Posts tagged canada
Posts tagged canada
Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada’s natural resource agenda, documents reveal
March 3, 2014
The Canadian government is increasingly worried that the growing clout of aboriginal peoples’ rights could obstruct its aggressive resource development plans, documents reveal.
Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.
Yearly government reports obtained by the Guardian predict that the failure to manage the risks could result in more “adversarial relations” with aboriginal peoples, “public outcry and negative international attention,” and “economic development projects [being] delayed.”
“There is a risk that the legal landscape can undermine the ability of the department to move forward in its policy agenda,” one Aboriginal Affairs’ report says. “There is a tension between the rights-based agenda of Aboriginal groups and the non-rights based policy approaches” of the federal government.
The Conservative government is planning in the next ten years to attract $650 billion of investment to mining, forestry, gas and oil projects, much of it on or near traditional aboriginal lands.
Critics say the government is determined to evade Supreme Court rulings that recognize aboriginal peoples’ rights to a decision-making role in, even in some cases jurisdiction over, resource development in large areas of the country.
“The Harper government is committed to a policy of extinguishing indigenous peoples’ land rights, instead of a policy of recognition and co-existence,” said Arthur Manuel, chair of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, which has lead an effort to have the economic implications of aboriginal rights identified as a financial risk.
“They are trying to contain the threat that our rights pose to business-as-usual and the expansion of dirty energy projects. But our legal challenges and direct actions are creating economic uncertainty and risk, raising the heat on the government to change its current policies.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs declined to answer the Guardian’s questions, but sent a response saying the risk reports are compiled from internal reviews and “targeted interviews with senior management in those areas experiencing significant change.”
“The [corporate risk profile] is designed as an analytical tool for planning and not a public document. A good deal of [its] content would only be understandable to those working for the department as it speaks to the details of the operations of specific programs.”
Last year Canada was swept by the aboriginal-led Idle No More protest movement, building on years of aboriginal struggles against resource projects, the most high-profile of which has targeted Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry Alberta tar sands to the western coast of British Columbia.
“Native land claims scare the hell out of investors,” an analyst with global risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group has noted, concluding that First Nations opposition and legal standing has dramatically decreased the chances the Enbridge pipeline will be built.
In British Columbia and across the country, aboriginal peoples’ new assertiveness has been backed by successive victories in the courts.
According to a report released in November by Virginia-based First Peoples Worldwide, the risk associated with not respecting aboriginal peoples’ rights over lands and resources is emerging as a new financial bubble for extractive industries.
The report anticipates that as aboriginal peoples become better connected through digital media, win broader public support, and mount campaigns that more effectively impact business profits, failures to uphold aboriginal rights will carry an even higher risk.
The Aboriginal Affairs’ documents describe how a special legal branch helps the Ministry monitor and “mitigate” the risks posed by aboriginal court cases.
The federal government has spent far more fighting aboriginal litigation than any other legal issue – including $106 million in 2013, a sum that has grown over the last several years.
A special envoy appointed in 2013 by the Harper government to address First Nations opposition to energy projects in western Canada recentlyrecommended that the federal government move rapidly to improve consultation and dialogue.
To boost support for its agenda, the government has considered offeringbonds to allow First Nations to take equity stakes in resource projects. This is part of a rising trend of provincial governments and companies signing “benefit-sharing” agreements with First Nations to gain access to their lands, while falling short of any kind of recognition of aboriginal rights or jurisdiction.
Since 2007, the government has also turned to increased spying, creating a surveillance program aimed at aboriginal communities deemed “hot spots” because of their involvement in protest and civil disobedience against unwanted extraction on their lands.
Over the last year, the Harper government has cut funding to national, regional and tribal aboriginal organizations that provide legal services and advocate politically on behalf of First Nations, raising cries that it is trying to silence growing dissent.
Idle No More protesters make good on threats to shut down Canadian infrastructure
Making good on threats to shut down infrastructure across Canada, flag-waving, drum-beating protesters marched Wednesday under the banner of the Idle No More movement as they set up blockades snarling traffic and halting trains across the country.
In Windsor, Ont., about 600 marchers — one of the largest of the protests — took to one of the city’s links to Detroit, the Ambassador Bridge, backing up commercial traffic beyond city limits.
The so-called national day of action created tension outside Edmonton where protesters blocked the main artery between the Alberta capital and Calgary. One driver in a large blue pickup truck slowly edged their way through the blockade as protesters jumped on the truck’s hood before finally letting the driver pass. No one was injured during the confrontation.
With minor exceptions, the protests were peaceful and went off without incident.
