Monday, December 27, 2004

Please take a moment to sign this petition

I don't know if it makes any difference, but it's worth trying.

I am not at all against practicing Shari'a in Canada. Muslims have any rights to do that like Jews and members of other faiths. But, I am strongly against family laws and unjust treatment of women imposed under Shari'a, because of this:

Life under sharia, in Canada?
By Margaret Wente

Homa Arjomand knows what it's like to live under sharia law. In Iran, she endured it until someone tipped her off that she was about to be arrested and imprisoned. Many of her activist friends had already been tried and executed. She, her husband and two small children (the youngest was barely one) escaped on a gruelling trip by horseback through the mountains. That was in 1989.

Today, she lives in a suburb northeast of Toronto. Her job is helping immigrant Muslim women in distress. And
now she is battling the arrival of sharia law in Canada.

"We must separate religion from the state," she says emotionally. "We're living in Canada. We want Canadian secular law."

Sharia law in Canada? Yes. The province of Ontario has authorized the use of sharia law in civil arbitrations, if both parties consent. The arbitrations will deal with such matters as property, marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance. The arbitrators can be imams, Muslim elders or lawyers. In theory, their decisions aren't supposed to conflict with Canadian civil law. But because there is no third-party oversight, and no duty to report decisions, no outsider will ever know if they do.

These decisions can be appealed to the regular courts. But for Muslim women, the pressures to abide by the precepts of sharia are overwhelming. To reject sharia is, quite simply, to be a bad Muslim.

Ms. Arjomand's cellphone is constantly ringing — with calls of support, or calls for help, or updates on various crises. A client of hers has just that day died of cancer, leaving behind a nine-year-old daughter. The husband was brutally abusive, and now the dead woman's family is terrified that he's going to take the daughter, who was born in Canada, and go back to Iran. Ms. Arjomand has been trying to get Children's Aid to intervene.

In the burgeoning Muslim communities around Toronto, it's customary to settle family disputes internally, by appealing to an imam or an older person in the family. "I have a client from Pakistan who works for a bank," Ms. Arjomand tells me. "She's educated. She used to give all her money to her husband. She had to beg him for money to buy a cup of coffee. Then she decided to keep $50 a month for herself, but he said no."

They took the matter to an uncle, who decreed that because the wife had not been obedient, her husband
could stop sleeping with her. (This is a traditional penalty for disobedient wives.) He could also acquire a temporary wife to take care of his sexual needs, which he proceeded to do. Now the woman wants a separation. She's fighting for custody of the children, which, according to sharia, belong to the father.

The law permitting a sharia court was passed in 1991, when Ontario sought to streamline the overloaded court
system (and save money) by diverting certain civil cases to arbitration, including arbitration conducted on religious principles. Jewish courts have operated in the province this way for many years. "People can agree to resolve disputes in any way acceptable," said Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ontario attorney-general. "If they decide to resolve disputes using principles of sharia and using an imam as an arbitrator, that is perfectly acceptable under the arbitration act."

Promoters of Islamic law in Canada have been working toward this goal for years. Last fall, they created the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice, which has already chosen arbitrators who have undergone training in sharia and Canadian civil law. The driving force behind the court is a lawyer and scholar named Syed Mumtaz Ali, who was quoted last week saying "to be a good Muslim," all Muslims must use these sharia courts.

Many Muslims, including many women, are enthusiastic about giving Islamic law an official place in Canada, and they emphatically deny that it will harm women's interests. On the contrary. They insist that under Islam, a woman's rights are protected. "We follow the Islamic law, secure with a perfect sense of equality between the sexes," wrote Khansa Muhaseen and Nabila Haque in a letter to the Toronto Star, where the sharia debate has been raging fiercely.

Opponents of the new tribunals argue that the government's imprimatur will give sharia law even greater legitimacy. Sharia law is based on the Koran, which, according to Muslim belief, provides the divine rules for behaviour. What is called sharia varies widely (in Nigeria, for example, it has been invoked to justify death by stoning). The one common denominator is that it is strongly patriarchal.

Alia Hogben is president of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, a pro-faith group with members from every Muslim culture. But the council was never consulted about the new sharia courts, and it strongly opposes them.

"This is a very difficult position for us to be in because we are believing women," says Ms. Hogben. "But to apply Muslim family law in Canada is not appropriate." In Britain, she adds, the government has flatly rejected councils for sharia law.

Both Ms. Hogben and Ms. Arjomand — the former an observant Muslim, the latter not — are lobbying hard for Ontario to change the arbitration law.

When Ms. Hogben's family came to Canada 50 years ago, the Muslim population was tiny. In the 1970s, she and
her husband started a tiny mosque in Toronto that they shared with Albanians and Bosnians. Today, Canada's Muslim population numbers more than 600,000, and many Muslims live in self-contained enclaves where there is little interaction with the outside world. Ms. Hogben welcomes the stronger sense of identity among Muslims now. But she warns that many of the new arrivals have brought with them a far more rigid version of Islam. "A lot of money is being poured into North America from very traditional groups from Saudi Arabia and Libya," she points out. These groups are not known for their tolerance of other versions of Islam, or for their progressive attitudes toward women.

Immigrant women are among the most vulnerable people in Canada. Many don't speak English, are poorly educated, and are isolated from the broader culture. They may live here for decades without learning the language, and stay utterly dependent on their families. They have no idea of their rights under Canadian law.

Both Ms. Hogben and Ms. Arjomand say that we are sacrificing these women on the altar of multiculturalism.

"This is an abuse of multiculturalism, says Ms. Hogben. "There is a lack of courage [on the part of governments], and also a fear of offending Muslim sensitivities."

"I chose to come to Canada because of multiculturalism," says Ms. Arjomand, who gave up a career in medical science to work with women who are victims of abuse. "But when I came here, I realized how much damage multiculturalism is doing to women. I'm against it strongly now. It has become a barrier to women's rights."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

TASC Members convicted for defying Queen's Park lifetime ban

In a decision which does not bode well for the civil rights of demonstrators, an Ontario Court judge has concluded that then-House Speaker Chris Stockwell was justified in issuing his lifetime ban against five members of Toronto Action for Social Change because such a draconian measure was "within the bounds of the recognized category of parliamentary privilege of the 'ejection of strangers from the House and its precincts' when he issued the bans."

"I find that I do not have the jurisdiction to review the actions of the Speaker in any manner, including under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Judge J.W. Bovard wrote.

Despite a Crown request to issue $500 fines against the five members of TASC, the defendants argued for and won an absolute discharge. The group plans to appeal the decision to Ontario Superior Court.

The latest judicial decision is part of a six-year battle that began with a protest against the Harris government's severe cuts to social programs. Water-soluble stage blood was thrown on the outside walls of the Ontario legislature on the third anniversary of the 21.6% cut to social assistance on October 1, 1998. Five of those attending the protest were banned for life; two of those arrested, who had not been part of a series of prior protests at Queen's Park, were not banned. The latter fact led us to conclude that those banned were clearly singled out for our lengthy history of persistent and well-publicized legislative protests.

Members of TASC had argued that the crucial question before the courts was whether the Speaker, under the guise of parliamentary privilege, has absolute, unaccountable power and immunity so that any decision that he
makes -- and the consequences which flow from that decision -- are not reviewable by the courts either on the merits, or within an inquiry into the scope of his parliamentary privilege. Such absolute power opens the door to abuses of power. Indeed, parliamentary privilege in this case was used to uphold an unconstitutional end, denying a group of people the right to attend at Queen's Park for ANY purpose, on pain of arrest, for almost six years.

Judge Bovard argues that this use of parliamentary privilege was necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the legislature and ensure the dignity of the house, even though there was no disruption to the legislature, and even though the cuts which were being protested had resulted in dozens of deaths to that moment.

Bovard's reasoning is dangerous and reminiscent of those earlier liberal judges who, though concerned about the potential violations of institutions such as slavery or denial of the vote to women, nonetheless upheld them because they had been around for a long time and were deemed by the powers of the day as necessary to the "proper and dignified" functioning of those societies.

"The evolution of the human rights law, as seen for example in The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has not caused Parliament to modify this privilege to allow review of it under the Charter or any other human rights legislation," Bovard declared. "I conclude that to date, the privilege of 'ejection of strangers from the House and its precincts' is in force as it always has been and I do not agree that the Charter or any other human rights legislation can modify it."

During the trial, one of the defendants had asked whether, if the Speaker were anti-Semitic and banned Jews from the legislature, such a decision would be protected by Parliamentary Privilege. The Speaker's representative refused to answer the question and the judge refused to allow it to be repeated, perhaps realizing that the only answer was "yes."

Indeed, when power is unaccountable and unreviewable, such arbitrary and draconian measures as lifetime bans are likely to result.

