Thursday, December 13, 2007

CANADA: Gov't Urged to Rein in Mining Sector

By Am Johal

VANCOUVER, Dec 5 (IPS) - Canadian mining companies continue to come under scrutiny from civil society organisations for international human rights violations and environmental damage that critics say the Canadian government has done little to check.Canada is a leader in the global mining industry, with almost 60 percent of the world's listed exploration and mining companies. The government supports some foreign mining activity through Export Development Canada, a federal agency. "The situation is pretty grim," Joan Kuyek of Mining Watch Canada told IPS. "The mining companies are engaging in predatory activities. The laws and regulations don't stop violations of human rights or protect the environment. There needs to be immediate regulation of mining companies." According to the Halifax Initiative, a coalition of labour and civil society organisations pushing for policy reform, Canadian mining companies have "been implicated in well-documented cases of human rights violations and environmental abuses ranging from the destruction of protected areas, to death threats and assassinations." In 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade for Canada recommended the creation of "a process involving relevant industry associations, non-governmental organisations and experts, which will lead to the strengthening of existing programmes and policies in this area, and, where necessary, to the establishment of new ones." Another report written last spring, entitled "National Roundtable on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries", also recommended a corporate social responsibility framework. But even as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refocused the nation's foreign policy agenda toward Latin America, a major source of Canadian mining investments, there has been little movement to implement these recommendations. If implemented, the CSR framework would establish standards and reporting obligations for Canadian companies. It would also create an ombudsman office to investigate and assess complaints, and to evaluate compliance with the standards. The report lays out procedures for withholding government services to companies in cases of serious non-compliance. In a press release issued at the time, Tony Andrews, executive director of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, said, "Canadian mining companies listed on Canadian stock exchanges are the largest outward investors, with interests in more than 8,000 properties in over 100 countries around the world." "Their activities can help to create new economic opportunities in the developing world. However, it is equally important that they continually improve their performance in line with corporate social responsibility expectations," Andrews stated. "The Advisory Group's report will contribute to the development of necessary guidance and tools." Companies benefit from the Canadian government's political assistance through embassies and trade commissioners and financially through Export Development, Canada's project support and political risk assurance. But at the same time, civil society organisations argue that due diligence is not done by the Canadian government to ensure that international human rights and environmental standards are adequately met. The Canadian government has traditionally relied on voluntary compliance. There is still no commitment to establish legal norms in Canada to hold Canadian-based mining companies to account for violations overseas or to ensure that reporting is made available to markets and shareholders. In a paper written last year for the Halifax Initiative, a coalition of development, environment, faith, rights and labour groups, researchers Ozgur Can and Sara Seck argued that, "...officially supported ECAs (Export Credit Agencies) are organs or agents of the home state under the international law of state responsibility. Assuming that the extraterritoriality of human rights obligations is accepted, home states are then under an obligation to regulate ECAs to ensure that the activities they support, including those conducted by private actors, are conducted in a manner that complies with the home state's obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill as provided by international human rights law." "These obligations require home states to both make the provision of ECA support conditional upon compliance with international human rights norms and to ensure access to a legal remedy is available in home state courts for the victims of human rights abuses arising from ECA activities," they wrote. In July, during a trip to Latin America, Harper met with officials from the company Barrick Gold, whose operations in Tanzania and Chile have come under fire for alleged labour and environmental violations. Lucio Cuenca, of the Latin American Observatory on Environmental Conflicts, said at the time, "It is inappropriate that the prime minister meet with and give his support to the company at a time when the Chilean Congress is considering whether to investigate suspected irregularities in the Pascua Lama Project, the State Defence Council of Chile is contemplating suing Barrick for the destruction of glaciers, and a complaint regarding the project that was submitted before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is pending." The Pascua Lama gold deposit being pursued by Barrick Gold is located in the Andes in an area rich with glaciers. Glacial run-off irrigates the productive Huasco valley, an agricultural center just south of the Atacama desert. The indigenous Diaguita community of Huasio-Altino claims that the concession includes part of its ancestral territory and is suing to recover the lands. Meanwhile, Canadian investments and trading relationships with Burma continue to put money in the hands of the ruling junta. The largest foreign investor -- providing the regime's most important source of revenue -- is Ivanhoe Mines, which has a large copper mine at Monywa. Ivanhoe, owned by mining promoter Robert Freidland, is incorporated in the Yukon. Since 1996, Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines has invested over 90 million dollars in a 50-50 joint venture with the ruling military junta in Burma to develop their Monywa mine. The company has reported that it consulted with the Canadian government before initiating business with the military regime. In the late 1990s, Conquistador Mines led an effort to purchase a Colombian mine in Simiti, a small northern town. Local paramilitaries interested in foreign capital investment were involved in 19 killings, including beheading one miner and killing the vice president of the local miners' association. Mining industry official argue that these are just a few examples of issues associated with global mining and that the vast majority of projects are economically and socially viable in various regions of the world.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mineral exploration in Cape Breton mostly under the radar

[this is a letter from yesterday's Cape Breton Post. I have inserted my own comments in green. Where appropriate, I have pasted links to various groups and documents.]

I was surprised to learn from an article in the Victoria Standard (Nov. 5-18) of the "aggressive drilling for zinc and lead deposits in four areas of the Bras d'Or watershed (Middle River, Baddeck Forks, River Denys and West Bay), in addition to the Jubilee Zinc works in Iona by Merrex Gold Inc.

I had not heard of this "regional zinc project" or seen mention of it in The ChronicleHerald (Did I miss it?), and I wonder whether there was any public information about the prospects and impacts of zinc and lead mining here should these exploration drills prove fruitful.

The reason for my concern is that three environmental groups - Ecojustice, Great lakes United, and Mining Watch Canada ( - are seeking a judicial review of the actions of federal Environment Minister John Baird for allegedly counselling mining companies to ignore their legal responsibility to report all the pollution they're responsible for.

Apparently, mining companies were told that they needn't report millions of kilograms of polluting tailings and waste rock to the National Pollution Release inventory as required by law since 2006 under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The enormous amounts of these mining wastes threaten the health and communities and ecosystems surrounding them.

So I'm wondering what kind of regulatory regime we can expect here in Cape Breton and how the public health and environment will be protected when the federal government is indulging the mining companies to break the laws. Will the Department of Natural Resources step forward and inform us about this activity and how its being regulated?

It is most important that mining companies know from the start what kind of a regulatory system they can expect. [Currently, I see very little regulation in Canada that protects people or ecosystems.] We open ourselves for another tar ponds-scale catastrophe if it not clear to them that they will not have a free ride here in terms of environmental degradation for their convenience and profit and political kudos for the government of the day.

The lead and zinc tailings leaching through streams and brooks would in the long term be of far greater damage to the Bras D'Or Lake than the continual discharge of countless unregulated cottage sewerage outfalls. [Which paints an ugly picture for those of you unfamiliar with the enormous, expansive, glorious Bras d'Or, the forested and mountainous coast of which is dotted with the occasional cottage.]

We are fortunate to have several organizations now pursuing the conservation of the lakes and I hope they will take action to ensure that this mining initiative is properly scrutinized. However that may be, it would be refreshing if the ministers responsible for our health, the watershed environment and mining resources would show some leadership here.

Aaron Schneider
RR 4 Baddeck

Friday, November 30, 2007


Here's the article from the Chronicle Herald. My access to any Proceedings of the Royal Society of London seems to be blocked just now.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Free Cape Breton

from The Daily News

To the editor:

Government delivered from on high and afar to an unsuspecting and compliant population on Cape Breton Island must end. The question of our island's development should be for Cape Bretoners alone to decide.

The CBI provincehood campaign is an inclusive, imaginative and direct effort to engage with every Cape Bretoner who has a view on CBI's future. We ask every Cape Bretoner to reflect not on the kind of island we are, but on the kind of island we could be - or should be.

We have found that CBI voters want development on the way we are governed. To do so, the constitutional position of our island must move forward. The election of a voluntary assembly in 2008 will be a step toward self-governance. A strong mandate for our Assembly will legitimize demands for negotiations with Halifax for choosing CBI's future.

