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October in Review

Pipeline problems, grand jury resistance, joke job act and celebrity arrests

by Dominion Contributors

Vigil for Murdered and Missing Women. Photo: Isaac K. Oommen
Vigil for Murdered and Missing Women. Photo: Isaac K. Oommen

The Dominion's Martin Lukacs broke the story that an American businessman dumped approximately 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of the world's largest geoengineering experiment off the coast of Haida Gwaii in July. In violation of at least two international conventions, Russ George sold the experiment to the band council of the Haida village of Old Masset as a salmon project environmentally beneficial to the ocean, which is crucial to their livelihood and culture. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, "this does not appear to even have had the guise of legitimate scientific research."

Portland anarchist Leah-Lynn Plante was jailed for refusing to cooperate with a federal grand jury, following the imprisonment of two Olympia activists on the same grounds. The grand jury resistors refused to testify as part of a federal investigation targeting anarchists in the Pacific Northwest following May Day demonstrations in Seattle. After spending a week in solitary confinement, Leah-Lynn was released from federal prison for reasons not yet clarified. A statement issued by her support committee "urges people to step up support for Matt and Kteeo [who remain in jail] on all fronts."

The Canadian schooner SV Estelle, a ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, was seized by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Thirty activists from around the world were on board, including passengers and crew from Canada, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the US, as well as humanitarian goods such as cement, books and two olive trees. Retired Canadian MP Jim Manly was among the passengers arrested and held. Tasers were reportedly used against some of the passengers, all of whom have since been released.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd killed herself after being the victim of an online bullying campaign for multiple years. Following her death, discussion of bullying has been front and centre, but, as feminist scholar and writer, and former BC high school teacher, Fazeela Jiwa posted, "Why isn't anyone talking about the sexism and misogyny involved in Amanda Todd's life and death? 'Bullying' is important, yes, but it is a vague term that glosses over the structural reasons for why it happens, like race/gender/class/ability."

THE "JUSTICE" SYSTEM

The federal government has cancelled the contracts of all part-time non-Christian prison chaplains, purportedly for an estimated savings of $1.3 million per year, while a $2 billion prison expansion program will go ahead. A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews stated that "changes were necessary so that this program supports the freedom of religion of inmates while respecting taxpayer dollars." Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish and other non-Christian inmates will be expected to rely upon Christian prison chaplains.

TRANSPARENCY & PRIVATIZATION

The "Jobs and Growth Act," the latest Conservative omnibus bill, is even longer and larger than the last. Where the last omnibus budget bill began the process of gutting environmental regulations, "this one takes the process another step further." The new bill seeks to amend more than 60 pieces of legislation or acts, including the Indian Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Act and Employment Insurance.

After threatening court action for weeks, Canada's parliamentary budget officer was prepared to file and serve "legal notice on all non-compliant deputy ministers" for their failure to hand over details on billions of dollars in planned 2012 budget cuts. In the face of heavy criticism from several cabinet ministers who say he is overstepping his jurisdiction, Kevin Page has decided to wait for a legal opinion on the mandate of his office before taking action.

The Charbonneau Commission heard testimony from a former construction entrepreneur who stated that public-private partnerships (PPP) "are fertile ground for corruption and collusion." There are 14 active or recently completed PPPs in Quebec, including the high-profile McGill University Health Centre, which will consolidate the Royal Victoria, Montreal Children’s and Montreal Chest hospitals.

The Saskatchewan government is preparing legislation to sell its Information Services Corporation, the provincial Crown corporation responsible for the administration of land titles, vital statistics, survey, personal property and corporate registries, and related geographic information. Government officials say that the vital statistics branch would not be included in any sale, and that a decision on whether or not to go ahead with the sale has not been made.

FIRST PEOPLES' RESISTANCE

In honour of the approximately 600 missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, an unprecedented number of vigils took place on October 4th. The seventh annual Sisters in Spirit day was marked by over 170 events across Canada, the United States, Mexico, Bolivia and Germany.

Within 15 days, Uashat-Maliotenam Innu erected two blockades on a supply road to a major northern Quebec Hydro dam. The communities say they have been "systematically excluded from talks related to Quebec’s Northern Plan to develop natural resources." Four people were arrested after the second blockade of the only highway northeast of Quebec City, but the group remains defiant in their opposition to mining, forest and energy resource extraction occurring on their land.