More than one chief who spoke out in Windsor, however, put the federal government on notice that, should it not heed the call to meet and discuss treaty rights with Canada’s indigenous leaders, protesters would return with much larger numbers. (Photo: John Woods; Robin Rowland/The Canadian Press)
First Nation leaders to meet as Idle No More movement ‘becoming more volatile’
First Nations leaders are meeting today to clarify the demands of hunger-striker Chief Theresa Spence, in the hopes of getting closer to a resolution of recent unrest.
National Chief Shawn Atleo is meeting several key regional chiefs from the area surrounding Spence’s Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario.
Spence’s spokespeople said Wednesday in a written statement that the situation “is becoming more volatile” with each passing day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t meet with Spence.
At the same time, Atleo has issued what he calls an urgent invitation to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. David Johnston to meet chiefs on Jan. 24 _ the one-year anniversary of Harper’s summit with First Nations. (The Canadian Press)
Canada, First Nations headed in ‘dangerous direction’ as Idle No More hunger strike continues: Former PM Joe Clark
A visibly weak Chief Theresa Spence made a brief appearance on Sunday — in Day 20 of her fast — as a parade of politicians and protesters turned up the volume to demand action from the Harper government on treaty issues.
Through a spokesperson, the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation said she was “deeply humbled” by the support she’s received from aboriginals and non-aboriginals in her appeal for a face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston.
“This is a call to arms and a call to action in the most peaceful and respective way that reflects our natural laws as Indigenous nations,” Spence said in the statement. (Robin Rowland, Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)
Pauline Marois becomes province’s first female premier as voters throw out Liberal government in wake of student protests
Canadians in the French-speaking province of Quebec have voted for a change of government, electing the separatist Parti Quebecois and making its leader, Pauline Marois, the province’s first female premier.
The PQ is likely to form a minority government after winning fewer seats than required to take power outright, and the result leaves questions over whether it will be able to hold a referendum on leaving the Canadian federation.
The snap election was called after a student strike over raising tuition fees and the Liberal government’s crackdown on student protesters caused unrest across the province.
Former student strike leader Leo Bureau-Blouin, 20, was elected in his district of Laval, making him the youngest elected to the national assembly.
Jean Charest, the leader of the federalist Liberal party, which has governed Quebec for the past nine years, was unseated in his own district of Sherbrook, while his party came in second behind the Parti Quebecois. Support for the party leader has waned due to his handling of the student strike, allegations of corruption in the construction industry and passage of Bill 78 – a widely condemned anti-protest law that brought hundreds of thousands of Quebecois into the streets during the spring.
Marois has promised a tuition freeze until a summit on higher education financing is held, has pledged to repeal Bill 78, and would like to pass a third referendum on Quebec sovereignty. Quebec separating from Canada is a bitterly contentious issue between in the French-speaking province and the election of the PQ only to minority government may indicate Quebec people are not ready to face a third referendum, the previous two having been defeated.
Pictured: Supporters of Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois cheer the party’s victory in Quebec’s elections. Photograph: Rogerio Barbosa/AFP/Getty
Would you pay C$28 (US$27; £18) for a cabbage? $65 for a bag of chicken? $100 for 12 litres of water? That’s not the cost of a meal at a world-class restaurant, but the price of basic foodstuffs at supermarkets in the territory of Nunavut, in northern Canada.
Residents in Iqaluit, the territorial capital, and Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Igloolik, and sympathisers in the national capital, Ottawa, have been protesting in a bid to raise awareness of the high cost of food in remote communities. So why is their food so expensive?
Nunavut is as large as Western Europe and covers most of the Canadian Arctic, with a population of more than 30,000, mostly Inuit. Its harsh, northern climate means there is no agricultural industry.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, indigenous people in the area survived by hunting, fishing and gathering. But lifestyle changes mean local people are now reliant on imported food. And for most of the year, these communities are only accessible by air.
"We don’t have any roads or railways from the south so all goods have to be flown up every day," says Madeleine Redfern, mayor of the capital, Iqaluit. "Fresh produce, milk, bread is delivered here daily, and less frequently in smaller communities further away."
Michael McMullen, vice president for the northern Canada division of the North West Company, which runs 132 stores in remote Canadian communities, says getting food into stores in the north can cost 11 times more than it does in the south of the country.
Quebec government under pressure as Canada’s ‘casseroles protests’ expand
Draconian emergency bill introduced to stifle student protests has ‘politicised’ ordinary Canadians, say opponents
It’s just before 8pm in the Villeray district of Montreal. People wander in and out of the shops and bars, and traffic streams down the main road. But gradually the atmosphere changes, as clusters of people begin to congregate at the busy Jarry intersection. Some are in small groups, and others alone; hipsters in shorts and hi-top trainers mingle with parents in hiking boots and khakis. One thing unites them: they are all carrying pots and pans.
Within half an hour, the metro station is closed to traffic and the intersection is shut down. Hundreds of people are banging their pans, drowning out the sound of car horns from frustrated motorists. This clanking cacophony has become a nightly ritual all over Montreal: a remarkably successful street protest against a draconian emergency law enacted to crack down on what began as localised protest against tuition fees.
