Saturday, November 20, 2010

An email to Francis Scarpaleggia


I am not certain whether or not I have written to you before regarding Bill C-49 specifically. I am very worried about it, particularly because of stories like this one from the gay and lesbian news:

So, whether or not I already petitioned you, this is such a serious situation that it warrants my writing to you again.

It is not illegal for people to do whatever it takes to escape the violence of systemic and state-sanctioned oppression. People have to sneak out of places secretly, often because their lives are in danger! Canada must not treat refugees as if they are criminals. Please take whatever action you can to support a more welcoming process for people who escape to Canada!

I am afraid that Bill C-49 may fall short of Canada’s international human rights and refugee protection obligations and will result in serious violations of the rights of refugees and migrants. The Bill must be withdrawn by the government or defeated at Second Reading. Similar legislative reforms should only be reintroduced if consistent with Canada's international human rights and refugee protection obligations.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two things

How long has it been since I posted two things on one day?!

Here is the link to the David Suzuki Foundation's petition, to "Help prevent an oil spill disaster in the Gulf of St. Lawrence":

"The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a unique ecosystem that sustains several coastline communities and rich biodiversity. Tell the federal government to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas development and prevent disastrous spills."


This article helped me understand why the mining ethics bill was defeated in the Canadian Parliament:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling

by Alejandra Paganelli, Victoria Gnazzo, Helena Acosta, Silvia L. Lopez, and Andres E. Carrasco

here's the link to the pdf:

... tell me if you can access that or not. Or not.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dear Darrell Dexter,

I am given to understand that there are only 11 days before the Government of Nova Scotia begins to actively encourage the slaughter of coyotes for their pelts. I hope I am mistaken, I hope that by the time this message reaches you, the proposal will no longer be considered worthy of any kind of serious consideration. Have you not heard any coherent counter-arguments? How about the fact that basing any policy on instigating an animal's mistrust and fear of humans is purely monstrous? This, at a time when human beings are invading every remote corner of Nova Scotia with clear cutting and open surface mining!The government's plan does not belong as part of a healthy or good relationship with non-humans, it could not be considered as part of a healthy, necessary, eco-centric paradigm. The proposed cull is the kind of idea that inhabited the empty and rotten skulls of our poor misguided forefathers.Do you seriously believe the coyotes to be at fault in these stories of “attacks”? Haven't you considered how the human beings are the perpetrators of misbehavior? Your reaction, and the documentation that your office has circulated, seems hysterical – completely unreasonable - to the extreme. You ought to publicly retract your position, because this plan can only embarrass you and your office in the future.Your reply letter refers firstly to “experts in wildlife management agencies in other jurisdictions”. In such case, perhaps you can reveal to me where in North America has a cull of coyotes proven to be effective in the control of the animals? Aren't you aware that programs of culling, everywhere that such projects have been undertaken, have resulted in increased litter sizes and overall population increase? It is a strategy that other places have long ago abandoned, owing to its dismal failure. You refer to “aggression towards humans by all potentially dangerous wildlife” and, as such, I need to suggest that your office study the Animal Behaviour literature. I insist that many of these encounters are not the product of animal aggression, at all, but the product of ignorant and bumbling human beings.You office distributed a form letter which reads “The Province of Nova Scotia has taken the aggressive coyote situation seriously, and considered many options for addressing this matter” How can you say that you have “considered” anything? Culls have never worked! It seems to me that you have done nothing but listen to the braying of gun and hunting advocates and lobbyists. Your response letter particularly alarmed me, given how noteably abnormal Nova Scotian coyotes are, compared to their less wolf-like cousins in the prairies, if indeed you intend to investigate all reports of “overly bold, or other abnormal behaviours”! Please note, that would include all behaviours of Nova Scotian coyotes. They are special, unique in the world, new, and intelligent creatures. They are strong and they are survivors. Human beings need to study and be educated on how to interact intelligently with them.You wrote also that you “will institute a $20 incentive for every coyote pelt sent to market by fur harvesters during the regular trapping season.” And that's really what it's all about, isn't it? They will pay you for licenses, and you will pay them for pelts. I see NO science behind the regulation of hunting in Nova Scotia. (Just as the government of Newfoundland perused none of the science while instituting decisions that produced the collapse of the cod fishery.)As long as you are making decisions based on political reasons, and not scientific reasons, you may as well stop the charade that anything you do is based on Reason. The decisions of your office are not based on Reason. They are based on petty profits. You are only fuelling public hysteria, and distancing people from the Earth, which they must now at least begin to appreciate, study, and understand. I have no doubt that you can only be successful at increasing “the rate of negative experiences/ interactions for coyotes with humans,” and furthermore, I think that that is the most disgusting, sickening reason for a policy that I have ever heard.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pakistan Floods

From Kyla Pasha

We're trying to gather a relief shipment for flood affected people from Kot Addu. A camp has been established by a local organization, Hirrak ( to house and feed 3-4,000 people. We'll be sending what we can gather and buy from Lahore in the next two days. They urgently need tents, foodstuffs and clothing. Please contact me (0300-819-0098) or Sarah Suhail (0321-846-4729) if you can help.

Friends abroad, this is a way to donate money which will make a direct impact without the overheads of an international ngo/organization. Please contact directly if you'd like to donate from abroad. There will be a continuing need for many months to come.

