Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for May, 2008


Posted by strattof on May 19, 2008


                                                       PRISONS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

                                     SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE TOUGH ON CRIME BILL


Last week, on February 27 2008, the Canadian Senate passed into law the government’s tough on crime bill, officially known as Bill C-2, The Tackling Violent Crime Act. This law introduces higher mandatory jail terms and tougher bail provisions. It means more Canadians will spend more time in prison.


·         Imprisonment is a very expensive means of dealing with offences. It costs anywhere from  $50,000 (using the most conservative estimates) to $350,000 per year to keep a person in prison in Canada. Currently, there are about 32,100 prisoners in Canada.


·         Imprisonment is a very ineffective means of addressing social problems. Funding incarceration means that resources are cut from social services, education, health care, and job creation programs. If even half of the $7 billion currently spent annually on imprisoning people was invested in social spending, there would be an enormous benefit to whole communities. 


·         There is very little in the way of rehabilitation services in Canadian prisons. Skill training is at a minimum. According to CBC ‘s The Current, “Prisoners applying for parole are finding it impossible to qualify because they cannot get into the programs they are required to complete in order to earn parole.” Access to computers is limited, making it difficult for prisoners to take correspondence programs. The libraries at both the Regina and Saskatoon Correctional Centres are closed due to over-crowding and under-funding.


·         Some prisoners suffer from a substance abuse disorder. In many cases, their substance use contributed to committing the crime that resulted in their incarceration. Yet there are very few drug rehabilitation programs in Canadian prisons.


·         Over the last decade, the number of mentally ill prisoners has more than doubled in Canadian prisons, yet the level of mental health services has remained the same or diminished.


·         The Canadian justice system is an ineffective, alien, and inappropriate system for the resolution of conflict in Aboriginal communities. The legacies of colonization and residential schooling have resulted in cultural discontinuity and oppression in Aboriginal communities that have been tied to high rates of depression, alcoholism, suicide, and violence. In a Saskatchewan study, treatment centre staff ranked lost cultural identity as the single most important factor for drug and alcohol abuse among Aboriginal people. Incarceration does not address or solve these problems.


·         The prison readmission rate in Sasktachewan is 45% within 4 years.


·         Poor people are more likely to be convicted and to spend more time in prison than more well-to-do people who can afford legal representation. The disproportionate arrest and conviction rate of minorities is a reflection of the racism in our society.


“Prisons do not make us safe, but instead reinforce conditions that produce violence and insecurity.” Julia Sudbury, Canadian Roundtable on Prison Abolition


Sources:,,, CBC, Globe and Mail, Statistics Canada



In support of prisoners, a Regina group has started a Books Through Bars program. The program sends books to institutions throughout Saskatchewan. For information on how to donate books or to get involved, please e-mail or call 337-2420. 

For information on a Social Justice Conference being held on March 15, visit




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Posted by strattof on May 19, 2008



March 22 is World Water Day. The perception that Canada has an unlimited supply of water is a myth. The truth is there are increasing shortages of water across the country. Already, many small communities and First Nations reserves do not have access to clean water. As of February 29, 2008, there were 93 First Nations communities across Canada under a Drinking Water Advisory.




·         Individually, we are water guzzlers. Per capita, Canadians consume 343 litres per person a day, twice as much as the French. In wasteful water practices, we are second only to the US.


·         Due to global warming, water levels in the Great Lakes are falling and glaciers are shrinking.


·         The single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions is the development of the Alberta oil sands. Oil sands development is also the source of the fastest growing water loss and contamination in the country. To get the tar-like substance out of the sands, steam is used to warm and make it flow. It takes between 2 and 4.5 barrels of water to produce a barrel of oil.


·         42% of water discharged by factories is dumped untreated into lakes and rivers. Agribusinesses, too, dump vast quantities of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and hormones into Canadian waterways. Effluent from massive hog-farm operations also continues to contaminate Canada’s waterways.


·         Bottled water is draining water supplies around the world and clogging landfills with plastic. Canada now exports more bottled water than it imports, selling its spring and ground water all over the world, mostly for the profit of foreign-owned bottled water companies.


·         Canada’s water supply is under threat from bulk water exports to the US. Under NAFTA water is categorized as a tradable good. If one province were to begin to sell water abroad, all provinces could be obligated to do the same, due to the terms and conditions of NAFTA. The latest free trade agreement, the Security and Prosperity Partnership, includes plans to build a North American superhighway that will contain pipelines to transport bulk water exports from Canada to the US.




·         We can become good stewards of water in our daily lives. Using the dishwasher and the washing machine only when they are full could cut water use by 100 litres per week. An additional 1000 litres could be saved by not watering the lawn. The deadest-looking grass will revive with the next rainfall.