"This is about people power," said Carlos Luer, a 53-year-old children’s worker who is attending the "casseroles" (pots and pans) protest for the first time. It wasn’t the students' demands that brought him onto the street, but like thousands of others, he is motivated by bill 78, a loathed piece of legislation passed by the provincial government in Quebec in a failed attempt to stamp out the student protests .”This government said: ‘Keep your mouth shut.’ But they forget, these are the kids of tomorrow,” Luer said.
This growing crisis has its roots in March 2011, when Quebec’s finance minister, Raymond Bachand, announced that the government would increase tuition fees by C$325 (£203) a year for the next five years. Tuition fees in Quebec are lower than in any other province in Canada, and the government was facing a budget shortfall.
But the large increases in fees angered student groups, and in August a formal campaign was announced to overturn them. In November, 30,000 students defied the oncoming Canadian winter to rally in Montreal against the increases. By February, they were on strike, in small numbers at first, but then with more and more taking part. Daily marches against the increases were happening now, with some 200,000 people taking to the streets of Montreal on 22 March.
But still this might have remained a student-government issue. Polls showed that a majority of people in Quebec backed the increases. The protests also divided along linguistic lines: the English-language press in Quebec – a state where 80% of the population speaks French and which boasts a strong nationalist movement – was largely critical of the student movement, which had its roots largely in the Francophone universities.
Then, after growing frustrated with the student strikes and street protests, the government introduced bill 78. The emergency legislation made it illegal for more than 50 people to demonstrate spontaneously. Would-be protesters were required to submit an itinerary to police eight hours in advance. The law suspended universities’ academic terms until August, and enforced strict restrictions on any individual or organisation blocking pupils access to class. Student groups breaking the law faced fines of up to C$125,000, individual protesters C$1,250.
Bill 78 came into effect on 18 May. A day later, responding to a call on Facebook, a large number of residents of Montreal came out onto balconies and streets, banging pots, pans and anything they could get their hands on. The casseroles protests, inspired by the cacerolazo movement in Chile in the 1970s, has continued every night since.
"I’m very surprised," said Kevin Audet-Vallee, 24, at a protest last Friday. "Now that the ordinary citizens are in the streets I think the government is really in trouble, because the middle class is in the streets. At first [critics of student protesters] were saying we were radicals. These are not radicals."
Pictured: Protesters in Montreal bang pots and pans in protest over bill 78 and in support of striking students. Photograph: Peter Mccabe/AP
Lawyers take to the streets with students for Montreal’s 35th consecutive night of protest
As negotiations between student leaders and the provincial Liberals resumed in Quebec City Monday evening after a supper break, more protests took place in different parts of Quebec including Montreal, which hosted its 35th consecutive night of demonstrations.
Lawyers dressed in their courtroom gowns paraded in silence from the city’s main courthouse through the streets of Old Montreal to join the nightly march.
“It is one of the first times I’ve seen lawyers protest in public like this…and I’ve been practising for almost 30 years,” Bruno Grenier said outside the building surrounded by about 250 people, some carrying copies of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The lawyer said his colleagues wanted to show the public that they oppose a law they “find unjust and which is probably unconstitutional.” (Photos: Canadian Press/Reuters)
Nearly 700 people arrested in Quebec protests
Nearly 700 people have been detained in two Quebec cities in the biggest single night of mass arrests since student protests over fees began in February.
Police invoked a controversial new law designed to curb demonstrations as they detained 518 people in Montreal and another 176 in Quebec City.
The protests against a planned rise in tuition charges escalated after Bill 78 passed last week.
The Quebec government insists it will not change its mind on the fee hike.
The march in Montreal late on Wednesday began peacefully, as several thousand demonstrators flooded the central square of Quebec’s largest city.
Police later penned in the protest - adopting a controversial European police tactic known as “kettling” - after reporting they had been pelted with rocks and other projectiles.
Those arrested were released on Thursday and issued with fines of more than C$600 (£370), AFP news agency reports.
Authorities invoked Bill 78, which requires eight hours’ notification before public demonstrations.
Bill 78, passed last Friday, requires marches to follow pre-approved routes, but protesters say it infringes their democratic rights, and have pledged to legally contest it.
Since the passing of the public assembly law, more than 300 people were arrested overnight at a protest in Montreal last Sunday and another 100 were detained in the city on Tuesday.
Students clash with police as Quebec introduces emergency laws to close universities and crack down on tuition fee demonstrations
Quebec’s provincial government, facing the most sustained student protests in Canadian history, has introduced emergency legislation that would shut some universities and impose harsh fines on pickets blocking students from attending classes, as it looks to end three months of demonstrations against rises in tuition fees.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Montreal on Thursday night as the government introduced the bill, with protests spilling over onto an expressway between stalled cars. Tuesday will mark 100 days since the demonstrations began.