A rally was held in Montreal in support of two elders who were arrested this summer for opposing logging on their lands. Traditional Algonquin Elders Louise Wawatie and her brother Joseph Wawatie were in court after being charged for standing in front of logging equipment operated by Resolute on Algonquin land in northern Quebec.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced its decision to license an advanced uranium exploration project in Eeyou Istcheem, James Bay Cree territory. In the face of the decision, the James Bay Cree Nation has affirmed its commitment to the moratorium on all uranium exploration, mining and waste disposal in Eeyou Istchee declared by the Grand Council of the Crees in August.

MIGRANT JUSTICE

Hundreds of people gathered outside Conservative MP Kelly Block's Saskatoon constituency office to protest her latest newsletter, which praises the federal government's recent cuts to health benefits for refugee claimants. The flyer states in part, "New arrivals to Canada have received dental and vision care paid for by your tax dollars—not anymore."

Despite mounting support for Victoria Ordu and Ihuoma Amadi, two University of Regina students forced into sanctuary after deportation orders were issued against them this summer, the federal government refuses to intervene. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews responded to the public outcry—including rallies in Regina, Saskatoon and Ottawa, and questions raised in Parliament by Liberal MP for Wascana Raph Goodale—by saying, "As a minister, we don't get involved in looking behind a judicial order...I haven't seen anything exceptional that would cause a minister to intervene against the rule of law in this case."

The family of Tibor Baranyai, a trafficking-ring victim, were deported to Hungary, despite his cooperation with Canadian authorities. That cooperation had led to the successful conviction of a criminal syndicate that exploited Mr. Baranyai and 18 other Eastern European men. In a translated statement released by the family, Mr. Baranyai said, "I want to say that I feel used. The traffickers used me for my labour, Canada used me as a witness to get a prosecution…But both Canada and the traffickers would deny me the basic thing I need as a human—to be loved, to love, and be supported by a family that I can see and touch. You would deny those I love safety.”

A company that owns four coal mines in British Columbia's northeast is bringing in nearly 2,000 temporary Chinese foreign workers. Rather than discussing the lower costs of exploiting migrant workers, Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. is reported as saying that "not enough Canadians are skilled enough to do underground mining." Under the Harper government, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada now exceeds the total number of permanent residents.

Over 200 refugees, migrant workers and supporters rallied in Ottawa to call for a regularization of Mexican asylum seekers, prior to the implementation of the Conservative government's regressive new immigration act, Bill C-31. Mexicanos Unidos por la Regularizaci├│n (MUR) took their fight to Ottawa, highlighting that, despite an asylum rejection rate of 90 per cent from Canada, Mexico is not a safe country.

MINING/PIPELINES

Enbridge has applied to the NEB for approval of the second phase of the Line 9 pipeline reversal. If approved, Enbridge will be able to pump tar sands oil between Hamilton and Montreal. The group Environmental Defence says this confirms suspicions that the pipeline company is trying to pump dirty oil to the East Coast for export, passing through 115 communities on the way.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Enbridge back to the Kalamazoo River, site of the largest onshore oil spill. After the EPA found submerged oil remained throughout approximately 38 miles of the Kalamazoo, the company was given 10 days to respond to the order. The EPA directive was issued on the same day that Enbridge tried to greenwash their tar sands pipeline spill.

Northern Cross, an Alberta-based gas company, has withdrawn its proposal for fracking in the Yukon. The company, which is currently drilling for oil and gas in Eagle Plains, Yukon, did so after the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB) requested more information. The group Yukoners Concerned About Oil & Gas Development/Exploration has called for a public debate on fracking. Meanwhile, in the Northwest Territories, the potential shale oil boom is also causing concern. Companies have invested over $500 million for the right to explore for shale oil and want to use fracking to do so. And in Nova Scotia, calls for transparency are mounting in regards to the disposal of fracking waste-water.

At the 14th Summit of La Francophonie in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Stephen Harper announced new support to "help provide developing countries with the training necessary to manage their extractive industries." Harper announced $20 million over four years to be provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), in new support of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Extractive Industries Technical Advisory Facility (EITAF).

East Texas farm owner and great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild was arrested for "trespassing" on her own land, along with celebrity Daryl Hannah. The two women were taken into custody after they stood in front of a TransCanada-operated excavator attempting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Fairchild's backyard. Since Obama expedited the pipeline's permitting process, six direct actions to block Keystone XL construction have taken place.

TransCanada will be audited by the National Energy Board (NEB) after a former employee blew the whistle on substandard pipeline inspection and welding practices. The NEB will review the management of most of the company’s pipelines, including the Canadian portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.


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