Bovard ignored a wealth of case law which contains warnings about such abuses. As one judge put it in the Supreme Court's Operation Dismantle case, "Men can exaggerate the extent of their interests and so can the Crown. The servants of the Crown, like other men animated by the highest motives, are capable of formulating a policy ad hoc so as to prevent the citizen from doing something that the Crown does not want him to do. It is the duty of the courts to be as alert now as they have always been to prevent abuse of the prerogative."

Another Supreme Court case, Little Sisters, states, "Unfortunately it would seem that whenever the Crown is granted statutory power that can be used abusively then, on occasion, it will indeed be used abusively."

Perhaps most important was Bovard's rejection of the reasoning in the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling on the Vaid case, concerning a driver for the federal House Speaker whose claim of racial discrimination as the basis for a job dismissal was, in the Speaker's reasoning, not capable of review since the reasons for the firing were protected by Parliamentary privilege.

The Vaid case stated that blind obedience to the use of parliamentary privilege "would also give provincial legislatures and Parliament permission to indulge in human rights violations under the disguise of a properly-functioning legislative body. Furthermore, it would eliminate an important incentive for parliamentarians to act in accordance with the principles of equality and human dignity enshrined in the Charter and human rights legislation.

Later in the Queen's Park ban decision, Bovard says "once I decide that the Speaker was acting within the ambit of a recognized parliamentary privilege when he issued the bans, his actions are beyond Charter scrutiny."

After Bovard gave today's ruling, which resulted in convictions for the Queen's Park Five -- Matthew Behrens, mandy hiscocks, Father Bob Holmes, Donald Johnston and Sandra Lang -- he invited submissions on sentencing for defying the ban. Crown Counsel Tom Galligan said that we had acted "unreasonably under the circumstances" when we defied the ban on Martin Luther King Day of 1999, and asked the judge to impose $500 fines on the defendants.

"$500 is 20 dollars less than what thousands of single people were forced to survive on monthly after the Harris government's first round of cuts in 1995," countered defendant Matthew Behrens.

Asked to speak to the issue of punishment for conviction, Behrens stated: "I don't believe this is a question for punishment. I think that six years of being unable to protest at Queen's Park on pain of arrest while their policies cause the bleeding of the people of Ontario is punishment enough. We have made a contribution to the functioning of democracy by doing the research and spending the time debating the issues here in court, trying to engage the powers that be in finding a just solution to the issues at hand and those issues still affecting people, such as some in the court this morning, who are still banned from Queen's Park.

"Finally, as anyone stepping around the frozen bodies of the homeless this frigid morning can see, the legacy of the policies that led us to the October 1, 1998 protest and the subsequent ban continues to remain a blood-soaked one.

"I think I can say, certainly on my behalf and on behalf of my fellow defendants, that I am proud of the protest which led to the ban, of the history of nonviolent protests which led to that ban, and proud of our defiance of that ban and upholding of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on Martin Luther King day.

"Regardless of your ultimate decision, I will continue to work against the arbitrary and unaccountable abuse of power, whether by a Speaker at Queen's Park in banning demonstrators or an immigration department jailing Muslims on secret evidence for years on end -- for it is in the latter instance that we see the ultimate path of where all this could lead. I therefore propose an absolute discharge."

Asked whether his financial situation allowed him to pay the $500 fine, Behrens responded, "regardless of my income, my conscience would not allow me to pay it."

Defendant mandy hiscocks also addressed the court, declaring: "You made it quite clear in your decision that people who work at Queen's Park have special privileges. Obviously, we knew that already. How many of them are men? How many of them are white? How many of them are homeless? But on top of all of that, they're also not even bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And according to this court, that's just fine. That's as it should be.

"Parliamentary Privilege is meant to keep the courts and the legislature separate, but in fact they teamed up quite nicely against the public in this case.

"The Constitution is law, and by proceeding with these charges the Crown has ensured that the Speaker remains above it. I refuse to help fund the Attorney General to uphold this system of privilege and inequality. I will not under any circumstances pay any fine, and I propose a discharge."

Father Bob Holmes told the judge, "I am disappointed that this court does not believe it has the jurisdiction to review the actions of the Speaker of the House in any manner.

"The Judgment states, 'The Speaker's duty is to ensure that nothing occurs within the Legislative Precincts which impedes the proper functioning of the Legislative Assembly.' It is not his duty to curtail creative, nonviolent public witness drawing the attention of both the legislators and the public to the needs of our poorest citizens in Ontario.

"Far from impeding the proper functioning of the Legislative Assembly, we sought to inform the Legislative Assembly so that it could in fact function properly.

"I believe the decision to ban us from Queen's Park was made out of fear that we might well expose the fact that the Legislative Assembly was in fact functioning in an improper manner with respect to its most vulnerable citizens.

"Finally, I too would propose the suitability of an Absolute Discharge in this case given the importance of raising this issue in the courts for the people of Ontario."

Attorney John Norris, representing Donald Johnston and Sandra Lang, noted "this matter is very dated, it is the second trial this group has faced after being acquitted the first time, with the second trial occurring only because of a Crown appeal." Norris said our efforts to have the ban lifted are relevant given the significant amount of work that went into getting the ban removed before defying it. "This was clearly an attempt to create a test case, and this was the only way to litigate the issues," he said in reference to the defiance of the ban.

Galligan responded that he did not feel the efforts we made to lift the ban were in any way significant, claiming TASC "made it difficult or impossible for the Speaker" to deal with ways of removing the ban, adding TASC wanted to be the one that made the rules.

Judge Bovard stated that sentencing is always difficult,, and noted that the group did not breach the ban "out of malice or a careless disregard for the law," and noted that the only way we could address the ban was by challenging it and getting it into the courts.

He said members of the group were never violent and had a history of doing good community work. "They care about the disadvantaged and bear no ill-will to anyone even if they disagree with them." Bovard said that the group were not motivated by selfish reasons and that protests were "a crucial dynamic of a democratic society," adding such nonviolent protests "strengthen our society."

"The ban was a serious and heavy consequence for the group," he noted before granting the absolute discharge.

Members of TASC are determined to take the fight against the arbitrary abuse of power represented in the lifetime ban to the next level, and to the Supreme Court if necessary. As the Globe and Mail reported attorney John Norris saying outside of court, the case is unique inasmuch as it marks the first time that a speaker's privilege has been used as the basis for a court prosecution. "It's certainly extending the power of the Speaker in a way that we've never seen before in our constitutional history."

There will no doubt be significant costs associated with such an appeal. Anyone wishing to contribute towards those costs can send cheques to Toronto Action for Social Change at PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0. Put "Queen's Park Ban" in the memo portion of the cheque.

P. S. have a pleasant winter solstice everybody - Timothy

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Professor canned for releasing paper on corn contamination

A well-respected and popular professor at the University of California in Berkeley has been fired after publishing a scientific paper regarding the uncontrolled contamination of irreplaceable native Mexican corn varieties by genetically engineered corn. Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose corn contamination article was published in the science journal "Nature," was denied his tenure due to pressure from the biotech company Monsanto on the University (the UC Berkeley tenure review panel had actually voted almost unanimously to approve his tenure). Professor Chapela has been told to have his office cleaned out by December 31. Sign a petition to demand a review of Dr. Chapela's tenure denial. Sign here...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Statement by Remedios Fajardo

Representative of Wayuu Indigenous Rights Organisation
La Guajira, Colombia

"The coal that is mined in El Cerrejon, located on indigenous Wayuu and Afro-Colombian lands in Colombia, comes to Salem to provide electricity, benefitting this city. We want to tell the people of Salem that this coal has its origins in violence. Our communities have suffered greatly. Their human rights have been violated, their territory has been usurped, their houses destroyed and demolished, and they have had to shed their blood in order for this coal to arrive in Salem and other parts of the world (such as Cape Breton Island - Timothy). The acts that have been committed by El Cerrejon could be considered as war crimes, and they should be condemned by the world. PG&E has an indirect responsibility, for it is using a mineral that comes from the sacrifice of communities like Tabaco (destroyed last summer) and other communities that arte threatened with destruction, like Tamaquito, Roche, Chancleta and Patilla. We beg the city of Salem to express their solidarity with us, because we have a relationship with them because of this situation. Salem can influence PG&E. We would like PG&E, as a customer of the Cerrejon mine, to demand justice for the people who live in the mining zone, who were born and raised in the zone, and who have lived their lives there."

For more information click here or here.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Emergency appeal to support the Zanon workers in Patagonia

By Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein

Dear Friends,

We’re writing to ask your help in defending an inspiring and courageous workers’ struggle in Argentina.

The Zanon ceramic tile factory, a democratic, worker-run factory in Patagonia, is facing a serious threat of eviction, and the workers have asked us to gather international support for their struggle.

To sign the petition, please click here:

And for more information, read on...

For those of you who have seen our documentary, The Take, the Zanon factory, and Argentina’s wider movement of worker-run companies will be very familiar.