Montrealers or other people in North America. Contact for sending money from here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010

The G20 Legal Defence Fund Needs Your Help!

by movementdefence

We need donations to support those arrested at the G20. You can support the detainees’ legal costs and help alleviate some of the other costs of navigating the court system, and help us keep organizing. We will be distributing the funds to those with the most need, prioritizing those still in custody on serious charges.

From June 25-27, elites from the world’s most powerful economies met in Huntsville and Toronto to draft policies to further exploit the environment and people, bolstering the systems that sustain colonialism, wars and displacement. Tens of thousands of people mobilized in a historic weeklong convergence in opposition to these policies.

Daily demonstrations highlighted struggles for Indigenous sovereignty; environmental justice; migrant justice; an end to war and occupation; community control over resources; gender justice; and queer and disability rights.

Over $1.2 billion was spent on security, the most in G20 summit history, which paid for a dizzying array of weaponry and nearly 20,000 police—plus a security fence that turned Toronto into a fortress to host a select few and a police state to terrorize the rest of us.

Nearly 1,000 people, protesters and bystanders alike, were detained—the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. They were held for long periods in makeshift cages in deplorable conditions, most without timely access to legal counsel. Many had been simply caught up in massive police sweeps of public areas. Others were woken at gunpoint while sleeping. Others were picked up at their homes. Some of those arrested are still in custody. Fifteen face serious charges. Many of these are long-time community organizers.

We need to support all of those arrested during the G20 summit. We must continue to mobilize and build greater solidarity among our communities. An important part of this will be supporting our courageous allies still in detention.
To donate via PayPal go to: (link is on right hand side). Make sure to put 'G20 legal defence' in the "Add special instructions for the Merchant" section.

Transfer funds or send a cheque c/o OPIRG York:transit number 00646institution number 842account number 3542240

Cheques (payable to OPIRG York, with 'G20 legal defence' on the subject line) can be mailed to:Toronto Community Mobilization Network360A Bloor Street WPO Box 68557Toronto, ON M5S 1X0

Thank you for your help. Together we will create a just world that places people and the environment before the profits of corporations and the political elite.

In solidarity,
Toronto Community Mobilization Network

Monday, June 28, 2010


Sent: June 27, 2010 8:15 PM
To: Timothy Schwinghamer
Subject: Re: 650 good people arrested

Criminals must be held accountable for their actions.

William Blair
Chief of Police
Toronto Police Service

Timothy Schwinghamer
To ""
2010.06.27 19:55
Subject 650 good people arrested

[The actual real email referred to only 650 people arrested, but at the time I sent it, in fact approximately 850 were being detained. I cut and pasted a little to make this letter from John Hilary and the Movement Defence Committee, and others.]

Dear William Blair,

On the 13th and 14th of June 2009, 150 anti-regime protesters were arrested in raids in Iran, while another 200 were arrested in protests. In 2 days, 350 arrests in the context of people actually trying to overthrow the government.

In Toronto in the past 48 hours, approximately 650 people have been arrested now, in raids and protests with the stated goal of opposing the government's agenda on a particular question.

As an invitation-only club whose membership was literally drawn up on the back of an envelope, the G20 never laid any claim to legitimacy. Now it is also in danger of losing any credibility as a forum for global economic governance. Its failure to address any of the structural problems that caused the financial and economic crises of the past three years has certainly not gone unnoticed in Toronto, let alone its complete refusal to deal with the challenge of climate change.

You appear to have lost control of your ‘prisoner processing center’, denying arrestees meaningful and timely access to counsel while beating and arresting those peacefully protesting their detention outside.

Despite assurances to the contrary, only a handful of people have been released, including those held for many hours without charge. Arrestees are given incorrect information about the bail process they will be subjected to, and friends and family members gather hours early at the courthouse, located far from the city center and inaccessible via transit. Lawyers calling in are told that there is no one available to make decisions, or wait for hours at the detention centre, only to be denied access to their clients. A lot of people are in custody, and of course the vast majority of any charges will disappear, yet the cell doors remain shut.

You have to make this stop. Let everybody go, especially Amanda Hiscocks and Leah Henderson, who are good young women. They defend social justice and the environment all the time, they've made protecting the Earth and the poor their life. Please do not make any of the anti-G20 protesters pay bail.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dear Francis Scarpaleggia,

I am one of the many people who are bitterly disappointed by the measure enacted by the Ontario government allowing for a police and guards to search, ID and arrest without cause. Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) seems to violate the people's constitutional rights. This is serious and sinister.

On June 2nd, 2010, the Ontario provincial government cabinet met secretly to pass an act which allows the police to arrest anyone who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search at the G20. The PWPA was not debated in the legislature, nor was it made public knowledge until now, several weeks after it passed.

Please denounce this type of secretive and anti-democratic policy.

Sincerely and Respectfully,


If you don't know what the G20 is, well, Naomi Klein recommended this article:

Making both ends meet

John Ibbitson, Tara Perkins.
The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Jun 19, 2010. pg. F.1
2010 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When the G20 gathers in Toronto next week, it will be a kind of homecoming: The expanded group of leaders from Western and developing nations might never have existed, and certainly not in its current form, without a long, determined push from Canada. For the first time, John Ibbitson and Tara Perkins go behind the scenes of a dramatic diplomatic success story

Paul Martin sat in Lawrence Summers' spacious office in the Greek-columned U.S. Treasury building in Washington, searching in vain for a piece of paper. With none in sight, the two men grabbed a brown manila envelope, put it on the table between them, and began sketching the framework of a new world order.