Authorities said 122 people were arrested on Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Montreal. Bank windows were smashed and missiles thrown at police.
The prime minister of Quebec, Jean Charest, said the proposed legislation would not roll back the tuition increases. Instead, it would temporarily halt the spring semester at faculties paralysed by walkouts and bring forward the summer holidays. Classes will resume earlier in August.
The legislation contains provisions for heavy fines for students and their federations. Fines range from $7,000 to $35,000 (£4,000 to £22,000) for a student leader and between $25,000 and $125,000 (£15,000 to £78,000) for preventing someone from entering an educational institution. The bill also lays out strict regulations governing student protests, including having to give eight hours’ notice for protest itineraries. A vote on the measure is expected on Friday.
Pictured:Protesters at Montreal university: demonstrations over rises in tuition fees are into their third month. Photograph: Paul Chiasson/AP
Quebec student protests not just about tuition but battle against ‘greedy elites’
Defiant Quebec students had announced the second of what they vowed would be nightly protest marches until the Education Minister “stopped being childish” and agreed to negotiate an end to their 11-week strike over tuition.
But the weather was not co-operating, and as the appointed hour approached Thursday night, a cool drizzle fell on a mostly empty downtown park designated as the meeting point.
Just as it seemed the action would be a dud, the park started filling with people sporting the red square that is the symbol of the student movement. The march began, the crowd swelled and soon they would number over a thousand as they took over major downtown arteries for the next three hours.
“À qui la rue? À nous la rue!” they chanted. Whose streets? Their streets.
Quebecers have never been shy about taking to the streets to air their grievances, but the student demonstrations that have captivated the province this spring are in a different league. Multiple protests occur every day in Montreal alone, with three in the last week turning violent.
Premier Jean Charest announced Friday that, as a concession, he is prepared to spread the $1,625 tuition increase over seven years instead of the previously planned five. He said the annual increase would amount to 50 cents a day after tax credits. Student groups replied immediately that the gesture was inadequate.
How is it that so many people are so worked up about a relatively minor increase in tuition fees? In spending time talking to protesters, one thing becomes clear. This movement, if it ever was, is no longer just about tuition.
Véronique Boulanger-Vaugeois, 30, had ducked out of the rain for an espresso before the march began. She has a degree in social work from Université du Québec à Montréal but is currently unemployed. She recently decided to take a more active part in the student protests after recognizing its potential for broader societal change.
“For me the student movement, the student strike is just one part of everything we have to resolve,” she said. “The student movement is one in which the youth give us the energy, give us the power to refuse what is going on right now.”
Specifically that includes the tuition increases — she has fought for free university since her own student days — and the Liberal government’s northern development plan known as Plan Nord. But there is more. She also sees the protest as a refusal of “the entire capitalist, neo-liberal context that over time ends up having a very harmful impact, both locally and internationally, on the environment and on humanity.”
The previous night’s protest had left shattered windows and prompted police to use tear gas and pepper spray. Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay had despaired that his city was being disgraced around the world. Ms. Boulanger-Vaugeois, however, was unmoved by the mayor’s appeal for calm. “He should hold back his dogs. His dogs are the police,” she said. “It’s not the students who are causing destruction; it’s the police.”
Pictured: The student protest movement has become an outlet for a sweeping range of grievances. Graham Hughes for National Post.
Mar. 18 - More than 50 police are called to quell St. Patrick’s Day revelers in college neighborhood in London, Ontario, Canada. Deborah Lutterbeck reports
Charles Angus, a member of parliament representing James Bay, describes the conditions within several of the First Nation communities as an “international disgrace for our nation”.
He tells Inside Story: “The Attawapiskat crisis certainly shook Canada. In a way it has been our Katrina moment because Canadians were shocked that people were living in such dire conditions but then also shocked that the government had no plan, no seeming interest to respond.”
So what is the state of the relationship between federal governments and aboriginal communities across North America? And how should these issues be addressed and their living standards improved? Will the Ottawa summit deal with the real issues at hand, or is it just a photo-opportunity?
Originally published January 24, 2012
Canadian killed in area of Mexico embroiled in drug violence
A Canadian citizen was shot dead in a shopping district in the city of Culiacan, northwest Mexico, in unclear circumstances, police said Monday.
Police found the body of Salid Abdulacis Sabas overnight, with gunshot wounds to the head and lying near nine heavy-calibre cartridge cases, said a statement from Sinaloa state police.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the victim,” said a statement from Foreign Affairs. “Our officials in Mazatlan are in contact with local authorities and stand ready to provide consular assistance during this difficult time.”
Sinaloa state is the home of Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker, Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman, and one of the most violent states in Mexico.