For those of you who haven’t, this new movement of some 15,000 workers in almost 200 democratic workplaces is building hope and a concrete economic alternative in the rubble of Argentina’s disastrous experiment with orthodox neoliberalism in the 1990s.

Recovered companies are run by assembly: one worker, one vote. In most of them, workers have decided that everyone should receive the same salary. They are proving the viability of an economy run on an entirely different value system, and they are growing.

In the past year, Zanon has increased its workforce from 300 to 450: a 50% increase. What multinational corporation or national government could boast of such a dramatic rise in decent-paying employment in the middle of an economic crisis?

And Zanon has cultivated a deep and mutual relationship with the surrounding community. For 20 years, the poor neighbourhood of Nueva España, across the highway from the factory, has been asking the provincial government for a health clinic. Zanon workers took a vote earlier this year, and in 3 months built and opened a brand new community health facility.

But now the provincial government is threatening to send in the Gendarmeria to remove Zanon’s precious machines. This is an illegal order, since this force is Federal, intended to police Argentina’s borders. On a second front, the Federal judge presiding over the bankruptcy of the former owner is refusing to recognize the Zanon workers’ co-operative (called FaSinPat – short for ‘Fabricas Sin Patrones’, Factories Without Bosses.)

The former owner received millions in public subsidies, and still amassed a huge debt and bankruptcy: he has since been removed from his own board of directors for “accounting irregularities”. The workers’ co-operative, on the other hand, is a major success: it is now producing 380,000 square meters of ceramic tiles a month – a level of production higher than when the former owner closed the factory - and the workers do it without the huge public subsidies (300,000 pesos per month) that he used to receive.

The Zanon workers have told us that a massive international petition in support of their struggle could make a key difference with the various levels of courts and governments.

Zanon’s highly successful combination of direct action and direct democracy is a precious example of that other world that is possible, that is growing before our very eyes.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Two Environmental Actions

Action Number One

Two weeks ago Organic Bytes blew the whistle on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a proposed toxic chemical monitoring study on low-income children. The extreme toxicity of the chemicals are already known and many of them are already banned in Europe. Such a large number of people signed the Organic Consumers' Association (OCA) petition (50,000+) and forwarded it to their friends in the first 48 hours, that the OCA website server temporarily crashed and the EPA asked the OCA to stop the petition. The OCA will not stop until the chemical corporations are disinvited in having a hand in the biased study, low income families are no longer targeted, and consumers learn the truth about the dangerous chemicals. If you haven't already done so, please sign the petition at

Action Number Two

On Nov 18th, Greenpeace launched a crossborder campaign against Kimberly-Clark. Already over 1600 faxes have been sent to Kimberly-Clark headquarters demanding an end to ancient forest destruction. The response has been so great that the organiser received a voicemail from Kimberly-Clark representative who asked Greenpeace to change the fax number we all are sending to. They want to direct faxes away from the head office because it looks bad for the company. Greenpeace refused. So,if you haven't yet sent a free fax, please do so now:

Monday, November 29, 2004


Dear Ms. Sgro,

I am concerned about the detention of Mr. Seyed Mahmoud Namini (File 374253834138 (Client ID: 5383-4138), detained since October 28 in Toronto for what appears to be the crime of carrying a book which Canadian authorities find suspicious.

This sounds like the kind of conduct for which the former Soviet Union was repeatedly condemned, not the kind of thing which is the hallmark of a 21st century democracy.

Mr. Namini has travelled in and out of Canada and the U.S. visiting relatives for years, all without difficulty.

You have stated in Parliament in recent weeks that you try and do the right thing when it comes to people seeking to enter Canada. It is clear that you can do the right thing here by ending this arbitrary detention.

Mr. Namini and his Canadian fiancé are both aware that individuals know about his case and are writing to seek his release from detention. Rather than respond to us that you cannot comment on the case due to privacy concerns, we ask that you please take whatever measures are necessary to ensure Mr. Namini's immediate release.

Thank you.


cc: and

Sunday, November 28, 2004

One example of environmental racism:

In July 2004 elevated levels of mercury were found in five non-native men who worked in this Weyerhauser pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario. Within a month and a half, a clinic was set for their treatment. The government’s response to mercury poisoning of Native communities is much different. Reports First Nations Drum journalist Lauren Carter:

“In the 1970s, the government informed the Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows First Nation), located 80 km north of Kenora, that several tonnes of inorganic mercury from a pulp and paper mill upstream in Dryden had contaminated their water and fish. While the band eventually received compensation from the Reed Paper Company and the Federal Government, the mercury remains, seriously affecting the health of the land, and a percentage of the 14-square-mile reserve's residents still suffer the effects of mercury poisoning. Add to this the ongoing flooding of their sacred sites, traditional lands and wild rice fields by Ontario Hydro, threats to dump nuclear waste on their Customary Lands, the nightmare of residential schools, sky-high unemployment, and resulting cultural and social problems and you've got a fair mix of misery.”

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Copy and paste this to your email

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada
CIC National Headquarters
365 Laurier, Jean Edmonds South Tower,
21st Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1
Fax: (613) 947-8319
Phone: (613) 954-1064


Honourable Judy Sgro,

AHMAD NAFAA has been detained by Canada’s Border Services Agency. His deportation is imminent. We, therefore, respectfully request that, as Citizenship and Immigration Minister, you immediately order a stay of removal, thereby suspending Mr. Nafaa’s deportation until his application on compassionate and humanitarian grounds can been considered.

Though the general control and supervision of enforcement and removals has been transferred to the portfolio of the Solicitor General, it remains at the discretion of Immigration Officers to issue a stay of removal. The Officers of Citizenship and Immigration Canada being possessed of the authority to issue a stay of removal, we espectfully request that this authority be exercised immediately with respect to Ahmad Nafaa.

Mr. Nafaa was born a stateless Palestinian in Ein El-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. Fear, poverty and persecution are daily facts of life in the Ein El-Hilweh camp, and the present and future are grim for resident Palestinians. They are banned from an ever-expanding number of trades and professions. Unemployment among them, as a result, is extremely high. Poverty rates are also astronomical. The restrictions on new construction within the camp means its residents are forced to live in dilapidated, hopelessly abject housing. All these factors lead to a situation so bleak for Palestinians that suicide in the camp is an everyday tragedy.

After 20 years in the camp and suffering its endemic racism, discrimination, fear, violence and poverty, Mr. Nafaa fled Lebanon and claimed refugee status in Canada. His claim was denied on February 20, 2002. On the other hand, his brother Mohammad's refugee claim, heard by a different member of the refugee board, was accepted.

Since arriving in Canada, Mr. Nafaa has become fully integrated in Canadian and Quebec society. He has been reunited with his brother, and they have renewed their close family ties. Mr. Nafaa currently works full-time in a restaurant and is a self-sufficient and contributing member of his community. He dreams of returning to school and finishing the nursing degree he began in Lebanon. After suffering for so many years as a refugee, his greatest desire is to alleviate the suffering of others. In every sense, Mr. Nafaa has found a home in Canada.

Ahmad Nafaa now faces deportation to the refugee camps of Lebanon, where the conditions faced by Palestinians are dangerous, degrading and, beyond dispute, in clear violation of international law. This situation,
over half-a-century old, is directly related to the statelessness of Palestinians. Because of their unique situation, Palestinians have been denied not only rights accorded ordinary citizens but also genuine access to the international system for the protection of refugees. The fact that Mr. Nafaa’s immediate deportation would be to the United States does not materially affect his plight. Eventual deportation to his country of origin is virtually automatic.

In signing the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 1978, the government of Canada championed the cause of stateless refugees. If Canada returns Mr. Nafaa to Lebanon, it would be abdicating that noble responsibility. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration must therefore act now and order a stay of removal for Ahmad Nafaa pursuant to s. 50(e) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. We thank you for your attention and efforts in this urgent matter,



- Office of the Prime Minister of Canada:, Fax: 613-941-6900

- Michel Dorais, Deputy Minister CIC: Fax: (613) 954-3509 or (613) 954-5448
- René D'Aoust: Director Investigation & Removal: Phone: (514) 496-1238, Fax: (514) 496-1882
- Monique Leclair, Director General: CIC QC Regional Office: Fax: (514) 496-3976
- Andrew Telegdi, P.C. (Chair of Standing Committee on Citizenship & Immigration):
- Bill Siksay, MP (NDP - Immigration):
- Meili Faille, MP (Bloc Québécois - Immigration):

Sunday, November 21, 2004

An injury to one is an injury to all

By Scott Weinstein
You might recall that 230 of us were mass arrested a few hours after and a few

kilometres away from the demonstration against the World Trade Organization mini-
ministerial meeting in Montreal, July 2003. We were charged with illegal assembly,
not violence or being anti-corporate-globalization or anything like that, by the way.

(Yes, a handful of people broke some windows near the WTO meeting, but they were
never in danger of being arrested, even though we know from the police reports that
there were undercover police among them).