It was April 27, 1999. For the past five years, the global economy had shuddered under a string of massive debt defaults - first in Mexico, and then in Southeast Asia and Russia.

In each case, Western leaders and bankers responded by prescribing harsh fixes, throwing one developing economy after another into recession.

As crisis followed crisis, Mr. Martin, then Canada's finance minister, became convinced that major developing nations had to be given a voice - not just an ultimatum - when it came to discussing their place in the global economy. But in the capitals of Europe and the corridors of Washington, the answer was always the same: It's our club, and there are no vacancies.

Or at least it was the same answer until that April day when Mr. Martin visited Mr. Summers, then Bill Clinton's nominee for treasury secretary, to press his case. He argued that they couldn't keep imposing solutions on developing countries. The G7 had to be expanded - at least at the finance-ministers' level.

Mr. Summers quickly agreed. But that was the simple part. Much thornier was the issue of who would be admitted to the club.

With the manila envelope in hand, the two began jotting down countries. China, India, Brazil, Mexico - these were obvious choices. So was South Africa, the biggest economy on its continent. But who else?

"I felt very strongly that it had to be the regional powers," recalls Mr. Martin. "Larry felt that, and then he also had geopolitical concerns. I would love to say we sat down and ran the numbers on whose GDP was bigger, but we didn't. We both had a pretty good perspective on where things lay. And you didn't have to have the statistics to know which country was pretty important."

Thailand was the nexus of the Asian banking crisis, but Indonesia was more influential in the region. Indonesia in; Thailand out. Chile was tempting, because it was democratic and well-run, but Argentina was a bigger player. Argentina got the seat. Saudi Arabia was strategically important and a good friend of the United States. The Saudis would get an invite.

So it went until they had compiled a working list of roughly 20 countries - literally, a back-of-the-envelope blueprint for what would become, today, the most powerful forum on economic and political matters in the world: the G20.

When the G20 convenes in Toronto on June 26, it will mark the culmination of a long, and unlikely story, one that began with an annual gathering of finance ministers and evolved into a semi-annual meeting of world leaders from 19 nations (yes, not 20 - see sidebar for the inside story). Collectively, they represent 70 per cent of the global population and 90 per cent of the global GDP.

The G20 enters its second decade with enormous potential but many unanswered questions. The world will watch as these leaders try to carry on the task of shepherding a fragile economic recovery: As a group, they have the power, but can they wield it?

Still, the meeting this month is only possible because a Canadian finance minister convinced leaders of the G7 consortium of developed nations to become a larger, more inclusive group. There has never been a proper accounting of how the G20 came to be: the struggles that led to its birth; the early failure of Paul Martin to convert it from a finance ministers' club into a leaders' forum; and then the sudden recognition, at the height of an economic crisis, that Mr. Martin's idea was one whose time had come.

Present at the creation

In May of 1998, Mr. Martin hosted a dinner for Anwar Ibrahim, because he thought Malaysia's finance minister had something vital to say. The soft- and plain-spoken man's message galvanized the senior figures in Finance, the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office who were in the room.

The lessons, rules and prescriptions that applied to many developed nations, he told them, were not necessarily applicable to the developing world. How could Malaysia raise taxes, as the International Monetary Fund was demanding, when the country had only just managed to create a tax system, and no one would be able to pay the taxes the West was demanding?

"It was simple stuff, but it made you realize that you really need to understand these people and have them at the table and understand what is going on in their economy," remembers Terrie O'Leary, who was Mr. Martin's chief of staff at the time. Creating that kind of understanding became, for Mr. Martin, a crusade.

Meanwhile, contagion was spreading throughout global markets. The shocks of the Mexican peso crisis sucked Argentina and Brazil into its wake. The Asian financial crisis stretched from Thailand to South Korea. And Russia's ruble crisis threatened to disrupt the increasingly intertwined economies of Europe and the United States.

"It was clear that the plain, ordinary regulatory apparatus that we had internationally was not working very well," recalls David Dodge, who was Mr. Martin's deputy at Finance, and later governor of the Bank of Canada.

Yet change, at first, was tentative. At meetings of the G8 (which is what the G7, a gathering of finance ministers, becomes when it's a meeting of leaders and Russia joins in), developing-world leaders were invited to attend as guests.

Along with Mr. Martin, Gordon Brown, then Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a strong proponent of giving the emerging nations a voice. There were two obvious ways: Reform the International Monetary Fund, and expand the G7/G8. They decided to split the jobs.

The British would concentrate on the notoriously unwieldy IMF. "It was too formal, there were too many people," recalls Gordon Thiessen, who was Governor of the Bank of Canada through the currency crisis and the forming of the G20. At a typical IMF meeting, "There must have been 500 people in the room. ...There used to be little wars about who was going to get chairs."

Canada, meanwhile, would train its efforts on the G7/G8.

