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