We were jailed, and now are starting our trials. This was just one of several mass
arrests of protesters in Montreal over the last few years. Most of the arrested at
other trials who happen to be youth, have been found not guilty or had their charges
dropped, but non have been spared the hassles, harassment and expenses resulting
from the arrests.

The Francophone Montrealer trial started last month. The Anglophone Montrealer trial
started today. We will resume later this afternoon, might continue for a few more
days, and then is scheduled to break until 9:30 am, in June or September of 2005.
Still to come are the trials for the out-of-towners who are Canadians , and those
that are Americans. Four trials for the price of four trials. This will literally
take years and chew up hundreds of thousands of tax dollars (on top of the millions
spent for the WTO security operation) if all goes according to plan of the injustice
So far, none of the judges agree to our motion to dismiss the charges, even though

the police with all their video taping and photography, are refusing to provide
visual evidence that any of us were even present at the demonstration that they
deemed illegal.
Why am I writing you about this? It would be useful to oppose this corruption, and

take a few minutes to demand our constitutional rights stop being violated and our
tax money not squandered on these mass arrests, detentions and trials of protesters.
It's a scandal how our government ignores real threats to public security, like
adequate training, staffing and funding for health care, but gets away with scaring
people about the threat of demonstrations, dumps millions and of dollars into the
black hole of 'security', and makes laws undermining democracy. It is threatening that
even today, the political establishment feels free to selectively arrest dissidents
without public backlash.
They get away with their corruption, because we don't object strenuously enough.
So, if you can, write at least a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complain to

city hall or your borough council members. The police are now rethinking the policy
of mass arresting demonstrators, because they find it too expensive (so I guess they
don't have an totally unlimited budget). Give them more pressure to stop their scam.
Lastly, many of the arrested are unable to pay the costs of their defence, so we are

asking for donations. Besides attending fundraisers, you can also just send in a
check to our lawyer
Denis Poitras,

1650, boul. de Maisonneuve Ouest, suite 202
Montréal, Québec H3H 2P3.

Some contacts:

Mayor Gerald Trembley
Hôtel de ville
275 Notre-Dame Street East
Montréal (Québec)
H2Y 1C6
Telephone : 514 872-3101
Fax : 514 872-4059

Find out your borough representative:

M. Jacques Chagnon, ministre de la Sécurité publique du Québec

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Actions on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 17, 2005

The illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq -- now responsible for more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths -- came home to employees of SNC-Lavalin in Montreal and Toronto this week as separate actions highlighted disgust that one of the company's subsidiaries, SNC-TEC, is currently under a major contract to supply bullets to the occupation forces.

SNC TEC, based in La Gardeur, Quebec, signed a May, 2004 supply contract with the US military for small calibre bullets. Working with a consortium of military companies led by General Dynamics, the contract was specifically linked to the needs of occupation forces in Iraq.

It is estimated that between 300 and 500 million additional bullets are needed per year, and will be for at least the next five years. The amount of ammunition being used by the US for killing people in Iraq has been so high that domestic suppliers can no longer keep up.

On Remembrance Day in Montreal, dozens of new posters suddenly appeared on bathroom walls throughout the company's headquarters. Showing scenes of torture, death and extreme brutality experienced in occupied Iraq since the invasion, the explicit photos were captioned, "Your job? My life!", and "SNC munitions killing Iraqis" (see Photos of Abu Ghraib torture recalled the Remembrance Day slogan "We will never forget".

The employees of 455 Rene-Levesque West, the headquarters of SNC (the same building which conveniently houses the U.S. consulate), were perhaps not aware of the involvement or even the existence of SNC Technologies. But the "civil" wing of this darling of the Quebec business world has itself done more than its part in creating conditions favourable to the rapid and unceasing sale of SNC TEC's deadly wares.

SNC-Lavalin, under a variety of names such as Defence Programs Inc or SNC ProFac, provides other support to Canada's military projects: in Afghanistan, for example, it provides all logistical support to Canadian troops maintaining the occupation and built the military base "Camp Julien".

The company's 2003 annual report happily remarks that "international [military] markets have been brisk," and that "in 2003, for the first time ever, our international sales surpassed our domestic sales." While a stronger Canadian dollar has harmed their U.S. prospects in the short term, the company is committed to enhancing "our productivity and our position in the world's largest defence market... [with] a range of products large enough to offer one-stop shopping."

And what an export market they have, including human rights violators Belarus, Algeria, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Those and numerous other countries have received the expertise of SNC, a company which promotes a "zero harm culture."

Through their subsidiary EXPRO TEC, they are also "the only company qualified to produce M30A2 propellant used in the US Navy's 155 mm Modular Artillery Charges." Canadians seriously wondering how they can force the empire into a bit of a spot now know one more place they can blockade (EXPRO is in Valleyfield, QC) to interrupt the war.

SNC is also an ardent promoter of privatization programs in Quebec and around the world. Notably, its President and Executive Director, Jacques Lamarre, sits on the Quebec Bosses Union, as well as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) - two organizations which lobby aggressively for free movement of (their) profits, the oppression of immigrants and refugees through a further militarization of borders and the further economic and military integration of Canada and the United States.

When Paul Martin's government announced last January that Canadian companies could bid on Iraq "reconstruction" contracts, the company spokesperson, Gillian MacCormack, expressed the company's delight, "We believe that the fact that Canadian companies now have this opportunity is marvellous, and we are certainly interested."

At SNC, this "war on terrorism" increases the sales of weapons which are used to colonize and promote a devastating re-engineering of all aspects of the environment, health and vital infrastructure.

The day before Remembrance Day in Toronto, the Etobicoke headquarters of SNC was abuzz with news of SNC's bullet contract as well. Thanks to a company management which would rather batten down the hatches than have a dialogue with a small group of peaceniks, our message was received far more successfully than we could have hoped for.

Three weeks ago, Homes not Bombs wrote an open letter to the Toronto SNC employees explaining why we would be holding a vigil and asking them to enter a dialogue on divesting SNC-Lavalin of its munitions producer. The only response from the company was silence; they had turned this letter over to police forces.

Then, the day before the Toronto vigil, Homes not Bombs received an email from a sympathetic employee who alerted us to the fact that our open letter never made it to employees. But in a magical kind of way, an internal memo from the company President, Marylynne Campbell, essentially revealed to the employees what many did not know: that a brother company was producing tools of terror, and Homes not Bombs would be protesting this fact.

The language of the letter was one of fear, going straight from a description of the demonstration to a note on "security measures" to be taken, including the need for a security pass to enter and leave the building and use the elevators. Campbell advised employees to bunker down, forget about going out to lunch, and be prepared to stay in the building until the end of the day.

By providing the name of our group, employees were able to go to our website and figure things out for themselves, where many found our open letter.

Anyone who goes to the website ( and sees pictures of police busting the Easter Bunny at Loblaws or the Cowardly Lion laying down the law to police outside Canada's home of space warfare would begin to see the true nature of the threat posed by Homes not Bombs. And so in droves employees streamed out at lunch, many of them happy to take the flyers we presented and discuss the issue.

Few seemed fazed by the fact that a group of 15 demonstrators were matched by more than 15 police and private security, who used their squad cars to block up the east entrance. Deployed police on bicycles followed us as we moved strategically so all people in the building could see us.

While the police response was a tad flattering, we took solace in the fact that this meant it was probably a less stressful day for some of the division's poor and homeless residents, three of whom, we were told by some local residents, have apparently been shot by police in recent months (since SNC produces bullets for Canadian police, one wonders how many were taken down with SNC products).

One of the most consistent replies from employees was "we don't do that here," and "we are not involved." So where does the chain of responsibility get picked up? One employee who wrote to us said that, although sympathetic, there were fears about keeping one's job. Nevertheless, this individual suggested we urge SNC employees to stop buying company stock and sell off what they do own as a protest.

Of course, one could claim, for example, that this Toronto building and its hundreds of employees are far removed from the production of bullets in Quebec, but there in the 2003 annual report is a full page picture of the happy "Members of the Office of the President," with Toronto's Marylynne Campbell seated two pillows away from SNC TEC President Michael Novak.

Campbell writes to her employees, "While we respect the right of all people to voice their opinions, we feel that as long as the governments of Canada and other NATO countries have elected to have armed and police forces, these soldiers and police officers require munitions. SNC TEC personnel has been given the mandate to provide our own armed forces, our police forces, and those of other NATO countries with the very best equipment available, and we are proud of the high standard of work they carry out, as are these employees."

The language is curious, for what is strictly a profitable contract is suddenly a "mandate," and the existence of armed forces is magically turned into a choice that was part of some election!!??!!

At some point, though, someone has to be responsible for these bullets. With SNC-Lavalin revenues of over $3 billion last year, almost 10% of those revenues came from SNC TEC. Given that SNC's share of the war market represents only 10% of its revenues, it seems SNC could be vulnerable to a call for divestment.