"What you had was really very Eurocentric ... and it didn't make a lot of sense," says Robert Rubin, who was Mr. Clinton's treasury secretary before Mr. Summers. Five of the eight members were European: Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia, balanced by the United States, Japan and Canada.

Negotiations over the G20 pitted the Anglosphere nations against the Continent. The Germans and the French, in particular, feared that additional members would dilute their influence on the world stage.

"The French were so annoyed," recalls Ian Bennett, now president of the Royal Canadian Mint, but then an associate deputy minister, who did much of the legwork in establishing the forum. "They hated it."

But deteriorating economic conditions overpowered the dissent. On Sept. 25, 1999, just five months after Mr. Martin and Mr. Summers sketched out their vision of an expanded group of finance ministers, the G20 was officially unveiled - with Mr. Martin as the inaugural chair.

Mr. Rubin argues that the Americans were as committed to the idea of the G20 as Canada was, though he describes Mr. Martin as a "very strong voice." But there was an important reason for handing the reins to Canada: The U.S. didn't want to be seen as dictating to the Europeans.

"There was a sense that this would be better if it wasn't a completely American initiative," says Mr. Thiessen. "So Paul became the guy who was front and centre, and Canada more generally, in organizing this."

Canada, of course, had its own stake: This nation entered the G7 in 1976 more or less by accident - the Europeans wanted to add Italy, and the Americans agreed on the condition that Canada be admitted as well. But by the late 1990s, if any country was bumped out to make way for China or India, Canada could be among the first to go. With the G20, the country was firmly anchored, and Canada's role in helping forge it gave it special prominence.

But along with that status, Mr. Martin also inherited the sensitive, and often tortuous, task of helping guide the final selection of inductees. There were howls from some countries that were not invited, especially, of course, in Europe.

"If you give more to some people, somebody has to give something up," explains Mr. Rubin. "But that didn't sit so well, in particular with some of the smaller countries."

Jim Peterson, who was then a secretary of state under Mr. Martin, recalls walking into the finance minister's office and hearing him yell down the telephone: "Once and for all, Holland is not getting on the G20, and that's all there is to it!"

Breakthrough in Montreal

To placate the chagrined Europeans, the first meeting of the G20 finance ministers took place in Berlin in December, 1999. The ministers talked about exchange rates, the impact of government debt on national economies, and the mixed promise of globalization, but things went badly - Germans and Canadians struggled over who was really in control, and the meeting was awkward and inconclusive.

Part of the problem was that the new arrivals had been accustomed to sending large delegations to international gatherings, with outcomes scripted in advance. But Mr. Martin wanted a more informal and effective environment, in which only finance ministers, deputy finance ministers and governors of central banks would be allowed in the room.

When it came Canada's turn to host the G20 ministers in Montreal in 2000, Mr. Martin hatched a scheme. First, he phoned each of his Western counterparts with a blunt message: This would not be a meeting of the G7 ministers and some guests. Everyone would have an equal seat at the table: "We're now the G20, period," he repeated over and over. "There is no G7 at this meeting."

Then he called Mr. Summers and South Africa's finance minister, Trevor Manuel, to warn them he was going to talk about agriculture. Africa and the U.S. were (and still are) at odds over agricultural exports. The Americans wanted the Africans to drop tariff barriers to their manufactured goods, yet refused to drop tariffs against African agricultural imports.

"I said: 'Guys, I'm going to raise the issue of agriculture,'" Mr. Martin recalls. "'I would like you guys to really have at each other.' And they did, magnificently. Manuel was terrific, and so was Larry, and that really set the tone. All of a sudden there were no-holds-barred discussions."

Mr. Summers, who is now Barack Obama's Director of the National Economic Council, remembers that debate. "Paul really did force, as chair, the acknowledgment of elephants in rooms," he says. "He was very good that way."

"That was Paul Martin's great success," agrees Mr. Thiessen. "We actually had ... debates going across the table. It was one of the best international meetings I was ever at."

Canada further strengthened its role by hosting the third meeting in November of 2001. India had been supposed to play host, but in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, no one wanted to fly that far; the Americans refused to go overseas at all. So the club met in Ottawa, where the ministers developed an action plan to combat the financing of terrorist organizations - something the smaller group of developed countries could never have done on their own. The G20's legitimacy grew.

Gradually, the G8 leaders began to concede, at least implicitly, that their own small club was becoming unfashionable. At Evian in 2003, French President Jacques Chirac invited 11 Third World nations to discuss development.

James Wolfensohn, who was then the head of the World Bank, was there, and recalls a moment that presaged a changing of the guard, involving Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

"President Lula, in a very charming way, said: 'Listen, you guys, it's very good of you to invite us here. But maybe you should hold next year's meeting in Rio, so that you can get used to the fact that in five or 10 years time, four or five of you are not going to be here.'"

'I go to too many meetings already'

By 2004, when Mr. Martin became prime minister, he wanted the G20 to become more than a forum for finance ministers to co-ordinate support for the global economy. He wanted to expand it, on the model of the G8, to include the leaders of developing countries. The new gathering would supplement, not replace, the G8. It could meet regularly or on an ad-hoc basis. It could be based on the G20, or there could be additions or deletions.