There are five choices: maintain the present setup; some decentralized self-governance; broad self-governance powers as an autonomous region within Nova Scotia; independence as a Canadian territory; and independence as Canada's 11th province.

Mark Macneill


[I posted the following comment on The Daily News's web site:]

I agree with the comment regarding natural resources. (The island is being emptied of people and grabbed up by shoddy natural resource operations.) Cape Breton Island must be able to defend its ecosystems and communities from destruction, which is largely due to the activities of mainland companies, or it will have no future at all. The fulcrum point - at which this downward spiral can be reversed - is the collusion between Cape Breton political decision makers and natural resource profiteers. The decision makers must begin to recognize their responsibilities to the island, and such a leap may require provincehood, with new rules for more localized governance.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A couple of letters with neat links

Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir
Office of the President
People's Palace, PO Box 281

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Your Excellency,

On September 27th, fifteen Ethiopian refugees, including alleged members of the Oromo Liberation Front, were forcibly returned to Ethiopia, in clear breach of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Sudan is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, all of which oblige you not to forcibly return any person to a country where they risk torture or other serious human rights violations. So, please do not return the Ethiopian refugees and asylum-seekers now in custody to Ethiopia.

Please ensure that all Ethiopian refugees detained in Sudan are treated humanely, provided with adequate medical treatment, allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a judicial authority, and given immediate access to the UNHCR.

Sincerely and Respectfully,


Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed
Chief Adviser
Office of the Chief Adviser

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dear Chief Adviser,

On October 24th, a group of 10-12 plainclothes Rapid Action Battalion agents arrested Jahangir Alam Akash, head of the Rajshahi office of the independent TV station CBS News. Mr. Akash is the local head of both the Task Force against Torture and the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights.

Please release Mr. Akash immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for broadcasting reports critical of the Rapid Action Battalion. Please ensure that Jahangir Alam Akash is protected from any further torture, and given any medical attention he may require. The reports of the torture of Mr. Akash ought to be investigated by an independent, impartial, and competent body, to bring those responsible to justice.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dr. Francisco Santos Calderón

Carrera 8A No 7-27

Dear Vice-president Santos,

I am concerned for the safety of Hollman Morris, the director and presenter of the investigative television programme CONTRAVIA, who has received deaths threats from a paramilitary group, the previously unknown Frente Patriótico Nacional. Please take action to guarantee the well being of Hollman Morris, and provide him with adequate protection in accordance with his wishes, so he can continue his work in safety. Please order an investigation, both into the threats made against Hollman Morris, and into the links between the security forces and paramilitary groups. The results of such an investigation could be made public and those responsible brought to justice.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

a letter from The Daily News


During a recent trip home to Cape Breton, I was stunned to learn of the government's decision to permit hundreds of acres of wetlands, forests and picturesque landscape to be strip mined for - of all things - low-grade, high-sulphur coal. I was dumbfounded to realize that in an area rich with tourism- development potential, the government would literally permit its destruction. I look forward to one day returning to the area and spending my retirement dollars where I grew up. However, if the government doesn't reverse its plan to "strip" Cape Breton, I fear what might remain.Has the government given careful consideration to the economic impact of their decision to allow strip mining? Surely, any benefits cannot exceed the ruinous impact to local business, tourism and the environment. In an area so rich with beachfronts, fossils and wetland attractions, the tourism, economic and natural-energy potential is limitless.Why doesn't local government strive to become a regional leader in tourism and the development of sustainable energies, instead of strip-mined coal? What is their true motivation in allowing strip mining? It's time for the government to stand for something - or fall for anything.
Raylene MacLeod

[My comment: People in the government of Nova Scotia profit from the destruction of Cape Breton Island ecosystems and communities. People on the island have been given a Bantu education (a la apartheid South Africa), and any alternatives to government-managed education and health care have been knocked down. Cape Bretoners are being rendered insensitive to the real ecological needs of their communities - according to the malicious and profiteering plans of the mainland government. My own community is being destroyed by a open surface gravel mine. The mine is located where there once was a grove of pine trees that was a place of solace for my grandfather. We've been here seven generations, but the level of ecological destruction is now almost unbearable. Cape Bretoners need to be able to make decisions to protect their ecosystems, if we are to have any kind of future at all.]

Friday, September 14, 2007

UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights

[I found this in my inbox this morning. I think many people in Canada will agree with this message. The Government of Canada behaved immorally, and did not represent me, when they voted "no" to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights.]

As Chief of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation I agree that not voting for and not signing the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights has embarrassed Canada internationally. But the reality is that in Canada violations of human rights have been happening under successive governments despite the fact that Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1982, the Right to Property was taken out of the original draft of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Trudeau Government understood that including the Right to Property as a Charter Right would have significantly increased the onus on the courts to recognize the property rights of the original owners of the land, the indigenous people. A right to property in Canadian domestic law would therefore put in jeopardy the continued theft of the resources from the original owners.

Canada and the United States are two of the wealthiest countries in the world and it is no secret that the resource wealth was stolen from the indigenous people of North America with extreme prejudice. Canada and the United States have a combined land mass of over 7.5 million square miles. It is no wonder that the governments of both these countries would vote against the international justice of recognizing indigenous people as a people with inherent rights.

If the Liberal Party of Canada wants real justice and are not just playing party politics, the introduction in parliament of an amendment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the right to property would go a long way to finally recognize the interational obligation that Canada has to support in domestic law, article 17 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Until that is done, the reality is that the 3 million barrels of oil produced by Canada each and every day, is still stolen from indigenous people. More than 60 different metals and minerals mined in Canada produces wealth, but without any legal recognition of royalties or any payment of royalties for the original owners of the resources.

In Canada, the indigenous people are still at the 63rd level of the United Nations international living index while at the same time Canadians enjoy being the ninth richest country in the world with a Gross Domestic Product of over one trillion US dollars per year. We, as the indigenous people of these lands, are not surprised by the vote, just disappointed by the continued international reputation of Canada and the United States as being bastions of human rights.

- Chief Terrance Nelson

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

GM Watch

The GM Watch website was recently forced offline for nearly a week as a result of legal threats over this article calling for an award winning scientific paper to be retracted:

GM Watch's response to AgBioView's attack:,

Biotech Canada SLAPP Scandal:
Canada attacks Ireland's policy on GM crops:

... and furthermore:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mayor John Morgan

Cape Breton Regional Municipality
320 Esplanade
Sydney NS B1P 7B9

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dear Mayor Morgan,

We live in the Community of Upper Leitches Creek, near a quarry mined by Alva Construction. Just about everybody in the community has said “no” to Alva’s activity, via letters, a petition, and a partial blockade. It is undemocratic for the government to allow the operation to continue. That said, Alva’s trucks were on the road before 7 a. m. today, again. These trucks break the speed limit, sometimes with double loads of rock (which although not illegal is certainly unsafe on a poorly maintained road, with blind crests, the shoulder washed out by heavy rain, etc.). Furthermore, they often drive on the wrong side (or middle) of the road. Young children live on this road, and we implore you to consider their safety.

Upper Leitches Creek used to be an idyllic forest retreat. That peace has been robbed from us. The joy of walking along the road, encountering wildlife, fishing, etc., have all been robbed from us. The mined land used to be a beautiful forest. There used to be a grove of enormous old pine trees that our forefathers and members of this community treasured. But the whole ecosystem has been totally erased! The profiteering brutality that Alva shows this land ought to be illegal. If Cape Breton Island is to have a future at all, we have to take care of the land upon which we depend.

Our family owns another piece of land, more than 80 ha, next to the quarry, and we would appreciate access to any record of regulatory control. Is the Department of Environment and Labour monitoring the effects on the streams in this area? The residents of Upper Leitches Creek are gravely concerned for the safety of their water supply. Has there been any ongoing environmental standard for this operation? Why do we pay for government departments that do nothing more than rubber-stamp the destructive exploitation of Cape Breton?

If you care at all about the principle of democracy, and if you believe that our community needs a healthy environment, then by all means start taking effective action on behalf of Upper Leitches Creek.