1. Encourage municipal and provincial authorities to NOT sign contracts with any SNC subsidiary until SNC TEC and EXPRO TEC have been divested from the company (especially those city councils which passed anti-war resolutions in 2003).

2. Hold a vigil at a local SNC office (they are everywhere, listed below) encouraging employees to ramp up the pressure inside the office place. Let us not demonize those who work in accounting, but encourage them to act out their conscience and, with our support, build the support for divestment. Ask how their slogan, "For a Better World," is consistent with a product that kills. It seems this has the potential for a very strong campaign which could garner the support of many of the corporation's employees, a portion of whom are no doubt horrified by the crimes in Iraq and SNC's role in those crimes. And so reaching out to those employees to encourage them to pressure their management just might have an effect.

3. Ask your MP why a Canadians firm is supplying bullets to murder Iraqis. Also ask if SNC-Lavalin's major donations to the Liberal Party are what may have prevented Liberals from speaking out on this contract.

Ultimately, what is taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan are war crimes. Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Program clearly states, "A person is considered complicit if, while aware of the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity, the person contributes directly or indirectly to their occurrence. Membership in an organization responsible for committing the atrocities can be sufficient to establish complicity if the organization in question is one with a single brutal purpose, e.g., a death squad."

On Monday, January 17, Martin Luther King Day, folks at Homes not Bombs in Toronto will be engaging in nonviolent direct action at SNC-Lavalin's corporate headquarters.

We would like to encourage peace groups across the country to hold demonstrations at SNC locations listed below on that same day. No, these other branches may not be involved directly in the production of bullets, but it is not a defence under law to say that the right hand knows not what the left is doing when they are both connected to one body.

(report compiled by reports from Block the Empire, and Homes not Bombs. Full text of internal SNC memo and Homes not Bonmbs reply listed at

SNC-Lavalin Inc.
605 - 5th Avenue SW - 14th floor
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 3H5
Telephone : (403) 294-2100
Fax : (403) 294-2777

SNC-Lavalin ATP Inc.
1035 - 7 Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 3E9
Telephone :(403) 539-4555
Fax : (403) 539-4554

SNC-Lavalin Inc.
40 Fielding Avenue
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B3B 1E4
Telephone : (902) 468-6230
Fax : (902) 468-7864

Dollard des Ormeaux
SNC-Lavalin ProFac Inc.
3633 des Sources Blvd.
Suite 203
Dollard des Ormeaux, Quebec
H9B 2K4
Telephone : (514) 683-7370, ext. 202
Fax : (514) 683-7172

SNC-Lavalin Inc.
Address :
10235 - 101 Street
Suite 608
Edmonton, Alberta
T5J 1G1
Telephone : (780) 426-1000
Fax : (780) 412-6288

SNC-Lavalin Inc. (Fredericton)
500 Beaverbrook Court
Fredericton, New-Brunswick
E3B 5X4
Telephone : (902) 492-4544
Fax : (902) 492-4540

SNC-Lavalin Inc. (Maritimes)
5657 Spring Garden Road
Suite 200
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3J 3R4
Telephone : (902) 492-4544
Fax : (902) 492-4540

Le Gardeur
SNC Technologies Inc.
5 Montée des Arsenaux
Le Gardeur, QC
J5Z 2P4

SNC-Lavalin Inc.
General Engineering and Environment
2271, boul. Fernand-Lafontaine
Longueuil, Quebec
J4G 2R7
Telephone : (450) 638-6677
Fax : (450) 638-6425

SNC-Lavalin Audet
(Agri-food Engineering)
2271 Fernand-Lafontaine West
Longueuil, Quebec
J4G 2R7
Telephone : (450) 677-1455

Fax : (450) 677-1489

Canatom NPM Inc.
2655 North Sheridan Way, Suite 180
Mississauga, Ontario
L5K 2P8
Telephone :(905) 829-8808
Fax : (905) 829-8809

SNC-Lavalin Inc.
455 René-Lévesque Blvd. West
Montreal, Quebec
H2Z 1Z3
Telephone : (514) 393-1000
Fax : (514) 866-0739

SNC-Lavalin ProFac Inc.
1500 Ottawa Street
Suite 11
Montreal, Quebec
H3C 4B2

Nexacor Realty Management Inc.
87 Ontario Street West
2nd Floor
Montreal, Quebec
H2X 1Y8

Mount Pearl
BAE-Newplan Group Limited
1133 Topsail Road
P.O. Box 487
Mount Pearl, Newfoundland
A1N 2W4
Telephone : (709) 748-2910
Fax : (709) 368-3541

SNC-Lavalin Defence Programs Inc.
170 Laurier Avenue West
Suite 1100
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 5V5
Telephone : (613) 567-1948

Quebec City
SNC-Lavalin Piette, Audy, Bertrand, Lemieux et associés
5500, boul. des Galeries
Suite 200
Quebec City, Quebec
G2K 2E2
Telephone : (418) 621-5500
Fax : (418) 621-9090

Lalonde, Girouard, Letendre et associés ltée
84, rue Saint-Germain Est
Rimouski, Quebec
G5L 1A6

Pellemon (1998) Inc.
35, rue Saint-Pierre
Suite 001
Saint-Constant, Quebec
J5A 5A6
Telephone : (450) 638-6677
Fax : (450) 638-6425

SNC-Lavalin Engineers & Constructors Inc.
265 North Front Street
Sarnia, Ontario
N7T 7X1
Telephone : (519) 336-0201
Fax : (519) 336-0209

St-Laurent National Project Office
555 McArthur St. Suite 1498
St-Laurent, Quebec
H4T 2C5
Telephone : (514) 840-3555
Fax : (514) 840-3555

SNC-Lavalin Energy Control Systems Inc.
2425 Pitfield Blvd.
St-Laurent, Quebec
H4S 1W8
Telephone : (514) 334-6780
Fax : (514) 334-2610

Thetford Mines
Fréchette LGL
69, rue Notre Dame Sud
Thetford Mines, Quebec
G6G 1J4
Telephone : (418) 338-4631
Fax : (418) 338-6564

SNC-Lavalin Inc.
2200 Lake Shore Blvd. West
M8V 1A4
Telephone : (416) 252-5311
Fax : (416) 231-5356

SNC-Lavalin Pharma Inc.
Address :
789 Don Mills Road, 10th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M3C 1T5

SNC-Lavalin ProFac Inc.
Address :
304 The East Mall
Suite 900
Toronto, Ontario
M9B 6E2
Telephone : (416) 207-4724
Fax : (416) 207-4724

SNC-Lavalin ProFac Inc.
Address :
205 Wellington
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 3G7
Telephone : (416) 205-6802
Fax : (416) 205-5983

Pacific Liaicon and Associates Inc.
1075 W Georgia St. Suite 950
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6E 3C9
Telephone : (604) 605-5984
Fax : (604) 683-1672

SNC-Lavalin Engineers & Constructors Inc.
200-1600 Ness Avenue
Madison Square
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3J 3W7
Telephone : (204) 786-8080
Fax : (204) 786-7934

Office: 407 ETR
6300 Steeles Avenue West
Woodbridge, Ontario
L4H 1J1

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Protesters’ appeals are dismissed

by Robert Koopmans for the Kamloops Daily News

Three provincial court judges made no errors when they found nine people who blocked the highway to Sun Peaks Resort guilty of criminal acts, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Friday.

However, he questioned whether their sentences should be imposed.

Justice Frank Cole dismissed the appeals against conviction of the protesters, saying his examination of the judges’ reasoning failed to turn up errors sufficient to overturn the convictions.

He said all the judges properly rejected the “colour of right” defence put forward during the trials by lawyers for the accused, correctly weighing the legal principles as they did so.

Cole frequently quoted from the reasons for conviction from the trial judges, who said while the protesters argued they believed their actions were lawful, the evidence suggested they knew otherwise.

The judges said deeply held beliefs about aboriginal title are not the same as a sense of ownership.

The convictions for intimidation, mischief and blockading a highway stemmed from two roadblocks in August and December 2001. In both instances the highway to the resort was closed for short periods of time. In the August incident, an excavator was also surrounded and prevented from working.

During the trial, lawyers argued the defendants violated no criminal laws because they honestly believed Canadian law gave them aboriginal ownership of the land in question.

After dismissing the appeals, Justice Cole questioned whether the protesters need to be punished in the fashion ordered by the trial judges, adding sentences that may have seemed fit at the time of conviction may no longer be appropriate.

Some of the protesters were given jail terms of up to 45 days, or handed conditional sentences or probation.

Cole asked prosecutor Don Mann if there is a need to proceed with two planned sentence appeals, suggesting the protesters may have already been sufficiently punished.

“These people have had their liberty restrained for three years,” said Cole, referring to bail conditions imposed after their arrests and after the sentences were set aside pending the appeals.

“What more does the Crown want? What concerns me is these matters are three years old. The passage of time affects sentence. What was appropriate three years ago may not be appropriate today.”