Countries outside the G8, not surprisingly, were eager from the start. On Dec. 11, 2003, the day before he was sworn in as prime minister, Mr. Martin met in Ottawa with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. In January, 2005, Mr. Martin visited India to discuss the idea with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had complained publicly about being invited to attend G8 meetings like a supplicant before his betters. Brazil's Mr. da Silva had echoed the protest.

But within the G8, it was another story. Its supporters pointed out that the club had been doing a pretty good job of containing inflation, managing exchange rates and essentially guiding the global economy for more than two decades.

Mr. Martin recalls that when he dined with Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo two days prior to his India visit, the Japanese prime minister's view was, "Okay, I will go along with this, but let's do it for one meeting and we'll see if it works."

The British were onside, but the French preferred a G13 that would include only China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

Mr. Martin pointed out that this would leave the Muslim world outside the door.

As for the Americans? "I go to too many meetings already," George W. Bush reportedly told Mr. Martin, though Mr. Martin himself doesn't recall that statement.

Indeed, even Mr. Martin felt jet-lagged, shuttling between APEC and the G8 and the UN General Assembly and the Commonwealth and the various hemispheric forums. But Mr. Wolfensohn, the former World Bank head, maintains that "meeting fatigue" was a red herring. The G8 members, apart from Britain's Gordon Brown, simply didn't want to let anyone else in.

"They didn't mind getting advice from 20 finance ministers," he says, "but if you broadened that to include 20 leaders, that was a different proposition."

With Mr. Martin himself increasingly distracted by domestic political alarms, hopes for a G20 leaders' forum withered. But after his defeat at the hands of Stephen Harper in January of 2006, Mr. Martin revived the campaign, relentlessly raising the subject in speeches and in foreign meetings. To some, he was becoming tiresome.

"With this obsession over the [G20], he's starting to turn into the tedious drunk at the global village tavern, rattling on about the glory days when he and Larry Summers saved the world economy from near-ruin," an Ottawa Citizen columnist wrote on Nov. 1, 2008. "He needs to give [it] a rest."

Two weeks later, the G20 summit was born.

Riders on the storm

November, 2008: Investment banks were failing or being bailed out throughout the United States and Europe. Markets were in free fall and home foreclosures skyrocketing. Credit was paralyzed because no bank trusted the survival odds of any other bank. Businesses couldn't get loans. The world was in clear and present danger of plunging into a depression that could rival the Great one.

George W. Bush was the lamest of lame-duck presidents, marking time until the inauguration of Barack Obama, yet he had to act if the American economy were to be rescued and the global one preserved. He needed to convene a meeting of world leaders, to co-ordinate a global response to the crisis. But who should he invite? Luckily, a ready-made solution was sitting on the shelf: Paul Martin's G20.

"If you didn't have that model, it probably would have been very difficult," Robert Rubin believes. "Because you needed to get [world leaders] together very quickly."

The first expanded G20 summit - one that gathered political leaders, not merely finance ministers - convened in Washington on Nov. 15, 2008, leading to agreement on "closer macroeconomic co-operation" - which meant that every country in the G20 would pump billions (in some cases, hundreds of billions) of dollars into their economies, while guaranteeing the solvency of their banks.

It worked. There was no new Great Depression, and some countries - the big emerging ones, especially - even managed to avoid a recession. The meeting was so successful that G20 leaders convened again in London and in Pittsburgh in 2009. In Pittsburgh, the leaders "designated the G20 to be the premier forum for our international economic cooperation," Bye-bye, G8.

Not overnight, of course. While many, including Mr. Manuel, who is still a minister in the South African government, believe that "the club is fading," others still question the G20's legitimacy. After all, none of the world's other nations authorized it to speak for them. Yet no other organization properly recognizes the emerging economies that are, in many cases, larger and healthier on some levels than those of the old powers. Mr. Wolfensohn predicts the G20 will grow in strength with every passing year.

Of course, with this increase in influence, there's also an increasing struggle for power within the group itself. Observers expect some fault lines to sharpen in Toronto next week.

Nevertheless, Mr. Summers' voice is tinged with pride when he recalls the day George W. Bush called the leaders of the G20 to Washington: "I showed my wife and my kids - I still had a G20 windbreaker and a little G20 carrying case from Paul's meeting in Montreal," he recalls.

"And I said: 'I was part of starting this, along with Paul Martin, and look what's happened to it now.'"

John Ibbitson is The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau chief. Tara Perkins is the Financial Services reporter for Report on Business.


Welcome to the G20 - seating for 19

The G20 is actually misnamed, and for a reason: to keep outsiders outside.

In the weeks leading up to the first summit in 1999, the fate of two countries on the G20 list became increasingly uncertain.

"Indonesia was given a place in the beginning but it wasn't actually issued an invitation until they got rid of Suharto," explains John Kirton, a political scientist at the University of Toronto who is writing a book on how the G20 works. Ultimately, the Indonesian dictator was pushed aside, a move Prof. Kirton suggests the G20 helped bring about. He believes Korea's inclusion in the G20 helped entrench democratic reforms there as well.

Nigeria was not so lucky. Its initial invitation was delayed until the political situation there stabilized.

"By the time they got to be democratically good enough, France had gotten a view that the second African should be Egypt," says Prof. Kirton. "So from the beginning, there was this missing second seat for Africa, which still has not been cashed in - in part because the Africans themselves can't come to consensus on who it should be."