[guess who]

David M. Morse, 8994 Commercial St., New Minas NS B4N 3E2
Esmond Marshall, 127 Beach Road, Eskasoni NS B1W 1A5
Gary Lunn, 207 Confederation Building, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
John Baird, Environment Canada, Ottawa ON K1A 0H3
Keith Bain, 1551 Old Route 5, Big Bras D’Or NS B1X 1B5
Mark Eyking, 383 Confedeation Bldg., Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Mark Parent, 318B Main St., Kentville NS B4N 1K7

Monday, August 27, 2007

letter just sent to Cape Breton Post

[N.B. I do not subscribe to state sponsored tokenistic multiculturalism. Nevertheless...]

Dear Editor,

I was disappointed to find “Multiculturalism’s war on education” by Elan Journo in your paper. It is appalling to express such a mixture of unbridled racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and sexism. These are not characteristics typical of the Cape Breton Post.
“Western culture,” as expressed by Journo, is not culture. The monocultural economic entity is a predator of society and culture. Those of us in the shadow of the monoculture all have unique histories, languages, origins, music, etc. We do not share a homogenous culture. Furthermore, human societies are similar to other parts of the ecosystem, where diversity is essential for stability and survival, particularly during times of crisis.
Journo misuses the word “they,” painting whole cities, civilizations, and religions with a broad brush: equating scholars with slave traders, etc. These people were different individuals, who shared nothing in common besides the time of their mortal existence.
Journo subscribes to the tired defense of monocultural agriculture, which purports that American-style monoculture yields more than Indian-style traditional polyculture. That argument is blatantly untrue (and if you want sources, by all means contact me). Furthermore, it is based upon the untrue premise that the world needs a greater volume of food. However, the farmers of the world produce far more than enough food for everybody. Unfortunately, food is made unavailable to people by the enactment of unfair economic policies.
American-based globalized capitalist imperialism, i.e., the monoculture, is destroying the planet and extinguishing species at a rate not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs.It is wonderful and necessary for children to be educated with respect to diversity and inclusion. People in Canada should retain the effort to be tolerant, and place value in the respect and appreciation of other people’s cultures.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Re: the provocateurs at SPP protest

I am delighted by the nerve of David Coles. He unmasked the police agents provocateurs at the anti-SPP protest.

I have witnessed provocateurs at other protests in the past. It takes a honest middle-aged man to communicate this message to the older population in Canada. Canadians never would believe the younger activists, who have been the target of this injustice for many years.

This unmasking could become part of a new tactic. However, we must take care not to unmask our more militant allies!

Monday, August 20, 2007

email fired off to Harper regarding the SPP

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

I oppose the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) because the SPP meetings could result in the watering-down of human rights and environmental protections (such as they are) in Canada. I am particularly concerned by the deregulation of pesticides and food-related innovations, and by the possible development of polluting and land-destroying natural resource industries.

Do you need me to remind you that it is your job to defend the people and the land from such predatory exploitation?

The community in which I live is not surviving the current economic climate of rubber stamped environmental assessments, non-unionized workers, and unaccountable natural resource industries that do not pay the community for damage to our properties and roads. You must take the bull by the horns, and do not sell us out to profiteers!

Do you need to be reminded that the desires of the SPP attendees do not represent the desires of the majority of people in Canada? Please give priority to democracy, human rights, and land conservation.

I look forward to receiving your immediate and positive reply.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lic. Octavio Alberto Orellana Wiarco

Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas
Procuradoría General de la República
Av. Paseo de la Reforma #211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc
C.P. 06500, México D.F.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dear Sir,

I have been made aware that Alberto Fernández Portilla, (the director of Semanario del Istmo and producer of BBM Noticia on Radiorama-XEKZ) was shot at his home in Oaxaca State on August 5th. I am concerned for the well being of his colleagues Daniel Pérez Espinoza and Edwin Meneses Santiago. Both have received death threats. These grave threats may be related to their recent radio and press reports on drug trafficking, allegations of stealing of oil from the Mexican oil company pipelines, and reports of corruption in the union representing workers at the oil company.

Please ensure that these journalists receive protection. Please guarantee their safety, in accordance with their wishes.

There ought to be a full, prompt, and impartial investigation by the federal authorities, in order to create a climate in which journalists can exercise their right to freedom of expression without fear of reprisal.
Sincerely and Respectfully,

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A link and a letter

A link

This is where I learned that NATO has approved a nuclear strike against Iran.

and a letter

Prof. Al-Zubair Bashir Taha
Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Interior
PO Box 281, Khartoum

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dear Minister,

I am increasingly concerned for the well being of Abdallah Abdelgaum, Alam Eldin Abdelghani, Dr Mohamed Jalal Ahmed Hashim, Osman Shamat, Imad Mirghani Sid Ahmed, Saad Mohamed Ahmed, Raafat Hassan Abbas, Abdulaziz Mohamed Ali Khairi, Osman Ibrahim, and Mujahed Mohamed Abdallah.

I understand that all the detainees are being held in Debek Prison, north of Khartoum. Conditions are very poor there, especially this rainy season, due to swarms of mosquitoes and flies. Please give all of the detainees immediate and regular access to their families and lawyers.

When Osman Ibrahim (The Secretary General of the Committee Against the Building of the Kajbar Dam) was arrested, he had only recently left hospital. He was being treated for diabetes, but the security forces refused to allow him to take his medication with him. Dr Mohamed Jalal Ahmed Hashim also suffers from diabetes. In any case, please give the detainees immediate and regular access to any medical treatment they may require.

Furthermore, I encourage you to release all of these detainees unless they are to be charged promptly with a criminal offence.

Please repeal Article 31 of the National Security Forces Act, which allows detainees to be held for up to nine months without access to judicial review.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Saturday, June 30, 2007


Subject: Why anti-Atlantica protesters wear masks

I am writing in response to Jack Yazer’s letter (Black masks unnecessary for Canadian protests, June 30).

People in Canada are purported to be free in their expression and beliefs. However, everyone who harbors beliefs that endanger the status quo are targeted usually by the violent arm of the state, that is, the police or the military.

When attending any protest in Canada, it is advisable to bring a handkerchief soaked in vinegar in a sealed plastic bag, to use as a breathing filter when the crowd gets sprayed. This protection can be seen as obscuring your identity, which is nevertheless preferable to inhaling the crowd-subduing chemicals. Tightly sealed eye goggles are necessary, if not a clean gas mask with a fresh filter, long sleeves, and jeans to protect against the various irritating chemical sprays, powders, dogs, and police who drag arrestees.

There were (no doubt) many reasons why the legitimate anti-Atlantica protesters wore black masks. Jack Yazer was correct to identify that black masks are characteristic to the Palestinian intifada. Black masks are/were characteristic to the Chinese pro-democracy movement, the South African transition, the Solidarity movement in Poland, the Spanish anarchists, the (successful) anti-World Trade Organization Black Bloc affinity group strategy, and worldwide actions of ecodefense, etc. In fact, black masks are typical of direct action everywhere. Anti-Atlantica protestors may be identifying themselves as allies of these various movements by wearing black.

That said, infiltrators or agents provocateurs can disguise their identities behind masks as well!

Saturday, June 23, 2007



Subject: Take action to protect the inhabitants of San Isidro Aloapam

I am writing to you because I am very concerned by the stories I have heard about the attacks on San Isidro Aloapam, having to do with the destruction of the place known as Yyusuni. I hope that you will take action to free Juventino Cruz Pérez, Artemio Pérez Cruz, Juana Morales Pérez, Eutimio Méndez López, and Anastasio López Pérez, who were kidnapped by people from San Miguel Aloapam.

Please put an immediate halt to the repression and paramilitary activities, and guarantee the safety of the inhabitants of San Isidro. I believe you will pursue a just investigation of the facts and bring people to court regarding the torture and killing of the people of San Isidro Aloapam.