Mann said there must have been good reason for the judges to impose the penalties they did, and to simply overturn those sentences now may send the wrong message.

“One has to be mindful of general deterrence,” said Mann.

Cole, with hesitation, agreed to adjourn the question of what to do about the sentences for the convicted blockaders to allow lawyers to prepare arguments. A hearing is expected in December.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Art Manuel, chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band at the time of the blockades, said regardless of the outcome, the protesters delivered their message.

“It’s a very political decision,” said Manuel. “Sun Peaks is putting a lot of pressure on the government and the courts to stop blockades.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Stop nuclear power in New Brunswick

Here's an easy way to send a fax to the Premier of New Brunswick, and the Minister of Energy, about the Point Lepreau nuclear power generation facility.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Spanish CGT - the new anarcho-syndicalism

by Larry Gambone

I was well received by the International Relations representative of the
CGT, (Confederacion General de Trabajo) Angel Bosqued. At first he thought I
might be a member of NEFAC as they had recently done a tour of Europe, but I
explained that I was only representing myself. We talked for about an hour
and I learned a great deal about the history and practices of the CGT. I
told him that people in the English-speaking world know almost nothing about
contemporary Spanish anarcho-syndicalism and I, in my small way, would do
what ever was possible to change that situation. He gave me a pile of CGT
literature and took me on a tour of the Barcelona CGT headquarters.

The headquarters was very impressive, consisting of the top floors of a ten
or eleven story building. Each of the individual industrial unions, such as
teachers, metal workers or communications workers, has its own office. There
are several larger meeting rooms, offices of the Salvador Segui Foundation
(a CGT cultural grouping) and a bar-cafeteria with a tiled outdoor lounging
area. This has a wonderful view of Barcelona as it is on the ninth floor.
Next we went to the archives and library that comprised much of the tenth
floor. The library alone consists of some 10,000 volumes on anarchism,
syndicalism and related topics.

Now the CGT is not some tiny anarchist sect with a dozen members, but is the
representative of some one million workers. The Confederation is found in
every corner of Spain, and is in fact, the third largest trade union
grouping, only exceeded by the Socialist UGT and the Communist CCOO. The CGT
is strong among bank workers, television, postal and hotel workers, but also
has support among teachers, chemical workers, graphic artists, and cleaning

The Confederation is composed of two basic structures, geographical and
industrial. At the base lies the local union which is autonomous. Where
there are 75 or more members in a vicinity they can form a union local
which is open to all trades. Locals federate together at the city level, or
where the city is very large, at the district level. These in turn, federate
at the provincial level. The provincial federations confederate at the
territorial level, Spain being made up of Catalunia, Euskadi, Astrurias,
Castile, etc. All of these form the national confederation.

When enough members are organized in an industry they can form an industrial
branch. These industrial branches federate, for example bank workers have a
federation for each of the major banks. The next level, is like a regular
industrial union. For example, bank workers belong to the Federation of
Bank, Credit and Office Workers. The territorial confederation and the
industrial union federations form a Confederal Commitee. There is an annual
general meeting of the CGT as well. It must be emphasized that the union
operates from the bottom-up and members are not controlled by the confederal

How does the CGT differ from the usual far-left groupings and regular trade
unions? First of all, they do not think they have all the answers, or the
answers they do have are written in stone for all eternity. As they state in
their Agenda Confederal 2004, “Anarchism is not a closed or final doctrine,
it expresses ideas that could appear contradictory; radical pacifism, or the
justification of violent acts as social protest, extreme individualism and
membership in syndicalist unions, absolute rejection of institutions and
limited participation in them. Anarchism is characterized by its confidence
in individual liberty and in the capacity to judge and act...”

Rather than forcing dogmas down people's throats they actually listen to
working people and the union gives workers what they want, not what
intellectuals think they ought to want. I think much of the CGT's success is
to be found here. Their direct-democratic structure allows the membership
and not bureaucrats to control the union. While not pushing dogmas, they
promote a vision of society, an anarchist ethical encompassing individual
liberty, autonomy, direct action, self-management and federalism. The union
attempts as much as possible in daily life to live by this vision.

While highly critical of all forms of authoritarianism, they do not spend
their energy attacking other radical groups. The CGT is a militant union,
but you never see the sort of rhetorical radicalism - violent images or
shouting about class war - in their press. They eagerly work with other
unions which in some manner share their attitudes, attempting to create a
global movement of "alternative unionism" and have strong relations with
other anarcho-syndicalists such as the Italian USI, the Swedish SAC, and the
French CNT-F.

The CGT does not regard itself, or even the working class, as the whole
struggle, seeing their union as one part of a broad movement comprising
peasant unions, ecologists, cooperatives, women’s and community groups. They
have good relations with the Zapatistas in Mexico and consider their union
to be a member of the Anti-globalist Movement. “The CGT is an
anarcho-syndicalist organization... which acts in the working world. But not
all the problems are just in this area, nor are workers unaware of this
fact. Thus, syndicalists, anti-authoritarians, pacifists, immigrants,
ecologists, movements against sexism and the Anti-Globalist Movement are in
the end one movement, one without ‘professional revolutionaries’ in charge
and with the consciousness that the transformation will involve all groups.”

The CGT spends much time attacking the wave of so-called privatizations
going on in Spain and everywhere else. Many union members are government or
social service workers. However, while defending social services and public
workers, they do not defend the state or merely tail the statist left. The
state is clearly seen as the enemy along with corporate capitalism and the
vision of self-management and decentralization is offered as an alternative.
Once again in the Agenda Confederal, “Self-management combined with direct
democracy, mutual aid and solidarity present the complete and total
alternative to the pyramidal, hierarchical, authoritarian and exploitative
model of capitalist society incarnated in neoliberal ideology.”

A narrow anti-political ideology they consider divisive. Many union members
belong to, or vote for political parties, yet in practice are good
syndicalists. But at the same time, the CGT never fails to point out the
problems inherent in parliamentary politics and parties. Nor does the union
have any time for nationalism but the autonomy of union branches and
decentralization allows historically oppressed peoples such as the Basques
and Catalonians to have their own language publications and federations.

The CGT's success will hopefully rub off on other syndicalists. Already in
France the CNT-F has experienced a surge in support, with some 5000 members,
compared with a few hundred a decade ago. Syndicalist groups have appeared
in the former Stalinist countries, and although small, may experience
growth. Orthodox unionism has crumbled in the face of neoconservatism and
maybe workers are open to the ideas of autonomous direct action. And since
nothing exists in isolation, a rebirth of anarcho-syndicalism will only
benefit anarchists of all varieties.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Sunday, October 31, 2004

NRDC mobilizing for federal Wuskwatim panel

Canada's Minister of the Environment will soon be receiving a barrage of letters urging him to appoint a federal panel to review the social, economic and environmental impacts of both existing and proposed hydro projects in Manitoba. As part of its campaign to protect Boreal Forests in Manitoba, the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is asking its BioGem supporters to send these letters to demonstrate the public's concerns about damage from hydropower dams on the boreal's wildlife, forest ecosystems, and communities. The letters also ask the Manitoba government and Manitoba Hydro to honor their commitment to mitigate damage caused by existing dams - and halt new hydro developments until an independent panel reviews the cumulative impacts of dam and transmission line construction and operation. Visit NRDC's Heart of the Boreal BioGem web page, people in Canada can send letters through the NRDC site; letters can be adjusted to reflect our concerns.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Why Ms Hiscocks is my heroine

(cut and pasted from the Ottawa Citizen)

A jury admitted yesterday it was hopelessly deadlocked in the trial of five people who occupied a house during G8 protests in Ottawa in 2002. Following a three-week trial, and three days of deliberations, the jury told the court it was "unable to agree" on a verdict on 18 of 20 charges against Nicholas Ackerley, Rachelle Sauve, Amy Miller, Amanda Hiscocks and Dan Sawyer. The only verdicts reached were acquittals for Mr. Sawyer and Ms. Hiscocks on a charge of criminal mischief causing damage. All the accused were charged with break and enter, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of obstructing a police officer. They defended themselves. "Obviously, we're very pleased," said Mr. Sawyer. "It seems the jury, or at least some members of the jury, took what we were saying to heart. There must have been a very heated debate in that jury room. I only hope now that debate occurs across the city." The accused admitted they occupied, i. e., squatted, at 246 Gilmour St. between June 26 and July 3, 2002, when a massive police intervention finally evicted them. The house was privately owned and was vacant for seven years. They argued a severe housing "crisis" made the occupation necessary, and that there was a "greater community need" for the house, a need that effectively trumped the owner's right to leave it vacant. Crown Attorney David Elhadad argued the defendants simply broke the law, no matter their intentions. In the end, the jury refused to convict on any charges. "I think this will get people talking, and that's a good thing," said city councillor Diane Holmes, whose ward takes in Gilmour Street, and who was at the courthouse. "Affordable housing is a terribly important issue for this city, and this will highlight the issue. As for what they did, I guess even the jury had a hard time deciding it was wrong." The owner of the house, Richard Davis, testified he obtained the house as part of his mother's estate, of which he is co-executor. He said it needed major repairs, which he was never able to afford. He said it was vacant during the final years of his mother's lengthy illness, and during the years immediately following her death, when the estate was being settled. He denied the house had been abandoned, and said it was for sale at the time the defendants occupied it. He testified an offer to buy the house was even on the table in June 2002, but could not close because of the occupation. He said he eventually sold the house for much less than that offer. The house has since been torn down. He said earlier in the week a deadlocked jury, or outright acquittal, would send the wrong message to the community. "How can someone take over your house?" he asked. "I agree homelessness is an important issue, but that doesn't mean you take away someone's home. That's not the way to find a solution." The defendants yesterday said that might be exactly how to find a solution. "It's time the city looked at a use-it-or-lose-it bylaw," said Mr. Sawyer. "If you don't use your property, then in areas where there is a lack of affordable housing, and a need for it, then maybe the city should step inand do something." The Crown attorney has until Dec. 3 to decide whether to retry the defendants.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Arctic native leader gives a warning