Which is why the G20 actually includes only 19 countries. (In the end, the European Union was invited to take the 20th seat. But its presence is largely symbolic.)

"They were going to call it the G19," Ian Bennett, then an official in Finance under Paul Martin, remembers. But during the discussions in Washington leading up to the announcement in September of 1999, "Larry [Summers] looked at Martin, and Martin said, 'We should call it the G20.'

"The Americans said: 'Why would you call it the G20?'

"And we said: 'Well, if you call it the G19, someone will want to come in and make it 20.

" 'But if you call it 20, that will make it harder for others to come in.' "

John Ibbitson

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amy Goodman, and so much more...

I was surprised to see Maher Arar at Amy Goodman's keynote speech - in english - at the french Amnesty International meeting here at McGill. Now I know why. You can watch her speech here:

Friday, April 02, 2010

"We Made a Devil's Bargain": Fmr. President Clinton Apologizes for Trade Policies that Destroyed Haitian Rice Farming

"We Made a Devil's Bargain": Fmr. President Clinton Apologizes for Trade Policies that Destroyed Haitian Rice Farming

... I wish I had this on hand when Gurdhev Khush was talking about how making rice cheap was a good thing. A fellow Ph. D. candidate pointed out that we could have asked Dr. Khush how the approximately 300 cultivars of rice that he bred contributed to the cheapening of rice, exactly? I wonder if Dr. Khush would have a plausible answer.

My understanding of history is that the cheapening of commodities has long been a colonial strategy. Many small-scale and potentially environmentally-friendly economies are agriculturally-based. Farmers need to ask high prices for their products. Low prices, including the low prices caused by competition with international food aid, drive the farmer out of business (and into poverty). If anybody knows about that, especially regarding the history of this economic strategy as used by the British Empire and the Americans, maybe you could post a reply here and fill us all in.

At Dr. Khush's lecture, I was extremely & viscerally disappointed to hear one of our own McGill professors pipe up with the tired complaint regarding people who worry about diminished biodiversity. I want to emphasize that this professor is a good man, and kind to his students. But this professor exclaimed that, by adding genes to rice, they are increasing biodiversity. I hope that he was actually & insincerely pulling Dr. Khush's leg a little, and intentionally revealing him to be a puppet of corporate-capitalist interests. Oh, but I'm afraid the McGill prof's comment was meant sincerely, judging by the silent but agreeable head-nodding going on when he said it. That was quite sobering. I am worried about diminished biodiversity because there used to be perhaps hundreds of thousands of varieties of rice grown in India, for example, and now there are a mere handful.

So, by all means, leave a reply if you understand how World Bank's structural adjustment agreements (and even perhaps loans from the good people at Grameen Bank?) demand the use of particular transgenic rice cultivars, with their attendant fertilizer & pesticide regimes.

& Dr. Khush seemed quite insistent on the necessity for adequate testing before the release of transgenic cultivars. I thought that was nice, but really, here in Canada we have had what's called Substantial Equivalence, which meant that any medical testing at all was unnecessary, for a while. Maybe the new laws regulate with more care. If you know anything about that, please feel free to post a reply. (While you're at it, check out Bill C-474).

I'm copying and pasting the following article from a PAN email. I am certain the economic concerns, and the environmental grievances of the activists and farmers, are legitimate: "On April 12, more than 1,000 farmers joined activists from across Asia at the main gate of the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos, Philippines, calling for dissolution of the Institute. Inside, IRRI was celebrating 50 years promoting Green Revolution technologies in the region. The international activists are linked in the Year of Rice Action campaign, including Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific and the Asian Peasant Coalition. The campaign, which culminated with the march on IRRI, has worked to raise awareness of the plight of small-scale, rural rice farmers whose livelihoods have been threatened by the imposition of industrial agriculture. The group points out that although the Philippines, as IRRI's hosting country, has access to the technology that the Institute has developed, the country remains the world's largest rice importer.
Despite its public mandate to protect the world's rice germplasm, IRRI is currently revising its intellectual property policy to favor agrochemical companies in order to make the material in its collection more profitable. "Pesticide poisonings (estimated at 25 million occurrences involving agricultural workers per year), environmental and health calamities, soil degradation and major pest outbreaks, such as brown plant hopper infestations, continue to haunt farming communities across Asia because of the increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides that IRRI's modern rice varieties require," said Clare Westwood of PAN Asia and the Pacific. "With IRRI's 50th anniversary, we farmers continue to ask why we remain poor in spite of the supposed beneficial technology that IRRI is promoting? Why have we been forced to use costly pesticides and fertilizers that have led to the high cost of production? Why can farmers no longer exchange seeds?" stated
Wilfredo Marbella, convener of RESIST! Agrochemical TNCs during an "Asian Peoples' Tribunal" which was held in Quizon city to try IRRI. "A world without IRRI is a world free of monopoly over rice varieties and deaths and diseases caused by agrochemicals they promote," the alliance declared."

Let's watch "Nero's Guests":

Friday, March 26, 2010

Look! The Arctic!