·         We can boycott bottled water. Public water is safer, cleaner, and more affordable. Tap water is tested assuming regular daily consumption over a person’s lifetime, whereas bottled water receives only general product testing. When those who can afford it buy bottled water, public water supply systems are undermined.


·         We can speak out against the development of oil sands in Saskatchewan.


·         We can lobby all levels of government to stop the pollution of Canada’s waterways.


·         We can urge Ottawa to develop a national water policy that bans bulk water exports.


·         We can urge Ottawa to declare access to clean water a basic human right. Canada is the one nation in the world that has repeatedly voted against UN resolutions on the human right to safe drinking water. The government’s opposition to the resolutions may be due to its fear of being charged for not providing clean water to many First Nations reserves and small communities.


Sources: Maude Barlow, Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis; Council of Canadians pamphlets; Environment Canada and Health Canada websites; Linda McQuaig, Holding the Bully’s Overcoat: Canada and the US Empire.



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Posted by strattof on May 19, 2008




The Saskatchewan government has been speaking openly about the possibility of a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan, saying nuclear power development will help us to:


  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Meet rising demands for electricity
  • Enhance employment and investment opportunities


Here are 8 reasons why it is not a good idea to build a nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan: 


1.         Nuclear produces greenhouse gases. The nuclear industry is very energy-intensive, using massive fossil fuels—from mining, refining, and enriching uranium, to transporting and storing nuclear wastes.


2.         The bulk of the electricity that would be generated by the proposed plant would either be sold to the United States or used in tar sands oil production in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest sources of energy in the world, creating 5 times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. 


3.         Nuclear is a cancer industry. Reactors spread radioactivity in the earth’s air, soil, and water.


4.         There is no safe place for nuclear power development. Lake Diefenbaker, one of the sites proposed for the Saskatchewan reactor, is the source of drinking water for about 40% of the province, including Regina. In Port Hope, Ontario, where Cameco owns and operates a uranium refining plant, a 2007 study shows long-term uranium contamination in the bodies both of residents and former nuclear industry workers. The plume of radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl accident drifted as far as western and northern Europe and eastern North America.


5.         Nuclear power has the potential for catastrophic accidents. No insurance company in the world will insure against radioactive contamination of persons or property brought about by a nuclear accident.


6.         Nuclear reactors produce ever-accumulating radioactive wastes as spent fuel that will have to be managed for millennia. No safe and secure system of storing nuclear wastes in perpetuity has been created.


7.         Nuclear power does not make economic sense. A nuclear power plant is several times costlier to build than other types of power plants. No nuclear plant has ever been built without millions of dollars in government subsidies.


8.         Nuclear energy is not practical. Uranium, like oil, is a non-renewable resource. If nuclear power could replace all coal presently used for generating electricity, we would run out of accessible uranium in less than a decade. Thus developing nuclear power just postpones the inevitable. The real need is to develop energy conservation measures and renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal power.


Sources: The Leader Post; Globe and Mail; Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Power is not the Answer, Jim Harding, Canada’s Deadly Secret.

Voice your views about the development of nuclear power in Saskatchewan. Contact

Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433;

Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd: 787-9124;

Minister of the Environment Nancy Heppner: 787-0393;

To sign an online non-nuclear petition, go to

The petition will eventually be forwarded to the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly.



The petition will eventually be forwarded to the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly.




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Posted by strattof on May 18, 2008



The Peace Symbol turns 50 this year. Created in the spring of 1958 by Gerald Holtom, an English textile designer, it is an adaptation of the semaphore signs for N and D, standing for nuclear disarmament. A striking visual symbol, it has since become synonymous with the cause of peace worldwide.



Today, May 8, marks the first anniversary of the Making Peace Vigil. For the past 52 Thursdays, in all kinds of weather, we have assembled on the Scarth Street Mall, from 12 noon to 12:30, to further the cause of peace and justice. The fliers we have distributed address a number of issues, including:   

·         Why is the Canadian military in Afghanistan?

·         Afghanistan: The Civilian Toll

·         The Manley Report: War without End in Afghanistan

·         Key Facts and Figures on the War in Afghanistan

·         First Nations Land Claims

·         Poverty in Canada: Key Facts

·         Speak out about Violence against Women

·         Workers’ Rights are Human Rights

·         Human Rights Violations: A Canadian Primer

·         Prisons are Not the Answer

·         Nuclear and Depleted Uranium Weapons: The Canadian Connection

·         Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered

·         What is Canada doing in NATO?

