is also the Ontario Liberal Party's first female and openly gay leader. Outside the leadership convention, more than 25,000 people rallied against the Liberal government's anti-strike legislation used against the province's teachers and vowed to continue fighting austerity measures and social service cuts.

Canadian special forces are in Mali, where over 2,500 French troops are stationed, ostensibly to defend the capital city of Bamako against al-Qaeda operatives. The special forces contingent comes in addition to a Canadian C-17 military transport, which is helping move military equipment.

The HMCS Toronto, a frigate class warship, is bound for the Arabian Sea. It will be participating in Operation Artemis, a six month mission billed as being part of an international anti-terrorism campaign. The vessel will be stationed in Bahrain and will be under the command of the US Navy. "The HMCS Toronto is not protecting Canadian interests but aiding and abetting American control of region," says Halifax-based peace activist Tamara Lorincz.

Israel, slated for a review of its human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council, avoided the procedure by simply not showing up—and not providing a public reason for the no-show. Later, the council unanimously agreed to defer the review until October. Israel is already in defiance of numerous UN resolutions.

By a slim five-four margin, the Quebec Supreme Court ruled that common-law couples do not have the same legal rights to financial support as do legally married couples. The decision was split along gender lines, with five male judges comprising the majority and four female judges forming the dissenting opinion.

Suffering continuous financial losses, with no projected end in sight, parent company Quebecor is pushing the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to include the Sun News Network in Canadians' basic cable television package. The irony has not been lost on critics of “Fox News North,” who note that Sun has made a regular habit of criticizing government subsidies for media outlets, including the very same CRTC handouts it is now requesting.

Francois Audet, director of l'Observatoire canadien sur les crises et l'aide humanitaire, has found that despite minimal increases in federal assistance to secular Non-Governmental Organizations, the Harper Government significantly increased spending to religious-based NGOs between 2005 and 2010. The biggest increases in federal funding went to 10 western Canadian religious-based NGOs, who saw their funding increase collectively from $29 million in 2005 to $50 million in 2010. Many of these NGOs are openly evangelical in their work.

CKLB, the largest independently-owned Aboriginal radio station in the Northwest Territories, claims that the Harper government has intentionally made the funding process—by which the station accesses the majority of its operational funding from Heritage Canada—too complicated, and is indicative of a larger plan to “wipe out Aboriginal media altogether.” Over the holidays, the station had to temporarily close its doors, as it awaited overdue funding to arrive.

After four different strains of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) caused four different outbreaks among open-net salmon farms in Atlantic Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has reported that they may have lost control of the disease. Farmed salmon critics such as Dr. Alexandra Morton worry that the outbreak is similar to the 2007 situation in Chile, which caused over $2 billion in damage to their farmed salmon industry. While the CFIA endorses ISA-infected salmon as safe for Canadian consumption, there remains the worry of potential disease cross-over to viable herring and recovering cod stocks in the region—not to mention the effects on the dwindling wild Atlantic salmon populations.

Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Scott Vaughan, will be retiring with two years left on his mandate. “I was not surprised at the news,” says Scott Findlay, a colleague of Vaughan’s. “None of us are dummies. We were all very well aware of the extent to which the environment is a priority of the current government.”

Continuing the Harper government's trend of simply eliminating dissent, no replacement has been named for outgoing Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

Canada's clean technology sector is a major driver of job growth and innovation, and could be worth $60 billion by 2020, according to a new report by the Pembina Institute entitled Competing in Clean Energy: Capitalizing on Canadian innovation in a $3 trillion economy.
 
Colombia was added to a list that includes Canada’s 27 NATO allies—along with Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Botswana—where prohibited firearms manufactured in Canada may be sold. According to the government, the amendment to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL) is "consistent with the aim of the AFCCL to promote transparency in the export and transfer of prohibited firearms, prohibited weapons and prohibited devices by making public that Canada will now consider export permit applications for the export of those items to Colombia."
 
Social movements in Colombia have been blocking proposed oil pipeline routes since January 21, including those of the Canadian firm Pacific Rubiales. They are calling on the government and companies for restitution of an environmental, social and humanitarian debt that they say has been accumulating over decades or resource exploitation.

Police in South Carolina had an easy time tracking down a convenience store thief who stole approximately $160 worth of merchandise. In his haste to escape, Austin Presler punctured bags of Cheetos that were part of his looting spree. A trail of Cheetos led police from the convenience store, to Austin's parked car, to the residence where he was staying.

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