Hi, I just listened to some old aquaintances ( and I'm telling you, you should listen to Episode 3. The film they mention is accessible here:

Regarding the observation by Inuit Elders that "the sun has shifted":

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another US Activist Denied Entry to Canada Ahead of Olympics

[This article is from Democracy Now, and although everybody who reads this likely watches Democracy Now anyway, I still have to repost it. I just find it incredible that all the border guards - and the police, military, etc. - play along with the unabashed pocket-lining, so to speak, that will do them personally no good. The mismanagement of resources and the fascistic silencing of dissent, which is absolutely characteristic of Olympic events, hurts everybody. I pray that my favourite goddesses and gods - you know who you are - will take action on this!]

... another US activist has been blocked from entering Canada to cover the Vancouver Winter Olympics. John Weston Osburn of Salt Lake City says he was detained, searched, and denied entry after trying to cross over into Canada.

John Weston Osburn: “I was kind of expecting to get—I was expecting to get kind of shook down, but I wasn’t expecting the type of just—the animosity and just the humiliation. Even though it was only two hours, it was a really unsettling experience, because they made me well aware that I had no rights and that there was no one there to protect me.”

Osburn’s ordeal comes days after Canadian border officials blocked Chicago radio journalist Martin Macias from entering the country because he was planning to spend a week documenting anti-Olympic protests.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Working link to Wade Davis lectures

Hi, here is the working link to the Wade Davis CBC Massey lectures. N.B., chewing on candied ginger will ameliorate the feelings brought on by listening!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why We Resist the 2010 Winter Olympics

The Olympics are not about the human spirit & have little to do with athletic excellence; they are a multi-billion dollar industry backed by powerful elites, real estate, construction, hotel, tourism and television corporations, working hand in hand with their partners in crime: government officials & members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

10 Reasons to Resist 2010

1. Colonialism & Fascism
The modern Olympics have a long history of racism, from its early founding members (i.e., Pierre de Coubertin, a French Baron who advocated sports as a means of strengthening colonialism) to recent IOC presidents. The 1936 Berlin Olympics empowered Hitler’s Nazi regime. Both the 1988 Seoul and 2008 Beijing Summer Games helped legitimize authoritarian regimes in Asia. The 1968 Mexico City Olympics (where over 300 student protesters were massacred by soldiers, days before the Olympics began) also helped legitimize state terror. IOC President Avery Brundage, an infamous US racist and Nazi sympathizer, didn’t even acknowledge the massacre. But when two Black US athletes raised their fists in a Black power salute on the medal podium, he had them immediately stripped of their medals and ejected from the Games! Another well-known fascist IOC president was Juan Antonio Samaranch (IOC president from 1980-2001), a former government official in Franco’s fascist regime in Spain.

2. No Olympics on Stolen Land
BC remains largely unceded and non-surrendered Indigenous territories. According to Canadian law, BC has neither the legal nor moral right to exist, let alone claim land and govern over Native peoples. Despite this, and a fraudulent treaty process now underway, the government continues to sell, lease and ‘develop’ Native land for the benefit of corporations, including mining, logging, oil & gas, and ski resorts. Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, imprisonment, police violence, disease, suicides, etc.

3. Ecological Destruction
Despite claims to be the “greenest Olympics” ever, and PR statements about ‘sustainability’, the 2010 Olympics will be among the most environmentally destructive in history, with tens of thousands of trees cut down & mountainsides blasted for Olympic venues in the Callaghan Valley (near Whistler) & the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion. In the summer of 2007, a record number of black bears were hit on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, with at least 11 dying (attributed to loss of habitat). Massive amounts of concrete used in construction have also caused millions of Salmon to die in the Fraser River, where tons of gravel are being mined to make concrete.

4. Homelessness
Since winning the 2010 Winter Games in 2003, Vancouver has lost over 850 units of low-income housing; during the same period, homelessness has increased from 1,000 to over 2,500. It is estimated by 2010, the number of homeless may be as high as 6,000. Since the 1980s, Olympic Games have caused the displacement of over 2 million people (Fair Play for Housing Rights report, 2007). In Seoul 1988, some 750,000 poor were displaced, in Atlanta 1996, over 30,000, and for Beijing in 2008, an estimated 1.5 million have been displaced. Yet still today Olympic officials talk about ‘sustainability’ and ‘Olympic legacies’!

5. Criminalization of the Poor
To ‘clean out’ the poor and undesirables, Olympic host cities routinely begin a campaign to criminalize the poor. In Vancouver, the city has launched Project Civil City and new by-laws to criminalize begging for money, sleeping outdoors, etc. It has also included hundreds of thousands of dollars for increased private security (i.e., the Downtown Ambassadors). New garbage canisters on streets make it more difficult for the poor to gather recyclables, and new benches make it impossible to lay down. These measures fit with government plans to remove poor downtown residents to mental institutions, “detox centers” on former military bases, and the ‘fly-back’ scheme by police to return persons wanted on warrants in other provinces. This is nothing less than a process of social cleansing!

6. Impact on Women
Events such as the Olympics draw hundreds of thousands of spectators and cause large increases in prostitution and trafficking of women. In Vancouver, over 68 women are missing and/or murdered. Many were Native, and many were reportedly involved in the sex trade. In 2007, the trial of William Pickton occurred for six of these murders, and he is to be tried for an additional 20 more. In northern BC, over 30 young women, mostly Native, are missing and/or murdered along Highway 16. The 2010 Olympics and its invasion of tourists and corporations will only increase this violence against women.