An Arctic native leader offered a passionate plea to the U.S. government and its citizens Wednesday to aggressively combat climate change. Addressing a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on global warming, Inuit Circumpolar Conference Chair Sheila Watt-Cloutier said the Inuit are already suffering dramatic changes to their Arctic environment. Watt-Cloutier, who represents the 155,000 Inuit in Greenland, Canada, Alaska and the Russian Federation, described the Inuit struggle as "a snapshot of what is happening to the planet." "We find ourselves at the very cusp of a defining event in the history of this planet," Watt-Cloutier told the senators. "The Earth is literally melting." Inuit hunters and elders have been observing changes to their environment for decades, Watt-Cloutier said, including unpredictable weather, melting of permafrost and glaciers, decreasing sea ice, as well as the presence of new species such as barn owls, robins and mosquitoes never seen before by the Inuit people. "If we can reverse the emissions of greenhouse gases in time to save the Arctic, then we can spare untold suffering," said Watt-Cloutier. "Protect the Arctic and you will save the planet," she said. "Use us as your early warning system. Use the Inuit story as a vehicle to reconnect us all so that we can understand the people and the planet are one." Committee chair John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said a recent trip to the Arctic showed him that "these impacts are real and consistent with earlier scientific projects that the Arctic region would experience the impacts of climate change at a faster rate than the rest of the world."

Wednesday's hearing was part of an ongoing effort by McCain to rally more support for the climate stewardship bill he and Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman have coauthored. "We are the first generation to influence the climate and the last generation to escape the consequences," McCain said. The Arizona Senator's legislation would require some sectors of the U.S. economy to enact mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - the leading greenhouse gas. The bill was defeated in the Senate last October by a vote of 53 to 44, but supporters of the legislation said the vote was a watershed moment in the U.S. debate over the issue of global warming. It was the first action on the issue by the Senate in six years. McCain said he is determined not to abandon the proposal, but he acknowledges the bill has little support in the House or within the Bush administration. Although a new report from the White House on climate change cited studies that linking rising temperatures to human activities, "officials have said there is no change in the administration's policy position," McCain said. President Bush is loathe to enforce mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reductions on American industries and has repeatedly questioned the science that points to the effects of these emissions on the climate. Few doubt global warming is an international concern, but critics of the administration note that the United States, which is responsible for more than 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, must play a leading role in efforts to limit consumption of fossil fuels. New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg said it is politics - not science - that is prohibiting U.S. action on global warming. "I am disturbed by the administration's shifting position on climate change," Lautenberg said. "We need leadership at the top and we are not getting it."

The hearing included testimony from authors of two recent studies that indicate failure to curb global warming could have devastating effects. One study, published in August in the journal "Science" shows that heat waves in North America and Europe will become more intense, more frequent and longer lasting during this century. The second study, published in August in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" details how global warming will bring California a dramatic increase in extreme heat and heat-related mortality and significant reductions in Sierra snowpack, with cascading impacts on water supply. The California study focused on two scenarios and showed that significant changes in temperature are likely regardless of what is done in the immediate future to reduce emissions. "The greenhouse gases that we are emitting today will reside in the atmosphere for decades, perhaps for a century - that makes this a pressing problem," said study coauthor Daniel Cayan, a research meteorologist, with Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego. Under the study's lower emissions scenario, summer temperatures in California will still rise 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with the length of the heat wave season extending from an average of 115 days in a year to 149 to 162 days But if nothing is done to curb the use of fossil fuels, summer temperatures rise a dramatic 7.5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the study, with the length of the heat wave season increasing to 178 to 204 days. "It is pretty clear that when we think of our kids and their kids they will be wanting to deal with the lower emissions scenario," Cayan said. Watt-Cloutier told the commitee that the observations of the Inuit are backed by the findings of Western scientists, in particular the work of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA).

The ACIA is an international team of 300 scientists, experts, and indigenous residents of the Arctic region who are preparing a comprehensive analysis of the impacts and consequences of climate variability and changes across the region. Their final report is slated for release this November - Watt-Cloutier said the Bush administration is blocking the ACIA from publishing its recommendations for action as a standalone report. She says the move is driven by politics and is a bid to remove pressure on the United States to engage in specific greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The scientific analysis contained in the report paints a worrying future for the Inuit The ACIA has found that in Alaska and western Canada, the average winter temperatures have increased by as much as 3 to 4 degrees Celsius over the past 60 years. During the past 30 years, Arctic sea ice extent has decreased, on average, by about 10 percent, and this change has been 20 percent faster during the past two decades. Continued melting of sea ice will lead to significant changes in the surface reflectivity, cloudiness, humidity, exchanges of heat and moisture, and ocean circulation, in particular along coastlines and near ice margins. Watt-Cloutier said two major conclusions of ACIA report are that marine species dependent on sea ice face an uncertain future and that global warming will disrupt - and potentially destroy - the Inuit culture. Warmer climates could bring insects with diseases the Inuit have never known and the species they depend upon - such as the polar bear - are unlikely to survive if global warming continues unabated. "The ancient connection to our hunting culture may disappear within my grandson's lifetime," Watt-Cloutier said. "My Arctic homeland is now the health barometer for the planet."

(originally posted here.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

What happened at CSIS today

Six people were arrested today following a sit-in in the lobby of the building that houses the Toronto offices of Canada's national spy agency, CSIS. The group, made up of folks from Burlington, Hamilton, Dundas, Durham, and Toronto, had been seeking a meeting to discuss the secret "evidence" which has been used to detain five Muslim men a collective 164 months, or 13 and a half years, behind Canadian prison bars without charge or bail.

Sponsored by the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, the group chose the date of October 20 because it marks three years in solitary confinement for secret trial detainee Hassan Almrei, a Syrian refugee held in Toronto's Metro West Detention Centre and one of the five Muslim men currently detained without charge or bail. Next week in Ottawa, secret trial detainee Mohamed Harkat will attend the public portion of his secret trial, after which the judge will retire with CSIS and government lawyers to discuss the evidence (if any exists) without Harkat and his lawyer present. Mohammad Mahjoub, held since June 2000 in Toronto, is currently in solitary confinement; Mahmoud Jaballah has been detained since August,2001, and Adil Charkaoui detained since May, 2003.

"We sit here because we have tried just about every channel available to us," the group wrote in a statement. "But time is not on ourside. These men are shadows of their former selves, often broken in body,and scarred in spirit. Their families are traumatized, their communities fearful. And each day they wake brings the same nagging question: why are they being held behind bars, and why is Canada attempting to deport them totorture?

"We sit here not because we despair, but because we hope. Perhaps our willingness to take some risk, to practice some truth-seeking, Gandhian non-violence, will open some minds, some hearts, some souls, to the crime ofsecret trials in Canada and the pain they have inflicted on individuals, families, communities."

The group were charged with failure to leave premises when directed as well as engaging in a prohibited activity on private property and released shortly after their arrests. Those arrested and charged are Kirsten Romaine, Rae Mitchell, Diana Ralph, Chris Shannon, Barney Barningham and Matthew Behrens.

About ten people entered the lobby shortly after 11 am and sat on benches that they imagined were for... well... sitting. Security came within a few minutes to ascertain why they were sitting on those benches.

"Because benches are made to be sat upon," explained one. A member of the group called upstairs to CSIS requesting that a meeting be held immediately to discuss transfer of the secret "evidence" to the lawyers of the detainees, so they can defend their clients. Other security officials showed up to make extensive explanations about the fact that, even though CSIS is a federal government agency, it is housed in a building that is "private property."

Police were eventually called in and, after asking them almost a dozen times to leave, were eventually forced to make arrests.