Please ensure that San Miguel Aloapam’s forest is managed in a non-destructive way. Please consider a program to heal the 3 to 4 ha of forested land affected by the Mexican pine beetle. Such a program ought to include the participation of all the stakeholders: the environmental groups, community members of San Isidro Aloapam, forest technicians, and neighboring communities.

I ask you to ensure that the agricultural conflicts in the region are dealt with peacefully and in conformity with the affected communities.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Prof. Al-Zubair Bashir Taha

Minister of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Interior, PO Box 281
Khartoum, Sudan

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dear Minister,

I am writing to you again to express my concern for the lawyers and journalists detained on the day of protests against the construction of the Kajbar Dam, particularly Ghazafi Adulmotalib, Abuobaida Awad, Abualgasim Farahana, Imad Mirghani Sid Ahmed, Alam Eldin Abdelgaum, Dr Mohamed Jalal Ahmed Hashim, Raafat Hassan Abbas, Abdelhalim Abdulghani, Abdulaziz Mohamed Ali Khairi, Abdallah Abdelgaum, Osman Shamat, and Saad Mohamed Ahmed.

Please give them immediate and regular access to their families, lawyers, and any medical treatment they may require. Due to the lack of charges for any recognisable criminal offences against these men, they ought to be released immediately.

Please repeal Article 31 of the National Security Forces Act, which allows detainees to be held for up to nine months without access to judicial review.

Sincerely and Respectfully


Cc: Dr Abdel Moneim Osman Taha, Rapporteur, Advisory Council for Human Rights Khartoum, Sudan
Human Rights Committee, The Peoples Hall, Omdurman, Sudan
Her Excellency Dr. Faiza Hassan TAHA ARMOUSA, Ambassador for the Republic of Sudan, 354 Stewart Street, Ottawa ON K1N 6K8

Monday, June 18, 2007

I just sent this letter to the Cape Breton Post

Dear Cape Breton Post,

I hope your paper will publish this letter regarding “Group gathers at jail to support protesters” June 18, as I would like to express my disagreement to the Atlantica plan.
The proposals of Atlantica have been promoted by the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies director Brian Crowley, who is the special advisor to the federal Department of Finance, a position among the elite, from where he is making decisions that effect us all. Atlantica has been glossed-over entirely (perhaps intentionally) by the media and government. The proposal is unrealistic and pro-deregulation. If we allow it, the environment and people of Cape Breton will continue to suffer (as our forefathers did for the past 100 years) natural resource industry exploitation.
The containers that are proposed to arrive in Halifax would include colossal volumes of food and other consumer goods from Asia, i.e., from countries where environmental and human rights are lacking or nonexistent. Your paper outlined some of my concerns, and explained why we do not want to handle these products, in “Everything from dyes to formaldehyde used in foods in Asia” June 18.
Furthermore, the plan involves the use of guest worker truck drivers from Mexico. So, unionized truckers from the Maritimes should not expect any benefit. The modest economic benefits (due to Atlantica) come out of security budgets and go to the tiny group of industries that handle containers in Halifax. The economic argument for Atlantica is unsound. Direct access to US markets is available already via New York or California ports. The long-standing expansion of the Panama Canal, which will be complete within ten years, will cause the proximity claims of Halifax to evaporate.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Türk dilinde medrese olmalıdır her kese

His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shoahada Street
Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Your Excellency,

According to the Committee for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners, more than 500 political activists have been detained or have been the victims of enforced disappearance in recent weeks. I am writing to you with regards to the apparent enforced disappearance of Sa’id Metinpour. Mr. Metinpour is an advocate of linguistic and cultural rights for Iranians of Azerbaijani ethnicity. A Haqqimiz report stated that he was detained in Zenjan around midnight, May 25. Advar News indicated he, and Atiye Taheri, were stopped while returning home by plain-clothes Ministry of Intelligence officials who had arrest warrants for them.
Please discover and reveal the whereabouts of Mr. Metinpour immediately. If he is in custody, please grant him immediate and regular access to family members, to a lawyer of his choice, and to any medical treatment he may require. Please assure me that he is being treated humanely and is not being tortured or ill-treated.
A statement issued by the National Movement of Azerbaijan on June 2 claims that local newspapers are being pressured not to publicize information about the alleged arrest.
If Mr. Metinpour is being detained solely as a result of the expression of his conscientiously held beliefs, he is a prisoner of conscience, who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Sincerely and Respectfully Yours,

Timothy Schwinghamer
654 Upper Leitches Creek Road
Upper Leitches Creek NS B2A 4B5

Mr Seyed Mahdi Mohebi, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy for the Islamic Republic of Iran, 245 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa ON K2P 2K2
His Excellency Gholamali Haddad Adel, Majles-e Shoura-ye Eslami, Baharestan Square, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Come and protest Atlantica in Halifax, June 13-16

This is an invitation for you to participate in a democratic forum (and protests) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I have copied and pasted below some background information from as well as the schedule of events.

Please consider coming, or tell your friends in the region about the Atlantica plan, and the resistance against it. If you can't come, please be with us in spirit.


Atlantica is the abbreviated name for the Atlantic Northeast Economic Region (AINER), a cross-border trade concept spanning the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland, southern Quebec, and the New England states, i.e., Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and upstate New York. Its main proponent and originator is a right-wing think-tank group called the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), whose board of directors represents many big-business interests in the Atlantic region, although the plan is similar to North America's SuperCorridor Coalition's "Hemispheria" plan, or the Plan Puebla Panama, for that matter.

The proponents of Atlantica wish to develop a conduit to channel Asian goods to the United States through the Atlantic Provinces. Massive container ships called "post-Panamax" are too large to pass through the Panama Canal and Halifax is the closest North American port for ships from Asia via the Suez Canal. These containers would reach their destinations via "truck trains," resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions, higher fatal-crash rates per mile, as well as the likely expansion of superhighways through communities, wilderness, and farmland.

Atlantica is also about increasing exports of unprocessed resources, like energy and water, from Canada to the United States. The intent is to export oil and gas from the Atlantic offshore as quickly as possible on terms that favour industry and leave decisions regarding exports to deregulated markets.

The Atlantica tag line is "business without borders," which has a double meaning: business unhampered by the international border, but also unbound from what AIMS refers to as "policy distress factors" such as minimum wages, social program spending, environmental regulation, public ownership and unionization. This kind of language is eerily familiar to that of NAFTA and the FTAA, stemming from a neoliberal agenda that aims to dismantle "trade barriers."

The results of Atlantica would be to expedite a race to the bottom for the majority of people in the region. Knowing this, the governments and institutions involved have tried to negotiate and implement this policy undemocratically behind closed doors.

Town Hall Meeting
Description: Join the Council of Canadians, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour and its affiliates for a community Town Hall meeting to discuss Atlantica and what it means for Nova Scotia. After the panel the floor will be opened to questions, comments and discussion about Atlantica and what we can do to stop it from going forward and promote an alternative vision that puts people and the Earth before corporate profits.
The panel will include:
- Scott Sinclair, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of the paper "Atlantica: Myths and Realities"
- Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians
- Alejandro Villamar, Oxfam Mexico
Location: Scotia Bank Auditorium, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Building, Dalhousie University, 6135 University Avenue
Time: 7:00 pm

Picket against atlantica
Description: Start off the conference with a bang, bring placards, noisemakers and friends.
Location: WTCC (World Trade and Convention Centre)
Time: 8:30 am

Take Action Against NS Power!
Description: Confront Emera (big player in Atlantica) and NS Power's policies!
Location: Corner of Duke and Barrington
Time: 12:00 pm

Resist Atlantica Teach-in
Description: A full day of free workshops and DIY seminars on topics ranging from Atlantica 101and Deep Integration' to Know Your Rights Training and Political Puppet-making.
Location: The Khyber (1588 Barrington St)
Time: 10am – 5pm

Critical Mass Bike Ride
Description: Ride into the streets en masse against Atlantica! Come out with your bicycles, tricycles,skateboards, roller-blades or any other self-propelled vehicle for a good old-fashioned fun-filled festive flocking. Costumes are encouraged!
Location: Victoria Park (corner of Spring Garden and South Park)
Time: 5:00 pm