7. 2010 Police State
Some 12,500 police, military and security personnel are to be deployed for 2010, including Emergency Response Teams, riot cops, helicopters, armoured vehicles, etc. The RCMP plan on erecting 40 km of crowd-control fencing along with CCTV video surveillance cameras. Special security zones will be established to control entry near Olympic venues. For 3 weeks, Vancouver will be an occupied Police State! And once the Olympics are over, there is no guarantee many of these security measures will not remain (i.e., CCTV).
Repression also involves attacks on anti-Olympic groups & individuals, including arrests of protesters, raids of offices, surveillance, media smear campaigns, cuts to funding programs, etc., all in an effort to undermine anti-2010 resistance. This repression has already been used against anti-poverty & housing groups, environmentalists and Natives, in Vancouver.

8. Public Debt
VANOC and government officials claim the 2010 Games will cost some $2 billion. However, this amount doesn’t include the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion, the Canada Line Skytrain to the airport, the Vancouver Convention Center, or the lower mainland Gateway Project. Including these costs, since they were necessary to win the bid and had to be completed by 2010, makes the true cost of the Games some $6 billion, which must be paid for through public debt, money that could’ve been spent on social services, housing, drug treatment, healthcare, etc.

9. Olympic Corruption
The modern Olympics are well known for their corruption, including both top IOC officials involved in bribery scandals (i.e. Salt Lake City 2002) or athletes found to be using performance-enhancing drugs (such as steroids). Yet the IOC still claims the youth need an inspiration and a “model” of good sportsmanship! Despite published reports of bribery scandals involving IOC members and host cities (i.e., The New Lords of the Rings, by Andrew Jennings), the Olympics continue to be seen as an honorable & noble enterprise, thanks to the corporate media.

10. Corporate Invasion
Government’s and business use the Olympics as a means to attract corporate investment. In BC, the Liberal government has ‘streamlined’ application processes, cut taxes, and offered other incentives to increase certain industries such as mining, oil & gas drilling, and ski resorts. This includes large increases in transport systems, including new ports, bridges, expanded highways & rail-lines. This is all part of their Investment to 2010 Strategy. The results have been dramatic, record-breaking increases in these industries, resulting in greater environmental destruction and more corporate power & influence over our daily lives.

Many of the main corporate sponsors of the Olympics are themselves responsible for massive ecological destruction and human rights violations, including McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Petro-Canada, TransCanada, Dow, Teck Cominco, etc., while others are major arms manufacturers (General Electric & General Motors).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My brother sent me this message:

"among the bills 'killed' by prorogation...‏

C-353 - Mr. Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior) - An Act to prohibit the release, sale, importation and use of seeds incorporating or altered by variety-genetic use restriction technologies (V-GURTs), also called 'terminator technologies', and to make a consequential amendment to another Act."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Honourable Jason Kenney,

Although I was made aware of his trouble some time ago, I am just beginning to learn about Alvaro Orozco. He is a young gay man who fled Nicaragua. He is seeking refugee status in Canada, primarily on the basis of sexual orientation.

Although my understanding of the situation may be out of date, I find it all extremely worthy of (your) compassion. Mr. Orozco's only option is to receive a Minister's Permit from you. Please do so.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Saturday, January 09, 2010

withdraw support from mining companies that do not respect human rights and environmental standards


Honourable Minister,

I am contacting you today to add my voice to those calling on the Canadian Government to withdraw support from mining companies that do not respect human rights and environmental standards. All over rural Canada and abroad, mining companies take advantage of Canada’s outdated and downright colonial laws (regarding mining). Wouldn’t it be nice if governments everywhere stopped enabling the destruction of landscapes, ecosystems, and communities?

I want the Government of El Salvador to ensure that the Attorney General’s Office carry out prompt investigations into the assassinations of Dora “Alicia” Recinos Sorto and Ramiro Rivera Gomez. They were involved with the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, an organization formed to educate the community about health and environmental risks of cyanide contamination from gold extraction. They were opponents of the non-operational El Dorado mine. Pacific Rim, a Vancouver-based company, wishes to reopen El Dorado, despite widespread community opposition.

Although the prorogation of parliament has pushed back committee debate on the Bill C-300 until March, please take steps to regulate the behaviour of Canadian mining companies.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

[P. S. Check out this Democracy Now video regarding these assassinations, and this video regarding the murder of Marcelo Rivera by Pacific Rim.]

Friday, January 08, 2010



Your Excellency,

I am contacting you to add my voice to those calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Emadeddin Baghi. Emadeddin Baghi is is a human rights defender and the founder of the Association for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights.

Please disclose his whereabouts immediately, and ensure that he is protected from torture and any further ill-treatment. Please ensure that he has access to a lawyer of his own choosing and his family. He will likely require medical treatment, as he suffers from kidney and bladder problems arising from his previous imprisonment in Evin.

Although the right to freedom of expression is infringed upon in every corner of the world, I must proclaim vigorously that, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is obliged to uphold the right to freedom of expression!

Sincerely and Respectfully,


Journalists and members of these groups have been arrested recently: Association of Iranian Journalists; Committee of Human Rights Reporters; Etemad;
Iranian Labour News Agency;
Khabar Online; and members of the Iranian Freedom Movement, etc.