One particularly interesting exchange between a resister and a police officer went like this:

officer: Well, you'll have your 15 seconds on the news tonight.
resister: I hope these men will be released.
officer: Are they illegal immigrants? What are the charges?
resister: No charges. They're refugees and permanent residents, and this could now be done to citizens.
officer: Well, it could be me or you next.
resister: Yes, it could be, that's why we're doing this. We're trying to generate public support for these men.
officer: I think it's very important tthat you're doing this. If the public doesn't know about this, these men could just disappear. It happened in Chile, it could happen here.
resister: We think they should get a fair and open trial so they can defend themselves. There must be checks and balances.
officer: I agree, there must be checks and balances.

Another arrestee reports that the arresting officer apologized for having to make the arrest, for after having heard about the reason for the protest, the officer felt a sense of shame that he would be hauling such folks out of the CSIS building.

The six plan to contest the charges, a right that thus far remains unavailable to the five secret trial detainees.

For more info: call (416) 651-5800, write Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West Toronto, ON M6C 1C0, click here, or email

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Roma refugee in solitary confinement and on hunger strike

Adrian Dragan, a Roma refugee that has been held for 16 months awaiting removal to Romania, has been put into solitary confinement at Fraser Pre-trial in Coquitlam, BC, after refusing to sign documents that he is willing to return to Romania. He is a Roma (also known as "Gypsy") and faces serious danger and repression if removed to Romania, where Roma people are regularly attacked and persecuted. In fact, Adrian renounced his citizenship in Romania in 1993 to condemn the racism against Roma there, and since he does not have formal citizenship, he is now being held in jailed limbo, without rights as a citizen in either Canada or Romania. Canada has already tried once to send Adrian to Romania, but he was refused at the Romanian border. Since he is no longer a citizen of Romania, it would have been against international law to force him to enter, so he was sent back to Canada and is now in continued detention by Immigration Canada. Liviu Maior, the Ambassador of Romania to Canada, has stated in writing that “pursuant to the Romanian and international laws, the stateless person Adrian Dragan has no more legal connection with Romania... Romania would receive the stateless person Adrian Dragan only as a result of the latter's express will.” And yet Canadian officials persist unable to deport him and refusing to release him. As a stateless citizen, Dragan has no homeland and no country of residence. As a signatory of the United Nations’ 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Canada has an international duty to accept and protect stateless people.

for more information contact
No One is Illegal Vancouver: (604) 682-3269 x 7149
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: (416) 925-6939

Friday, October 15, 2004

Monsanto victory plants seed of privatisation

This story was originally written by Stephen Leahy for Inter Press Service (Brooklin, Canada) October 5th, 2004. I cut and pasted it from

Canadian farmers' traditional right to save seeds is being threatened by proposals to collect royalties on virtually all such seeds following agribusiness giant Monsanto's victory over grower Percy Schmeiser.

A recent review of Canada's entire production and regulatory system for the seeds farmers plant looked at ways to collect payments (royalties) on seeds the growers save from their own crops, to link crop insurance to the use of purchased certified seeds and to increase intellectual property protection for seed companies.

"It's a fundamental shift in agriculture to the privatisation of seeds," says Terry Pugh, executive secretary of Canada's National Farmer's Union (NFU). "There are no benefits (in this) for farmers."

Formally known as the Seed Sector Review, Pugh described the process as an industry-driven restructuring of Canada's seed production system. Companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dupont, which dominate Canada's seed industry, are pushing for "deregulation" and increased profitability, he added in an interview. The essence of the review is to turn growers into consumers of seed from producers of seed. "Farmers can't believe this is happening," added Pugh.

Various regulations in Canada's laws have long protected farmers from unscrupulous seed sellers by requiring that new varieties of wheat and other grains pass a merit test. Before they could be sold to farmers their makers had to prove they offered better yields, improved disease resistance or agronomic performance.

Until the 1990s most of the research into new seed varieties was done either by government researchers or publicly funded university plant breeders. To encourage corporate seed research, Canada created the Plant Breeders Rights Act (PBR) in 1990.

Under the PBR when farmers bought certified (high quality) seed from a company they could save seed from their crop for their own use the following year but could not sell it to anyone else. This seed saving for a farmer's own use could continue indefinitely but growers were technically prohibited from selling it.

In fact, after several years most farmers felt free to sell what they felt had become "common" seed. And seed companies did not particularly object as long as farmers did not try and pass off what they felt was lower-quality or impure seed as one of their registered varieties.

That is all about to change as Canada's federal agricultural department appears more interested in protecting the profits of seed companies than farmers, says Paul Beingessner, a third-generation grain and livestock farmer near Truax in the province of Saskatchewan.

"There's lots of seed trading among farmers here. We rarely buy certified seed for cereals. It's rarely better seed and just not necessary," Beingessner said in an interview.

If Saskatchewan spring wheat growers had to buy certified seed each year, it would increase their costs by an average of 1,400 Canadian dollars (1,110 U.S. dollars) per farm, he calculates. He estimates that five percent of all wheat and barley growers in the province, the heart of Canada's "bread basket," buy new seed.

The proposals in the Seed Sector Review are an attempt to force more farmers to buy certified seed from the seed companies, says Beingessner. "It's a money grab, pure and simple."

The royalty provisions would also mean that farmers would one day have to pay royalties on traded seed. Bill Leask, executive director of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, one of four groups that initiated the review, would hardly use those words but feels those who bring new varieties to market should be rewarded for their efforts.

"It costs between one and two million dollars to create a new variety of seed," Leask said in an interview. The CSTA says it has 577 million dollars in sales annually.

While he acknowledges that new varieties are only possible because of the breeding efforts of farmers over the past millennia, Leask argues "today's seeds are nothing like they were then, and are long ways from the seeds of 50 years ago."

The review's final recommendations will soon be put before the government but they do not include a royalty provision for saved seeds, Leask says. "The NFU is completely wrong about this. There are no royalty provisions in Canada."

However, the seed industry does think royalties have merit and would like to look at such a proposal in the future, he adds.

Although the Seed Sector Review began in 2003, it is consistent with a push for corporate control of seed, best illustrated in Monsanto's May 2004 Supreme Court victory over Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, both Pugh and Beingessner believe.

Monsanto alleged that Schmeiser illegally saved its genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" canola (oilseed rape) in 1997, after the firm obtained plants from his farm the following year that contained its patented genetics.

Throughout six years of litigation, Schmeiser steadfastly maintained his fields were contaminated by pollen from a neighbour's Roundup Ready canola fields and by seeds that blew off trucks on their way to a nearby processing plant.

Despite widespread evidence of contamination on many other farms, the Supreme Court determined the farmer infringed on Monsanto's legal rights under Canada's Patent Act by 'using' the company's patented gene when he harvested and sold his crop.

That decision remains highly controversial.

Recently Rene Van Acker, a University of Manitoba agricultural expert, wrote to tell the Supreme Court that seed samples from Schmeiser's contested 1997 crop that he tested were not 95-98 per cent Roundup Ready canola, as Monsanto claimed. Rather, the amount of Roundup Ready canola in the crop varied between three to 67 percent, depending on the sample tested.

Other research has shown that Roundup Ready canola has spread widely, and now shows up in ditches, schoolyards and city lots. Even the purest, certified non- genetically engineered canola now contains up to 4.9 per cent Roundup Ready content, Van Acker writes.

Moreover, the researcher says he cannot find any documents that substantiate Monsanto's claim that Schmeiser's crop was 95 percent contaminated.

At the heart of the debate over ownership of seeds is the principle of a farmer's right to save seeds. The Schmeiser case and the recommendations of the Seed Sector Review are completely contradictory to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, which came into force this summer, says Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, a Canadian non-governmental organisation (NGO) that was heavily involved in the treaty negotiations.

"The treaty is very strong on farmer seed saving. Canada was the first country to ratify the treaty," Mooney told IPS.

In Leask's view the treaty is all about protecting the rights of indigenous people in developing countries, who have saved seeds for centuries. In Canada there is no legal right of farmers to save seed, he argues.

The review recommends the government acknowledge farmers' "privilege" to save seed for their own holdings, an approach Leask supports. "I don't think farmers ought to have a legal right to save seeds," he adds.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Trial of Anti-World Trade Organisation Arrestees

In July, 2003, approximately 238 people were arrested in a mass roundup by Montreal police in the Green Zone (a popular education space) during the protests against the World Trade Organization's Mini-Ministerial. Minors either had their charges dropped, or were ticketed. The remaining arrestees face the charge of "illegal assembly." There will be four separate group trials, a French trial for Montreal-area protesters, and three English trials, for Montreal-area anglophone protesters, for protesters from the Maritimes and USA, and for protesters from Ontario to BC. The French trial for Montreal-area protesters will begin next week, at the Municipal Court, from October 18th to the 22nd. Several protesters will be defending themselves against the charges, and will be actively making motions and cross-examining witnesses. Please support the WTO protesters, either with your attendance in court,or by offering a donation to offset legal expenses. For more information email or 514-409-2049.