Rally and March Against Atlantica
Description: join the hundreds of groups and individuals for speeches, songs, and more in the interregional mobilization against Atlantica.
Location: Victoria Park (corner of Spring Garden and South Park)
Time: 12:00 pm

Reclaim the Streets!
Description: Games, fun, music and food. join us for some celebratory resistance to atlantica.
Location: Around the WTCC, downtown halifax
Time: 7:00 pm

Community Picnic
Description: Free food provided by halifax food not bombs, family friendly atmosphere and games. Speakers and music.
Location: Seaview Park
Time: Noon

Saturday, May 26, 2007

People across the British Columbia were shocked by the 14 day jail sentence handed down to 71 year old native Elder Harriet Nahanee in January, 2007 for peacefully protesting while inside an injunction zone (on unceded indian land) at Eagleridge Bluffs. Harriet served 9 days in prison at a maximum security pre-trial facility. She had filed an appeal, but became gravely ill and died from pneumonia shortly after being released from prison. A petition that raises specific concerns surrounding Harriet Nahanee's sentencing is in circulation. It demands that our elected officials call an immediate public inquiry into the handling of this case. Please honour a very courageous native elder by reading the petition, signing it and passing the link on to others on your contact lists. The Supreme Court of BC must be held accountable for their actions in this case. It is the duty of our elected officials to ensure that a full and public inquiry is held:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From the Cape Breton Post (

It's easy to see through the green buzz
Is Nova Scotia going green? We might believe so, judging from the flowery words of a premier very cleverly endorsing the green buzz and announcing a green Nova Scotia for 2020.
But look at the facts: a rock quarry forced on Digby, a gypsum quarry on Windsor, tire burning on Brookfield, strip mining on Boularderie, band-aid solutions on the Sydney tar ponds, an open pit gold mine in Moose River - all close to houses.
The government acts as if it owns the land and, worse, the people. Its actions are opposite to what it says.
The premier says the province is purchasing lands to preserve them for Nova Scotians to enjoy nature.
Yet in Cape Breton, where we have moose, deer, pristine forests, and rare birds, he is having it all destroyed with strip mining.
We can all brace ourselves because 13 other potential strip mine sites in Cape Breton will know the same fate when the moratorium ends in a year.
No home, no land is sacred anymore in Nova Scotia. I drove to Point Aconi recently and was shocked at the huge devastation: thousands of trees, where a proud forest stood, now lie in every direction and across brooks oozing orange goo; a pit eight soccer fields large and 30 feet deep already (this is supposed to be surface reclamation) a few feet from homes. Dynamite is coming. It is so very sad.
Across wetland, on which one is not even supposed to hike for fear of affecting the hydrology, a two-mile-long road has been built to the power plant, allowing cheap trucking of bad coal. How can we believe a premier uttering promises for 2020 while doing nothing now? How long will he procrastinate?
Christiane Tanner
Westmount Road

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Deforestation: The hidden cause of global warming

from The Independent
By Daniel Howden

The accelerating destruction of the rainforests that form a precious cooling band around the Earth's equator, is now being recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Carbon emissions from deforestation far outstrip damage caused by planes and automobiles and factories.
The rampant slashing and burning of tropical forests is second only to the energy sector as a source of greenhouses gases according to report published today by the Oxford-based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of leading rainforest scientists.
Figures from the GCP, summarising the latest findings from the United Nations, and building on estimates contained in the Stern Report, show deforestation accounts for up to 25 per cent of global emissions of heat-trapping gases, while transport and industry account for 14 per cent each; and aviation makes up only 3 per cent of the total.
"Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change," said Andrew Mitchell, the head of the GCP.
Scientists say one days' deforestation is equivalent to the carbon footprint of eight million people flying to New York. Reducing those catastrophic emissions can be achieved most quickly and most cheaply by halting the destruction in Brazil, Indonesia, the Congo and elsewhere.
No new technology is needed, says the GCP, just the political will and a system of enforcement and incentives that makes the trees worth more to governments and individuals standing than felled. "The focus on technological fixes for the emissions of rich nations while giving no incentive to poorer nations to stop burning the standing forest means we are putting the cart before the horse," said Mr Mitchell.
Most people think of forests only in terms of the CO2 they absorb. The rainforests of the Amazon, the Congo basin and Indonesia are thought of as the lungs of the planet. But the destruction of those forests will in the next four years alone, in the words of Sir Nicholas Stern, pump more CO2 into the atmosphere than every flight in the history of aviation to at least 2025.
Indonesia became the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world last week. Following close behind is Brazil. Neither nation has heavy industry on a comparable scale with the EU, India or Russia and yet they comfortably outstrip all other countries, except the United States and China.
What both countries do have in common is tropical forest that is being cut and burned with staggering swiftness. Smoke stacks visible from space climb into the sky above both countries, while satellite images capture similar destruction from the Congo basin, across the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.
According to the latest audited figures from 2003, two billion tons of CO2 enters the atmosphere every year from deforestation. That destruction amounts to 50 million acres - or an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland felled annually.
The remaining standing forest is calculated to contain 1,000 billion tons of carbon, or double what is already in the atmosphere.
As the GCP's report concludes: "If we lose forests, we lose the fight against climate change."
Standing forest was not included in the original Kyoto protocols and stands outside the carbon markets that the report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pointed to this month as the best hope for halting catastrophic warming.
The landmark Stern Report last year, and the influential McKinsey Report in January agreed that forests offer the "single largest opportunity for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions".
International demand has driven intensive agriculture, logging and ranching that has proved an inexorable force for deforestation; conservation has been no match for commerce. The leading rainforest scientists are now calling for the immediate inclusion of standing forests in internationally regulated carbon markets that could provide cash incentives to halt this disastrous process.
Forestry experts and policy makers have been meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to try to put deforestation on top of the agenda for the UN climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, this year. Papua New Guinea, among the world's poorest nations, last year declared it would have no choice but to continue deforestation unless it was given financial incentives to do otherwise.
Richer nations already recognise the value of uncultivated land. The EU offers €200 (£135) per hectare subsidies for "environmental services" to its farmers to leave their land unused.
And yet there is no agreement on placing a value on the vastly more valuable land in developing countries. More than 50 per cent of the life on Earth is in tropical forests, which cover less than 7 per cent of the planet's surface.
They generate the bulk of rainfall worldwide and act as a thermostat for the Earth. Forests are also home to 1.6 billion of the world's poorest people who rely on them for subsistence. However, forest experts say governments continue to pursue science fiction solutions to the coming climate catastrophe, preferring bio-fuel subsidies, carbon capture schemes and next-generation power stations.
Putting a price on the carbon these vital forests contain is the only way to slow their destruction. Hylton Philipson, a trustee of Rainforest Concern, explained: "In a world where we are witnessing a mounting clash between food security, energy security and environmental security - while there's money to be made from food and energy and no income to be derived from the standing forest, it's obvious that the forest will take the hit."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

2 things


Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza
Procurador General de la Republica
Procuraduría General de la República
Paseo de la Reforma nº 211-213, Piso 16,
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc
México D.F., C.P. 06500, Mexico

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dear Attorney General,

I am writing to you today because I am concerned for the safety of Lydia Cacho. Lydia Cacho is a journalist and the author of Los Demonios del Edén.

On May 7th, Lydia Cacho escaped what seems to have been an attempt on her life.

I call on the authorities to order a full review of the protection provided for Lydia Cacho, in order to guarantee her safety. Please launch a full, impartial, and prompt investigation into the apparent attempt to cause the vehicle in which she was travelling to crash. Please ensure the results of this investigation are made public.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Timothy Schwinghamer

654 Upper Leitches Creek Road
Upper Leitches Creek NS B2A 4B5


His Excellency Emilio Goicoechea Luna, Ambassador for Mexico, 45 O'Connor Street, Suite 1000, Ottawa ON K1P 1A
Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres - CIAM Cancún A.C., Calle 12 poniente · 66 SMZA 63 Cancún, Quintana Roo 77500, México



Dear Diane Finley and Stockwell Day,

I am writing to express my urgent concern about Adil Charkaoui and call on you to conduct a fair and transparent review of the security certificate that was issued against Adil Charkaoui in May 2003.