·         Action against Space Weapons

·         Canada is a Major Military Exporter

·         You And Climate Change

·         Water Crisis

·         The Truth about Tar Sands


Thanks so much for taking our fliers—over 5,000 of them since the vigil started last May.

A special thanks to those who have stopped and discussed issues with us.

Let us know what other issues you would like us to examine.

Should you ever be free on a Thursday at noon, please join us. Everyone is welcome.

For further information contact: Catherine Verrall at 569-7699 or; Stephen Moore at 526-8993 or; Florence Stratton at 522-2310 or

On the web: http://makingpeace.wordpress.

You can Bomb the World to Pieces

but you can’t Bomb the World to Peace

Michael Franti

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Posted by strattof on May 18, 2008

                                                      THE TRUTH ABOUT TAR SANDS


April is Earth Month, a time to reflect on the damage being done to the earth systems that give us life. In Saskatchewan, the environment is facing a big new threat from tar sands (also called oil sands) development in the province and in Alberta. Tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest sources of energy in the world. The processes used to extract the tarry oil, known as bitumen, are causing ecological and social catastrophes.


                     Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are 5 times those of conventional oil production. The Alberta oil sands are the single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. In Saskatchewan, oil sands exploration is already well underway, with production slated to start in 2009. Saskatchewan will not be able to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2020 if it continues with its oil sands development. 


                     It takes 2 – 4.5 barrels of fresh water to produce 1 barrel of tar sands oil. Tar sands development is the source of the fastest growing water loss and contamination in Canada. Much of the water is lost to the water cycle forever as it is too toxic to be recoverable. In Alberta, water spewing from tar sands production has infected fish and wildlife, causing sickness among First Nations communities downstream.


                     Acid rain from Alberta oil sands production is already affecting Saskatchewan’s lakes. According to the Environmental Defence Fund, 70% of the sulphur that enters Alberta’s airshed as a result of oil sands production ends up in Saskatchewan. Acid rain has an adverse effect on lakes, rivers, forests, soils, buildings, and human health.


                     Tar sands extraction processes blight the landscape and have huge effects on human and animal life over a very large area. In Saskatchewan, the bitumen is too deep to be surface mined, as it is in many locations in Alberta. Instead, what is known as the in situ extraction method will be used: the injection of steam and other solvents down a well to make the bitumen flow. For each well-site that is built, a substantial area of forest has to be cleared. The process also requires a huge infrastructure of pipes that crisscross the landscape, interfering with wildlife and human activity.


                     First Nations rights are being ignored by governments and oil companies in the race for oil sands development. Oilsand Quest, incorporated in Colorado, is the leading oil sands company in Saskatchewan, with land-lease holdings of over 500,000 acres in the province’s northwest. An Oilsands Quest representative recently stated in a CBC interview that the company does not have to recognize Dene hunting rights in the area as hunters have no licenced right. First Nations traditional lands in both Alberta and Saskatchewan are being destroyed for tar sands exploration and extraction.


                     Aside from environmental and public health degradation, the people of Saskatchewan will derive very little from oil sands development. Saskatchewan royalty rates are among the lowest in the world. In a recent interview, Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd stated that the government has no intention of raising them. Most of the oil companies in Saskatchewan are subsidiaries of American corporations. Most of the oil will be exported to the US in the form of crude oil.


Sources: CBC, Leader Post, Globe and Mail,,


Earlier in April, a number of First Nations and non-Aboriginal organizations came together to form a coalition called Keepers of the Water, Saskatchewan. Keepers of the Water is calling for a moratorium on oil sands development in Alberta and Saskatchewan until an environmental and health impact assessment has been conducted and a legal framework to protect environmental and human health has been implemented.


Voice your concerns about tar sands development in Saskatchewan. Contact

Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433;

Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd: 787-9124;

Minister of the Environment Nancy Heppner: 787-0393;  







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Posted by strattof on May 18, 2008



Canada claims to respect human rights. This claim ignores a number of facts. Just looking at the last decade, there have been many violations of human rights by Canadian authorities. There has also been a targeting of certain ethnic, national, and religious groups.


                     Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was detained by US security agents at a New York airport in 2002. After days of interrogation, Mr. Arar was deported to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured before being released without charges nine months later.


The Canadian government’s commission of inquiry found that the CIA had acted on false information provided by the RCMP, who wrongly accused Mr. Arar of ties to al-Qaeda. It also found that, after Mr. Arar’s return to Canada, Canadian security officials, aided by the media, launched a smear campaign against him. The commission exonerated Maher Arar of any wrongdoing.