The security certificate against Mr. Charkaoui has never been upheld by any court. Mr. Charkaoui's case has been suspended since March 2005 when the government was forced to withdraw a key decision on the risk Charkaoui faces if deported to Morocco.

What is known of the case against Mr. Charkaoui rests largely on information apparently provided by three individuals to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. In 2004, the Federal Court agreed to set aside information from Abu Zubaydah in Mr. Charkaoui's file in light of testimony and reports that Zubaydah had been tortured while in US custody in Afghanistan and later held in a secret site with no oversight or accountability. In Feb 2005, Radio Canada made public a letter from Noureddine Nafiaâ, a second informer in Mr. Charkaoui's case, who wrote from a prison in Morocco recanting his confession, stating that he had signed his 'confession' blind-folded and under torture.

Finally, two weeks ago, it was revealed that Ahmed Ressam's information against Mr. Charkaoui was fabricated. Ahmed Ressam wrote a letter published by the Journal de Montréal on 20 April 2007 that information he provided against Mr. Charkaoui was false: "What I said to the investigators... was not true... I was confonted with difficult psychological circumstances, I did not know what I was saying."

Thus all the publically disclosed information against Mr. Charkaoui has been discredited, making it impossible to retain confidence in CSIS’s case and the highly secretive Security Certificate regime, which denies non-citizens their basic right to due process.

Mr. Charkaoui spent almost two years in prison (from May 2003 to February 2005) and has spent a further two years under conditions that Amnesty International has qualified as "among the most restrictive ever imposed in Canada" and that affect the freedom of his entire family. Four years without charge, under an unconstitutional process, on the basis of evidence that lacks all credibility, is far too long. It is time for the Ministers to act. As you have the power to act on this matter, I demand that you conduct a fair and transparent review of Charkaoui's file in order to withdraw the faulty certificate, to lift the restrictions on his liberty, and to clear his name. This is clearly warranted in light of Ahmed Ressam’s retraction and considering that previous evidence on file was produced by torturous means. Furthermore, given that the Supreme Court of Canada decision found the security certificate regime to be unconstitutional, I demand that the government act immediately to completely abolish the fundamentally unjust security certificate regime.


Monday, April 30, 2007

a couple of things

1. Jacques Ellul's homepage

2. Although I wrote the letters to many Mexican authorities, with regards to the necessity to protect FLOC organizers, etc., I didn't post them here. Here's a link to FLOC's homepage.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Dear Minister of Immigration,

I am contacting you to add my voice to the chorus, reminding you that Abdelkader Belaouni's situation has not been resolved, that 460 days in sanctuary is far too long, and that many individuals and organizations are actively supporting Mr. Belaouni's struggle for status and are unhappy with the government's lack of response.

Please use your discretionary power to grant Permanent Resident status to Mr. Belaouni without delay.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dear Gary Doer,

I am grateful to be informed, via "Province might cede East Side" by Gerald Flood in the Free Press, of the move within Manitoba's government to cede the East Side of Lake Winnipeg to First Nations People. I am very happy to learn that you may actually be doing something good for the Boreal Forest! I think investigating the archaeology and ecology of this land might help protect the forest from being clear-cut.

As you may be aware, our planet is being destroyed for want of carbon sinks such as the Boreal Forest. The Canadian Government, to my knowledge, has shown no leadership whatsoever, up until this point, with respect to the protection of the Boreal Forest. In fact, the Canadian Government has largely been responsible for the sale of areas of the Boreal (which ought to have been protected, for the well-being of us all), into the hands of natural resource transnational corps.

However, this recent concession shines! I would welcome the release of eastern Manitoba to First Nation government. It is finally time to recognize the genius of a people who can manage land to sustain their livelihoods over periods of thousands of years, where euro-colonials deplete the soil and render it all a saline desert over a time frame of decades.

You may encounter claims of overlapping territories, and in this respect I must advise you that territorial overlap is characteristic of powerful predatory animals (such as the mountain lion, and including humans). It is absolutely normal for groups of human beings to share some space in their territories, where the land is particularly abundant.

Please continue to cede the East Side to First Nations.

Thank you,

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rissie Owens, Presiding Officer

Board of Pardons and Paroles, Executive Clemency Section
8610 Shoal Creek Boulevard
Austin, TX 78757, USA
Fax: 1 512 463 8120

Dear Ms Owens,

My name is Timothy Schwinghamer. I am a graduate student at the University of Manitoba. I am contacting you because I am very concerned by the imminent execution of James Clark (inmate no. 999095), scheduled for April 11th in Texas. James Clark was sentenced to death in May 1994 for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Shari Catherine Crews in June 1993. James Clark is retarded.

In 2002, in Atkins v Virginia, the US Supreme Court outlawed the execution of people with retardation. In an assessment in April 2003, clinical psychologist Dr. George Denkowski, hired by the state, concluded that James Clark had retardation. He assessed Clark’s IQ at 65 and concluded that he had adaptive skill deficits in three areas: health and safety, social, and work. Dr. Denis Keyes concluded also that James Clark has retardation (and an IQ of 68). He noted that Dr Denkowski’s findings in Clark’s case were credible and correct. Dr. Denkowski and Dr. Keyes conducted thorough assessments, and ruled out malingering.

I am concerned that Texas has still not enacted legislation to comply with the Atkins ruling, and decisions on mental retardation are being made on the basis of temporary judicial guidelines formulated by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has expressed concern at the lack of legislative guidance. The assessment of mental retardation is not an exact science, and that in this regard, executive clemency is an important failsafe against error and inconsistency, especially in the absence of legislation. Therefore, I must ask you for clemency for James Clark.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Timothy Schwinghamer
120 Dafoe Road, Box 524B
Winnipeg MB R3T 6B3

Cc: His Excellency David Horton Wilkins, Ambassador for the USA, 207 Bank Street, Suite 418, Ottawa ON K2P 2N2. Fax: (613) 688-3080 / 688-3101

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Robin Hood

Farmers warned of extremist threat
'They are trying to put you out of business,' consultant tells Ontario Farm Animal Council meeting.
Brian Whitwham, Guelph, April 4, 2007

There's an organized, international underground network of extremists who are targeting agriculture, and Ontario farmers need to beware, a Toronto-based consultant warned yesterday. Leslie Ballentine of Ballentine Communication Group told an audience of roughly 150 farmers at Guelph Place about the threats posed by radical groups who claim to fight agriculture in the name of environmental or animal rights. "They are trying to put you out of business," Ballentine said. "They want to do damage to their targets." Ballentine, who was speaking at the Ontario Farm Animal Council's annual meeting, said extremists started targeting farms in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s and their activities soon spread to the United States and Canada. Today, countries around the world are looking for ways to deal with the criminal incidents hitting farmers, she told the council, which represents Ontario's 40,000 livestock and poultry farmers. Those incidents range from trespassing and minor vandalism to bombs, arson and food supply tampering. Between 1996 and 2004, the United States dealt with about 1,000 criminal acts involving farms, costing about US$110 million, she said. Ballentine said Ontario hasn't had anywhere near that number of problems, but it hasn't been immune. She said extremist groups caused more than $2.5 million damage last year in the agriculture sector. Near Guelph, someone broke into an egg farm in 2005 and published photos allegedly of the chickens there in a University of Guelph publication [i.e., the Peak, U of G's non-hierarchical volunteer-run newspaper] , along with an anonymous account of what was called degrading conditions in the farm. There have also been several acts of vandalism and arson in Guelph urban areas through 2005 and 2006 in which people claimed responsibility through involvement in a group known as the Earth Liberation Front. But none of their targets appeared to be agriculture-related [keep that in mind as you read the rest of this article]. There were fires at the Zellers store on Stone Road, the Church of Our Lady, the Cutten Club and three homes under construction. Police estimate those fires caused more than $500,000 in damage. Ballentine said many of the groups causing damage also wage a public relations war, masking their work in altruistic notions of social justice. "It's amazing the amount of public support they can get by spinning themselves as Robin Hood," Ballentine said. "The bottom line is they're criminals." She said farmers need to realize that some radical networks have become much more advanced than common vandals. She said some groups conduct surveillance [and forays] or even attack third parties -- such as suppliers or financial institutions -- to make their point. "They can find out where you live, where your children go to school [i.e., power mapping] and what your social insurance numbers are," Ballentine said. "The point isn't to scare people, but it's a reminder that there are some bad [and by "bad" she means "good"] people out there. We never know where it will happen next until it happens." She said farmers just need to be more security conscious when it comes to their property, people and the information in their computer records. Paul Mistele, vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, said the extremist threat against farming is a growing issue. He said Ballentine was invited to speak so farmers would realize they need to think about keeping their homes and businesses safe. While most farmers seem to worry more about their income and the state of the industry, extremism is another challenge they need to consider, Mistele said. "But if it hasn't hit people in the head like a hatchet, it doesn't occur to them."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Collapsing colonies

[The mite problem has threatened bees in Canada for a few years, at least.]

Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
By Gunther Latsch

A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.

Is the mysterous decimation of bee populations in the US and Germany a result of GM crops?

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist's trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that "the very existence of beekeeping is at stake."

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein's apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing -- something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

Felix Kriechbaum, an official with a regional beekeepers' association in Bavaria, recently reported a decline of almost 12 percent in local bee populations. When "bee populations disappear without a trace," says Kriechbaum, it is difficult to investigate the causes, because "most bees don't die in the beehive." There are many diseases that can cause bees to lose their sense of orientation so they can no longer find their way back to their hives.

Manfred Hederer, the president of the German Beekeepers Association, almost simultaneously reported a 25 percent drop in bee populations throughout Germany. In isolated cases, says Hederer, declines of up to 80 percent have been reported. He speculates that "a particular toxin, some agent with which we are not familiar," is killing the bees.

Politicians, until now, have shown little concern for such warnings or the woes of beekeepers. Although apiarists have been given a chance to make their case -- for example in the run-up to the German cabinet's approval of a genetic engineering policy document by Minister of Agriculture Horst Seehofer in February - their complaints are still largely ignored.

Even when beekeepers actually go to court, as they recently did in a joint effort with the German chapter of the organic farming organization Demeter International and other groups to oppose the use of genetically modified corn plants, they can only dream of the sort of media attention environmental organizations like Greenpeace attract with their protests at test sites.

But that could soon change. Since last November, the US has seen a decline in bee populations so dramatic that it eclipses all previous incidences of mass mortality. Beekeepers on the east coast of the United States complain that they have lost more than 70 percent of their stock since late last year, while the west coast has seen a decline of up to 60 percent.

In an article in its business section in late February, the New York Times calculated the damage US agriculture would suffer if bees died out. Experts at Cornell University in upstate New York have estimated the value bees generate - by pollinating fruit and vegetable plants, almond trees and animal feed like clover - at more than $14 billion.

Scientists call the mysterious phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), and it is fast turning into a national catastrophe of sorts. A number of universities and government agencies have formed a "CCD Working Group" to search for the causes of the calamity, but have so far come up empty-handed. But, like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are already referring to the problem as a potential "AIDS for the bee industry."

One thing is certain: Millions of bees have simply vanished. In most cases, all that's left in the hives are the doomed offspring. But dead bees are nowhere to be found -- neither in nor anywhere close to the hives. Diana Cox-Foster, a member of the CCD Working Group, told The Independent that researchers were "extremely alarmed," adding that the crisis "has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry."

It is particularly worrisome, she said, that the bees' death is accompanied by a set of symptoms "which does not seem to match anything in the literature."

In many cases, scientists have found evidence of almost all known bee viruses in the few surviving bees found in the hives after most have disappeared. Some had five or six infections at the same time and were infested with fungi - a sign, experts say, that the insects' immune system may have collapsed.

The scientists are also surprised that bees and other insects usually leave the abandoned hives untouched. Nearby bee populations or parasites would normally raid the honey and pollen stores of colonies that have died for other reasons, such as excessive winter cold. "This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them," says Cox-Foster.

Walter Haefeker, the German beekeeping official, speculates that "besides a number of other factors," the fact that genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States could be playing a role. The figure is much lower in Germany -- only 0.06 percent - and most of that occurs in the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg. Haefeker recently sent a researcher at the CCD Working Group some data from a bee study that he has long felt shows a possible connection between genetic engineering and diseases in bees.

The study in question is a small research project conducted at the University of Jena from 2001 to 2004. The researchers examined the effects of pollen from a genetically modified maize variant called "B. t. corn" on bees. A gene from a soil bacterium had been inserted into the corn that enabled the plant to produce an agent that is toxic to insect pests. The study concluded that there was no evidence of a "toxic effect of B. t. corn on healthy honeybee populations." But when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a "significantly stronger decline in the number of bees" occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated B. t. poison feed.

According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of Halle in eastern Germany and the director of the study, the bacterial toxin in the genetically modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry - or perhaps it was the other way around. We don't know."

Of course, the concentration of the toxin was ten times higher in the experiments than in normal B. t. corn pollen. In addition, the bee feed was administered over a relatively lengthy six-week period.

Kaatz would have preferred to continue studying the phenomenon but lacked the necessary funding. "Those who have the money are not interested in this sort of research," says the professor, "and those who are interested don't have the money."Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Heartless military propaganda

OTTAWA — Radical natives are listed in the Canadian army's counterinsurgency manual as a potential military opponent, lumping aboriginals in with the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad. The military is putting the finishing touches on the manual, but a draft version of the document obtained by The Globe and Mail outlines a host of measures the military might use to fight insurgents at home and abroad. The measures include ambushes, deception, and killing. The draft manual was produced in September, 2005, and recently released through an access-to-information request. A final edited version of the army manual is expected to be complete within months, but a cover letter states that the draft version was immediately circulated in 2005 to army units for military training. Its inclusion of "radical Native American Organizations" as a potential target of military action surfaces at a time of heightened tensions between aboriginals and the federal government.

Radical natives are listed in the Canadian army's counterinsurgency manual as a potential military opponent, lumping aboriginals in with the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad. (Donald Weber/Globe & Mail) "The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims," the manual states. "Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve ('First Nation') level, through the threat of, or use of, violence," the manual states. The Mohawk Warrior Society was involved in the 1990 Oka crisis in Quebec, which spawned a 78-day confrontation with police and the military that left a police officer dead. The society normally describes more militant natives from the traditional Mohawk territory, covering parts of Quebec, Ontario, Vermont and New York State. Stewart Phillip, the Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs who recently predicted "a summer of aboriginal protest" in response to the perceived lack of action on native poverty in the federal budget, said he is "absolutely outraged" by the manual. "It's a complete attack on our political rights," he said. "What we're seeing," Mr. Phillip continued, "is the deliberate criminalization of the efforts of aboriginal people to march, demonstrate and rally to draw public attention to the crushing poverty that is the reality within our communities." Native leaders who are not regarded as militant have called for a summer of protest over a perceived lack of attention from Ottawa on issues such as native poverty and land claims. Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice has responded with warnings of financial penalties for any native group that uses federal money to plan such protests. "Working together to find common solutions is a much more constructive way of dealing with issues than planning blockades," he said in a letter to The Globe and Mail this week. The manual defines an insurgency as "the actions of a minority group within a state who are intent on forcing political change by means of a mixture of subversion, propaganda and military pressure, aiming to persuade or intimidate the broad mass of people to accept such a change." Counterinsurgency, according to the manual, involves "much more" than simply military action, and can include psychological measures aimed at defeating an insurgency. Much of the manual appears to be aimed at Canadian missions in failed or failing states where various factions are fighting for power. Among the army's proposed measures are "deception operations" to fool the insurgent and "physical destruction" of the enemy. "Attrition will be necessary, but the number of insurgents killed should be no more than is absolutely necessary to achieve success," the manual states. The Canadian Forces were not able to find someone yesterday who could comment on the manual. It is therefore unclear whether this is the first such manual created for the military or whether natives have previously been listed by the army. The most recent protest by natives led to arrests and charges yesterday for three men connected to the blockade of Quebec's Highway 117 on March 12 and 13. The highway is the Abitibi region's main link to the south, and the blockade caused major concern for the residents of Val-d'Or and Rouyn-Noranda. Among those arrested was Guillaume Carle, the controversial leader of the recently formed Confederation of Aboriginal People of Canada. Mr. Carle led the protest of about 50 people, many of whom were carrying rifles. Mr. Carle has claimed in the past to have the support of the Mohawk Warrior Society, but people claiming to be from that society denied involvement.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Subject: An open letter to Cape Breton Islanders and the Premier of Nova Scotia

Dear Premier,

At what point will Cape Breton Islanders dismantle the causeway? What will it take?

It’s sad. There is no hope on the island for young people, largely due to the mismanagement of natural resources. Clear-cutting scars the highland hills. And strip mines, which predate the mining moratorium, continue. The strip mines are managed with neither the environment, nor the well-being of islanders, in mind. The hills are being chewed up, wells and brooks are being poisoned, and communities are becoming absolutely uninhabitable due to the constant and thunderous incursions of dangerous and unsightly machinery. For mere gravel to build new roads! Roads that only increase the efficiency with which the forests are clear-cut.

The strip mines have illegitimate environmental-impact assessments, which means that they are unregulated, but there seems to be no political will to put an end to the destruction. Most (if not all) of the strip mining operations on the island were approved AFTER extraction was already well under way. They got the "rubber stamp." If that isn’t illegal, it ought to be. I worry for the future of the island.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Former Black Panther denied entry to Canada

Maria Kubacki, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, March 23, 2007

OTTAWA -- The Canadian government is refusing Bobby Seale entry to Canada and denying students an opportunity to hear a legendary civil rights activist, according to a University of Ottawa group that invited the former Black Panther Party chairman to speak at an event this weekend.

The University of Ottawa branch of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) -- a student group dedicated to social, economic and environmental justice -- invited Seale to give the keynote address on racism and oppression at a conference this Saturday.

But they found out last week that he would not be allowed to enter the country, according to OPIRG board member and University of Ottawa student Michael Cheevers.

"We decided Bobby Seale would be awesome for this because he's not only an iconic figure of the civil rights movement but he also has some great messages against racism and oppression," said Cheevers.

In a letter to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day protesting the decision to deny Seale permission to come to Ottawa, Cheevers wrote that, "There are no valid reasons to prevent him from speaking in Canada now, considering he has been allowed to speak multiple times in this country since the 1960s, in particular to raise awareness in high schools about racism and related issues."

Seale, 71, was the chairman and co-founder, along with Huey Newton, of the Black Panther Party, an organization formed in 1966 to combat police brutality in black neighbourhoods but which evolved into a militant Marxist revolutionary group.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mohawks block off disputed quarry

Group wants gravel pit’s operations stopped, land claim settled
Friday, March 23, 2007
By Jeremy Ashley
DESERONTO/Osprey News Network

Clad in camouflaged apparel and hauling camping gear, more than 125 members of the mohawks of the Bay of Quinte community seized control of a gravel quarry on a disputed tract of land located along the northeastern outskirts of Deseronto last night. Shortly before 5 p.m., the winding access road leading to the Thurlow Aggregates gravel pit off of Deseronto Road was blocked off by mohawk protesters in several vehicles, including two school buses and an number of all-terrain vehicles. Protesters and members of the mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) band council say the move is to reinforce an earlier request to have the quarry’s operation stopped. Flanked by members of his council, MBQ Chief R. Donald Maracle said the event was to “basically send a message to Canada that it is unacceptable to continue to develop land that is unsettled.” The demonstrators say they are reclaiming a small part of 925 acres known as the Culbertson Land Tract, a parcel of land that they claim was illegally taken from the MBQ in 1832. Maracle said the occupation wasn’t formally supported by the MBQ band council. “The intervention that is occurring today is not officially sanctioned by the mohawk council, but the mohawk council certainly understands the frustration that young people have in achieving a resolution that’s in the best interest of future generations.

I’m here basically to point out that the government is not dealing fairly with our people and helping us settle these claims amicably.” Shawn Brant, a well-known mohawk activist, said the occupation of the quarry is expected to go on for quite some time. “Let me put it to you this way – once we’re dug in, it will take an air strike to get us out,” the 42-year-old said. “The quarry is something that strikes at the heart of the issue – it’s very difficult to have negotiations at a time when they’re taking out 10,000 truckloads of our land [per year]. It’s an affront to our process.” Establishing camps inside the quarry earlier in the evening, as many as 150 people acted as a “set-up crew,” Brant said. Native communities throughout the province have “been put on notice” about the group’s actions, and “all are waiting and it is our intention to draw up support as it’s needed.” Brant said it was his group’s intention “to close the quarry” but admitted the group “was a little reluctant about a long-term campaign … what we want to do is suspend his [quarry] licence until the land claim is resolved.” After a federal negotiator was appointed earlier this year, protesters turned their attention to the quarry, claiming the operation would be contributing material to the development of a new $30-million housing development in Deseronto and pledged to shut down the site.

Friday, March 23, 2007

English translation of BellaCiao callout

Proposal of Gerard Streiff, Sarah-Jane Mellor, Luca Di Nella, Laurent Klajnbaum, Roberto Ferrario, members of the Council of countryside [Does "Conseil de campagne" mean something else?] of Marie-George Dresser.

The writer Cesare Battisti has been just stopped in Brazil. He is under the threat of an extradition in Italy.

Battisti had found asylum in France, profiting from an unwritten rule that grants the former Italian activists the protection of the French State, provided that they give up armed struggle. But the current French government called this commitment into question by delivering Battisti to Italy three years ago. In Italy, he would be condemned for perpetuity, without hope of any appeal [?!] The writer should not be extradited.

Sign the petition:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

Leader of the Islamic Republic
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Shahid Keshvar Doost Street
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Monday, March 19, 2007

Your Excellency,

My name is Timothy Schwinghamer. I am employed by the University of Manitoba, Canada. I welcome the release of Zhila Bani Ya’qoub, who was detained on March 4th during a peaceful demonstration outside Branch 6 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

I am concerned by the continued detention of Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh and Shadi Sadr. Please have them released immediately and unconditionally, as they are being held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association. Both ought to be granted immediate and regular access to their families, lawyers, and to all necessary medical treatment. All charges ought to be dropped against those charged in connection with the peaceful demonstration on June 12th, 2006, or in connection with the peaceful protest on March 4th, 2007.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Timothy Schwinghamer
120 Dafoe Road, Box 524B
Winnipeg MB R3T 6B3

Cc: Mr. Abbas Assemi, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy for Iran, 245 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa ON K2P 2K2
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why Antarctica will soon be the only place to live - literally

By Geoffrey Lean
Published in The Independent 02 May 2004

Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the Government's chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last week.

He said the Earth was entering the "first hot period" for 60 million years, when there was no ice on the planet and "the rest of the globe could not sustain human life". The warning - one of the starkest delivered by a top scientist - comes as ministers decide next week whether to weaken measures to cut the pollution that causes climate change, even though Tony Blair last week described the situation as "very, very critical indeed".

The Prime Minister - who was launching a new alliance of governments, businesses and pressure groups to tackle global warming - added that he could not think of "any bigger long-term question facing the world community".

Yet the Government is considering relaxing limits on emissions by industry under an EU scheme on Tuesday.

Sir David said that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - the main "green- house gas" causing climate change - were already 50 per cent higher than at any time in the past 420,000 years. The last time they were at this level - 379 parts per million - was 60 million years ago during a rapid period of global warming, he said. Levels soared to 1,000 parts per million, causing a massive reduction of life.

"No ice was left on Earth. Antarctica was the best place for mammals to live, and the rest of the world would not sustain human life," he said.

Sir David warned that if the world did not curb its burning of fossil fuels "we will reach that level by 2100".