                     Extraordinary rendition is the practice of transferring suspected terrorists, without due process, to foreign prisons where torture is permitted. The practice is legal in the US. It is not legal in Canada. As the Arar Commission revealed, after the RCMP gave intelligence to the CIA, Canadian officials suspected that Mr Arar might be shipped somewhere where he could be “questioned in a firm manner,” but they did nothing to stop his deportation. Nor did they initially do anything to secure his release once he was in jail in Syria.


The name “Maher Arar” is now well-known in Canada. Less familiar are the stories of three other Canadians who, in a modified version of extraordinary rendition, were imprisoned while they were travelling in Syria: Muayyed Nureddin for one month, Abdullah Almalki for 22 months, and Ahmad Abou El Maati for 27 months. All three say they were tortured. All three have returned to Canada and have not been charged. There was no apparent US involvement in these cases. In December 2006, the Canadian government launched an inquiry into the role played by Canadian security officials in the three men’s imprisonment. Unlike the Arar Commission, this inquiry is being conducted in secret, a move that excludes the three men from participation in the proceedings. 


                     Omar Khadr, a Canadian, is the only detainee from a western country in Guantanamo Bay prison. He is charged with killing a US soldier in Afghanistan in 2002. At the time he was taken prisoner by US forces, Omar Khadr was 15 years old. He is the only child in modern history to be charged with war crimes.


“Enhanced interrogation techniques,” another term for torture and humiliation, is official US government policy at Guantanamo. According to US government officials, the Geneva Conventions protecting prisoners of war from abuse do not apply to Guantanamo detainees. Britain, Australia, Sweden, and Germany were able to negotiate the release of their citizens from Guantanamo. Canada, on the other hand, sent intelligence officers to Guantanamo to interrogate Mr Khadr and then passed the information on to US prosecutors.


                     Security certificates are a legal instrument by which the Government of Canada can detain and deport resident non-citizens. They strip individuals of their habeas corpus right to be brought before a court of law. Individuals may be held for several years without criminal charges being laid. They can also be deported without any criminal charge or conviction. In February 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that security certificates were unconstitutional. In February 2008, parliament passed a slightly amended version of the security certificate legislation.


Currently there are 5 people being held under security certificates in Canada. Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub has been detained since June 2000, Mahmoud Jaballah since August 2001, Hassan Almrei since October 2001, Mohamed Harkat since December 2002, and Adil Charkoui since May 2003.


                     Project Thread is the code name of an RCMP investigation that in 2003 led to the arrest in Toronto of 21 mainly Pakistani students on the grounds that they might pose a threat to national security. None was ever charged with terrorism-related offences. All were found guilty of minor immigration infractions. Most have been deported.


                     Bill C-36, the Anti-Terrorism Act, was rushed through Canadian parliament in late December 2001. It gives the state special powers of prosecution and investigation. These include preventative arrests–the right to detain people on the mere suspicion they may be about to commit a crime; investigative hearings–the power to compel testimony, under threat of imprisonment, in secret judicial hearings; and closed trials–the right to withhold from the accused and the public the precise nature of the allegations.

                     The Toronto 18 are 14 men and 4 teenagers, all Muslim Canadians, who were arrested in the Toronto area in June 2006 and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The charges include conspiring to storm Parliament Hill and take MPs hostage and to use bombs made of fertilizer to blow up the offices of CSIS, the RCMP, and the CBC.


Despite two years of investigation, there is scant evidence to suggest the suspects were plotting anything at all. 3 of the teenagers and 1 of the adults have been released without charges. 5 of the adults are out on bail. The 8 remaining adults are still incarcerated, nearly 2 years after their arrest, awaiting trial or bail hearings. The remaining youth is currently on trial.


                     The no-fly list is a list of people banned from boarding aeroplanes in Canada. Compiled by Transport Canada, with input from the RCMP, CSIS, and US security authorities, it took effect in June 2007. The list, which is not available to the public, contains between 500 and 2,000 names. As Maher Arar stated, “It’s safe to assume that most of those names are of people who have a Muslim background.”


A free and democratic society is built on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. Not to speak out against human rights abuses is to be complicit in the violation. Canadians would do well to heed Martin Niemöller’s warning to his fellow Germans, a contemporary version of which appears below.


First they came for the Muslims.

But I remained silent because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the recent immigrants.

I did not speak up because I was not one of them.

Next they came for the peace and justice activists.

Again I remained silent. I was not one of them either.

By the time they came for me

There was no one left to speak up.  


                                                         MAKING PEACE VIGIL

                       Bearing witness to our society’s involvement in violence and injustice

                                     Committing ourselves to creative action for change

                                                           EVERY THURSDAY

                                                            until peace breaks out

                                                        From 12 noon to 12:30 pm

                                                   On Scarth Street at 11th Avenue


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